Photo credit: Cavsnation.com
Ch. 4: LeBron James/Aubrey Graham (Drake)
Every now and then a figure in entertainment emerges to shift the culture, and society as we know it. Sports and music have the ability to unify the masses, and both industries unveil a passion that is unattainable by another source. Throughout history athletes and musicians alike contribute similar, life-altering influence on the way we perceive, engage and experience life’s moments. Modern-day artist Aubrey Graham (A.K.A Drake to the music industry) put it best by saying, “I swear sports and music are so synonymous/cause we wanna be them, and they wanna be us”. From someone who succeeds in the business on both sides, the lines from the record Thank me Now alludes to the timeless cultural access levied by the elite. As the influence from music and sports on culture is undoubtedly special, when paired together these eminent entertainers relate to each other’s social contributions. This measurement of cultural influence pairs music artists and athletes by persona and their methods of impact.
Persona- Leaders of the New School
Influence- Culture-Shifters, Community Leaders, Social Activists
LBJ has been a headlining face of the NBA since he was drafted out of high school by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. His uncanny athleticism paired with his large stature has laid the foundation for the modern day versatile basketball player; a large individual with speed, strength and superb ball-handling skills (see players such as Ben Simmons, Zion Williamson, etc.). The King has transcended the NBA 100 fold, largely by leading an era of particular player-contract structure. Prior to James exercising the opt-out option in shorter player contract-deals, elite NBA players were more likely to remain with one team through the years at their prime; whereas the aforementioned scenario gives the league’s best talent the ability to sign with other teams in order to compete for championships. Though many disagree with players’ tactics to create “Super Teams” in an unbalanced market, LeBron is a blueprint for players to shape their NBA careers.
According to his NBA peers and those closest to him, perhaps LeBron James’s most significant cultural impact is his community involvement and passion to disseminate positivity throughout society. James has been widely known to voice his opinion on the nation’s issues with violence, racial inequality and injustice throughout his run as the most dominant player in the league. Frequently he has taken to social media (and his 76 million followers) to reflect on matters such as mass shootings, the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, as well as the antics of President Donald Trump.
Photo Credit: Usatoday.com
LeBron sports black and white signature “Equality” shoes in Washington, D.C. vs the Wizards in December 2017. He explained the gesture was a reminder that “Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men and women, no matter the race.”
The “Kid from Akron” is globally respected as “More Than An Athlete” just like his campaign states in the media platform he co-founded entitled UN-Interrupted. https://www.uninterrupted.com/ The media outlet provides series and podcasts, mostly in the voice of athletes themselves; a testament to what LeBron has done for all professional athletes. In addition to winning four Most Valuable Player awards in the NBA, James has served as a role-model and influencer to the masses, especially within the African-American community. The LeBron James Family Foundation, along with Wheels for Education and the I Promise program serves over 1,000 youth in Akron, OH by way of educational programs and mentors at the “I Promise School” opened in the fall of 2018 (Supporting efforts totaling over $41 million); including four-year college scholarships at Akron University for those who qualify for the college institution. Along with his business partner Maverick Carter, James donated $2.5 million to the “Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change” exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. (Seen Below)
Photo Credit: NBA.com
Named in the “Top 100 Most influential people in the World” by Time in 2017 http://time.com/collection/2017-time-100/, LeBron James has influenced professional sports and American culture on the highest level. Perhaps the power and reach of his social media presence sheds light on the King’s global marketability; his founded production company SpringHill Entertainment solidifies it. Its projects such as Starz network’s “Survivor’s Remorse” features modern-day social matters while adding a comedic splash; appealing to a multi-cultured viewership. http://shentertainment.com/ While his legacy highlights a pioneer in the NBA, sports and entertainment business and civil/social awareness, James would simply call himself a family man. When he is not ruling as the “King” of the court, business endeavors and shifting the culture for the good, LeBron James presides over his castle as a loving husband of four years and a father of three.
Aubrey Graham (Drake)
Drake has made his largest impact on our culture and the music industry by embracing every part of his original self. His rapping/singing versatility makes it nearly impossible to classify his work into one genre. Hailing from Toronto Canada, the icon influenced a visual and audible hip-hop revolution with his image and sound, respectively. Rap and hip-hop heavily carried a hard reputation in terms of its artists and content prior to ‘Drizzy’s’ arrival; his style has since led
to an era barraged with artists that possess a melody-incorporated half rap, half singing style. Many DJ’s would agree that radio play sounds much like Drake’s claim on the track 5 AM in Toronto: “That’s why every song sounds like Drake featuring Drake”. https://soundcloud.com/octobersveryown/drake-5am-in-toronto Though he may not be solely responsible for the movement, the 6-God (translates to God of Toronto; six municipalities, area codes 416, 647) is aware of his impact, as he raps on his single Lord Knows:
“A lot of n*–as came up off of a style that I made up’
But if all I hear is me, then who should I be afraid of?”
