Boston, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly the hot bed for fostering young talent. If you were asked to name all of the NBA players that have truly come from the Boston area, you’d likely struggle after naming Patrick Ewing, Nerlens Noel and Michael-Carter Williams. Of course, there’s former Celtic Dana Barros, current Milwaukee Buck Jeff Adrien and Chris Herren was raised an hour away in Fall River, but the above average basketball fan would have a hard time naming guys after that.
In hip-hop, the odds prove to be even tougher historically. If you’re a true hip-hop head, maybe you can name Terminology or Benzino, but the average listener wouldn’t even know one Boston-bred rapper in the game.
The two industries are synonymous in culture as both have similar barriers making it extremely difficult for anyone trying to break in. That’s what has allowed Iowa State sophomore stud Georges Niang and Boston rapper Moufy to form such a tight bond as the two Boston kids attempt to make it to the highest level in their respective industries.
After living in the shadows of NBA lottery pick Nerlens Noel and Kansas Star Wayne Selden at Tilton Academy (NH), Niang burst onto the national scene during the 2012-2013 season at Iowa State, recording 12.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game on his way to Big 12 Rookie of the Year. The 6-7 forward then gave fans an indication this season that the best is yet to come, as the Cyclones’ jack-of-all-trades posted averages of 16.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while leading ISU to a Big 12 Tournament championship this season before suffering a broken foot during the round-of-32 in March.
Moufy, on the other hand, has created a following of his own in New England’s hip-hop game. An underdog himself, Moufy has used his ‘organic’ Bostonian flow to rub shoulders with guys like Kendrick Lamar, Kid Ink and YG. After dropping his EP New England Knight last month, Moufy, similar to Georges, looks to take his game to the next level and put Boston on his back.
I caught up with two of Boston’s own to talk about their underdog mentalities, which NBA star coach Fred Hoiberg has suggested Niang emulate his game after, bouncing back from adversity and making it to the big stage.
*** *** ***
Dime: So you guys attended prep school together at Tilton Academy (NH). How did you develop the bond that you still share today?
Georges Niang: I think it was just the mutual respect that we have for each other. I played basketball and he recorded music. Obviously there are a lot of people who say “I can really rap” or whatever and he just influenced me to follow his music and it was a friendship built from there. I think it was the start of a new beginning, with him following me in basketball and him following his dream, I think it’s just two kids following their dreams to become the best that they can be.
Moufy: I’d definitely echo that. We got motivated off of each other, you know? Even though we’re from different industries, there’s still sort of the same stigmatism and they’re definitely similar industries where not everyone makes it, you know? A lot of it has to do with luck and a lot has to do with really being chosen and really being one of the few so we resonated on those terms. It’s not easy to be a D-I ballplayer and make it to the NBA and it’s not easy to be a hip-hop artist and make it in the industry so that fueled both of us.
GN: Going off that, I think that both me and Mouf never were really given anything–we were sort of like hidden gems. When we finally made the public scene and blew up, people were a little surprised because with Moufy coming from Boston, he didn’t have much. Me, I didn’t have as much publicity as Nerlens (Noel) and all them and (now) we’re going out and putting on a good show.
Dime: What factors make it so easy for you guys to relate to each other’s journeys?
GN: I just think that we’re outgoing personable people. Moufy’s a well-spoken dude and I’ve learned a lot from him. Being able to handle certain situations because he was always older than me and sort of looked down on me as a little brother and was always looking out on who I should keep in my circle and who’s good for me and who’s not. If I ever had any problems, I could go to him and he’d give me the best advice because he’s always been older than me and been through a lot of experiences with him up and coming as a rapper and in high school he was big time. Whenever I needed to worry about who I should keep around or how to handle certain situations or interviews, I could always lean on him because he’s been there before and he’s a superstar in his own.
