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For Pete's Sake

Monday, October 29, 2007


Courtesy: Jonathan Lemire, Columbia College Today

Peter Nash ’89 has been a basketball star, Ivy League student, hip-hop pioneer and baseball historian and now is a budding documentary filmmaker. He can rap with hip-hop legends Run-DMC as easily as he can discuss the life stories of 19th-century ballplayers, and, yes, he can see that there does not seem to be much that links the two.

Nash’s endless passion is the connection.

“It’s a little different, I guess,” says Nash. “But it’s who I am.”

Nash learned about rap while playing basketball. He researched long-dead baseball players while touring the world with his seminal rap group. He helped create a film about a legendary Red Sox fan that has now helped inspire another documentary about white artists playing “black” music.

“There was no doubt that Pete had always had something else going on in his head. He’s always looking for his next move,” says Michael Berrien, who, as MC Serch, teamed up with Nash — then known as Prime Minister Pete Nice — in the 1980s to form the successful and critically acclaimed rap duo 3rd Bass. “The guy can do anything he sets his mind to.”

Stories about basketball or hip-hop often begin in Brooklyn. So does this one; Nash, who was born in the Greenpoint section of the borough, was introduced to both while spending time with Bishop Ford H.S.’s basketball teams. Nash’s father, Raymond, was athletics director at the Brooklyn school.

“I was such a gym rat as a kid, I’d be ballboy on a number of my father’s teams and I’d just hang out with the players,” says Nash. “When the teams would travel, I’d be with them for a week at a time. These were guys from city high schools who were listening to hip-hop that I would not have had access to otherwise. We’d be at Syracuse for a tournament and there I was on the quad, at 10, being taught ‘the Batman dance.’

“Basketball, more than anything, gave me hip-hop.”

Nash, who starred in baseball and basketball at Bishop Ford, considered attending the Naval Academy or St. Bonaventure before deciding to enroll at Columbia in 1985. “I knew I wanted to go where I’d get the best education. It came down to academics, yes, and also wanting to stay in New York to pursue rap, even as a hobby.”

To read the rest of Jonathan Lemire's piece, as found in Columbia College Today, please click here.