His latest release is titled “The Rap Year Book”, which chronicles the most important hip-hop track of each year from 1979 to 2014.
It is a New York Times Best Seller and you can peep an excerpt here.
A thoroughly entertaining read, the book is comprehensive in its detail and magnificently illustrated.
But there are plenty of other websites that will tell you that.
Serrano’s online sales push leading up to the release is a case study on how to use the Internet.
But there are plenty of other websites that will tell you that too.
What we want to touch on is one of Serrano’s other passions, one that is featured prominently throughout the 200 odd pages of hip hop history: basketball.
nope you're all wrong it's actually –> pic.twitter.com/V2t102Fs12
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) November 18, 2015
When he’s not writing for a living, Serrano is either:
- Adjudicating daily battles between his dog and inanimate objects,
- Advising his followers of the behavioural traits of undercover cops,
never trust a man who walks through a doorway or under a sign and doesn't jump up and pretend to slam dunk it he's probably the police
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) August 30, 2015
- Engaging in basketball related activities.
Basketball is a recurring theme throughout The Rap Year Book, reflecting the fact that the rap game and the actual game have gone hand in hand ever since the rise of the genre. That bond remains as strong as ever despite David Stern’s Great War Against Hip Hop.
Above: The Glove, C-Webb and Shaq performing a hip-hop classic.
In making a case for the most important hip hop song of each of year, Serrano often uses basketball analogies or references to assist (pun initially not intended and then subsequently intended).
We’ve selected our five favourite basketball references from the book and ranked them, because in Serrano’s words “only a human with a spine made of fiberglass would ever put together a list and use a variation of the phrase ‘in no particular order’…”
(Admission: We have definitely made lists of a “low-strength fibre reinforced plastic” nature in the past)
Basketball Reference: The Slam Dunk
Chapter Reference: 1984
Quote: “The slam dunk is connected to rap…because as far as sports moves are concerned, it is the closest to a physical manifestation of rap as it gets”
Not only do we agree with this association, but so does Kanye West – who once likened Beanie Sigels’ style to a “slam dunk” on the track “Big Brother” (which incidentally has multiple basketball references).
Kanye is the ultimate authority on all things, so this is a handy endorsement.
Whilst this concept probably doesn’t need further exploration, there is one more thing that’s worth noting on the subject of dunks and beats…
For reasons that become quite apparent on watching the clip, Serrano makes no less than three separate reference to the Rump Shaker video by Wreckx-n-Effect. Now there is no basketball in this clip, only swimwear and alto saxophones.
However, the family friendly remix of this very track, re-titled Rim Shaker, beautifully captures the relationship Serrano is alluding to:
Basketball Reference: Julius Erving and Darrell Griffith
Chapter Reference: 1992
Quote: “There’s Dr. J and Dr. Dunkenstein, and those guys are great if you are super into basketball.”
These fine physicians are mentioned in a paragraph that compares and contrasts the disposition of famous “doctors” to that of one Dr. Dre. It is highly amusing, especially when Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman makes a welcome appearance.
Dr. J actually played a doctor in one of Doogie Howser’s dreams, in which he pauses mid-quadruple bypass to explain the origins of his nickname.
It’s outstanding television:
As for Dr. Dunkenstein, he was awarded a PhD in yams after essentially inventing the one-legged two-hand windmill in 1980:
Basketball Reference: Manu Ginobili
Chapter Reference: 2008
Quote: “Give me Manu Ginobili, 2003-2005”
Serrano calls on the great Argentine to help illustrate the level at which Lil Wayne was operating at around the time A Milli dropped.
Both a Latino and a huge Spurs fan, Serrano specifically targets the early part of Manu’s NBA career because his accomplishments during this period were nothing short of astounding – two NBA championships, an Olympic gold and highlights on highlights:
Serrano also dedicates a significant portion of page 164 to Stephon Marbury during the same period. It’s not as flattering.
Basketball Reference: Chris Mullin
Chapter Reference: 1984
Quote: “Allen Iverson is universally agreed to be the most hip-hop basketball player that’s ever been. But do you know who the second person is? Chris motherf*cking Mullin, that’s who. Chris Mullin is the illest white person”
If you are hesitant to take Serrano’s word for it, here’s reasonably popular hip hop artist Wale on record expressing his affection for the southpaw scoring machine:
Wale’s basketball credentials include being the only rapper to ever name-check Udonis Haslem and Ed Cota.
Of course, Iverson is untouchable at number 1:
Basketball Reference: Houston Rockets
Chapter Reference: Acknowledgements
Quote: “…to my three sons…I also want you to know that you should never root for the Rockets”
In the acknowledgements, Serrano thanks his young boys and leaves them with one piece of advice: don’t support Houston.
But let’s go back two decades.
The greatest year in hip hop history is 1994. The greatest NBA team of 1994 was the Houston Rockets.
The greatest player in the world in 1994 was Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, who won every single individual award that year.
If Serrano was addressing his sons then, during hip hop’s golden age, he’d advise them to watch as much Rockets basketball as possible. It’s easy to forget just how much mischief a young Robert Horry was up to back then.
Fast forward to today and the landscape isn’t quite so green.
The Houston franchise is experiencing some difficulties at this very moment, sitting second last in their Division (6-10).
Their coach is gone, their defensive anchor is still not 100% healthy and their star, a flaming offensive juggernaut, continues to be an easy target for online ridicule:
houston let's fire up those james harden mvp chants https://t.co/mamoNN5Xey
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) November 17, 2015
It’s sound advice to give to his young ones – sorry kids, what was once great is not so great anymore.
And maybe the same can be said for the state of hip hop.