|"Getting' Jiggy Wit It"
|Under Ground Kings
|No Matter What
|You're A Customer
|Built Like Me
|Ready or Not
|Nas and Damian Marley
|Kanye West and Jay Z
|X Ambassadors, Jamie Common
|Rumble in the Jungle
|Why I Hate School But Love Education
|Joyner Lucas & Will Smith
|Back on the Road
|Mama Said Knock You Out
|LL Cool J
|Wish I Had It
|Get on Your Kneez
|MC Pat Flynn
|Michael Jordan vs Muhammad Ali
|Epic Rap Battles
|Child Rebel Soldier
|Ali's Battle Raps
|Til I Get There
|I Was a Rock
|Chance the Rapper
|The Louisville Lip
|Trio Madjesi and Orchestre Sosoliso
|I am the greatest!
By Enid Trucios-Haynes
Director, Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice
Muhammad Ali did much more than transform the world of sports during his lifetime, influence the civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War movement, and advance global justice. He has been called the most famous Muslim in the U.S. who has shown through his life journey how religion can transform and inspire.
Muhammad Ali was also a pop culture icon on the par with Frank Sinatra according to Rolling Stone Magazine. Rolling Stone. Muhammad Ali has a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. It is the only one displayed on a wall and not on the sidewalk because he refused to have anyone step on the name of the prophet Muhammad.
He made a major impact on the entertainment industry with record albums and received two grammy nominations. The first album was issued in 1963 as a spoken word record on I Am the Greatest! This and his poetry have led many to refer to Muhammad Ali as the father of rap music. The album reached No. 61 on the record charts. Muhammad Ali was nominated for a Grammy in 1976 for a children’s dental hygiene record called “The Adventures of Ali and His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay.”
Muhammad Ali’s life has been chronicled in over ten 10 films including documentaries such as When We Were Kings, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1996, and The Trials of Muhammad Ali about his legal case to recognize his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War. Movies about Muhammad Ali have featured major actors including Will Smith in the 2001 movie “Ali.” Smith’s portrayal of Muhammad Ali was recognized with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Muhammad Ali’s 1975 boxing match against Chuck Wepner has been reported to have inspired the first “Rocky” movie written by Sylvester Stallone, although this connection has been denied by Sylvester Stallone.
Muhammad Ali has been called the “Spiritual Father of Rap” because of his freestyle poetry before boxing matches and in other media appearances. His “early media appearances featured him holding court with the rhymes, flow, and braggadocio that would one day become typical of old school MCs like Run DMC and LL Cool J.” Before his first title match against Sonny Liston in 1964, Muhammad Ali rhymed for the media:
“Who would have thought when they came to the fight,”
“That they’d witness the launching of a black satellite?
Yes the crowd did not dream
When they put up the money
That they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.”
Others have said Muhammad Ali “was hip-hop before hip-hop existed. He is a father of hip-hop. He's one of the men who the young hip-hop generation watched as we shaped our idea of what it meant to be a man.” Of course, there are others pivotal figures who have influenced hip-hop. One author would also recognize Malcolm X, Richard Pryor, James Brown, and Bruce Lee. "Ali was a core influence on the essence of hip-hop culture as broadly understood." A culture that includes performers such as Jay-Z and Rakim, as well as Jamie Foxx, Serena Williams and Leslie Jones. “Hip-hop culture is bold and brash and sometimes at war with the nation that's enthralled with it.”
