When I first saw that Ray Lewis was doing a mixtape with Pharrell Williams, my first reactions was "Why, oh god, why?"
My second reaction was "I wonder who the Ravens defenders would be as rappers?"
So I made a list of which rappers the Ravens defenders would be, based on their current role on the defense. This is a) more about their role on the defense then their skill as a defender b) not meant to be a comprehensive list and c) meant to cut the tension before the start of the season tomorrow. If you disagree with any of the match-ups I put below, say why you disagree in the comments and who should be matched up instead. Enjoy!
Haloti Ngata: Lupe Fiasco
When Lupe started his career he was, like Ngata, both under the radar and critically acclaimed. Lupe's first two albums, Food and Liquor and The Cool, were both fantastic. Add to those albums his incredible collection of mixtapes and he was, at least in my mind, one of the best rappers in the game. But Lupe then had some trouble with his record label, and while he has shown flashes of brilliance, he really hasn't been the same since. Many people, including me, are waiting and hoping he regains his form and makes a complete album that really showcases the skills he showed earlier in his career.
While Ngata has been very good throughout his career, his recent injuries have stopped him from putting together a complete season that showcases his absolute dominance. Here's hoping he bounces back and regains his status as perennial Defensive Player of the Year dark horse.
Arthur Jones: Tyler, the Creator
Tyler the Creator is the leader of the rap group Odd Future who, in the process of releasing three albums before the age of 22, has managed to piss off an extraordinary number of people on the way. While his records have been received with mostly positive reviews, his perchance for offhand homophobic language and talk of violence against women has left him with his detractors. But despite the criticism from these interest groups, he still seems to be charting his meteoric rise to the top of the rap game.
While I'm sure Arthur Jones is not homophobic or misogynistic, he is both young and has already started to go against convention. When Marcus Spears and Chris Canty were both signed by the Ravens, Jones must have been feeling his spot as a starter on the defensive line was in jeopardy. But despite his love of ice cream trucks, he's had a great training camp and snagged a starting spot from Spears in the process. Like Tyler, all indications are that Jones is in for a great year and will continue to rise as a top performer on the Ravens defense.
Chris Canty: Common
Most people have heard of Common, the Chicago-based conscious rapper. Most people also acknowledge that he's been a really good rapper for a long time. But despite all this, Common's name doesn't often come up in discussions when people talk about the top performers of the modern rap game. It could be because his conscious rap is outside the mainstream, where it doesn't get as much attention. Personally, I think it's because he's been so good for so long that his skill is something we just don't think about all that much.
This is very similar to Chris Canty. Canty is a very good five-technique defensive tackle who, while widely regarded as talented, doesn't really have the hype that matches his skill. I'm sure Canty is going to want to make people sit up and notice what he's been doing his whole career this season.
Elvis Dumervil: Pusha-T
Pusha-T has had a long and illustrious rap career that may be closer to the end then the beginning. He and his brother formed the rap duo Clipse who put out three very solid albums between 2001 and 2009. But in 2010 he set out for greener pastures, signing with Kanye West's record label G.O.O.D. Music and has been collaborating with him closely since. While he's never been a stand-alone star, he's always been widely respected for his creativity and technical skill.
This jives perfectly with Elvis Dumervile. Dumervile is a terrific number two pass rushers and switched teams, or record labels, to sign with the Ravens. And based on the rapper we selected for Terrell Suggs, the selection of Dumervile as Pusha-T just makes that much more sense.
Daryl Smith: Del the Funky Homosapien
Like Daryl Smith, you might not have heard of Del the Funky Homosapien. It's not because he's new; he's actually been around for nearly twenty years now. It probably has a lot to do with Del being based on the West Coast, having a small record label, and focusing on topics decisively out of the mainstream (like a concept album about a futuristic utopia). But make no mistake; once you do hear of Del, you won't want to stop listening. You'll go through his sizable discography in no time at all, saying to yourself "How did I miss all of THIS for so long?"
While many of us might have missed Smith's stellar play because he played for the small-market Jaguars, his preseason play is already turning heads. Now that Ravens fans have noticed him, he'll make sure we don't forget about him any time soon.
Terrell Suggs: Kanye West
Kanye West has easily been one of the most popular and acclaimed rappers for a while now. He has never released a bad album (except for maybe 808s & Heartbreaks) and his 2010 album "Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" was one of the best albums in years. While some might remember for his altercation with Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs, his body of work far outweighs whatever controversy he's been involved in. That said, he definitely loves in his rep as haphazard rebel. Sure, he might seem kind of crazy at times, but I'm willing to overlook (relish in?) it because of his terrific body of work.
Terrell Suggs, like Kanye West, might seem crazy at times, but he's clearly the best defender on the Ravens, and has been for some time. His 2011 season when he was named Defensive Player of the Year was a masterpiece, and hopefully we'll see quite a few more of those seasons once he fully recovers from his Achilles tear this year.
Lardarius Webb: Kid Cudi
Kid Cudi, like Lardarius Webb, has been turning heads his entire career. His two albums were both popular and critically acclaimed. Though his recent track record was not nearly as good as his first albums, due to a large focus on guitar, he looks to get back on track on his next releases. If his guest verse on Big Sean's "First Chain," is any indication, Cudi should be good to go. Similarly Webb (other than an ACL tear this past season) has been very good through his whole career, and looks to get back on track next season.
Michael Huff: DJ KHAled/ Lil John
DJ Khaled and Lil John, like Michael Huff, are not stand-alone artists. If anyone asked me if I wanted to listen to either artist's solo albums, I would quickly respond with a "no thank you" and start backing away as fast as possible. But both DJ Khaled and Lil John are great in supporting roles, providing a timely and energetic "D...J... KHALED!!!" or "YEAH" to spice up a track. I think of Michael Huff in the same way. While I wouldn't want to build my defense around him, he definitely adds something in a supporting role where he can play to his strengths. Let's hope he can also make sure that "all we do is win."