by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
The birthplace of Michael Jordan. “Heaven is a Playground.” Lincoln High School. Chris Mullin. Bernard King. Fly Williams. Streetball legends and NBA stars. Success stories and cautionary tales… The list of Brooklyn’s impact on the game goes on and on and on.
When the calendar shows November 1, The Brooklyn (that’s right, Brooklyn) Nets will put all the hype, gentrification and Jay-Z hoopla on the backburner and finally hit the hardwood to partake in the city’s biggest game since ’73, beginning a new era of basketball in New York. Based on the history of the game, having an NBA team in Brooklyn seems long overdue and despite the natural fit, it all seems surreal.
It didn’t even seem possible. New York City has forever belonged to the Knicks and when the deal finally went through and construction began in ’10, the thought of a team in Brooklyn still seemed like a dream, especially with all the controversies, delays and doubt surrounding the building of the Barclays Center.
Fast forward to 2012: The building of the Barclays Center was completed, Hov rocked the place with an epic string of performances and everywhere you walk, people are rocking black and white Nets fitteds and t-shirts in anticipation of what will hopefully be a new winning tradition in New York. When the opening buzzer sounds and the Nets officially touch the court to kick off the regular season in front of a sold out crowd, everything will come full circle and the dreams of all Brooklynite hoop fans will finally become a reality.
For SLAM, the uniqueness of professional basketball in Brooklyn has provided us with an awesome opportunity to do something we’ve never done before. We could have gone the traditional route, brought on one of our many writers and given you a piece on the history of Brooklyn hoops and the Nets; but you’ll be able to read that rhetoric a thousand times over heading into the season. Instead, we’re celebrating by teaming up with our friend and renowned DJ Mick Boogie, adidas Originals and XXL Magazine to bring you Brooklyn Originals, a mixtape composed of all new, fresh content from an incredible array of Brooklyn MCs.
While the full mix won’t drop until October 31, SLAM will be bringing you interviews with some of the artists involved over the next week to prep you for the full project.
Up first is Brownsville’s own Maffew Ragaznio, who has also been generous enough to premiere “Got2 Love It” the lead single to his upcoming “White Gold” EP on “Brooklyn Originals” and SLAMonline.
SLAM: How does it feel to represent Brooklyn through a project like “Brooklyn Originals”?
Maffew Ragazino: Shit, it’s surreal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s long overdue, but it’s surreal. One of my favorite brands is adidas—I happened to wear adidas yesterday, the Frank the Butcher designed burgundy suede forums during my video shoot. On the real, working with one of my favorite DJs in Mick Boogie and having one of the standout records on there among a host of already established artists and artists on the come up like myself, it’s not real, man!
SLAM: Including yourself, there’s a lot of really dope artists with a unique sound coming from the borough right now. It’s an exciting time for Brooklyn hip-hop as a whole, what’s it like to be part of the new wave of BK MCs?
MR: New York City is the birthplace of hip-hop and Brooklyn—not to sound biased—has some of the best artists ever. Between B.I.G., Jay, Big Daddy Kane, those were some of the guys who influenced me when I first started taking music extremely serious. Now being a part of what people are trying to anoint the new crop of MC’s that are going to be like that in people’s eyes, once again, shit is not real.
SLAM: What do you do to make sure that you hold down your borough and make everyone from Brooklyn proud?
MR: From the outside looking in, it could be a lot of pressure. But really I just have fun doing what I do. I do the music that represents me and being that I’m from New York all of that is going to fall in line. I don’t do anything extra, I don’t even really think about that too much. I just shoot the ball at the basket and I practice so much, my confidence is so good, I’m not afraid of misses and luckily people enjoy what I put out.
SLAM: As a NYC native, I presume that you’re a Knicks fan…
MR: I like the Knicks but I’m going to be honest with you…I don’t know how this season is going to play out and since I’m Brooklyn biased, I wanna see if I can be made into a die-hard Nets fan with what’s actually going on with the team as opposed to the hype around them. All the promotion, being the first team in the borough, Jersey to Brooklyn…I really want to see them take it further then that, I want to see them go to the Playoffs and be a tremendous contender. I am a Knicks fan and we’ve only had one team in the city forever. For years, I didn’t even like the Knicks which sounds crazy since I’m a New Yorker but I just felt they should have won so many years, man. They got stopped for various reasons several times, but the Knicks definitely should have won, man. They had a decent team for years.
SLAM: You’re saying your allegiance could switch to the Nets…
MR: Right now, it’s up in the air. I need somebody to pull me in a direction, it’s either going to be the Knicks or the Nets.
SLAM: Do you think having a professional basketball team in Brooklyn will help shed some light on Brooklyn rappers as well?
MR: I believe so. It’s bringing attention to the borough all together so I believe it will trickle down to music and everything comes full circle. It’s been a long time since we’ve really, really, really had the light on us and it’s about that time again.
You guys are doing a mixtape to celebrate the situation with the Nets. What goes on the mixtape? Music. Who are you going to pick? Artists from Brooklyn. You don’t only want to get the legends, you want to get the new guys so you have to dig around and find out what’s going on and what’s new from here. That’s definitely one of the things that will help spawn this change.
SLAM: Growing up in Brownsville, being around New York City your whole life, did you ever think there would be a NBA team and stadium in Brooklyn?
MR: No. I’m gonna be totally honest with you, I thought it was going to be Knicks forever, only solely the Knicks forever. I never would have believed there would be a stadium in downtown Brooklyn, never in a million years would I have though that. It’s 2012 going into 2013 and anything is possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if that spawns something else in the city, what exactly? I haven’t the slightest idea, but something else big.
SLAM: What does it mean to you as an individual to see a professional NBA team in Brooklyn?
MR: It means that anything is possible. It’s a lot bigger than basketball. I look at where the Barclays Center is now and for years I didn’t see it as anything except a junkyard and trainyard. Just to know that someone had a plan and vision and put it together and brought it to life just goes to show you anything is possible, man. All it takes is a thought and if you do everything else and be proactive you can really make this shit happen.
SLAM:You have a song called “Jordan vs. Bird”, how big of an influence has basketball had on your rap stylings?
I’m real competitive, man and I want to be the best. Michael Jordan was a huge influence in my life. Aside from what he did on the court it’s also his whole attitude and demeanor, he wanted to be the best he was very competitive. When we step off the court, everything is all good but when we step on the court, it’s me against the world and that’s how I am with my music. I want to be the best, I don’t want to be the runner-up, I want to be the best and deliver the best.
SLAM: What makes you a Brooklyn Original?
MR: I’m Maffew Ragazino, Brooklyn Original. I’m one of the first from Brownsville in a very, very, very long time. It’s one of the parts of Brooklyn that has been forgotten about. Every other part gets highlighted but Brownsville hasn’t had a representative in a very long time beside my uncle Sean Price but he’s from a different generation. I’m from the side that people don’t celebrate, that’s what makes me an original.
The world will be able to see that with my next project White Gold.