North London-based hip-hop artist M Huncho towers head and shoulders over the dancers beside him in the music video for his track ‘Pee Pee’. It’s no surprise then, when he tells NME that he used to be a baller himself, and has been obsessed with the sport from a young age.
“I used to be on a basketball team myself and I’m not the smallest guy in the world,” M Huncho tells NME. “From year seven ’til year 11, I always used to play basketball whenever I had the time to play. I wasn’t really interested in sports class unless we were playing football or basketball, that’s it.”
His love for the game eventually drew him to 2K Games’s incredibly popular NBA franchise, which proved a worthy alternative for when M Huncho couldn’t be on the courts himself. Over years he became an ardent fan, picking up each of the game’s annual instalments. And with the recent launch of NBA 2K21 – which debuted on consoles and PC on September 4 – the rapper was even enlisted as an ambassador for the game.
After feeling a little underwhelmed by last year’s edition, NBA 2K20, the trap-wave pioneer is back in the game and ready to hand out some “free smoke”, as he previously offered up on Twitter. He was quick to note that, previously, he “wasn’t feeling” NBA 2K20, but really liked how “different” 2K21 is, crediting the game with making him want to jump back into the series proper. With the launch of this latest entry, he’s happy with the way it’s evolved over the years.
“It’s difficult and there’s more strategy involved,” Huncho describes the new edition. “It’s not as easy as just playing the game. Especially if you’ve got that competitive aura about you and you obviously don’t like to lose. You really have to brush up on how you’re going to play [and] your skills in general,” he says.
2K has continued to push new iterations of the massively popular basketball games over the years, adding new challenges, ways to play and more customisation options. Players have always had the ability to play as their favourite athletes, but the games themselves have become more complex over the years.
“I just feel like they’ve made it more realistic, man,” he says. “You can’t just think you can win. You actually have to put in work. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the future.”
But as much as the game changes, Huncho admits he’s a creature of habit and has a few favourites he keeps coming back to. As long as he’s got Kobe or Shaq, he’s “definitely winning”. But he’ll “always and forever” choose to play with the classic ’90s Chicago Bulls team if at all possible. That doesn’t change the soft spot he’s got for the underdogs, though.
“If I were to pick a normal team, then I’m going for the OKC Thunder, mainly because they’re the underdogs and the underdogs will always rise. That’s how it goes,” he says with a wide grin.
It goes beyond just playing the game for the ‘Thumb’ singer, though. Huncho enjoys buying uniforms and equipment, and customising his players, both inside and outside NBA 2K21. Still, nothing compares to the thrill of recreating himself in-game. That’s just a bit difficult here, because as he points out, “there’s no masks”.
“I try to make [the player] look like me without the mask,” he says. “People would just think that it’s not me.” He’ll also switch up players’ shoes (“I like different types of Jordans”) and other minute details – one of his favourite parts of the entire experience.
In addition to a wide variety of options to change up teams, players and the game in general, NBA 2K21 has an absolute banger of a soundtrack, featuring tracks from The Weeknd, Travis Scott, Roddy Ricch, and Lil Baby.
If Huncho had his way, he’d jump at the chance to collab with a few of his favourites who were added to the roster for the new game, like J Hus, Little Simz, and Stormzy. And if he could make his own playlist of songs for the game? He’s got answers for that.
“I’d go for more of the classic songs from about 10 years ago. I’m the type of guy that will add R&B into an NBA game. I’m not to be trusted with the soundtrack,” he jokes, before listing off a few must-have tracks for his perfectly curated soundtrack: Gunna and Young Thug’s ‘Hot’, Future and Young Thug’s ‘Unicorn Purp’, Gunna and Lil Baby’s ‘Something To Prove’, and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Otis’.
Huncho may be over the moon with NBA 2K21 so far, but he still spends at least some of his downtime playing games like Call Of Duty: Warzone, too. It “pisses him off a lot”, but – like many of us – he still enjoys himself. The only caveat? He’s got to have his squad online to play with him.
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“I don’t ever play games when I’m by myself,” he admits. “Even if I do turn on the game when I’m by myself, I’m going online to see who’s on. For me, gaming is a social thing. You have to play with your friends or at least someone else to have fun with it. I’m not really a solo guy.”
He extols the virtues of going online to play with friends in the middle of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which he finds a good substitute for going out and playing actual sports. But he’s got his own special way of enjoying himself online.
“I just make sure I turn off cross-play, because there’s a lot of cheaters,” he jokes. “The funniest shit happens when you’re playing Warzone. Hopefully I’m going to be opening up and streaming on Twitch soon as well.”
Beyond the basketball and frenetic shooters, Huncho is already ready to enter the next generation of video game consoles. There’s just one condition: it won’t be with Microsoft. He “doesn’t really like Xbox”, calling the Xbox One controller “weird” and “not symmetrically correct”. But, as he states, he’s “definitely getting a PS5”.
“I’m getting a PS5 with all the attachments, everything,” Huncho laughs. “Everything that’s coming with it. I’m going all in. I’m not getting no Xbox. Everything is PlayStation. Everything is Sony, literally.”
But while Huncho is ready to step into the next generation of video game systems, he’s also preparing to drop something explosive in the music world. From the sound of things, we should be prepared for a big announcement.
“All I’m going to say is give me four weeks,” Huncho says. “Just give me three to four weeks to start showing the world what I’ve got. That’s all I’m going to say.” With the element of surprise on his side, it seems like he’s ready to drop some certifiable bangers.
“I swear to God, I’m actually going crazy in the next few weeks. Absolutely going mental. We’re coming for it. We’re going for the win,” he teases. “Stay tuned to see where it goes.”