It Was Written

A∙lyrical∙analysis∙of∙HIP∙HOP∙ and∙golf’s∙unlikely∙romance#
It Was Written 24

I caught both bugs around the same time. I was 13 and did something bordering on miraculous from the right fairway bunker on the fourth hole at Mount Vernon Country Club with a 21-degree Tommy Armour III hybrid I had swiped from the basement. Two years later, I was a scratch.

Not long after, I hopped the backyard fence after school and walked into Reilly Davis’ basement. He was older, taller and had his own iTunes music library—which, in my 2008 world, made him something just south of a god.

Until that moment, my musical frame of reference was limited to the Jackson 5 greatest-hits tape I got for Christmas in second grade and the Kenny Chesney that played on a loop whenever my father was in the garage.

Wale’s “Nike Boots” was rattling off Reilly’s walls. I had never heard drums like that. I asked him to play something else. Over the next few hours, I caught the second bug. We began with what was hot—Jeezy, T.I., 50 and Lil Wayne—then hit the classics: Reasonable Doubt, The Infamous and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I became a full-blown hip-hop head in less time than it took to make the turn.

But I quickly discovered a problem: My passions did not vibe. At school, my friends and I went bar by bar through Wayne’s No Ceilings. At the course, my friends and I went hole by hole through Rory’s Sunday round at Congressional.

One was brash, bold and exciting. The other was quiet, conservative and deliberate. I had my heroes on the course and others off of it. The only time they collided was when I stuck my earbuds in on the range. 

As it turns out, I wasn’t alone in loving both games. The first traces of public collaboration date back to 1997, when Luther Campbell, better known as Uncle Luke from 2 Live Crew, debuted his sixth studio album, Changin’ the Game. On the cover, he proudly rests a driver over his shoulder while surrounded by scantily clad women and poorly Photoshopped golf balls. 

“I would go down to Miami for these photo shoots and Luke was living on a golf course,” Wendell Haskins, a former music-industry tastemaker who represented Campbell at Island Records, tells me. “He would say, ‘Wen, you gotta get out here and start playing.’ So I’m saying to myself, ‘Wow, some of these kids would be inspired and a little more curious about the game if they actually knew who was out here playing.’”

Haskins went on to leave the rap industry for a career in golf. In 1999, he launched Original Tee, a culture club dedicated to amplifying diversity in golf and celebrating the game’s Black pioneers. His annual Original Tee Golf Classic attracts golf-loving luminaries from across the entertainment industry while offering a healthy purse to young Black professional golfers.

Since Uncle Luke’s opening drive, hip-hop has continued to pry golf’s gates open. Kendrick Lamar took some hacks from the top of a Chevrolet Impala in his “HUMBLE.” music video that has more than 850 million views on YouTube. Drake, Gucci Mane, Mac Miller and many more have used the course as backdrops for their videos.

Houston, Texas, rapper Scarface famously picked up the game after his then-14-year-old daughter fell under Tiger’s spell. “I play golf every day if I can,” he told Billboard in 2015, “but it’s not fun and games for me. I’m serious about golf.” 

ScHoolboy Q has been vocal about the game’s positive impact on his mental health after a tumultuous upbringing in the streets of South Central Los Angeles. The PGA Tour posted a video of him playing in the 2022 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in which he explained, “It let me learn myself as a person. It fixed my attitude in life. It fixed a whole lot of things about me in life.” You’re now more likely to find him at a swanky Los Angeles course than in a recording studio. 

These days, I have a third bug: chronicling the instances where my two loves work in tandem. Golf pops up in rap lyrics more than many think. Dig deep enough into the notepads of the past and you’ll find an extensive paper trail of braggadocious ardor for the country club lifestyle, wordplay flips on everyday golf verbiage, tributes to the champions, and more Tiger name-drops than you can count. What follows are a few favorites that 2008 me never would have thought possible.

It Was Written No. 24

ARTIST: Pusha T, Clipse & Nigo
YEAR: 2022
SONG: “Punch Bowl”

My 4 a.m. friends that I trusted in¶ And 20 years later, they still crushin’ it (Yeah)¶

So every vacation, it’s still us again¶ It’s baby seats back of the Cullinans¶

The new Bubba Watson without  the mulligan¶ And I put all that shit under my government#

Here, Pusha T references Bubba Watson’s 2011 Richard Mille RM 038 watch collaboration. The luxury brand released a limited collection of 38 timepieces inspired by Watson’s game. They retailed for $525,000 each and sold out almost instantly, resurfacing in secondhand markets for upwards of $1.3 million. By claiming that it’s not a mulligan, Pusha T is saying that he’s wearing a new Richard Mille and you can be damn sure it’s no knockoff.

