In December of 2008 Jordan Brand collaborated with the Detroit wordsmith for the release of the Air Jordan II “The Way I Am”. Only 313 pair were released. Why only 313 pair you ask? Well 313 is Detroit’s area code, birthplace of Eminem and probably for exclusivity purposes. Needless to say the collaboration between Eminem and Jordan Brand sold out in minutes as well. I’m sure you can obtain a pair through many countless resellers if you are willing to part with your first born. Whether it’s Eminem’s and Jordan’s cult following. The controversy that has followed their careers, or the fact that no matter how much time passes or the economic or social climate these two men continue to sale. The fact remains that these two have more In common than many would probably like to admit. Is it safe to say that Eminem is truly the Michael Jordan of rap, or is it a comparison that is more fitting for Jay-Z?
Michael Jordan is most certainly a legend and an icon. He has achieved feats on the hardwood that most basketball players can only dream of. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships which was accomplished by 3-peating twice. His Jumpman logo is one of the most recognizable in the world and his Jordan Brand is a billion dollar company that produces silhouettes of sneakers new and retro that sell out in a matter of minutes when released. It’s understandable why one would want to compare themself to such greatness. Jay-Z, a rapper that hails from Brooklyn (birthplace of MJ) who many would consider “The G.O.A.T.” (Greatest of All Time) has used his lyrics to parallel his rap career to Michael Jordan’s basketball career. On Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter, Jay-Z can be heard on “Hova Song (Intro)” spitting “Mike Jordan of rap, outside Jay working…now watch how quickly I drop 50”. On “Encore” a cut off of The Black Album, which at the time was supposed to be Jay-Z’s curtain call, Jay rhymes “When I come back like Jordan wearing the 45 it’s not to play games with you”. MJ and Jay-Z have quite a few things in common. They are both considered by many to be the greatest in their respective fields. They are both African American males that hail from humble beginnings. Both have also used their talents to generate a massive amount of wealth and success. Finally, they both at one point retired, only to return to what they loved. Basketball and music respectively. With all things considered is Jay-Z really the Michael Jordan of rap? I myself am a huge Jay-Z fan. I at some point have thrown up the ROC sign with the rest of the world. I know songs off all of Jay’s albums lyric for lyric. Whether grassroots Hip-Hop “purists” want to admit it or not Jay-Z has influenced an entire generation. However, there is another rapper that has had just as much impact on Hip-Hop as Jay-Z. I also feel that if you examine his career closely you could make the argument that he is truly the Mike Jordan of rap. Like Jay-z and Michael Jordan he is definitely considered by many to be an icon. Whether you love him or hate him you cannot leave him out of the conversation of greatest rapper of all time. Who is this rapper I speak of you ask. Snoop? Nope? 2 Pac? Biggie? Love those brothers and may they forever rest in peace, but naw. The rapper that I am referring to is Eminem. Now before you start pointing out the biggest difference between Jordan and Eminem which is that Mike is black and Em is white, take into consideration the success, controversy that has surrounded their careers and the pure cult following they both have. Michael Jordan has an allegiance of fans all over the world that love him dearly. From his early days at N.C. to his rookie season in Chicago, Michael Jordan has been the ambassador of basketball since he hit the game winning shot against John Thompson and his Georgetown Hoyas in 1982 during their NCAA Championship matchup. Although Eminem is not considered the ambassador of rap or Hip-Hop culture, like Mike his career has been followed closely by the masses. From his days as a relatively unknown underground rapper up until his signing with Dr. Dre of the famed yet controversial group N.W.A. When Eminem signed with Dre it was the equivalent of Mike signing with Nike. Nike, Tinker Hatfield and Michael Jordan pushed the envelope in terms of design, materials used and marketing to push the Jordan Brand to the masses and create a Basketball sneaker that not only performed well on the court, but also spoke to the youth and shook up an establishment by rebelling against the social construct of the NBA. When the Jordan 1 released Michael Jordan was fined every game because of the black and red color way of the sneaker that went against the NBA’s uniformity rule. A fine that Nike proudly paid every game. When Eminem signed with Dre, Dre by no means tried to censor his lyrics, or force him to be politically correct. Eminem was given the freedom to push the envelope on a grand scale and express himself in a way that may not have sat well with the establishment, but through his controversial lyrics he became adorned by millions and used his voice and new found fame to address and poke fun at his would be detractors. What Nike along with Dr. Dre understood is that freedom and rebellion were key. It is the language of the youth. As long as the product continued to be quality it did not matter the package that the product was presented in. Also, you can’t deny the numbers. They speak for themselves. Michael Jordan performed amazing feats on the court in the very shoe he was being fined for wearing that bought thousands of fans out to the games. It’s no secret that Nike and Mike saved the NBA. Eminem would get in the booth and say some of the most controversial yet amazing things on the mic and sale millions of copies. Whether we agree with it or not Hip-Hop has always been demonized by the media because of its often violent and misogynistic content. Eminem was no exception to the rule. Controversy has followed him for most of his career due to his crude and violent lyrics that ranged from killing Kim which is his child’s mother to berating his own mother. Like Eminem, controversy has followed Mike most of his career. While being praised for his athleticism on the court he and Nike were simultaneously being criticized because of the violence that was occurring on America’s streets because of the high demand, but also high price tag of the ever so popular Air Jordan sneaker. With stories of kids having to walk home barefoot after being robbed for their Air Jordan sneakers and in some of the most extreme situations even being killed over a shoe, Jordan and Nike were under much public scrutiny. However, the criticism would not stop Nike and Jordan from continuing to make a series of Air Jordan sneakers that would continue to challenge design norms and push price points higher and higher. In fact the pricier Air Jordan sneakers became the more desirable they would become. In the same vein, the more controversial Eminem’s lyrics became the bigger his fame grew. Recently Eminem released MMLP2, the sequel to the MMLP that released 13 years ago with little to no promotion and he was still able to sale over 700,000 copies in the first week. Three years after his last outing Recovery which was released June 18th, 2010 and went on to sell 4.5 million copies domestically and 10 million copies worldwide. Over the last 10 years Nike and Jordan have been re-releasing sneakers that in many cases originally released over 20 years ago and selling them for upward of $150-$200. Anyone that has attempted to obtain a pair of these retro Air Jordan sneakers know that it is a daunting task with the ever so popular shoe selling out across retail stores and the internet In a matter of minutes with no promotional dollars being spent by Nike or Jordan Brand.