You Gon’ Learn
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has a thing for old-school hip-hop.
Words: Peter A. Berry
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands soon.

With a smooth jumper and nifty handles, Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is an integral part of the team’s NBA championship aspirations. Kicking it down in Orlando in the NBA bubble—a space inside Walt Disney World in which the NBA is continuing its season after being forced to postpone it due to the coronavirus pandemic—Murray has been using some of his down time to get more in touch with the music of his favorite rappers. Phoning in from the bubble, the 23-year-old basketball player gives XXL a rundown on his rap fandom and who he’s been listening to while in Orlando.

XXL: Has rap taken on a new role in your life at all since you entered the NBA bubble, where games are being played during the COVID-19 pandemic? Is it more important now?

Jamal Murray: Yes and no. Sometimes when I go back and if I’m getting a haircut, a lot of guys say, “[Car]melo [Anthony] likes to listen to a lot of the old music, most music.” And then, that kind of put me on where I’m like, OK, let me go back and look at my collection, to all the music that I listen to. With all the players here, everybody is so different from each other [and] everybody listens to different stuff. It definitely brought my mind in terms of Method Man, I listen to Wu-Tang [Clan] and Method Man and they’re showing me tracks from Method Man that I didn’t even know. So, stuff like that where I can broaden my mind, broaden my listening to different rappers, different artists and just kind of get that feel. Like, I put on Raekwon the other day. I don’t even know Raekwon’s album, but I know a couple songs on it are just fire.

You’re listing some rappers who started out in the 1990s and 2000s. Who are your favorite rappers from that era?

It’s hard to say a favorite rapper. If I had to pick two, I’m going to go with Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z. Jay-Z just got that longevity. He can put out anything at any time and everybody will love it. He’ll never get old. He’s still got the same style but at the same time, he’s kind of updated it. It’s still fresh where it’s like, the music he puts out is for everybody to listen to, not just one generation. Busta’s just one of them cats, man, he just so different. At the same time, if you can catch what he’s saying because he’s talking so fast, if you can catch what he’s saying... Just the way he comes at you with all his antics, it’s got a different feel to it. You feel the music, so I like to bump him before a game or something, just so I can get in the mood.

You tweeted that Eminem is lyrically amazing. Was there a song you were listening to that prompted that statement?

On Kamikaze, there’s a song “Not Alike.” I was listening to that and I was like, This is just disgusting. And then on Music to Be Murdered By, the first five, six songs, just crazy. He’s just going in. I’m sitting there just listening not doing anything. I’m not in the shower. I’m just sitting there listening to what he’s saying. If you actually understand and listen to what he’s saying, there’s no one that can compete with Eminem. That’s why no one goes at Eminem because everybody knows Eminem is just, he’s too good in a rap battle.

What would you say is your favorite rap album ever?

Favorite rap album? Damn. Lil Wayne’s mixtapes… He got a lot of good mixtapes like Da Drought 3. Even the ones he came out with recently, like Dedication 6: Reloaded. I listen to all of those, a lot. All the Dedications are fire. I probably go back and listen to those the most.

If you could make a song with any rapper, who would it be?

It would definitely be J. Cole or Lil Wayne. Just because Lil Wayne got metaphors for days, but J. Cole, he’ll have a conversation and then make it rhyme. He’s like, a storyteller. He’ll make you think about some stuff and then on top of that, he’ll throw a beat on it and then make it rhyme. I think that’s so cool, how he can interpret that and how he can put his views in his head into words. He’s such a good lyricist. I love that.

Check out more from XXL magazine’s Fall 2020 issue including our 2020 XXL Freshman Class interviews with NLE Choppa, Polo G, Chika, Baby Keem, Mulatto, Jack Harlow, Rod Wave, Lil Tjay, Calboy, Fivio Foreign, Lil Keed and 24kGoldn

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