When Donald Trump denounced the issue of global warming a fallacy, moreover a hoax “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” — he clearly hadn’t anticipated the sweltering heat of summer 2018. Amidst some of the hottest temperatures ever experienced in years, the world of basketball and hip-hop provided several newsworthy headlines. From the riveting beef between Drake and Pusha T and LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, to the untimely death of local Toronto rapper Jahvante “Smoke Dawg” Smart and Prime Boys’ affiliate Kosi “Koba” Modekwe and the Toronto Raptors trading the beloved DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. All the while, Kanye West did his best to slay the summer by dropping a number of albums from his G.O.O.D music label.

In what seems like ages ago, the 6ix God, also known as Drake, hopped into the ring with perennial wordsmith Pusha T, in a battle that took on epic proportions. A no-holds-barred clash ensued that saw ghost writers, wives-to-be, baby mothers and unclaimed children used as ammunition to fuel a battle that seemingly ended when the gloves were dropped, and devasting blows were felt by Drizzy and his camp. An eventual end to the beef came as OG mentor, Rap-A-Lot Records CEO James Prince advised Drake to cease and desist from any further responses to Pusha T. By then, the damage had been done, and the makings of another “hot” summer had been prefaced.

For LeBron James, carrying teams from purgatory to significant relevance is something he is clearly used to.

Not too long after the Drake/Pusha lyrical confrontation had ended, LeBron once again turned the world of basketball on its heels as he decided to take his talents to the west coast, joining the Los Angeles Lakers as an unrestricted free agent. In an era where superstars have been known to join other superstars in efforts to form “super teams” to further enhance their chances at winning in the finals, the news of James’ departure from an eastern conference championship team, to a team that had its last playoff success nearly a decade ago was met with surprise and disbelief, but also instant gratification for Lakers fans. LeBron will attempt to lead his third team to a championship, a feat that has never happened in the NBA. Certainly, this task will not be an easy one, as the Lakers have continued to build around their very young nucleus. For James, however, carrying teams from purgatory to significant relevance is something he is clearly used to.

While LeBron made his sojourn to tinsel town, Toronto received one of the quietest, and quite frankly the most atypical, superstars in Kawhi Leonard. Leonard had recently worn out his welcome in San Antonio with a series of injury-induced issues that raised questions about his ultimate commitment to the Spurs. Of course, in gaining a superstar of that caliber, a substantial sacrifice had to be made. This loss happened to be Toronto’s star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who like Leonard had worn out his welcome with multiple years of subpar playoff performances. General Manager Masai Ujiri surprised the entire Greater Toronto Area with this move, which many believed to be necessary to catapult the Raptors into the finals with LeBron now out west. What many fail to realize about this move is the pièce de résistance — Danny Green. Green is the anti-DeRozan who will ultimately do what DeMar couldn’t: Defend the conference’s best perimeter players with incredible efficiency and knock down open 3-pointers.

Scorpion solidified Drake’s reign at the top of rap’s elite and gave birth to yet another viral movement.

Arguably the most important album to drop this summer was Drake’s Scorpion which shattered all types of streaming and downloading records despite the debilitating loss Aubrey suffered during the epic rap battle with foe Pusha T. Scorpion solidified Drake’s reign at the top of rap’s elite and gave birth to yet another viral movement — the Kiki challenge. A challenge popularized by now-famous Instagrammer and comedian, Shiggy, who choreographed dance moves to Drake’s “In My Feelings”. The video sent social media into a frenzy, with everyone from Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants to Will Smith performing their own rendition of the challenge. While accruing critical acclaim during the first 24 hours after its release, Scorpion’s success was mired when local Toronto rapper Smoke Dawg, who had toured with Drake in Europe, was tragically gunned down in broad daylight as grotesquely eager Snapchatters filmed his last breaths. It’s a story that has become all too familiar this year as the capital of Ontario has experienced a spike in gun violence.

Drake’s Scorpion skyrocketed to the top of the charts; however, lyrics like “You n—-s pop mollies, my Malis pop n—-s…” will assuredly not do much to quell the rising temperatures in the streets. Despite this and other odd blunders, Scorpion still delivers as one of the preeminent releases of the summer, proving Drake’s continued prowess and influence in hip-hop.

More from The Grant Slant:

Akil Augustine: A champion for urban media

Sports and Politricks

Sojourns in Trindidad

The soundtrack to summer 2018 boasted a bevy of new releases from Kanye to Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott, while the free agent movements and trades throughout the basketball world saw friends become foes, heroes become villains and shifted the power balance on two coasts. All this as a skyrocketing mercury ensured we kept clothing layers light and car windows down while dancing beside moving cars doing the Kiki challenge in unison — well at least for a few weeks.

This article is dedicated to all the young Black men who have lost their lives to gun violence in the streets of Toronto.

Karim Grant is a former professional football player who has spent time in both the NFL and CFL. His love for hip-hop spans nearly three decades of beats, rhymes and fashion. His love for sports is equally expansive, as he’s made money playing one sport and has made enemies playing countless others. If he’s not on the field or the hard court coaching inner-city youth, he’s either reading or listening to your favourite artist’s favourite artist while exercising his competitive demons at your local gym. Grant has never been one to mince words on either subject of hip-hop or sports – or anything for that matter – and he’s not about to start anytime soon.

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