Dime Q&A: Hip-Hop Star Kid Ink Talks Kobe Bryant & Jay-Z’s Greatest Basketball Punchline

Everyone needs a little help, right? Michael had Scottie. Kobe had Shaq. Michael Jackson had The Jackson 5. LeBron needed D-Wade. Virtually everybody needs a helping hand to withstand the rigorous tremors on the road of life. But thus far in his young career, Kid Ink has established himself as a reputable independent artist with little to no help. The eclectic musician has earned himself a XXL Freshman cover back in 2012 and watched his debut album Up & Away catapult itself to Billboard’s Top 20 upon its first week of release. The young LeBron, as he refers to himself in this interview, has joined forces with RCA in hopes of steamrolling the competition.

With an exuberant amount of success thus far, his past endeavors have emboldened him to be ready and prepared for stardom. In his interview with Dime, Kid Ink tells why he can’t stand the Lakers, his love for the Heat, being the young LeBron for his team Alumni, hooking up with Meek Mill and Wale for his single “Bad Ass” and more in this fun conversation.

*** *** ***

Dime: You’re from Cali. I pray to God you’re not a Lakers fan, man. (Laughs)
Kid Ink: Oh man. (Laughs) Nah man. I’ve been a Clippers fan since I got into basketball as far as supporting the home team. I’m also a Heat fan. Well really I was a Wade fan and a LeBron fan. So when they came together it was like a dream. (Laughs)

Dime: You said you’ve been a Clipper fan since day one. You mean to say you’ve been a fan since they were dealing with all the bullshit before CP3?
KI: (Laughs) The bullshit. I used to rout for the underdog to kill back in the day. I never really was a Kobe fan.

Dime: Damn. Was it more so because of his game or because of his attitude?
KI: Uh well you know attitude definitely has a lot to play with it as far as knowing the game. I definitely respect his game but you know he wasn’t the coolest of the coolest dudes. He had his slipups that I can’t really respect it but we all know about those you know?

Dime: So I know when you were watching the Lakers-Spurs series you were having a ball, chugging back some beers, over there laughing.
KI: Man it’s funny. All my buddies are die-hard Kobe-Lakers fans. But really I’ve been having a ball for like the past month. It was actually for a couple months really when they didn’t know if they were making the playoffs.

Dime: You were just having a blast over there.
KI: (Laughs) LeBron and D-Wade haven’t been doing a bad job either in making it worse (for my boys) you know? They’ve been going ham.

Dime: How far do you think the Heat can go this year? You think they’re going all the way again easily?
KI: Oh I think it’s all the way again including with all of these injuries man. (Laughs) That definitely just saved them and gave them the pass. I feel like they’re going all the way definitely for sure.

Dime: It’s crazy how LeBron could get another ring just like that while KD is still fighting for one.
KI: Yeah it was a heartbreaker for him. But he’s working though. He definitely owned that last series.

Dime: Definitely. You know what I always found interesting with hoops and rap is how they’re so tied together and synonymous with one another. In what aspects do you feel that rap and basketball go together?
KI: Well I mean asides from athletes listening to music before their games and everything, you know it’s the way we serve as their motivation to pump them up. It definitely comes to play on that aspect. I feel like all rappers have hoop dreams and all basketball players be having studio dreams. (Laughs) It usually be that way. I noticed that. We’re definitely fans of each other strongly. Lately I think it’s definitely been relatable a lot. Athletes and players are from the streets and the hood and come up from a lot of these same places these hip-hop artists be or come from. When we the hip-hop artists talk about what we talk about, the athletes definitely relate. It feels just as good you know when an artist or athlete makes it out the hood and you see them living their dreams.

Dime: I hear you. From a rapper’s standpoint, how does it feel when you see one of your favorite ballplayers jump in the studio and drop some verses? Do you encourage ballplayers to pick up the mic and do what you do best?
KI: I think it’s fun sometimes. But you know what? I don’t know man. The only person who really pulled it off was Shaq. You know he had the platinum albums and everything. (Laughs) If you can do both man and be great at both, I can’t really hate. I could respect that. But when you’re not doing your job on the court but you’re in the studio, I can’t really respect that. You know what I’m saying? You gotta put 100 percent into both even though it’s really not that easy to do.