‘Leader of the new school’ may be an understatement for Drake, as he notably became the solo leader of Billboard’s Hot 100 List with his previous album More Life. The artist’s 154 singles leads the ‘Hot 100’ list for solo artists that dates back 60 years to 1958 with legendary names like Elvis Presley (108), Jay-Z (87), and his predecessor Lil Wayne (135). The album’s Billboard numbers suggest that Drake is still climbing; his 24 total tracks on the April 8th, 2017 list of 100 broke his previous record 20 songs from the previous year. https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/7736706/drake-breaks-hot-100-records-most-hits-solo-artists-more-life-songs
In reference to the aforementioned lyrics regarding sports and music entertainment, Drake’s agenda reaches much further than his music. Representing the Toronto Raptors as the global marketing ambassador, he helped to rebrand the NBA team in 2013. His star-power also helped the city of Toronto host the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend, the first non-U.S. city to do so. Recently Toronto began its ‘Welcome Toronto’ campaign, an initiative that partnered with Drake’s ‘October’s Very Own’ record label. The partnership sponsored a new two-toned home court for the Raptors along with black and gold ‘OVO’ inspired jerseys. Committed to the art, culture and basketball in Toronto, the partnership has donated $1 million to renovate local basketball courts and $2 million to grassroot basketball initiatives in Canada.
Aside from cultivating the culture in music and entertainment, OVO’s ‘boy wonder’ has given enormous efforts to uplift the community. Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Drake fronted $200,000 for its relief fund started by JJ Watt of the Houston Texans. He has credited Houston for many years as a major part of his music success, and he generously donated to the fund to reflect such.
His video for the sizzling single God’s Plan went viral in February 2018, igniting conversation about his heart-warming donations of nearly $1 million to the city of Miami. The video follows Drake closely as he gives various sums of money to families in need, youth initiatives and University of Miami educational programs.
God’s Plan- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUqRem0W8L8#action=share
Giving back is a norm for the hip-hop megastar during the process of his music videos; in 2010 Drake invested between $25,000- $30,000 to a learning center in Jamaica while shooting the video Find Your Love. Ultimately, Drake’s every step “seams” to be what the culture needs, as he continues to rap, sing and give his way into places no one has ever been.
Cultural Influence- LeBron James x Drake
The contributions to their crafts are relatively undeniable in both cases. Both LeBron and Drake seem to be “Heir apparent” in that LeBron is often compared to the G.O.A.T Jordan, while Drake can be seen chasing the legacy of Jay-Z. Career comparisons between LeBron and Drake can be drawn several ways:
A pivotal moment in LeBron’s career surfaced following “The Decision” in 2010 to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. Drake’s Album Nothing Was The Same shares experiences similar to what LeBron may have been facing at the time. Tracks like Worst Behavior spoke of Drake’s struggles to success and reasons for his unapologetic attitude–similar to how LeBron became hated for leaving Cleveland for Miami where he willed his way to two NBA championships. https://soundcloud.com/octobersveryown/drake-worst-behavior-1 The career decision perhaps manifested a mentality in LeBron where he was laser focused on being the best–a story told in Drake’s track Too Much from the same album. https://soundcloud.com/octobersveryown/drake-too-much-1
If Nothing Was the Same is the soundtrack to LeBron’s “Decision”, 2016 gave ‘Bron Bron’ and Drake Views (Drake’s 2016 Album title) they have long awaited to see in their professional careers. Drizzy Drake played a hand in bringing the NBA All-Star Weekend to the his beloved city for the first time in February; while LeBron brought the NBA championship home to Cleveland and his native Ohio in the summer; delivering the first professional sports championship in Cleveland in over 52 years.
Those who follow LeBron and Drake can garner motivation from their signature slogans. James’ #StriveForGreatness hashtag has been used 1.7 million times on instagram, while Drake’s frequently used line “Know Yourself” is seen over 330,000 times on the same platform. Both men stress the importance of family, relationships, self-worth and love in order to be the best version of ourselves everyday. The two celebrity personalities have a collaborative history of their own- being Drake’s Forever for LeBron’s documentary More Than a Game as well as projects on James’ digital platforms. One thing that is rarely ever in question in regards to these two is there intention to be legendary; Drake narrates the motives in 5 Am in Toronto:
“N*ggas treat me like I’ve been here for 10. Some n*ggas been here for a couple, never been here again . I’m on my King James sh*t, tryin’ to win here again”
The career efforts of LeBron James and Drake have shifted the culture and inspired the masses to become more than what people “confine you to be”. Their voices raise awareness to empower positive change in society and their actions spread love across our communities. Drake is breaking streaming records with his album Scorpion calling it “God’s Plan as LeBron moves into fifth place on the all-time scoring list (behind Michael Jordan) during his 1st year as a Laker. No matter their controversy, their worst days seem to better than the best days of most. Both men may be living Drake’s lyrics from his single Is There More when he says, “Still I rise, Maya Angelou Vibes”. As pandemic influences, LeBron James and Drake inspire us all to #StriveForGreatness while they give us nothing but #MoreLife.