Corey “Mr. Hanky” Dennard has always had aspirations of going to the pros as a point guard but had no clue that his passions both for music and basketball would make his hoop dreams come true and bring something new to the Atlanta Hawks.
The producer and songwriter has collaborated with the Hawks to create original, uptempo music and curate playlists for offensive gameplay and social media content. The custom soundtrack features beats and instrumentals with some chants that the NBA team will strategically align with its player roster.
Credit: Corey Knapp/Atlanta Hawks
Credit: Corey Knapp/Atlanta Hawks
“Me being a native of Atlanta, I’ve been a Hawks fan since the days of Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, Doc Rivers, even when Jon Koncak was on the team,” Mr. Hanky said, “so I know the energy of the city and of the game. It wasn’t that hard trying to decide on a certain bpm (beats per minute), tempo or how they like to start.”
Mr. Hanky has worked his high-octane console magic on both City Girls’ “Twerkulator” and the female rap duo’s Usher-featured bop “Good Love”; DJ Luke Nasty’s “OTW”; Lil Duval, Snoop Dogg, Ball Greezy and Midnight Star’s “Smile (Living My Best Life)”; and Colonel Loud’s breezy “California” featuring Young Dolph, Ricco Barrino and T.I.
The protege of veteran producer and DJ Mr. Collipark landed some of his earliest placements in the mid-2000s co-producing tracks for artists like Soulja Boy, Hurricane Chris and Ying Yang Twins. The East Atlanta native actively lent his ear to V.I.C.’s infectious 2008 line dance favorite “Wobble,” which was certified four-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in February with sales of over four million copies.
“It’s a great feeling,” Mr. Hanky, whose mother, Rowena Dennard, is Atlanta First United Methodist Church’s director of worship and music, said. “Seeing something go from a simple idea with one or two people to worldwide with millions of people never gets old.”
Mr. Hanky’s creative partnership with the Hawks originally started back in June when he started having conversations with the team’s chief marketing officer Melissa Proctor about the viral success and energy of “Good Love.” That’s when a light bulb went off about something the DJ could do to give the Hawks that same spark as his discography.
“I thought it would be crazy if Hawks had their own soundtrack...,” Mr. Hanky said, noting that the city has so many creatives. “It’s a huge city as far as energy goes, and it just can’t be duplicated.”
Mr. Hanky received a minute-long reel from the Hawks following that initial conversation with Proctor. A week later, the McNair High School alumnus and classically trained musician sent over roughly 40 tracks that he created from scratch.
A self-proclaimed “true Atlanta sports fan,” Mr. Hanky sifted through each song with Joe Abercrombie, Hawks’ senior vice president of live experience and production, to narrow down what the Hawks could use versus what could be tweaked. The goal is to turn the collaboration into future, bolder creative campaigns.
“This man works quickly, and he’s talented,” Abercrombie said, calling Mr. Hanky’s production work “a unique voice that’s true to Atlanta.” “The more Hanky works with us, the more he’ll know what we need or are looking for.”
“In any endeavor that’s new, you’re going to have to crawl, walk, run, so we’re just trying to get the ball rolling,” Abercrombie adds. “As we grow into this, we can use as many tracks as we can get our hands on.”
A former member of Southern University’s Human Jukebox Marching Band who got his pseudonym from a “South Park” character his freshman year, Mr. Hanky credits his time attending the HBCU in Louisiana for equipping him with the discipline and attention to detail necessary to pursue the Hawks’ project.
“It’s all about being able to think very quickly, listen and take in constructive feedback to make it the best possible product,” Mr. Hanky said.
The Hawks will still continue to rotate Atlanta’s most popular hits and artists during the game, but the musical accompaniment courtesy of Mr. Hanky is not just a team breakthrough but league-wide evolution. Since the NBA can regulate what music teams can play when they’re on defense to minimize any potential havoc during competition, the Hawks aspire to make the game more interactive and personalized.
“The Hawks organization is one of the more progressive teams in the NBA,” Abercrombie, who’s approaching his 20th season in the NBA, said, “and they’re always going to be pushing the envelope and trying things in different and new ways. This has made us all think critically about what an offensive vamp actually is and what it could be.”
It’s a full circle moment for Mr. Hanky to bring something fresh to basketball. He’s extremely tight-lipped about his future artist collaborations in the studio but concurs with Abercrombie that his music will change the culture of the league and how Atlanta is perceived throughout the NBA at large.
“It’s crazy how it came back around,” Mr. Hanky said, adding that he never imagined in his wildest dreams that he’d be part of the team’s gameplay. “Hopefully, it’ll lead to other sports teams in the city cultivating talent, exposing it, and using it for our home court advantage.”