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Journalism Showcase: “This is a dream project because I lived it” — Julian Gooden, director, “The Crossover”

Examining the relationship between sports and hip hop as the music genre celebrates its 50th anniversary, the E60 presentation - narrated by Busta Rhymes - airs Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Emmy-winning ESPN feature producer Julian Gooden is getting to see what he calls a “dream project” come to fruition on Tuesday, Sept. 12, when ESPN debuts The Crossover: 50 Years of Hip Hop and Sports, an E60 production in association with ESPN Films that Gooden directed.

Julian Gooden (Julian Gooden/ESPN)

Examining the relationship between sports and hip hop as the music genre celebrates its 50th anniversary, the presentation airs at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, available immediately after the initial airing for on-demand streaming on ESPN+.

When he started at ESPN in February 2022, Gooden was aware of the approaching 50th anniversary celebration and thinking of how E60 could be part of it.

“I knew I wanted to do something on it, but obviously, working for a sports platform, I thought, What angle can I approach to tell the story?” said Gooden.

“And I thought I hadn’t seen anything on the connection of sports and hip hop, and so that’s where the gist of it came from,” he said. “From there, I just started thinking about those connections, and then I started developing an idea and pitching it to the team.”

The one-hour program, narrated by legendary rapper Busta Rhymes, includes interviews with a long list of accomplished and well-known rappers, artists, and others from the world of hip hop, as well as journalists, commentators, scholars, and others.

“Kudos to our Talent Producers – Stacey Pressman, Kareem White and Jamila Baker — they did the bulk of the work booking the talent,” Gooden said. “Also Chantre Camack [Senior Director, Talent Relations]. I put a wish list together and we kind of attacked it.

“I also have to acknowledge Angela Rye [former ESPN special correspondent], who is a producer on the film,” he said. “She loved the idea and said she wanted to help, and she got a good amount of people as well. Between Angela, Chantre and the Talent Producers, they deserve all the credit.”

In addition to Rye, producers were Blake Foeman, Jeremy Williams, and Frank Saraceno.

For Gooden, whose ESPN Outside the Lines project “Without You” on Jackie Robinson earned two Sports Emmy Awards (Best Writing and Best Editing, both for short form), “The Crossover” has been educational and a labor of love.

“I definitely feel like I learned a lot,” he said. “I wouldn’t call myself an aficionado, but I grew up listening to hip hop; that’s what my connection to it was, living in the culture.

“We talk about the culture in the film a lot, and that’s the culture that I grew up listening to and watching – my heroes are Jay-Z and Diddy – these are the guys I looked up to, and that’s where my passion comes from.

“I want to tell stories that reflect the Black experience, so this is a dream project because I lived it.”

“The Crossover” examines the relationship between music and sports in the hiphop culture. (ESPN)
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