The line that separates rap music and sports has been blurred since hip-hop first bum-rushed the mainstream during the late 1970s and 1980s, with major players on both sides of the fence paying homage to the other. From Kurtis Blow's ode to the roundball, "Basketball," to the Chicago Bears recording what amounts to a rap song with their 1985 rallying cry "Super Bowl Shuffle," the reverence and adoration was felt. Many times, rappers and pro athletes found the inspiration to further excel in their crafts from one another.

During the 1990s, as rap began to become the music of choice among the youth, many of the athletes who grew up within the culture voiced how hip-hop and its artists had influenced them and their style of play. One of the most memorable examples is Michigan's historic Fab Five basketball team, who credited rap artists like EPMD and Compton's Most Wanted, among others, with setting the mood music to get them ready to go to battle.

As hip-hop became big business, resulting in rising earnings for the artists, the same occurred for athletes, with multi-million dollar deals becoming the norm on both ends. This allowed rappers to invest in professional sports franchises and vise versa, as a bevy of athletes began founding record labels and management companies geared towards servicing the hip-hop community.

While many of the artists recruited for these new label ventures were relative unknowns, in more than a few cases, these imprints and management companies were home to established rap artists with a proven track record. The athlete and the artist were drawn together by their mutual love of the culture. Some of the more notable pairings between artists and athletes include Megan Thee Stallion and baseball player Carl Crawford, Cassidy and basketball player Carmelo Anthony, Ma$e and baller Magic Johnson, and Choppa and boxer Roy Jones Jr.

In celebration of the respect between these two worlds, XXL looks back on 11 instances in which a notable rap artist struck a record or management deal with a professional athlete.

Here Are 11 Rappers You Might Not Know Had Signed Record Deals With Professional Athletes

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