It Was Written No. 24

YEAR: 2003
SONG: “Encore”

Now look at me: all star-studded¶

Golfer above par like I putted¶ 

All ’cause the shit I uttered was utterly ridiculous¶

How sick is this?#

There aren’t too many bars Jay-Z would take back in his three-plus-decade reign, but this is probably one of them. “Golfer above par like I three-putted” would have made more sense, but it would have thrown off the otherworldly flow he caught on this classic track. Side note: “Encore” was produced by Kanye West, who sampled the trumpet from John Holt’s cover of The Beatles’ “I Will” on the beat.

It Was Written No. 24

YEAR: 2010
SONG: “The Eyes of the Tiger”

Infamy, can’t deal wit’ it¶ She gon’ get the mils for this¶

Don’t root for meThey boo for me

And cheer for Philip MickelsonVijay Singh and all of them

They gon’ stop acknowledgin’Have they all forgotten who done made this golf shit hot again?#

This song is the climax of golf and rap’s relationship. D.C. native Wale had a short stint as a college running back at Robert Morris University before pursuing rap, and he never forgot his roots in sports. He sneaks them into his rhymes at every turn, even naming another song “Barry Sanders.” In this track, Wale takes it to a new level, rapping for three minutes straight from the POV of Tiger Woods following his 2009 Thanksgiving accident. The song appeared on his 2010 mixtape More About Nothing, the follow-up to The Mixtape About Nothing, both of which are narrated and inspired by different Seinfeld scenes.

YEAR: 2017
SONG: “Drip or Drown”

They say lately I been lookin’ like dollars (Yeah)¶

Pinstripe high-waters, I dress like a golfer (Drip)

We ride in foreigns, ain’t no more Impalas (Foreigns)¶

They ain’t have the new born but I got baby bottles (Ah)#

Unfortunately, Gunna has larger concerns than figuring out golf outfits. As of this writing, he has been released from prison after taking a plea deal on a RICO case that swallowed up a large chunk of Atlanta’s rap scene, including fellow rapper Young Thug.

It Was Written No. 24

ARTIST: Drake (with Lil Durk & Giveon)
YEAR: 2021
SONG:  “In the Bible”

Think I’m Tiger Woods, the way I’m teed off the 17

And you know pockets on whatever, jeans forever green¶

And you know, told me lotta things, but ain’t say everything¶

But now I know every single thing, there was plenty things I didn’t know#

A clever one here from the reigning artist of the decade. In this case, “teed” appears to be slang for “turnt up,” a common way for young people to express high levels of energy or intoxication. I’m guessing it’s the latter here, as Drake is an avid fan of Rémy Martin’s 1738. Thus, it seems that Drake is wasted off of cognac and it’s making him feel like Tiger Woods.

It Was Written No. 24

ARTIST: Eminem (feat. KXNG Crooked, Royce Da 5’9″ & Joell Ortiz)
YEAR: 2020
SONG:  “I Will”

Your Willy Wonka persona won’t help you any longer¶

I’m Optimus, I make prime examples of mini-Tonkas¶

Hogtie your squad and go bonkers¶ Spin, grab Denaun’s guitar and honky-tonk ya¶

All your bars subpar like good golfersI put a hole in one of you birdies with this Eagle and launch it#

A triple golf entendre from Joell Ortiz! Gun puns have been a recurring theme in rap for almost as long as the genre has existed. If you don’t like it, take it up with Ice Cube. Regardless, you have to admit that referring to a Desert Eagle firearm as an “Eagle” following both hole-in-one and birdie mentions is a solid three-hole stretch.

It Was Written No. 24

ARTIST: ScHoolboy Q
YEAR: 2019
SONG:  “CrasH”

N**** gotta hit the golf course to get a peace of mind

Family friends want a piece of mine¶ 

I can tell they all piecin’ up¶ And I can show ’em where peace resides#

ScHoolboy Q’s upbringing is well documented in his music: He joined the 52 Hoover Gangster Crips in South Central LA at the age of 12, served six months in jail for a home invasion at 21, took up music seriously soon after and signed with Top Dawg Entertainment around the same time the label brought in a promising young Compton artist named Kendrick Lamar. Q emerged from Lamar’s shadow with his critically acclaimed album Oxymoron, then took five years before releasing a full-length follow-up, CrasH Talk, which included this shoutout to the game that has become a vital part of his mental-health regimen.