The world lost another legend this weekend in Muhammad Ali, who passed away of septic shock at the age of 74.
And although the man formerly known as Cassius Clay Jr. may have become The Greatest Of All-Time because of his prowess in the boxing ring, his influence stretched far, far beyond it.
As well as being a three-time world heavyweight champ, an Olympic gold medallist, a civil rights activist and a beneficiary of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Ali also had an immeasurable impact on the early development of hip-hop music.
As a rhyming trickster in the early sixties, the champ’s legendary put-downs, comical trash-talk and funky deliveries helped form hip-hop’s very DNA.
And as the music mag also points out, when Ali taunted his rivals with rhymes such as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” he personified a one-upsmanship that bore a huge influence on hip-hop stars across the decades, from early pioneers like Iceberg Slim and Gil Scott-Heron to more modern identities like The Game, Big Daddy Kane, Kevin Gates and Gang Starr:
Just as his “songs of myself” were often misunderstood as mere pretexts for ring violence, so are modern-day rappers’ boasts too often construed as documents of urban mayhem. However, rappers are just carrying Ali’s torch, reflecting a cultural tradition of pride, intellectual jousting and good-natured shit talking.”
But that said, Ali’s loss has had a huge impact on every realm of culture, with icons from across every genre of music – not just hip-hop – pouring their hearts out online with tales of how The Champ influenced them.
Rage Against The Machine/Prophets Of Rage guitarist Tom Morello, for instance, has shared an anecdote on Instagram about a brief encounter he had with Ali when he was a young boy:
“I met Muhammad Ali on an Air Jamaica flight when I was 9. He said over the intercom: ‘I’m Muhammad Ali and I’m flying this airplane. But don’t worry cause I’m the greatest at flying airplanes too. Now, I’m sure you all want my autograph so I’m gonna come down the aisle and sign all your stuff.’ And he did. I have the signed Air Jamaica ticket to this day”
Check out his full post, alongside countless other tributes to the original and eternal GOAT from across the music world, below.
I met Muhammad Ali on an Air Jamaica flight when I was 9. He said over the intercom: "I'm Muhammad Ali and I'm flying this airplane. But don't worry cause I'm the greatest at flying airplanes too. Now, I'm sure you all want my autograph so I'm gonna come down the aisle and sign all your stuff." And he did. I have the signed Air Jamaica ticket to this day. Muhammad Ali did the rarest of things; he fearlessly blended his convictions with his vocation. How many in the public eye today dare do the same? Few. He stood up against racism, American imperialism and told the powers that be to shove it, damn the consequences. Ali spoke for the downtrodden and dispossessed. He spoke truth to power and with great humor, charisma and depthless talent was truly The People's Champion.
Something very few have EVER done.. Put a fist on the CHAMP.. God Bless my IDOL… ‘Ali’ There will never be another. pic.twitter.com/DDybMAUoti
— ICE T (@FINALLEVEL) June 4, 2016
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) June 4, 2016
I am deeply saddened by the loss of one of my biggest heroes, The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.
— Dave Mustaine (@DaveMustaine) June 4, 2016
Muhammad Ali transcended Boxing and even sports itself…he was not only "The Greatest" but a 20th Century icon like Elvis & The Beatles…
— Mike Portnoy 🤘 (@MikePortnoy) June 4, 2016
R.I.P. to the greatest boxer ever, Muhammad Ali.
— Papa Roach (@paparoach) June 4, 2016
— Nickelback (@Nickelback) June 4, 2016
— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) June 4, 2016
— Guns N' Roses (@gunsnroses) June 4, 2016
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) June 4, 2016
RIP Muhammad Ali. #GOAT by a mile.
— Duff McKagan (@DuffMcKagan) June 4, 2016
The greatest of all time without a doubt. gone! can't believe it. sad day indeed. pic.twitter.com/RuPhfq6ldV
— Sammy Hagar (@sammyhagar) June 4, 2016
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee". 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/eSv5siAwHN
— Disclosure (@disclosure) June 4, 2016