Damian Lillard The Rapper is Dope
Damian Lillard may be equally as good a rapper as he is a basketball player, if not better.
In the social media age, fans have never been able to get closer to their favorite athletes. They get to show us their personality and allow us more opportunities to connect. Perhaps the best way for fans to relate to athletes is through their hobbies. All athletes have them, though some are more publicly known than others. J.J. Redick posts a weekly podcast. Kevin Durant was a credentialed photographer for Super Bowl 50. Boris Diaw likes traveling with his espresso machine.
Damian Lillard likes to rap. And he’s damn good at it. He’s not the first NBA player to rap, and is not even the only current player to have dabbled in the art. But he may be the best hooper to ever touch a microphone.
He started sharing his love for spitting through his weekly “4 Bar Friday” on Instagram. Fans — and other players — joined the movement, and he re-posted his favorites.
Under the moniker “Dame D.O.L.L.A,” Lillard posted a bunch of original tracks on his Soundcloud.
Lillard further publicized his talent, showing off his bars on Sway in the Morning — a hip-hop radio show on Sirius XM.
Then, things got real. He released “Bigger Than Us,” trying to bring more attention to the unjustified slayings of many blacks in America at the hands of the police.
On October 21, 2016, Dame D.O.L.L.A. released his debut album, “The Letter O.” The project consists of 12 songs where Lillard tells stories about growing up in Oakland, his ascension into the NBA, and his many All-Star snubs.
There are three main themes in this project: Oakland, CA, Ogden, UT, and Portland, OR. Those three O’s — Oakland, Ogden and Oregon — is where the album’s title comes from. Each song has a story behind it, some more personal than others.
A favorite of mine is “Wasatch Front,” a region in Utah that holds 80 percent of Utah’s population. More important, it is where Lillard’s alma mater Weber State University resides. Dame talks about his tough beginning in the college classroom, his growth on the court, working towards the NBA Draft and actually achieving that goal. Or, as Lillard says, “That’s a mission passed.”
Lillard had to pass a lot of missions in his life to get where he is now. In the album’s intro track — “Bill Walton” — Lillard in his opening verse talks about how bills were not always paid on time as a kid, having to use “thermals for PJs.” Or, how he had to “be careful of my surroundings,” thinking back to a time where a gun was pulled on him. “I started praise and worship, a cold, cold city but it gave me sense of urging.”
On the track “Thank You,” Lillard talks about how important his grandmother was in his growth as a man. Lillard mentions how she always made sure they got to school, did well there and gave whoopings if they needed to learn a lesson. She motivated him to rejoin the football team after quitting, which gave him the “inner faith” that helped him win Defensive Player of the Year.
Dame D.O.L.L.A does a wonderful job laying out his life up to this point, showing his progress along the way. While he mentions the tough parts of growing up in Oakland, he also follows up with something positive to match the negative and the lessons he learned in each scenario he faced. When he gets to college, it’s all about his ascension and trying to show he belongs — and funny enough, that’s how he also outlines some of his time in the NBA. That can be seen in this five-line sequence in “Bill Walton”:
Lillard has proven two things in the rap game thus far: he’s freaking dope, and he can actually do this. If Lillard never became the basketball star he is, could he have become as popular as a rapper? He has the talent that makes me think he could have become just as popular a rapper as he is a basketball player.
Now, of course, Lillard may not have done this had he not had the resources available and following that he does. Production is a huge part of music sounding good, and as a successful NBA player, Lillard has access to the best available.
Still, though, Lillard is undoubtedly passionate about this. While he may not have pursued it as a career had he not made it in the NBA, he probably would have still been rapping. He probably would have still done 4 Bar Friday.
Lillard is a star in the NBA, though, so let’s not get fixated on a hypothetical. The question now should be, could he continue to do this after his playing career? I mean, why not? As a 19-year-old, I am not old enough to consider myself a rap expert. I am not heavily cultured, and my music library isn’t filled with old-school rap. But I do listen to a lot of rap, and again, Dame D.O.L.L.A. is dope. “The Letter O” was fantastic. I’m listening to it now as I type. There has been a lot of good music released this year, and his album is up there among the best and most complete.
If he wanted to, Lillard could surely continue to do this after his days in the league come to an end. I’m sure he will continue to produce music while still playing, making more of a name for himself and further gaining respect from other rappers. He already got a feature from a big name — Lil Wayne — on “The Letter O.” Jamie Foxx made an appearance, too.
Damian Lillard isn’t even close to reaching his peak on the court, and Dame D.O.L.L.A. isn’t even close to reaching his peak in the studio. The continuing rise of both will have basketball and music fans’ attention for years to come.