Muhammad Ali was an actor on Broadway in 1969 while he was banned from boxing. He starred in a musical, Buck White, in which he sang virtually all of the songs. In the play, Muhammad Ali acts in the role of “a militant black lecturer who addresses a meeting organized by a black political group.” The play was a musical adaptation of an Off-Broadway play, Big Time Buck White. The New York Times published about a dozen articles about the play at the time, and it was on the cover of Jet Magazine. The cast, including Muhammad Ali, appeared on famous “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Muhammad Ali: The original rapper: Legendary emcee Chuck D of Public Enemy talks Ali’s impact on hip-hop, By Chuck D as told to Michael Tillery, The Undefeated (June 9, 2016) at https://theundefeated.com/features/muhammad-ali-the-original-rapper/
How Muhammad Ali Invented Hip-Hop, Toure, VICE (June 6, 2016) at https://www.vice.com/en/article/nnkjvd/how-muhammad-ali-invented-hip-hop
Muhammad Ali: World’s Greatest Boxer Was Also Hip-Hop Pioneer: His legendary putdowns, toasts and snaps are a part of hip-hop’s DNA, Mosi Reeves, Rolling Stone (June 6, 2016) at https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/muhammad-ali-worlds-greatest-boxer-was-also-hip-hop-pioneer-152560/
Muhammad Ali's influence ran deep through rap's golden age, Angus Batey, The Guardian (June 6, 2016) at https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/jun/06/muhammad-ali-influence-rap-golden-age
E Ticket: Did Ali Invent Rap? Reason for the Rhyme, Chuck Klosterman, ESPN http://www.espn.com/espn/eticket/story?page=alirap1
Was Muhammad Ali also the heavyweight inventor of rap?, Jack Coyle, The Seattle Times (January 17, 2007) at https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/was-muhammad-ali-also-the-heavyweight-inventor-of-rap/ (review of Ali Rap)
The Greatest: Muhammad Ali’s Hip-Hop Legacy - Remembering the boasts, poetry, and trash talk that changed the world, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, MTV (June 4, 2016) at http://www.mtv.com/news/2888784/muhammad-ali-hip-hop-legacy/
Muhammad Ali in a Broadway Musical? It Happened, By Adam Langer, NYTimes (Nov. 28, 2018) at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/28/theater/muhammad-ali-broadway-buck-white.html - Fifty years ago this week, “Buck White” opened, and very quickly closed.
What does this footnote to theater history still have to tell us? Playbill – Ali’s bio for the play Buck White. https://www.playbill.com/person/muhammad-ali-vault-0000094680
Muhammad Ali, Broadway Musical Star, Dies at 74, Robert Viagas, Playbill - Jun 04, 2016 at https://www.playbill.com/article/muhammad-ali-broadway-musical-star-dies-at-74. “Though not known as a singer, Ali is listed as singing virtually every song in the score, including such titles as “We Came in Chains,” Mighty Whitey” and “Get Down.” The supporting cast included Ted Ross and Don Sutherland. The show opened December 2, 1969 at the George Abbott Theatre and New York Times critic Clive Barnes wrote that the master of ring footwork “sings with a pleasant, slightly impersonal voice, acts without embarrassment and moves with innate dignity.” The show ran seven performances.”
Ali Rap: Muhammad Ali, The First Heavyweight Champion of Rap, edited and designed by George Lois (Taschen/ESPN Books)
Rap Attack by David Toop (study of early hip-hop culture mentions Ali)
Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, Comic book (1978)
Video - Muhammad Ali honored in Hip-Hop | 1942-2016 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1lWjHg6jAs
Record Album - I Am the Greatest! By Cassius Clay (Audio CD) - https://www.amazon.com/I-Am-Greatest-Cassius-Clay/dp/B00000JT3K. Cassius Clay had yet to win the heavyweight championship or, indeed, to change his name when this 1963 recording was made. Incredibly young sounding, he's at his best here when making swipe after verbal swipe at Sonny Liston, both in verse and in (scripted?) answers to audience questions. One silly sketch ("'I Have Written a Drama,' He Said Playfully") isn't up to the solo spots, but even that hardly disrupts the record's giddy tone. This reissue of a once-rare LP, augmented by several other hard-to-find sides, is a must for Muhammad Ali fans, American Studies scholars, and anyone else who seeks further illumination of the Greatest's self-mocking but total confidence. --Rickey Wright
ESPN documentary "Ali Rap"
 Mike Rubin, Muhammad Ali: 4 Ways He Changed America, Rolling Stone (June 5, 2016) at https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-sports/muhammad-ali-4-ways-he-changed-america-155463/.
 Toure, How Muhammad Ali Invented Hip-Hop, Vice (June 6, 2016) at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/nnkjvd/how-muhammad-ali-invented-hip-hop.
 Robert Viagas, Muhammad Ali, Broadway Musical Star, Dies at 74 (June 04, 2016) at https://www.playbill.com/article/muhammad-ali-broadway-musical-star-dies-at-74.
 Adam Langer, Muhammad Ali in a Broadway Musical? It Happened, The New York Times (Nov. 28, 2019) (photo of Muhammad Ali performing a scene from the play on the Ed Sullivan Show) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/28/theater/muhammad-ali-broadway-buck-white.html.