2018 NBA Draft Picks Reveal Their Favorite Rappers, From Drake & JAY-Z to Gunna & Lil Uzi Vert

AP Photo/Kevin Hagen
Duke's Marvin Bagley III poses for a picture after he was picked second overall by the Sacramento Kings during the NBA basketball draft in New York on June 21, 2018. \

The stage was set Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2018 NBA Draft. An exceptional group of young men waited in excitement to hear their names called as NBA team executives selected the best talent out of a pool of college, international and other eligible basketball players.

It was an exciting night for the league and its fans, as a new generation of NBA players began their professional basketball careers -- a dream they’ve had since they first took on the sport. The future rookies of the NBA owned the night as they posed for paparazzi and got a taste of what the NBA is all about. For the league, it was another chapter in its 72-year history. For the rookies, their lives were about to change forever.

There has always been a strong connection between hip-hop and basketball. NBA references and player name-drops have been a cornerstone in hip-hop for years, while several basketball players have shown interest in the culture of hip-hop. Players like Shaquille O’Neal, Metta World Peace and Damian Lillard have all released studio albums, while Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and other players have made cameos in music videos. It’s a storied history between the sport and the genre, and as the game continues to evolve, so does hip-hop as a batch of new rappers are leaving their mark on the industry.

Billboard was on the Mountain Dew KickStart green carpet to talk with several of the NBA Draft prospects about their favorite artists and songs. As expected, hip-hop heavyweights Drake and J. Cole were mentioned as top choices, alongside newcomers Gunna and Lil Baby. As the rookies embark on the next chapter in their journey this summer, we get to hear what’s currently bumping through their headphones.

Check out what some of the future stars of the NBA are listening to this summer below!

Donte DiVincenzo (point guard)

College: Villanova

Draft Position: No. 17 overall pick (Milwaukee Bucks)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “I mess with anything Lil Uzi [Vert], YoungBoy Never Broke Again. J. Cole and his new album -- that’s been on repeat. I’ve been playing JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s new album. I like JAY-Z, Beyoncé and J. Cole because they’re at the top of their game so you gotta listen to them. Uzi and YoungBoy, they’re up-and-coming and they’re two of my favorite rappers. Uzi gets me hype before a game.”

Collin Sexton (shooting guard)

College: Alabama

Draft Position: No. 8 overall pick (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “I listen to a lot of Meek Mill, a lot of J. Cole and a lot of Gucci Mane. I’m also listening to Young Dolph, some of his early stuff. Nipsey Hussle’s whole album is definitely in rotation, it’s a fire album. I’m also listening to Meek Mill’s last album. I like them because it’s like they’re really talking to me. I feel how the music is now. There is a lot of rapping and lessons to be learned. You could really flow with it.”

Miles Bridges (small forward)

College: Michigan State

Draft Position: No. 12 overall pick (Los Angeles Clippers)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “I’ve been waiting for Drake’s album to come out. JAY-Z came out with some stuff. I like his record with Beyoncé right now 'Friends.' J. Cole is my favorite rapper, but I’m really just waiting for Drake to drop though. I like these artists because they talk to you, I can understand their lyrics and relate to them. I like listening to artists that I can relate to.”

Marvin Bagley III (center)

College: Duke

Draft Position: No. 2 overall pick (Sacramento Kings)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “I like J. Cole. The whole KOD album is dope. Drake. Kendrick Lamar. There’s a lot of rappers that I listen to right now during workouts, before games and just in general. I bounce from song to song, so to pick a certain artist and song is hard. I just like certain albums that I listen to. Pretty much any Drake or J. Cole song.”

Kevin Knox (small forward)

College: Kentucky

Draft Position: No. 9 overall pick (New York Knicks)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “I’m listening to a lot of Gunna, Future, Drake, 21 Savage. Those are my kind of dudes. Lil Baby too. Every time they drop something, I listen to that. I like those guys because they’re young and they relate to the young guys like me. It’s just their music, the beats, the flow, that’s what I like.”

Chandler Hutchison (shooting guard)

College: Boise State

Draft Position: No. 22 overall pick (Chicago Bulls)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “I’m waiting on this Drake album at the end of the month. There’s been a lot of good music lately. Kanye is my guy. That collaboration with Cudi was good. Kanye and Cudi are just different. Kanye received some scrutiny for how honest and different he is, but that’s what got him where he is. That’s always something special when you do something different. For Drake, I like the image he has. He’s a low-key guy, more of an icon altogether than just a rapper, and I think that’s pretty special. Sometimes you get these rappers and they’re just rapping, maybe they don’t stand for the best things. But I feel like Drake and what he stands for is good for kids growing up, and the rap community doesn’t normally have someone like that.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (point guard)

College: Kentucky

Draft Position: No. 11 overall pick (Charlotte Hornets)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “I’m a big Drake fan, but I like to play a lot of old Drake. All the new stuff I don’t really play that much. I’m also a Lil Uzi Vert fan, mostly a fan of his old stuff. I like Uzi because of his vibe. He’s a little different, almost like a rock star in rap. Drake, I guess me being from Toronto, it’s just a given. He’s the greatest of all time. I’m waiting for the new album -- everything he touches is fire, so let’s see.”

Wendell Carter Jr. (center)

College: Duke

Draft Position: No. 7 overall pick (Chicago Bulls)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “I’m bumping the whole Lil Baby album. I’m a huge Lil Baby fan. I like Gunna too. Drake is coming out with an album June 29th, so I’m definitely looking forward to that. I’m biased with Lil Baby just because he’s from Atlanta and very young, so we share a lot together with me being from Atlanta. Gunna, I think he’s also from Atlanta, has a very similar rap style to Lil Baby, and Drake, he’s the greatest of all time, so you gotta listen to him. I been a Migos fan for a very long time. They haven’t put anything out recently, so I haven’t listened to them as much, but whenever something comes out, that’s all I’m bumping in my car.”

Michael Porter Jr. (power forward)

College: Missouri

Draft Position: No. 14 overall pick (Denver Nuggets)

Favorite Artists to Listen to: “Honestly? Lecrae. He’s coming out with a new album with Zaytoven, that’s going to be dope. I like listening to gospel rap, so Trip Lee, all those guys. I’ll listen to Future and 21 Savage from time to time, but I have to mix it in with some other stuff. To me, I like filling my head with positive stuff, you know? Of course I love the rappers of this generation, but I like mixing it in with stuff with positive messages.”