There’s a popular belief—backed up by countless songs and YouTube videos—that all athletes want to be rappers and all rappers want to be athletes. It’s true: The worlds of sport and hip-hop often collide. And during the late ’90s and early ’00s, throwback football jerseys were the norm in urban fashion. You couldn’t turn on MTV or BET without seeing the biggest rap acts in the world smothering your television screen with classic Mitchell & Ness throwbacks or unis from the NFL’s most popular players of the era. With that in mind, TDdaily will break down one such video per week as part of our #ThrowbackJerseyThursday series.
There is just a preposterous amount of New York going on in this video, a Shyne freestyle on the BET program Rap City that seems to have taken place during the middle of 2000, months or weeks before his self-titled debut album dropped. Think about what Shyne Po embodied at this point: a Brooklyn-bred (though Belize-born) rapper who was up next in the line of releases pushed out by Puff Daddy’s NYC-based Bad Boy Records, he maintained a decent hint of the materialism and flash the label embodied in the mid-to-late ’90s (he notes, “Saw Boy George with a Rolls, said ‘I want one, too!“ in the vid above), but was first and foremost a child of the streets, with the requisite, violently confrontational raps (see: every other line in this freestyle with the exception of the previously quoted one) and newspaper headlines that stood behind those verbal threats like bodyguards. Then there’s the Mets hat atop his dome, not exactly the cliché Yankees fitted but a hometown team nonetheless; while the brand may be a laughingstock (to put that shit lightly) these days, do remember the Mets were somehow World Series-capable in ’00.
And then, of course, there’s the Phil Simms uni. Simms was a New York Giants lifer, drafted by the franchise in 1979 and clad in royal blue every fall/winter Sunday until he retired in 1994. Rappers during the early ’00s generally chose throwbacks based on their color schemes or overall trendiness, but Shyne did so for a seemingly definitive purpose, one that centered upon the city he became a man in.
Shyne would go on to spend eight years and two months in prison, then was forcibly relocated out of the country and never truly regained his hip-hop footing; Simms eventually became a television broadcaster, and not a particularly great one. But if in-his-prime Shyne wearing an in-his-prime Phil Simms jersey doesn’t bring a smile to your face, it’s likely you aren’t indigenous to the Big Apple. Or you’re a Jets fan. That’s unfortunate.
Adam Figman is an associate editor at TD Magazine and SLAM Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @afigman.