Moufy: It just goes back to that notion that we sort of learned from each other’s journeys. When we were in high school, it was a boarding school so we spent a lot of time with each other, you know? Me and the basketball team and Georges spent a lot of time with each other because at the end of the day, everybody has their critics in whatever industry you’re in and like Georges said, media wise [he didn’t get the attention]. Internally, we always knew Georges was as good as Wayne (Selden) and was as good as Nerlens, was as good as a lot of the guys that were highly touted in the media. He was the leading scorer (at Tilton). He was scoring 27, 28 points a game no questions asked, but when the media came around, they would sort of direct the light towards Nerlens and Wayne and a couple of those guys so Georges and me always had that underdog mentality. Like, how often does a rapper make it out of Boston? So in my mind, it was always me against the world and I know Georges felt the same way so me and Georges really connected on that level.
Georges went to Iowa State and proved that he’s one of the best players in America, not even one of the best freshman, “I’m one of the best players period.” I think a lot of that came from that underdog mindset, that Bostonian (attitude) of us against the world. That “I’m going to make it happen” type of mindset. I think that we garnered that through our experiences and that started in high school.
I remember I was at every single home game and sometimes traveled with the team and the same shit he’s been doing to those guys at Iowa State, he was doing in high school, even to Nerlens. When they’d practice against each other, he’d put a move on Nerlens, mind you this is a lottery pick defender, but still Georges was still giving it to him. Him and Nerlens would go back and forth so I always knew what the world recently found out this last year about Georges. If you asked Wayne, if you asked Nerlens, Goodluck (Okonoboh), you ask the head coach at Tilton (Marcus O’Neil), they’re not surprised on what Georges did this past year. The world is because he didn’t get the media coverage that he should have [in high school] but I’m not surprised that he went to Iowa State and was the No. 1 freshman in the conference because we saw this coming [and it’s that] underdog mentality that garnered us. And I look at it and think it’s really, really benefitted George this last year.
Dime: It’s no secret to your followers that you have a direct interest in basketball with so many of your lyrical references. Can you explain the idea behind this lyric in your new song “Know That” (“They so average I’m so classic/I’m in a different bracket March Madness (SWOOSH)”) and what can fans expect from your EP New England Knight?
Moufy: I came up with that lyric during March Madness time. It’s sort of like a metaphor. “I’m in a different bracket, March Madness.” It was just sort of like a clever play on words. I like the new EP New England Knight because it explains where I’m at in this point in my life and where my team is. It’s a great snapshot of the present times, that’s why I like it a lot. You can listen to this EP and you can understand and you can see what point in Moufy’s life he is at and where his family’s life is at. That’s why I’m so high on the EP because it’s a great snapshot of my life.
Dime: Georges, speaking of March, you unfortunately broke your foot during the tournament. How are you doing with the rehab process?
GN: You know, I’m good. I’m one week away from getting (back on the court) and take as much time as I need to because the season is off for a little while so I figured I might as well heal up as much as I can and come back ten times stronger next year. I’ve got a couple more weeks ahead of me before I can really get going but the future is bright over at Iowa State. When you have a circle with Moufy and those guys always putting in a word for you and letting you know everything’s going to be alright, you just see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Dime: The two of you have faced some adversity recently with Georges, you breaking your foot and with Moufy just trying to sustain the hype and take it to the next level after blowing up in New England with “Boston Lights” a couple years ago. How have you let these adverse situations fuel the both of you?
GN: I just think we’re both motivated kids. We didn’t really have much hype coming out of where we came out of and we know where we want to be at and we’ve never not worked hard. I remember, I’m shooting in the gym (at Tilton) and Moufy is running on the treadmill running and singing his lyrics so he can get his wind down. I just think it’s two dedicated kids who know what they want and nobody’s going to stop them. People thought Moufy was done after “Boston Lights”–then he came out with New England Knight and I bump that all the time. “New England Rollin” is one of my favorite songs on that. It’s stuff that people can’t relate to. Moufy’s always told me people that aren’t doing what we’re doing can’t relate to this and once you’re in that circle, you just can relate to how hard we’re working.
