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NBA Finals

Hip-Hop meets Hoops: Canadian rapper Peter Jackson is the creative genius behind the Toronto Raptors playoff anthem

#PJ
Rapper Peter Jackson on the set of his music video "On a Wave" [peterjacksonmusic.ca]

It's long been said, "rappers wanna be athletes, athletes wanna be rappers".

There's no sport that hip-hop intertwines with more than basketball.

For Canadian rapper Peter Jackson the two have always gone hand in hand.

Jackson has built a successful career in a lane most fail in and managed to grind out a musical career far exceeding his dreams. Jackson's done it all, from freestyling at high school basement parties to now using that same voice to rock jam-packed venues all over the world with artists like TI, Nelly, Jadakiss and French Montana - a long list of who's who in hip-hop circles.

Though he may have exceeded his dreams, Jackson didn't get here by accident. His legendary work ethic has earned him the moniker "the hardest working rapper in Canada" - not just a name, but a way of life.

While he admits to not having the skill level on the court to play his favourite sport basketball at the highest level, he knows what it takes to compete with those at the top of the game. It's that relatability that helps Jackson appreciate what NBA players do on a nightly basis.

"I think for me I always feel like everybody that raps wants to play basketball and everybody that plays ball wants to rap," Jackson told NBA.com. "I definitely do not play basketball at that level - it's like a way for me to be involved.

"It's a way for me to feel like I actually have some sort of purpose in the process."

The Ajax, Ontario native is doing what most NBA players who have a long career have done - find a way to stay relevant in a young man's game.

Jackson, who started solely as a rapper, is now a label owner (90 Nickel Entertainment), a talent manager and he owns a booking agency (International Touring Agency). Like a baller trying to stay in the NBA, he's added his industry's equivalent to a jump shot, crossover and post move to his repertoire.

While he's been in the music industry since the early 2000s, it wasn't until the spring of 2015 that Jackson finally let his love for hip-hop and basketball fully mesh in his music.

In April of 2015 Jackson's "We The North" playoff anthem was released. The Raptors, however, would be swept out of the playoffs by the Washington Wizards. The song still found it's way into the Raptors community and stayed on the minds of many for an entire year. That following April, the swell of support for the Raptors needed an anthem and the fanbase gravitated toward Jackson's record. As the team found success in the postseason that spring, so did the record, climbing Billboard charts amongst stiff competition.

The Raptors would eventually be eliminated that May, but not before making their first-ever Conference Finals appearance. Not coincidentally, the song shot right up the Billboard top 100 reaching as high as number three only behind Justin Bieber and Drake.

"It was crazy because, at one point when the record was really peaking, it was almost like a Cinderella story the record hit Billboard charts," Jackson said.

"So it hits the top 100 at number three...I think Drake's Views was out at that time and Justin Bieber had an album out. So it was like number three between Bieber and Beyonce's record and it's just short of a Gold record at this point...it might actually be Gold at this point, I don't know.

"But it was crazy because we weren't selling it with that intention we just made it available for sale so it was on all those different outlets. So you could stream it or all that kind of stuff. So for us, it was unbelievable because it really just organically took off with no budget, no real intention for it to do what it did."

The success of "We The North" had fans of the song clamouring for another. The Raptors have made the playoffs every year since, but Jackson held back from making another anthem - until now.

As the seconds ticked away in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and reality started setting in that the Raptors would be on their way to their first-ever NBA Finals, Jackson knew what he had to do. If not only for himself but for the many that had reached out in the past. It was time to go to work on another anthem.

"You know what's crazy the whole playoff run literally from the moment when we knew that we were going to make the playoffs this year - actually last year too. Everybody has been asking me to do (a record)...I would get emails, messages and DMs and stuff about 'eh are you going to do another record, we're really looking forward to it'," Jackson said.

"For me, it was like I never wanted to be kind of pigeonholed into that 'oh this is the guy that makes records for sports teams' or be known for just doing that.

"So the first couple of rounds I wasn't planning on doing anything and then when we won in Game 6 against Milwaukee I literally...in Canada, it must've been like 12:30 at night or 1:00 a.m. whenever the game was over.

"I literally went...I got a studio in the house so I literally went into the studio and wrote a record because it was just getting overwhelming. The amount of people that were asking but it was just at that moment I literally went into the studio, wrote the record and the next day I went and recorded it.

"I sat on it for two days and I was like 'I don't know if I want to put this out'. And then I was like I got to put this out we're probably going to do really well - we're probably going to win."

The record simply titled "Toronto Raptors - 2019 NBA Finals Anthem" has been received well by Canadian fans and beyond.

It even elicited a shut-out from Raptors' legend Vince Carter.

View this post on Instagram

Legendary moves going on in Toronto right now! Salute one of the greatest @raptors of all time "Vince Carter" showing love for my new 2019 #Toronto #Raptors @nba Finals Anthem! #linkinbio

A post shared by Peter Jackson (@peterjackson905) on

With the Raptors one game away from claiming their first NBA title, Jackson took a chance to reflect on the growth of the game in Canada and the similarities he's seen in Canadian hip-hop.

Like the aforementioned Carter had done for many Canadian ballers, Jackson feels Drake opened the door for many like him who are now thriving in an industry that was often overlooked.

"At this point, it's crazy from high school till now the difference is astronomical to the point of...it's really become totally different," Jackson continued.

"I really give that to Drake because...and it's the same thing with the Raptors too...he really made it cool for other people to be from Canada. He really showed Americans and all these other countries that Canada is no different than anywhere else.

"It's made it easier for me for business, it's made it better for me for business - for music, for everything I do because now all of these Americans want to come to Canada so I bring them to Canada.

"Or more people from everywhere in the States are just paying attention now to what we're doing because it's global now. Now it's what's going on in Toronto? 'Oh Caribana is crazy', 'oh Drake's over there' or 'Tory (Lanez) is over there' you know. 'The Weeknd's over there, you know Peter Jackson's there'.

"That's really what people are saying now so it's really crazy actually to see all of that."

Jackson believes the equivalent of winning an NBA championship would be taking home a JUNO or a Grammy - being recognized at the highest level of the music industry.

He just wrapped up a nationwide tour with legend Snoop Dogg and in September he'll be in Europe with Fetty Wap for 26 shows. His album "Canadian Boy" went number one in Canada in March for the week of March 16th. Like the Raptors, he's been rolling this spring.

As a fan, he awaits the potential to see his hometown team hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy and what it would mean for his home and native land.

"For me celebration wise at this point would be being able to reflect. Being super proud and being able to reflect at this point and just kind of watch from afar.

"Just be proud of the growth of the team and the country - you know the way people are actually all coming together for me is like the biggest thing. Everybody is happy, my mom called me about the Raptors. My Baba who doesn't even speak English is calling me about the Raptors - and she understands what's going on.

"The nation...coming together for me is how I see the celebration - I like it like that. Just being happy for everybody. "

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