Baltimore Orioles Players As Rap Albums: A Study
By Josh Linn
The Baltimore Orioles and hip hop music have more in common than one may think. Both invoke a wide range of emotions. Both involve the curation of moving parts with the goal of achieving harmony. Both exist to entertain the masses and provide joy to whomever watches or listens (though the Orioles have been a little short in the joy department until 2022 happened). See? They’re basically the same thing.
Baltimore Orioles Players As Rap Albums: A Study
Recently I was kicked back with some music on, and it got me thinking: if Baltimore Orioles players were the human version of a hip hop album, which record would each player be? You might be thinking, “this seems ridiculous, why do you think of this random stuff?” You’re right. I’m a silly goose. My brain makes no sense. Nonetheless, I bring you my latest thought experiment: Orioles players as hip hop albums.
Gunnar Henderson - OutKast’s “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”
Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was the world’s introduction to OutKast, one of the greatest hip hop acts to ever grace our speakers. Despite releasing before either Andre 3000 or Big Boi turned 20 years old, Southernplaya was a tour de force that set the pathway alight for not just the group, but Atlanta hip hop at large.
Precocious young stars taking the world by storm and immediately cementing their presence as stars not just in the future, but the present? Sounds an awful lot like Gunnar Henderson to me. Henderson’s transformative 2022 saw him go from solid top 100 talent to baseball’s number one overall prospect and a budding superstar.
In just a month with the Orioles, Henderson flashed his blossoming in-game power and already has an argument for being one of the best fastball hitters on the team, and he’s just 21 years old! More bangers are almost certain to come during his career, as they did with OutKast after Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.
Adley Rutschman - OutKast’s “ATLiens”
The GOAT hip hop group is represented again with Adley Rutschman, the face of the Orioles rebuild.
Why ATLiens, specifically? Easy. OutKast were in their early 20’s when it dropped, as Rutschman is now. While they had banked the aforementioned Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, ATLiens was an emphatic statement that despite their youth, OutKast were among the best in the business.
Rutschman did the same in 2022, parlaying the hype into one of the best rookie seasons ever from a catcher and establishing himself as one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball. He’ll be looking for the Elevators in 2023 to continue his ascension into baseball superstardom.
Ryan Mountcastle - Migos “Culture”
Migos’ 2017 album was their coming out party. Young, brash, and rich, the Atlanta trio was here to let you know that they weren’t part of the culture, they were the culture.
Migos will never wow you with their lyrical content, but their ear for good beats and effortless flows make it near impossible for them to make a song that isn’t catchy. Admittedly some of their stuff can be repetitive at times but when they get it right, they get it right as well as anyone in hip hop. “Bad and Boujee”, anyone?
Ryan Mountcastle might not be the most refined hitter on the planet. He swings and misses quite a bit and doesn’t walk as much as some would like, but his talent is undeniable and when he’s hot, he makes hits. Not to mention, he’s got plenty of unabashed swag to go around.
Cedric Mullins - Jay Z’s “Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life”
By the time Vol. 2 was released, everyone knew Jay Z, who at this point had already released two albums that would eventually go platinum. Reasonable Doubt will go down as not just one of hip hop’s greatest debut albums, but greatest altogether. In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 was Jay’s first Billboard Top 5 album and represented his ascension to the throne of a New York hip hop scene that was at the forefront of the genre in the mid to late 90’s. Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life is the end product of a fully-in-his-bag Jay Z. The dude made a banger with a sample from the musical Annie, for crying out loud.
Cedric Mullins 2021 season was his Reasonable Doubt, but 2022 was plenty productive and had its fair share of bangers, as did Hard Knock Life. Each had a few misses. Mullins struggled mightily against lefties last season. Track 7 on Hard Knock Life, titled “A Week Ago” and featuring Bay Area legend Too Short, doesn’t hit for me. Regardless, both are established dependable stars that you can always count on to produce.
John Means - Mase’s “Welcome Back”
Mase was the torch bearer of Bad Boy Records for a brief period in the late 90’s after the loss of The Notorious B.I.G. As the label was rebuilding, Mase maintained Bad Boy’s relevance within the hip hop zeitgeist thanks in large part to his debut album, Harlem World.
His run was cut short by a self-imposed hiatus that lasted nearly five years until he returned with the aptly-named Welcome Back, led by a catchy single of the same name. Time may have passed, but Mase’s ability to craft a hit record remained.
John Means emerged at the infancy of the Baltimore Orioles rebuild as the most talented starting pitcher on staff and was a constant atop the O’s rotation until last April, when his elbow succumbed to injury and he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, but fear not! All accounts indicate that his recovery is going according to schedule and he will be pitching for the Orioles again sometime this summer. Methinks John Means’ Welcome Back tour is going to be a great one, just like one Mason Betha’s two decades ago (oh my god it’s been two decades, I’m so incredibly old).
Anthony Santander - Big Sean’s “Dark Sky Paradise”
Detroit-based Big Sean had no shortage of moments before 2015’s Dark Sky Paradise. He had a catalogue of feature verses known and loved by hip hop fans far and wide. His work with Mike Posner in the early 2010’s is stuff that I still listen to all these years later.
His first two studio albums had no shortage of good tracks, but it wasn’t until Dark Sky Paradise that it all clicked. Sean was in his bad lyrically, the production was top notch, and the album felt more like a cohesive project than simply a collection of random songs.
Anthony Santander had shown promise as a hitter since the Baltimore Orioles chose him in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, but injuries prevented him from sustaining a prolonged period of success.
Until 2022, that is. Santander balled out and lead the team with 33 home runs, accumulated 2.5 fWAR, and finished third among Orioles hitters with a 120 wRC+. Just like Big Sean on Dark Sky Paradise, everything finally clicked and Santander showed us what a dangerous hitter he could be.