A 20-plus year Rap veteran, Ray Benzino may have been the first emcee to have ever been photographed in a Boston Celtics jersey. Minutia aside, the Dorchester, Massachussets native carries a strong sense of civic pride when it comes to his city's sports. Yesterday proved to be no different, when the Made Men/Almighty R.S.O. veteran made "Ballin' With The Celtics" , in response to friends Snoop Dogg and Kurupt dissing Boston's boys in part of good ol' fun.
"I'm getting ready for another championship," said Ray today to HipHopDX, asked about his plans leading up to tonight's Game 6 NBA Finals match between the Los Angeles Lakers playing host to the Boston Celtics at The Staples Center. "You know we're the New York Yankees of this basketball thing."
"[There] were a lot of Twitter comments about different L.A. cats making songs [for the Lakers]. I didn't pay it too much attention, but then I heard the Snoop [Dogg] and Kurupt track. Snoop's my man - big up to Snoop; Kurupt's my friend too. When I heard that, I was like, wow. I kind of took it a little personally. But I can kind of understand them [as fans], comin' from L.A." Just as in Rap rivalry, Benzino reached for a microphone to respond. "Me and my man, Young L.O. from The Untouchables - he's also a Boston native, comin' out of Orchard Park, we was at our studio the other night, and I just couldn't take it no more." Miami-based C-Black and Maestro produced the song's beat.
Known for speaking his mind against other rappers throughout his career, Benzino did want to clarify that the song is not truly a "diss" to the Dogg Pound or even the Lakers. "It's not necessarily an L.A. diss, as much as it's us biggin' up Boston. I want to clear that up," Ray said. "I definitely respect a lot of the Lakers' players. [Ron] Artest, especially in Hip Hop, [I respect him] for what he brings to the table, comin' outta Queensbridge. Lamar Odom went to school up in Providence, [Rhode Island], that's right down the street [from Boston]. Definitely, Kobe Bryant is one of the best to ever do it - so the respect is there, but at the end of the day, my blood bleeds green. That leprechaun is gonna make his way through the Staples Center and bring the championship home." Initially, Ray sought out another die-hard New England sports fan to assist on the record. "I actually wanted to get Edo [G] on the track, but he's out of the country right now."
In the vein of Kanye West's support for Chicago Bears' 2006 run to the Super Bowl, and other cheerleader raps, Benzino explained his purpose. "I wanted to make a song that wasn't just a freestyle over a beat. I wanted to make a song that they could play in the clubs, play on the radio, everything."
The song is reportedly still en route to Boston airwaves and venues. "We just sent out the track. I got my editor [with me in Miami] Box Lo, workin' on puttin' together compilations of the Celtics' greatest highlights of the championship. We're gonna try to release a lil' video before the game on tonight," said Ray. "My man Jeff 2x blasted it out to all his deejays up in Boston - shout out to Chubby Chub and Moe Dee and all the deejays up in Boston and everything."
As Ray sees it, "Three things can happen: One, the Celtics can win tonight and I think the song'll definitely get a lot of legs for the next month or so. Two, the Celtics could lose and it goes to Game 7, meaning that the song could at least get some legs till Thursday. Three, Thursday Game 7 can come, we can lose, and that would kind of put the song to bed. We'll wait and see how it plays out."
With the fanfare, Benzino was asked about a September, 2000 incident where Celtics' star Paul Pierce was stabbed. "Definitely, I want to shout out to Paul Pierce and his family. Paul is definitely comin' from the west coast, comin' from Inglewood, he's a [future] Hall of Famer, and one of the best Celtics players to ever put on a jersey. Although many media outlets initially associated Benzino with the attacker, he vehemently denies involvement. "The situation that happened a few years back was an unfortunate incident. People gotta understand that Boston is such a small community that if everybody goes out to the same nightclub, and something happens, my name - when it comes to Hip Hop and everything around there at that time, was like the biggest name to call out when something goes on. It was a situation where there was a fight, an incident, and Paul, unfortunately had got hurt within the scuffle. I can say that I had nothing to do with it."
Benzino added that he's been a fan of Pierce for nearly a decade, personally and professionally. "I wouldn't have jumped on Paul then. I've been a fan since the Celtics drafted him. I've been a fan since day one. It was just a bad moment for not only Boston sports, but just a bad moment in my career because a lot of people still associate me with that situation with Paul." Ray said that the media has never followed up with Pierce, who he associates with. "Since then, I've seen Paul a couple of times, and everything's been all love, all good."
Lastly, and perhaps humorously to some, Benzino was specific to deny those reports today. "I want to clarify that [even more too],'cause I heard they were gonna get all these mats at the Staple's Center and holdin' 'em up on the free throw line with my face." While fans will have to tune in to see if that tactic is employed, Benzino is still confident in a Celtics championship. "I think L.A. will be disappointed with that tactic; I don't think that strategy will work 'cause me and Paul are cool. It's all good."