Close your eyes, and it almost sounds like music—the pop of plastic ball against wooden paddle, the occasional grunt or exclamation of celebration or defeat. While it’s frequently relegated to basements, rec rooms, and tech startup common areas, if you’re in any way involved with hip hop, you probably have a different vision of the game. Ping-Pong is a fixture of label offices, recording studios, and the offices of major music publications, and rappers beef about their paddle skills on Twitter, keeping a running tally of who has beaten whom, how many times, and issuing calls for rematches. A$AP Rocky, Cam’Ron, and Pusha T are all rabid players, brought together by the self-proclaimed #PingPongPresident of hip hop himself, VIBE Magazine Editor-in-Chief Datwon Thomas.
Thomas has been a fixture in hip hop for years—he started as an intern at VIBE in 1996, and quickly rose through the hip hop world as a young journalist-to-watch, writing for XXL and serving as its music editor. He has worked closely with some of hip hop’s heaviest hitters, including Russell Simmons and Sean Combs. Needless to say, the man has some stories. After bouncing around pretty much every rap publication, Thomas returned to VIBE as Editor-in-Chief. However, as he recently recounted to The Standard, it was long before he took his seat at the helm of VIBE that Thomas heard the call of the little plastic ball.