Baseball Mixtape: Negro League Baseball

mixtape1I wanted to get some hip hop onto the baseball mixtape but felt like not using Nelly. Google led me to Natural Resource, a shortlived indie group from the 1990s. Good info on Natural Resource is scarce, but they were the launching point for eminently talented female artist named Jean Grae — then known as What? What? The best writeup I’ve seen on this song is from a blog called Twelve Inchers, who cite these lyrics and wonder if the track is really about baseball at all:

Baseball was never for blacks. (What?)
It used to be a pasttime for whites. (That’s true.)
Now it has mad Puerto Ricans. (Uh oh)
But that’s not the point of the song. (A-ight)
The point of this song, and I make it mad simple, when I be flippin’ this script:
Is that the industry is all over the mound, pitchin’, but nobody’s makin’ any hits.
Baseball is not just a sport
It’s the verbal/mental/physical/spiritual/emotional level that we are on
It’s about time that all you devils was gone…

What makes this song great, aside from being catchy and clever and all that stuff, is the way it kind of teases and flips the baseball metaphor. Sure, “I hit a lot of homeruns” can be a more interesting way to say “I record a lot of hit songs,” but that’s easy and a cliche (see, once again, Nelly).  So Natural Resource acknowledges that. They even lay out some rhymes along those lines: “First batter up well here’s the pitch that’s a curve/Second batter up because the first got served” before subverting the whole notion. Baseball after all, is a deeply flawed institution, just like the music industry, where exploitation on class and racial lines can overshadow talent. Talent that a group like Natural Resource (or an old Negro Leaguer like, say,  Cool Papa Bell) has but can’t capitalize on for reasons beyond their control. You see a lot of baseball metaphors related to play on the field, but not too many based on the socio-economic dynamics and history of the game.

Natural Resource- Negro League Baseball

Cool label huh?

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