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Utah Jazz Twitter/Courtesy
Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (center) poses with southern rapper Big K.R.I.T. (left) and Chicago Bulls guard Cameron Payne (right) during his annual Welcome to R. Hood camp in Meridian, Mississippi in August.
We just started to kind of build this camaraderie, being from Meridian, Mississippi. —Rapper Big K.R.I.T

MEMPHIS — “Grew up on the country side of towwwnnn, now I’m ballin’ under city lights!”

If nobody else in the world can relate to rapper Big K.R.I.T.’s opening lyrics for his hit song “King of the South,” Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood certainly can.

Both hail from the same small town: Meridian, Mississippi.

“We just started to kind of build this camaraderie, being from Meridian, Mississippi,” Big K.R.I.T. told the Deseret News. “And seeing what he was doing on a whole other aspect that wasn’t rap. For the community and all that so it’s dope.”

Big K.R.I.T. — whose real name is Justin Scott — is a popular southern musician and producer who has worked with rap stars such as J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, while Hood goes up against the league’s brightest stars in his fourth NBA season out of Duke.

They share the same passion for their field of work.

“I see Rodney at this point now, he just had a 30-piece with 30 points in a game (in New Orleans), he’s dunking and all that and it’s finally that confidence is happening for him but he’s always had it,” Big K.R.I.T. said. “But he’s just always had to prove himself from every dynamic of being a ballplayer, an intellectual and all that because he comes from a place where they’ve never been and they don’t know anything about.”

Even with Hood’s name tied up in a string of NBA trade scenarios, with the deadline approaching Thursday, he knows Big K.R.I.T. always has his back.

“Definitely. We’re planning some stuff for the city,” Hood said ahead of Wednesday’s Jazz game in Memphis. “Obviously, we both came from there.

“That’s our roots, that’s where we come from and we’re two public figures that give a lot of kids hope from there so we’re definitely going to do some things and we spend a lot of time together,” he added.

Their bond is now tighter than ever, going back to the days of running around in the same the Boys & Girls Club, where Hood’s dad, Ricky Sr., continues to serve as the executive director.

Hood was six years younger, but Big K.R.I.T. certainly remembers Ricky Sr. and his youngest boy. However, they wouldn’t strongly connect until a couple summers ago as adults where that mutual admiration was personally exchanged after connecting through mutual friends in Mississippi.

“He’s just a great friend that I can call on at anytime to give me a lot of advice,” Hood said. “He’s a very knowledgeable guy. He’s one of the smartest dudes I know.

Big K.R.I.T. even allowed Hood to visit one of his private studio sessions to hear most of his ‘4eva Is a Mighty Long Time’ double-album in advance before its release on Oct. 27, 2017. He also made an appearance at Hood’s annual basketball camp this past summer in Meridian.

“I can’t play basketball but just being there and being a part of it all and then seeing it happen at Meridian Community College because I went to MCC for two years for community college and that was before I was even recognized as a rapper, for real for real,” Big K.R.I.T. described. “And to be back years later for his camp and I’m just sitting there and I’m watching the game and these little kids from Meridian, dribbling and killing it.

“Everybody was excited and then he’s there giving this speech about how you can make it from anywhere,” he added. “I’m from here and it’s like you can do it, you’ve just got to stay focused and stay strong so I’m there in that circle.”

The country boys frequently exchange text messages and Big K.R.I.T. is like the rest of the basketball world, waiting to see what happens next in Hood’s career.

No matter what, though, their relationship is still intact. Big K.R.I.T. currently resides in Atlanta and will begin his 29-city Heavy is the Crown tour with special guest Cyhi The Prynce, starting in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 15.

“I would tell him to keep grinding and keep doing what he does on the court,” Big K.R.I.T. said. Going from being on a major label, then going to being independent showed me a lot about, no matter what you’ve got to keep staying true to yourself.

“We all wish we could stay with one franchise and it work out the way it work out but it doesn’t necessarily work that way but you’ve got to keep balling,” he added. “You’ve got to keep being 100 percent, keep doing what’s best for you and your legacy and then build and help other people around you, too. I would tell him to say focused, trade or not.”