Hip-Hop Junkies: Stuart Scott
The black sportscaster who is down with rap.
Words: Bonsu Thompson
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the January/February 2001 issue of XXL Magazine.
If you’re a die-hard sports fan, you have to watch ESPN. And if you’re an ESPN viewer you definitely watch the network’s recurrent sports program, SportsCenter with its character-filled roster of sports anchor people. One of the flavorful show’s most popular and colorful (in commentary and skin shade) anchormen is 35-year-old, Southside Chicago (where the real brothers live)-born, North Carolina-raised Stuart Scott, who spins a hip-hop flavored broadcast style. He labels high-flying dunks “Whoa” and incredible touchdown runs “off the heezee.”
While his name may not sound like that of a typical hip-hop junkie, it’s real along with his hip-hop validity. He’s been in rap videos for Luke’s “Raise The Roof,” as well as LL’s “Shut ’em Down” and says that hip-hop music’s like his fountain of youth. When Stuart’s not busting Will Smith’s ass in golf or looking for the latest Enyce to wear, he’s sharpening his b-boy vernacular for ESPN.
Over brunch at mid-town Manhattan’s Coffee Shop—a perfect setting, as it’s located in a very historical area for hip-hop: Union Square—we discuss his freestyle skills, his respect for Allen Iverson and being a “homeboy” in such a tight-assed field as television broadcasting.
XXL: How big of a hip-hop fan are you?
Stuart Scott: I’m probably not as big of a hip-hop fan as people may think. I’m not up on all the artists and know all their stuff. Come on, I live in Connecticut [laughing]. The only urban station we have is an AM station. I grew up on hip-hop. I grew up on Run-D.M.C., Whodini, LL when I was in college, so I’m more of a music fan. I probably have the most eclectic collection of music in my Grand Cherokee. Literally in a span of a week, I’ll go from 2Pac, to Boyz II Men, to Sister Hazel, right down to West Side Story or the Wiz. I love show tunes. My parents are not hip-hop fans, but they raised us to appreciate all types of music.
Why have you connected so much to hip-hop?
I like infusing [hip-hop] into what I do, because it’s part of who I am. Sportscasters’ll drop a line and I’ll be like, ‘I hope you listen to that. I hope you’re not just doing it just to be hot.’ You’ve got to be true to who you are and what you do. I’m more of a hip-hop feel person. Music is how you feel. The younger the mind, that’s how I wanna be. One of the reasons why I do my job the way I do it is because I want to let people know it does not have to be the way society says it has to be.
Hip-hop’s good at saying what society doesn’t want it to say.
That’s why I’m like mad right now. I’m mad at how journalists are player hating on Allen Iverson. I’ll tell ya’ why. I’m a father of two daughters. Nine-and-a-half years old, one-year-old. Do I like the stuff Allen is rapping about? No. Do I agree with the stuff he’s rapping about? No. Do I want my kids listening to it? No. But Allen says he’s an artist. He is an artist. I’ve got a colleague of mine, he’s a good guy, one of the best in the business. He wrote an article saying [Allen] is not an artist, he’s just passing by on his fame. I don’t like what he’s saying, but that’s the way he chooses to express himself. A lot of rappers say ‘I’m talking about stuff that goes on, what I grew up in, that I know about.’ And these journalists say, ‘Yeah, but you’re making 80 million dollars, that stuff’s not about you.’ Look how long he’s been making 80 million. He grew up poor in an urban city and the things he’s experienced and knows … that’s the way he expresses himself. Don’t hate him for that … that’s art.
Do you get hated on in your field for your hip-hop references?
I did. I don’t so much anymore on ESPN. Early in my career, it wasn’t so much hey, ‘Don’t do that,’ but like ‘OK, dog…’ Well they didn’t say ‘dog,’ but people didn’t understand where I was coming from and it’s fine because I don’t understand some of the references other people note. I think people get into this, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be’ thing. I still get hated on by other journalists. This guy who writes for Sports Illustrated, he’s a good writer, but he’s taken about two or three shots at me. Like, ‘If you watch SportsCenter you’re gonna need a Stuart Scott decoder.’ But I see he has a view that’s not broad enough to accept what I do.
How’d you hook up with Luke for the “Raise The Roof” video?
He just saw me and said ‘I want you in the video.’ And I’m like ‘Dog, I like you and all, but I work for ESPN and they’ve gotta approve everything.’ So he was like ‘Nah, nah, nah, it’ll be clean. I wanna do like a sports anthem.’ And at ESPN they’ve gotta approve the script, the video treatment, everything. And once they saw it was on the up and up, they was like it’s cool. I remember one of the bosses was looking at the lyrics and he said, ‘In here it says, ‘hey y’all, it’s a big willie party.’ That’s not any kind of a contest is it?’
So ESPN really doesn’t mind you being in these rap videos?
As long as it’s clean. As long as they don’t think it puts them or me in a bad light. It’s an image they want me to maintain. It’s in my contract. And there are gonna be and have been times when we disagree.
I heard you’re about to record a rap record of your own.
I’m not about to record one, but I want to. I freestyle in the shower. I think I got a couple of skills.