Dime: So I’m assuming it’s safe to say you weren’t the one to buy the Ron Artest album?
KI: Man I had that single but I didn’t get that Ron Artest. He didn’t have the right features on there. (Laughs)

Keep reading to hear who Kid Ink compares himself to in the NBA…

Dime: I dig it. A common question we often ask to rappers is their favorite sports punchline. Because you’re a witty rapper yourself, if you can name your favorite sports related punchline for either you or somebody else, what would it be and why?
KI: One of my favorite ones that I had, this one was a funny one. I had this record and it was called “Lick It.” It was a record for the females. You know like a nasty kind of strip club record. (Laughs) One of the stick-out lines on that was when I was like, “Tongues out, Jordan.” (Laughs) It was a cool little punchline that everybody in the studio went crazy for. You know the ladies liked it. I’m trying to think of a nice punchline from another artist that was crazy. Like my favorite athletic punchline…

Dime: I know Hov always has a couple.
KI: Wale be having some stuff like that. Hov be having some stuff. Oh! I mean yo! The best punchline ever was Hov, “Niggas in Paris.” The Mike Tyson, Mike Jordan punchline. You remember how that one goes?

Dime: I think it was something like Tyson, Jackson, Jordan, Game 6.
KI: Yeah! That one was it right there.

Dime: What made that line so crazy was the cadence and how he was flowing on the track.
KI: Yeah the flow was perfect on there and the energy. Then when he threw the names in there you was just like, “Oooh.” Game 6. That Game 6 line turned it up.

Dime: Another favorite question of mine is asking about rapper’s NBA comparisons. You know how Jay refers to himself as the Michael Jordan of rap. If you could compare yourself to anybody in the league, who would you choose and why?
KI: I would definitely probably put myself in the game at that old LeBron level. I felt like when he was on Cleveland — he wasn’t not really the only person on the team — he brought his whole team up. I feel like he’s a great team player. That’s what I really be about. That’s one of the things I really respect. I think team playing and really being able to pass the ball, in addition to having a team ready to play their position is important. I think that’s the spot I’m at right now including the fact that I don’t have a bunch dudes or stars co-signing me. A bunch of people see that I’ve been doing it on my own independently. So I’m grinding right now to get to that next team. That’s sort of what I did now with the major label situation. That was like me kind of going to the Heat. I got other power players with me so now I could really get those rings. That’s where I’m at.

Dime: It’s crazy because you did well with your debut album Up & Away independently and helped carry your team Alumni that I always said you linking with a major — as you did with RCA — could really help you move up and turn up.
KI: I really wanted to prove that to the majors ‘cuz I definitely had got the offers before the independent album, even from RCA, Maybach, Bad Boy and Atlantic Records. All these people wanted me. But I was like, “Yo. Y’all don’t really understand the movement and what we can do. And I don’t wanna just come over and you guys don’t get it. Then I’d be waiting on you to press a button so we could get moving.” So, I had to get the momentum started so they could hop on the momentum instead of starting it themselves.

Dime: Respect. It’s funny you mention being the young LeBron and that you’re the front man of your crew Alumni. Do you feel any significant pressure in delivering and carrying the load for your team because like you mentioned LeBron did inevitably make the switch. Do you think you need a force or co-sign now to make it since everybody is joining a clique?
KI: Nah, I feel like you know what I started independently with Alumni is so strong and that it’s moving so well that it wouldn’t make sense for me and my core fans to hop on another movement like Maybach. That’s not to say I don’t respect what they’re doing because we could of took it there if we wanted to but for the old core fans, it wouldn’t make sense. I’d have to really be starting all over again over there. They wouldn’t really know what to believe and what the musical direction would be. I feel like it’s just up to me right now to prove that you can take it from the independent to the majors and still do what you wanna do and make it happen. You could still keep it independent as long as they know what you’re about and you gotta show them how to make that work. The majors and a lot of people still don’t get what we’ve done independently.

Dime: Does that make you feel a certain way?
KI: I feel like I’m in the middle… (pauses) It’s weird. My situation is because I feel like I sort of skipped the underground and went straight to the mainstream world independently just by having a certain type of record. It’s something that labels and stuff don’t understand and some people in the underground world and hip-hop world don’t understand. I feel like I’m in the middle right now trying to prove — not necessarily prove — but show both worlds that there can be a middle ground in coming together and having mainstream records on the radio and still have lyrics and a meaning behind it. In addition, show people not to judge everything just on the sound and lifestyle more than just hearing a record on the radio. You know like, “I’m gonna judge him of this, this and that.” It’s definitely like you said too. There’s definitely a pressure there and a stress there. But like I said, I feel like the major labels give me more of a visual to explain that and get that across to people who don’t just get that from listening to music. I feel like one of the biggest things is that my videos has helped me so much in getting across the message in songs that people didn’t get and now they get to understand my lifestyle a little more.

