The late Kobe Bryant’s rap album that he recorded in 2000 leaked on Thursday — two days before his Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday.
The 16-track album, titled “Visions,” features rappers and artists, including Nas, 50 Cent, Beanie Segal, Black Thought, Destiny’s Child, and Kobe’s fellow CHEIZAW member, Broady Boy. The long lost album contains Bryant’s critically received single, “K.O.B.E,” featuring Tyra Banks — which, according to Complex, is the reason the album was never released. Fans may recall when Bryant performed “K.O.B.E.” live at the 2000 NBA All-Star game.
Bryant’s album is a gritty, hip-hop collection that included bars about guns and motivational messages, reminiscent of his Mamba Mentality, Complex shared after listening to the album. On the tracks, “Think Big” and “Reality Check,” Bryant preaches to work hard to get what want you instead of succumbing to shortcuts in life.
In true Bryant fashion, he made it clear on multiple tracks that he didn’t enlist a ghostwriter to help write his rhymes. For example, on the track titled, “Squint Your Eyez,” he raps:
“First things first / You think I don’t rhyme and that I’m reciting my verse? / Your words are deader than a hearse.”
The album also includes a number of rap samples by music icons. The song “K.O.B.E” samples Rodney O and Joe Cooley’s “Everlasting Bass.” Bryant also samples Run DMC’s “My Adidas,” as a love letter to the shoe brand — long before he joined Nike. Lauryn Hill’s vocals from the classic “Doo Wop” is featured in the chorus of “Can I Live,” which explains the pitfalls of fame, according to the outlet.
For those asking why Bryant would record a rap album — it apparently started after his Laker teammate, Shaquille O’Neal found success off the court with his Diesel/Superman music character. In the ’90s, O’Neal launched his own rap career with the help of Steve Stoute, president of Sony’s Urban Music at the time — and after the big man went platinum, Stoute, according to Complex, wanted to take Bryant down the same path.
So, in 1999, Stoute signed Bryant, along with his rap group, CHEIZAW, to a record deal. With that, came relocating the group from Los Angeles to New Jersey to give them a sense of the New York City rap game. After three weeks of pulling double-duty, training on the court and recording late night raps at the Hit Factory, “Visions” was born.
Following his January 2020 death in a tragic helicopter in Southern California, rapper LL Cool J recalled a time when Bryant played “this gangsta rap album” for him.
“I was like, ‘Kobe.’ I said, ‘Come on, dog. That’s not what you need to be doing,’” the actor told “Entertainment Tonight.” “He had a gangsta rap album. He played me that album, we’re sitting in a parking lot. I was confused. I was sittin’ there, like, ‘What are we doing? You got endorsements, what are you doing?’
“It had to be the funniest moment of my life, listening to him do gangsta rap.”