I Wonder which happened first? Did Drake text Michael Jordan that he was about to comment on police brutality forcing Jordan to jump in line? Or did MJ reach out to Drizzy about the need for Brand Jordan to care about people?
MJ was always my favorite athlete. Not just my favorite basketball player. My favorite athlete. Outside of a three-year stretch where he was neck-and-neck with fellow Pro Star, Bo Jackson (and if Bo didn’t know what it was like to run his leg out of his hip, he might still be), Jordan’s been in a league of his own.
On the court, I’ve never witnessed a bigger winner; a more ferocious competitor; a more prolific player (and until Obama, a person more personally inspirational). From age 9 through age 17, like most 80s babies blessed with cable TV and a hoop within walking distance, Jordan was bigger than life. And he did it without muddying his reputation with messy social issues.
I imagine many Drake fans feel similarly. Since 2009, Drake has put together a six-year run only rivaled by LL Cool J, Jay Z, Eminem, and Kanye West. The $39.5 million notched in 2015 was enough to place him third on Forbes annual Hip Hop Cash Kings, ahead of Dr. Dre. All four of his albums (Thank Me Later, Take Care, Nothing Was The Same, and Views) have gone platinum-plus, all of his singles seem to go #1, all of his relationships are front-page news. Possibly most improbably, all of his beefs seem to end with Drizzy throwing up the W. And he did it without muddying his reputation with messy social issues.
Drake released a statement on police brutality two weeks ago in the wake of the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings, marking the first time he’s addressed a potentially complicated societal ill publicly.
Today, MJ dropped a statement of his own. This is also the first time Jordan’s addressed a potentially complicated societal ill publicly.
“As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers,” Jordan wrote. “I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.”
Jordan one-upped his Jordan Brand ambassador by tossing two $1 million grants on top—one for the Institute for Community-Police Relations (launched in May by the International Association Of Chiefs Of Police) and one for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Legal Defense Fund’s astonishment rang throughout its statement as if the organization couldn’t believe it cracked Michael Jordan’s billion dollar radar:
“We’re surprised and shocked, but obviously thrilled,” Legal Defense Fund president and director Sherrilyn Ifill wrote, almost hilariously. “We’ve been working on these issues for some many years, and it’s great to hear that Michael Jordan and his people are aware of our work and are willing to make a contribution.”
If there’s a knock against MJ’s awesomeness, it’s how little his public influence has been used to help causes vital to communities that continue to reinforce the coolness of his products.
It’s hard to blame Michael Jordan for taking an OJ Simpson approach to celebrity, though. At least he hasn’t been accused of murder.
Aside from his prolific use of ghostwriters and his inability to craft a classic album, if there’s a reason why Drake is nowhere near Greatest Of All Time conversations, it’s the fact that his lyrical career is built on a foundation noticeably void of addressing issues vital to communities that continue to reinforce the coolness of his products.
Drizzy’s got it good. He’s half-black and half-Jewish. He gets to have a Bar Mitzvah and say “nigga.” He’s half-Canadian and half-American. He has two different countries defending his actions and inactions, simultaneously. He’s arguably the most corporate rapper on the planet. Jas Prince, Young Money, Cash Money, Republic, Universal, OVO, Warner, Apple, Jordan Brand, Nike all make something off the kid.
It’s hard to blame Drake for taking a Michael Jordan approach to celebrity, though. At least he’s half-Jewish.
“…The relationship between black and brown communities and law enforcement remains as strained as it was decades ago,” Aubrey posted to IG. “I do not know the answer… open and honest dialog is the first step.”
Welcome to the conversation, Jordan and Drizzy.
It’s only been going on for 400 years.
Justin Hunte is the Editor-in-Chief of HipHopDX and has been featured on Revolt TV’s “Revolt Live” and the AllOutShow on SiriusXM. Prior to joining DX, he was the host of The Company Man Show and Brooklyn Bodega Radio on PNCRadio.fm and has covered music, politics, and culture for numerous publications. He is currently based in Los Angeles, California. Follow him on all socials @TheCompanyMan.