Dime: Yeah I feel you because your YouTube page is crazy and you did it all on your own. “Time of Your Life” must have like 15-20 million views?
KI: Yeah we’re looking at 20. “I Just Want It All” and “Hell & Back” are my top videos about to hit 20 million. We got other videos that’s about to hit 10. It’s crazy because even like the lighter videos that we just shot on flip cams and things like that are getting millions and millions of views this early.

Keep reading to hear what’s next for Kid Ink…

Dime: I know you got the single “Bad Ass.” Talk about how the single came together featuring you, Wale and Meek Mill? Then talk about how the video came about.
KI: Well the song pretty much came together when I was in the studio. I was in the studio with my boy Devin Cruise. He presented me the record and was like, “Yo. This might be the one. I was like alright. Let’s try with it. It was really natural and came out in like 30 minutes. I really had this dope idea for the record and I kind of sat on it knowing that it can be something that I wanted to get some features on it. So I reached out. First I thought about it for a minute. Meek’s momentum right now is crazy. The fans were hitting me for a new record. Plus we’ve already worked together on my past mixtapes. So it was nothing. I hit him up. He came to L.A. and knocked this beat out. From there I’m sitting like I wanna get another feature but I don’t want it to take away from me. Like yo, “He’s just trying to get a bunch of co-signs.” So I decided to keep it in-house with Maybach because they had already shown love and appreciation for Alumni. At the same time, I’ve never done nothing with Wale, or worked, or met him or anything. I thought it would be so brand new but at the same time organic and natural because their team messed with it. I definitely reached out to him. He couldn’t make it to the city but he was on the road and got it knocked out in two days. Just from talking to him you could tell he was messing with the record. Everybody organically used the “man of the hour” section in their verse without me having to say nothing. So it was definitely do how that came about. For the video part, I definitely gotta shout out DJ Ill Will, and Alex Nazari for coming up with the dope treatment. On the record I said, “Drop it on the floor like it’s a fire.” That was the punchline that stuck out with them that they took to the video. They got the firefighter girls in the outfits. It was just made to go in a different direction instead of just having a bunch of asses in front of the camera, doing the club scene, and all that. You know, we tried to do something brand new and it was fun because I never stood on fire trucks and ambulances or none of that. We really had the fire building and everything. It was fun.

Dime: I loved the video because the girls in it were popping! (Laughs)
KI: Ahhh man. The girls in the video were crazy. And everyone was there waiting like, “So when’s the scene with them taking off the fire outfits?” (Laughs)

Dime: Before I let you go, what I found interesting with Up & Away were the lack of guest appearances. When I look at that, it shows me the artist has the tools to make a record by himself. Now, how do you approach your new album knowing that this will be your first major debut? Are you going to try to load up on the apperances?
KI: It’s like I definitely don’t wanna overdo it with the appearances of course. I’m saying I feel like there’s that opportunity. For me, when I signed the major label deal, mentally, I just went back to when I first started independently. There’s a whole new group of fans that I feel don’t know Kid Ink and that I gotta prove something to them and not let them get lost in the features, the other people on the record, and still try to own it the first go around. But at the same time too with the major label situation, of course the fans want something but you know, they know I have that pull. They wanna see what artists I’m gonna work with. So I gotta just make sure more than anything that I keep it creative with the features and not really just get the ones that they expect. You know there’s a record that I feel like I wanna do with artists that I wanna hear too but I still wanna try to keep it different and they say, “I like that record because of Kid Ink and not because of that major co-sign that they go on it.”

Dime: How you been trying to follow the same formula that you used on Up & Away or even you last mixtape Rocketshawtyship for your upcoming album?
KI: I definitely look back on the last projects. I looked at what worked more than anything and you know keep that formula because you gotta be a fan yourself. So I definitely try to be a fan. I check on the comments, read what the fans are saying and figure out which song did better. I just try to see how I can grow from there. But, I try to keep the same process because you know just going in the studio, the first things that comes to my mind is just letting the music speak for itself. The people around me sometimes help me with that. Just by playing music and getting the response from everybody else that you don’t know. I don’t really sit on records. That’s why when I record a record, I’m done with it. I just go to the next one. Including me just being so involved in mixing it and engineering it and listening to it 300,000 times, I’m like we gotta do something new. Then I just let my team around me speak and tell me which records are popping.

What’s the best basketball-related punchline you’ve ever heard?

Follow Carl on Twitter at @TheRealCL24.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.