The cultural crossover between hoops and ‘hop

Clash were recently in New York at the inaugural World Basketball Festival for some insight into the cultural crossover between hoops and ‘hop…

Residents of the Big Apple made like it was 1979 all over again as the worlds of basketball and hip hop reclaimed the streets of New York during the first ever World Basketball Festival.

From basketball games and failed DJ battles at Rucker Park in Harlem to massive graffiti murals by street art legends Futura and Os Gemeos to the massive performance that Jay-Z put in at Radio City Music Hall, the city was abuzz with the influence of African American culture.

The tradition of hip hop providing a constructive outlet for youths from underprivileged backgrounds came full circle as New York’s community youth groups got involved with the Nike X Make Something! project in the lead up to the festival.

A month-long round of workshops with creative luminaries such as Cassette Playa and A-Trak, basketball stars like Kevin Durant and Nike designers saw new trainers and jerseys designed, banners and puppets made, photographs taken, costumes designed, and videos and music produced.

The results were on display at the Nike Stadium space on Bowery, while a celebratory performance by the kids on the court at the legendary Rucker Park was the explosive culmination of a positive and inspirational movement that captured the imaginations of those involved.

“The experience opened my mind to other possible careers,” said Nettiesha, one of the participants – a sign that the goals of such activities to re-engage local youths are being met.

Born in the Bronx during the late 70s, when DJ Kool Herc and his fellow pioneers of the movement would tap into power lines with their speakers and turntables to play at public basketball courts and other venues, hip hop grew to become a cultural phenomenon with global reach.

Back in the day, with the rise of breakdancing and graffiti battles to accompany this new music that vocalised the disenfranchisement that many felt, came a new outlet for them to express their frustrations without violence against each other.

Hip hop as a genre has often been credited with saving many lives during this time, and has been seen by many as an escape route from the poverty that they’re born into – just like basketball, the sport that is so closely tied to this movement.

Music was often present during the games played at the festival, but in true hip hop Vs. the Establishment fashion, DJs Clue and Clark Kent had the plug pulled on a courtside battle by local police at Rucker Park despite having sound permits to play.

DJ Premier thankfully had more luck at the decks courtside during Team USA’s showcase game at Radio City in the countdown to Jay-Z’s appearance.

It was all about the kids once again at this event as many of the lucky ticket holders were members of youth groups from the various boroughs of New York. It was at the Jigga Man’s request that these tickets were given out in this way, and he looked pleased to be amongst a group of fans who hail from a similar underprivileged background.

The charitable mood didn’t stop there, as Jay-Z also designed five special pairs of Nike Air Force Ones – a mainstay of hip hop and basketball fashion - that were sold on Ebay with all proceeds going to the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation.

With such goodwill floating around the city after a few days of performance and creativity, who knows what giddy heights the next festival can reach?

Words by Laura Foster

Read a review of Jay-Z's Radio City Music Hall concert which helped kick of the World Basketball Festival.

To see Jay-Z, Futura and the kids of New York in action, head to our photo gallery of the Nike and USA Basketball World Basketball Festival HERE.

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