Despite its title, D Smoke‘s new theme song for the latest season of Netflix’s Last Chance U is not a remake of the 1984 Kurtis Blow classic “Basketball.” While that’s slightly disappointing, the song itself is a success, thanks largely to the Inglewood native’s natural charisma, deft lyricism, and self-assured musicality. Starting with a basketball court sound effects-riddled intro and building to a lush orchestral crescendo, the new track conveys all the emotion of a championship game in progress, from warm-ups to heart-filling finale (although, the fake-out of not using the court sound as a beat a straight-up, a la Reebok ads from the 2000s, hurts a little too).
The placement is another victory for D Smoke, who launched his career as the winner of Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow contest show and is currently up for a Best Rap Album Grammy at this year’s Awards ceremony later this month. Although his debut album, Black Habits, flew a bit under the radar for folks who didn’t catch his heartfelt performances on Netflix, the intervening year certainly helped him make a mark on the rap game as he performed a virtuoso Tiny Desk Concert, lit up the BET Hip-Hop Awards alongside his family, and linked up with well-respected peers throughout the year, including Rexx Life Raj, Rapsody, and Tobe Nwigwe. Coming back to Netflix with “Basketball” is a full-circle moment for him, but it’s also only a waypoint on his journey to even bigger things.
Listen to “Basketball” above.