NBA Star Miles Bridges Put Out a Mixtape—and It’s Actually Not Embarrassing

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Plus more highs and lows from the world of rap, including the most memorable moments from this year’s Yams Day and a dissection of the trailer for Pop Smoke’s posthumous film Boogie.

Basketball player Miles Bridges
Miles Bridges (photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images). Graphic by Drew Litowitz.

Pitchfork writer Alphonse Pierre’s rap column covers songs, mixtapes, albums, Instagram freestyles, memes, tweets, fashion trendsand anything else that catches his attention.


Breaking down Charlotte Hornet Miles Bridges’ surprisingly decent mixtape

For decades, when basketball players have tried to rap, the results have been ugly. There was Shaq, who once miserably failed at his unofficial audition to join the Gravediggaz on the RZA-produced “No Hook.” Or the time Troy Hudson tried to channel Three 6 Mafia and ended up sounding more like Terrence Howard in Hustle & Flow. Or more recently when Damian Lillard forced us to listen to his wannabe Tyga club anthems during All-Star Weekend. But the Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges, under the pseudonym RTB MB, is putting some respect on the NBA rapper. He’s done this by figuring out the problem with almost every basketball star who wants to spit: They almost always sound more influenced by radio hits than their hometown regional scenes.

Bridges comes from Flint, Michigan, currently one of the hottest rap cities on Earth. Given those roots, and a successful stint at Michigan State, the 22-year-old forward was destined to be name-dropped on Michigan rap songs for generations, even if he had never stepped into a studio. So when Bridges popped up on a single with hometown funnyman YN Jay in September, it wasn’t a complete shock. On “1st Quarter,” he rapped, “R&B chick at the crib blowing eighties with me/Ass thick, slim waist, let me taste the kitty,” in a flow borrowed from the Coochie Man himself and he didn’t feel out of his element.

The song wasn’t a one-time thing. At the end of 2020, Bridges returned with a mixtape of his own called Up the Score that doubled down on his hometown’s signature sound. He could have easily gone down to rap’s epicenter in Atlanta, cut some records on 808 Mafia-type beats, hit the strip club with Gunna, and went back to hooping. Instead, Bridges recorded an underground Michigan rap mixtape, a refreshing choice that also left me conflicted: Did I like the tape because of how unexpected it was to hear an NBA player venture into such niche rap territory or because it’s a legitimately good Michigan tape? I came up with a few questions to figure this out for myself.

1. Is Miles Bridges good at basketball?

Let’s be honest with ourselves—we don’t want to listen to just any basketball player rap. If the unremarkable forward Theo Pinson was to hop on a Wheezy beat, I’d probably sit that one out (I apologize for the stray, Theo, but this is what happens when you’re on the Knicks). But Miles Bridges is good at basketball. If this were The Ringer, I would back up my claim with Bridges’ shooting splits and advanced statistics. But this is Pitchfork, so all I have to say is his dunks are sick.

2. Are the punchlines funny?

A dark and wicked sense of humor is a crucial part of what makes Michigan rap so great. And while Miles Bridges won’t ever make you spit out your drink, it is kind of funny to hear a normally brand-conscious NBA player willing to say whatever it takes to make a solid local rap song: “Real Flint nigga, I ain’t ever have to act tough/Claiming she a city girl, I’ll leave her if she act up,” he raps on “Dark Days.”

3. Do the beats work?

There are a lot of cheap-sounding beats that blandly try to imitate Michigan’s tense, horror-flick instrumentals, but luckily Bridges went straight to the source. It’s hard to go wrong with a handful of instrumentals from prolific local mainstays Enrgy and Sav.

4. Is he outshined by the guests?

Up the Score occasionally feels too normal for a Michigan rap record, as Bridges falls somewhere in between the region’s larger-than-life personalities like Jay and Sada Baby, and the too-cool-to-care types like Babyface Ray and Baby Smoove. His shortcomings are easiest to notice when he’s rapping alongside Nuk, one of the best rappers in the state right now. But for the most part Bridges does enough to keep my attention, even when I wish he had some more personality.

5. Would I listen to Up the Score if Bridges was not in the NBA?

This is the most important question. Up the Score for sure sounds and feels like Michigan rap, but if we’re being real, Miles Bridges doesn’t have that much to say. I’m sure his day-to-day involves mostly basketball or fitness-related activities, so instead of rapping about his cardio routine he brags about Range Rovers and Benzes and parties with IG models. But those sorts of flexes just sound way less impressive coming from an NBA player than they do a rapper, because, duh, you’re in the NBA, of course this is your lifestyle. There are quite a few moments like that, though they don’t strip away the fun of it all. Up the Score isn’t the best Michigan rap has to offer, but hey, adding a professional basketball player into the scene should only make things more ridiculous.


Headline of the week: “Rap artist clogged toilets at N.J. mansion, caused $260K in damages

New York Magazine should get A Boogie to do a Grub Street Diet because we need to evaluate what a person who can do this much damage to a very expensive toilet is eating. Is Boogie just devouring extra-cheese pizzas and washing it down by chugging bottles of Nesquik? Or maybe he gorged on plates of the raisin-coated mac and cheese Drake ate at his birthday party. We need to get to the bottom of this.


The mysterious Florida connection in Trump’s rap pardons

In his final hours in office, Donald Trump pardoned Lil Wayne and granted Kodak Black a commutation. Like most of the Trump presidency, these moves were bizarre but not necessarily surprising.

Kodak has been lobbying for leniency since last year by getting Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to vouch for him and vowing to donate a million dollars to charity if Trump would help release him from jail. With Wayne, it was murkier. Right before the election, the internet flipped out when the Young Money head honcho endorsed Donald Trump’s campaign. Yet it all quickly came together once it was revealed that Wayne was facing a federal weapons charge in Miami. The apparent quid pro quo made even more sense once whispers began to arise of Trump associates possibly selling pardons. But if the last four years have taught us anything it’s that Trump usually has an even more diabolical plan waiting behind the curtain.

 

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