Mike Tyson makes a cameo appearance in Eminem’s “Godzilla” at the 3:03 mark.
This article is written by Todd D. Snyder, author of Beatboxing: How Hip-Hop Changed the Fight Game (November 16, 2021). This “Top Five” post is part of a series leading up to the publication of Beatboxing.
In my new book Beatboxing: How Hip-Hop Changed the Fight Game, I uncover the unique connection between hip-hop and the sweet science, tracing a grassroots cultural movement from its origins in the South Bronx to its explosion across the globe and ultimately into the charged environment of the prize ring.
How much rap artists draw inspiration from boxing has been largely overlooked. Rap’s best journalists often miss the boxing gems. The opposite can be said of boxing’s literary crowd. Beatboxing rectifies this and reveals all the dimensions of this enduring symbiotic relationship.
In anticipation of the book’s release, Hamilcar asked me to share a few of my Top Fives. These lists contain my personal favorites, nothing more. To get the full picture, you’ll need to check out my book when it drops on November 16.
So let’s begin with my top five boxer cameos in rap videos.
5. Mark Breland and Big Daddy Kane: “Ain’t No Half Steppin.” [Cold Chillin’ Records/Warner Records Inc., 1988].
I love this one because only hardcore boxing fans are going to catch it. Just four years removed from his gold medal victory in the 1984 Olympic Games, Mark Breland pops up at the end of Big Daddy Kane’s classic video. One of Breland’s championship belts makes an appearance as well. In Beatboxing, Big Daddy Kane gives us the full story behind this cameo.
4. Terron Millett and Nelly: “Country Grammar.” [Universal Records, 2000]
Nelly’s smash hit received heavy rotation on MTV and BET but I’d argue that few rap fans caught the Terron Millett cameo. Early in the video, the fellow St. Louis native can be seen posing with his toddler son and an IBF title belt, mean-mugging in the streets of Nellyville. Regional identity is, of course, a key component of both cultures. I like this cameo because Millett wasn’t a household name.
3. Zab Judah and Jay-Z: “Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)” [UMG Recordings, Inc., 2007]
When it comes to boxing cameos in rap videos, Zab Judah is the undisputed king. Most notably, you can catch Judah in Shyne’s “That’s Gangsta” (2001) and Lil’ Kim’s “Lighters Up” (2005). This is my favorite Zab Judah cameo, however.
Jay-Z’s mafioso-inspired video features many high-profile celebrities, including Mariah Carey, Sean Combs, Nas, Rick Ross, and more. Judah’s cameo is subtle but that’s what makes it great. A good boxing cameo, in my opinion, should have an element of surprise. It should be understated, yet statement-making. The best cameos are the ones you don’t see coming.
Zab Judah’s presence in “Roc Boys” shows his status in the Brooklyn hip-hop scene. I couldn’t have written Beatboxing without his assistance and look forward to sharing his rap game testimony with the world.
2. Floyd Mayweather, Zab Judah, and Raekwon “100 Rounds” [Loud Records, 1999].
I’m going to lead with my personal bias. Wu-Tang Clan is my favorite rap group. In Beatboxing, I talk with several members of this iconic rap conglomerate. I love this video, in particular, because it features The Chef playing chief second to both Zab Judah and Floyd Mayweather Jr., several years before their controversial 2009 showdown.
For the flip side of this motif, check Money Mayweather’s appearance in “Undisputed” by Ludacris.
1. Mike Tyson and Eminem: “Monster” [Marshall B. Mathers III, 2020]
Mike Tyson’s first hip-hop cameo dates all the way back to Will Smith’s “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson” in 1989, where “Iron Mike” kayos the Fresh Prince of Belair. You can catch Don King, Rory Halloway, and John Horne in that one too.
For my generation, Tyson’s biggest rap cameo came in “2 Round K.O.” (1998), where the Brownsville native plays hype man to Canibus.
Both appearances made waves but neither is my personal favorite. Nothing beats watching Tyson drop Slim Shady. Thirty years after rumbling with Will Smith, the former heavyweight champion decks Eminem in the music video for “Godzilla.”
“Damn, is that you . . . I didn’t mean that, sorry,” Tyson replies after knocking out the Detroit hip-hop legend, before rushing him to the emergency room where producer Dr. Dre attempts to piece the rapper back together.
Tyson is certainly menacing but he can also be pretty damn funny too.
Scenes from N.O.R.E.’s music video for “Oh No” (Tommy Boy, 1999) directed by Hype Williams, were shot at Roy Jones Jr.’s unification bout with Reggie Johnson. I love how Hype Williams works the slow-motion highlights into the video. Mr. ‘Ya’ll Must’ve Forgot’ is of course a Dirty South pioneer in his own right. RJ’s story is a major part of my book.