Today the NBA Season is finally set to kick off. XXL spoke to a number of basketball stars about their love for hip-hop and some of their favorite albums for the league opening week. With the iconic NBA player and hip-hop lover, Allen Iverson, retiring in Philly tomorrow, we looked at the Philadelphia 76ers and got their recent draft pick, Nerlens Noel, to chime in on a number of topics. Now entering his rookie year (despite an injury that will keep him out of contention for a while), the former Kentucky star is the bright young face of the franchise. XXL got Nerlens on the phone to discuss Boston’s hip-hop scene, Nothing Was The Same, what made him a hip-hop fan and, of course, The Answer. —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)
XXL: What made you a hip-hop fan?
Nerlens Noel: It’s definitely what they [MCs] speak about and rap about. They tell stories of what I can relate to; growing up in the inner city, having the struggles and everything you have to overcome. That’s really what rap consists of—rapping about your life, rapping about your story. I relate to a lot of things they speak on. However you feel, whether you’re in your emotions or ready to play a game and dunk on someone, there is a song within hip-hop you can always go to.
What’s your favorite hip-hop album?
I’d probably say Jay Z’s most recent, Magna Carta…Holy Grail. Just the style that he brought to the game; he’s very diverse and the things he raps about arereal. It was just very overall a good album.
When did you first hear Jay Z?
I was a young pup, I’ve heard him since I was real young.
Growing up in Massachusetts, what rappers were around that you noticed?
We got a lot of old school rappers like Terminology. But as of recent we haven’t had too much, just one upcoming rapper name Moufy. [Boston] is a small hub; you got some local rappers who is making good music but hasn’t had the recognition yet. Moufy is definitely my favorite rapper in Boston. He’s doing really great for himself and he’s dope. He’s building a great presence for himself not just in Boston but in the New England area.
Do you feel like the New England area gets overlooked in hip-hop?
Yea I feel so. We had guys come out of here, Sammy Adams, he’s from right out the suburbs of Boston and he’s doing very well for himself. I don’t think too many people know he’s from Boston. But I think New England definitely gets overlooked.
What are you listening to now?
Drake, Meek Mill, Moufy, Wale, and Kendrick.
What’s your pregame music tracklist like?
Before the game I listen to a lot of Drake, then transition into Meek Mill right before the game to get my adrenaline going.
What’s your thoughts on Nothing Was The Same?
Oh yeah, it’s definitely his best by far. All the different styles he brings to it, like singing—which he always does—and rapping, just straight rapping is nasty. I’d definitely say it’s one of the best albums of the year. My favorite song is probably “Furthest Thing” or “The Language.”
Take me through Draft Day.
There were a lot of emotions; I didn’t really know what to expect. But I took it all in and definitely used it as motivation, just keep working, making sure I prove myself right.
How’s the team doing? Y’all have a really young team.
Yeah, we’re doing real good, we already started to come on as a team. Most of us are really young, so we’re just definitely watching out for each other and learning on the fly and just taking it all in—just being there for each other.
Who are some of the players that talked to you and brought you some advice?
Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Jason Richardson; they’ve all been key parts and key veterans in helping me, my development mentally and on the road and everything. I really get great insight from them.
What basketball player growing up did you look up to?
Definitely Kevin Garnett—I always grew up watching him, seeing the intensity and passion he plays with. It definitely helped me to be the player I am. He’s definitely my role model with his worth ethic and everything.
Allen Iverson retires in Philly Wednesday. Have you ever spoken to him?
I spoke with him on the phone over a year and a half ago, and he was just giving me some tips and advice and things to watch out for. But I haven’t met him face-to-face yet.
Any Allen Iverson moment that sticks out to you?
Yeah, definitely when he hit that three in front of Tyrone Lue and stepped over him after.