ORLANDO, Fla. — There’s this app that’s probably the most important musical tool invented ever since the guitar. It’s called Shazam, not to be confused with the Shaquille O’Neal movie, a name that's fitting because it’s truly magical.
With one press of a button, your cell phone “listens” to a song being played and within seconds will tell you the name and who made it and how to buy it. Which means, that anonymous song you hear on the radio or in the doctor’s office or on the elevator can be yours in a snap.
For me, Shazam is most useful at NBA games. That’s where my playlist gets its nourishment, a steady diet of pregame music, hype music, player introduction music and timeout music. All that music is intertwined, a reflection of the culture that surrounds basketball and is endorsed by the players themselves.
You want to know about the NBA? The arena music provides a hint. It’s overwhelmingly born from the streets, heavy on rap, sometimes naughty with the lyrics and most likely to collect all the trophies at the BET Awards. The beat is intoxicating and consistent. It perfectly captures the rhythm and spirit of the game.
However: Most of the music, for me, is hard to identify. Sometimes I get my hip-hoppers mixed up — Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi Vert or Lil Baby? — and this would never happen years ago when I grew up on Bowie and Prince and the Isley Brothers.
So Shazam is my savior, my No. 2 go-to device at games after my laptop, and with so many games here at Disney the Shazam is being put through a virtual workout. Based on what I’ve gathered from the loudspeakers, here are the favorite and most requested artists at NBA arenas:
Drake, of course, and not just because teams are here trying to win some Really Big Rings.
Lil Baby. Most in demand of all the Lil’s.
Nipsey Hussle; RIP to the West Coast rapper who had sway among NBA players, some of whom wrote his name on their sneakers.
Saweetie. She’s the new it-lady, quickly gaining on Cardi B.
Future. One of my personal favorites; his music gets so much playback he should record a song called Back To The Future.
Also: Roddy Ricch, Gunna, Migos, Young Thug, Travis Scott, Meek Mill, Post Malone and a mostly unknown rapper named Sheck Wes who’s especially popular here in Orlando for his biggest and only hit -- a song he named “Mo Bamba” after a certain Orlando Magic player.
No other sport beats the NBA for music. The days of organists and rock bands are far gone. Curiously, the Magic in the late 1980s received complaints from traditional NBA types when, as an expansion team, they played loud music during the game. Nowadays, that’s normal and expected and even demanded. When the Knicks experimented a few years ago without any music in a home game against the Warriors, players complained.
It’s all amplified by the player introduction music, which expanded in popularity after the Bulls used “Sirius” by the Allan Parsons Project and “Rock and Roll Part 2” by Gary Glitter at timeouts during the Michel Jordan championship years. The NBA even created a CD — remember those? — of the best in-game music.
The evolution of NBA music has since shifted drastically in style and beat. It’s all rap and hip-hop and R&B, and it’s all mine. Thanks to the NBA and Shazam, selecting music has never been easier. I now got all the hits — the big and the Lil.
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