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A LeBron James freestyle track has dropped and we need to talk about it

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TMZ released a mixtape-grade rap from Miami Heat forward and American icon LeBron James Tuesday. The amateur cut was reportedly recorded in Ohio with friend Sian Cotton last summer after James’ second NBA title.

It’s a two-minute transposing of Jay Z’s 2013 windows down summer banger “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” a Boi-1da produced, Rick Ross collaboration that absolutely rattles and destroys because its beat is so loud, unnerving, yet also simple and lazy that anyone can talk-rap over it and induce mad swagger. Unfortunately, James isn’t naturally at ease on the mic.

 

Like his media-polished interview persona, his actual flow is controlled and choppy because he has to be careful about what he says. In fact what’s more revealing is what James does not say: He raps “killa” and not the n-word.

Now I imagine James would rather not answer questions about whether or not it’s OK for him to casually drop rap’s most common word in a homemade recording that exists as a healthy and fun release, and avoiding that conversation altogether feels like a smart business move.

From there James actually turns down the original’s swagger like a cautious Ross.

Instead of “fuck with me, you know I got it,” and later “bad bitch, I hope she ‘bout it,” James raps: “Roll with us ‘cuz you know we got it” and “it’s a damn shame that you ever doubt it.”

There’s some middle school cypher boasting that wouldn’t get a nod if it were rapped outside the big gym by the Pepsi machine: “Shine so bright... I got a tan.” And some street-stomping boasts that only work because we know the James backstory: “Try to catch up it’s a waste of time / I grind too hard to let you take mine.”

There’s some requisite stuff about boats. Cool that he went there, I suppose.

It’d be OK if James freestyled this in the back of a taxi after a long night of being in a bar full of rap music. I’ve been there. But I can’t let him off easy, because he very clearly took time to chart out the performance.

He picks it up toward the end of the two-minute track. First, he raps “two rings” with 2 Chainz’s signature “2 Chainz!” inflection. Funny and nice. But then he stuffs too many syllables into an otherwise smooth boast, “fall back before you fall out / my team eatin’ the rest of y’all drought.”

I give it two mics for effort. 

Photo via david shankbone/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)