Why Detroit Pistons are bringing local rappers and influencers to home games

Detroit Free Press

Last season, Detroit Pistons games doubled as a gathering place for local celebrities and influencers.

Sada Baby, Icewear Vezzo and Courtney Bell performed at halftime of separate games. Rap artists 42 Dugg, Tee Grizzly, Danny Brown could be seen at Little Caesars Arena. And local business owners were introduced on the Jumbotron during breaks.

A lot of fans missed out on the party, as the Pistons only hosted 750 fans due to pandemic restriction rules. There are no such restrictions this season, and the Pistons are planning to run it back, beginning Wednesday night for the season opener against the Bulls.

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“We Hustle Different” is the name of the Pistons’ branding campaign this season, and it’ll kick off with a halftime performance from local rappers Babyface Ray and Kash Doll on Wednesday. Like last season, the Pistons will sprinkle in performances from local musicians and spotlight local business owners and community leaders during games.

“It’s always super important for us to be authentic to the city, to the fans, to the community,” Pistons senior vice president marketing, Alicia Jeffreys, said. “And we do that by leaning into local artists and influencers. … It’s going to be good.”

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Babyface Ray, whose real name is Marcellus Register, was namedropped by Cade Cunningham during his pre-draft media availability while listing Detroit rappers he enjoys. Register was initially unaware of Cunningham’s shout-out, and said performing at halftime will be a dream come true.

Register will also make an appearance in a Pistons commercial. He joked that if he gets floor seats, he’ll be the Pistons’ version of Spike Lee and heckle opposing players.

“I was unaware, super unaware,” Register said. “That’s lit because like I say, I was a super basketball head. When I (realized) I wasn’t going to the NBA, I used to always tell myself that I was going to go to college for sports medicine and stuff, just to be around basketball. For me to be played by the players, it’s like I’m helping out in some type of way still.”

The Pistons seemed to receive a strong reception for last season’s efforts from the small home crowds. They’re doubling down this year, and there could be some surprise big names at certain games.

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“It was so good,” Jeffreys said of the reception last season. “I think people realize that we were really being authentic to who we are and who the city is. So we got really good feedback last year. So we had to make sure we came back stronger this year with a better campaign.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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