Rebels basketball:

New Drake song continues long history of UNLV in hip-hop lyrics

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Al Powers/Powers Imagery

Drake at Tao in the Venetian on Friday, May 11, 2012.

Drake, a Canadian rapper who got his start on the TV show “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” is one of the biggest recording artists today. And the first song on his new album may have given the UNLV basketball program more validation than it accomplished with 51 victories over the past two seasons.

In February, Drake, or Drizzy if you prefer, released the song “Started From the Bottom.” That hit home for a lot of athletes, especially basketball players, because you couldn’t go to a gym without hearing kids singing it or it playing over the loudspeaker during timeouts.

The song went platinum and reached the top 10. It turned out to be the first single for his third album, “Nothing Was the Same.” That’s where UNLV comes in.

The album doesn’t drop until Sept. 24, but it leaked on Monday. The first track, “Tuscan Leather” contains the lines UNLV fans and players will like:

Sittin' Gucci Row like they say up at UNLV

Young rebel, Young Money nothin' you could tell me

This is hardly the first time the Rebels have been name-checked by an artist. In fact, despite winning the national championship more than 20 years ago, current assistant Stacey Augmon got a shout out in a Joe Budden song just last month:

Old UNLV Runnin' Rebel artillery, with Augmon at the 2

What sparring y'all wanna do?

That was on Budden’s track, “Lost Control (Freestyle),” which was a response to Kendrick Lamar’s verse on “Control.” But I’m sure you already knew that.

The Rebels actually have a long history of crossover appeal in the hip-hop community. Outside of songs, there are plenty of photos of Tupac in Rebels gear, and Flavor Flav has played drums in the pep band in the past two seasons. And who could forget Tupac T-Shirt Guy at the 2011 upset against North Carolina?

The Rebels appear in lyrics dating back at least to 1990's A Tribe Called Quest track “Footprints.”

Well can I get a level on the bass and on the treble

Footing up and down like a UNLV Rebel

There’s also the 1993 song “Pacifics” by Digable Planets:

Wake up, praying that the game's on

Maybe it's the Runnin’ Rebs, maybe it's the Knicks

And to bring things full circle, Wikipedia tells me Pusha T was the “first artist to publicly diss Drake on a song,” and “the beef … has not been squashed.” Pusha T also beat Drake to the punch with a UNLV reference in his 2011 song “Trouble on My Mind”.

Runnin' like the rebels, UNLV

None of the lyrics around that line are safe for work, nor do they rhyme, so you’re not missing much for context. However, Pusha T does mention Gepetto, so the Rebels are in good company.

Maybe Drake was just trying to get the Rebels-related upper hand on his apparent rival. And considering far more people listen to Drake than Pusha T, he may have succeeded.

Did I miss any UNLV mentions in hip-hop tracks? If so, post them down in the comments.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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