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  • 02Apr

    Notes on hip hop culture and the passing of soccer legend Giorgio Chinaglia

    Legendary Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia passed away last night at the age of 65, thus opening the space for an important teaching tool about the development of soccer as a tool for understanding hip-hop culture.

    If a hip-hop fanatic with a solid knowledge of soccer, you’re probably very aware of Pele and the Brazilian’s legendary influence as an attacking midfielder for 1970′s North American Soccer League powerhouse the New York Cosmos. However, if I mention fellow 70s Cosmos superstar striker Giorgio Chinaglia, the memory of the Italian firebrand is either filled with love or absolute hatred. Pele was the current culture of American soccer’s beloved father. As a pop cultural icon, he’s the sport’s American grandfather, the man who by presence alone opened doors that youth soccer, and its antecedents, college soccer’s rise, Major League Soccer and the rise of the men’s and women’s national teams are intrinsically linked.

    Pele and Chinaglia represented twin forces that hip-hop culture can undeniably understand. The former was a mercurial creative force. With a soccer ball at his feet he was a magician, able to snatch fantasy from reality’s realm (and vice versa) at the flick of his boot. Initially though, he wasn’t so much a winner in America. When the legend joined Cosmos in 1975, the team, though entertaining and a box office favorite, did not reach the playoffs. In 1976, Chinaglia, a legendary Italian striker known for little more than his ability to score goals and cause controversy, joined the franchise. Though the merging of creativity and controversy made for troubling times, Cosmos’ 1977 NASL championship more than proved that   while Pele’s finesse was wonderful, it was Chinaglia’s force that took the franchise to the next level.

    When culture gets focused on “winning” and commerce, things get weird. Performers from hip-hop’s old school and new school era were powerful creative forces. From Run-DMC to the Native Tongues to Rakim, NWA and so many more, they all, like Pele expanded rap music’s vision. However, when hip-hop culture needed to go from millions to billions it was Puff Daddy, a man singularly known for being an arbiter of cool and little more, who did the deed. Chinaglia of the rap game, he’s equal parts motivator and charlatan, but when times get crucial, he’s a proven, yet oft chastised winner.

    Diddy didn’t stop, and throughout his career, neither did Giorgio Chinaglia. In contemplating hip-hop, think of soccer. While beautiful play is nice, scoring goals determines legacies. Hip-hop as soccer. Diddy as Chinaglia. New York. Hip-hop. It all makes sense.

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