Moufy: And I’ll echo that. I just think that when Georges broke his foot, all I did was send Georges one text” ‘Yo bro, you already know what it is. You’re going to come back from this even stronger” and he said “Aight, I got you.” I already knew that Georges had been through so much adversity in his life growing up and being the underdog that [him breaking his foot] is something small to a giant.
And the same with me. I’ve faced adversity my whole life. Coming up in the game I kind of knew what this journey entailed, you know what I mean? So we’re not surprised when adverse times come because we were sort of groomed from that. And you know that whole Boston attitude, that whole Massachusetts attitude, it’s always been us against the world. So when situations come like that, we don’t crumble! You know what I mean? We don’t crumble. We ironically get stronger. When we go down, we come back stronger and those are the type of characters you’re dealing with in me and Georges.
Dime: Moufy, you’ve obviously made a name for yourself on the New England hip-hop scene opening up for guys like Kendrick Lamar, Kid Ink and YG, to name a few. How close do you feel that you are to breaking onto the national hip-hop scene?
Moufy: I’m close. In my honest opinion I think I’m a summer away, no bullshit. I think I’m really, really close. I think I’m really on the cusp and that’s why it’s been such a great journey because I did it organically, you know? I didn’t have any rich sponsor. I did it from the bottom and I’ve come such a long way so far and still have a long way to go but we’re about to break into the national fold.
Right now, I think we have a buzz up and down the East Coast. We have a lot of fans in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia so we’ve kind of pierced through the East: Maine, Vermont, New York, Philly, etc. So now it’s time to make that migration West and I think that we’re very, very close. But I think in this game you never know. This game changes quickly so I can’t guarantee a specific time but I definitely think that we’re on the cusp.
Dime: And Georges, on the same level, how surreal has it been to see guys you played with growing up like Michael Carter-Williams killing it on the big stage with you knowing that you’re possibly a year or two away from being in that same spotlight?
GN: Seeing other (Boston) guys like Nerlens and Michael Carter-Williams [in the NBA], I couldn’t be happier and more proud for them. Those are two individuals that I’ve grown up with being from a young age that have grown up into great people, great role models and great players. So, I’m going to keep working hard to get to that level because that’s what I aspire for. I just couldn’t be happier for those guys and I can’t wait to join them when the time comes.
Dime: And Mouf, there really hasn’t been a lot of artists from Boston that have made it onto the national stage. With your East Coast following, do you think that you can be that voice on the national level to put Boston hip-hop on the map and why?
Moufy: Yeah definitely and I think the reason why is because [my music is] organic. A lot of people have skeletons in their closet and have a lot of holes in their story. When you look at my story–I’m really from Boston. I’m really from Roxbury. What I say in my music mirrors the life I live. There’s no hyperboles, there’s no exaggerations. There’s no one that can come out and say well, nah, “this is the real Moufy.” Everything that I said–I only rap about what I live. There’s never any backlash on our authenticity and you know hip-hop is all about authenticity. You can fool the world for a few months, maybe for a year, maybe for two years but eventually, in this game, the truth always comes out. I never worry because I knew I was always being organic and I was always being real so that’s why I feel that my authenticity is going to allow me to be that voice for the city and have a national following to come.
Dime: And Georges, you know Moufy has had Boston’s beloved David Ortiz hop on the track with him before. Have you ever thought about hitting the booth with him?
GN: Nah man (laughs). I’ll leave that up to him. I mean, he’s on a serious level of music and creativity and to be on that level you’ve got to be in a different mindset. I don’t want to slow him down getting on a track and mess it up (laughs). It’s kind of like an old white guy at a wedding–you don’t want him dancing and messing up the whole flow (laughs). I’m always supportive of him and everything that he does. There’s even people out here [in Iowa] that are wearing Star Gang affiliate sweatshirts so it’s all love out here. I’m spreading the word of Moufy and how he kills tracks. We’re just out here supporting each other because we’ve been through the struggle together, whether it’s been at prep school or wherever. But you know, we just support each other to reach our goals.
Dime: Moufy, speaking of David Ortiz, how has your relationship with him helped you to reach even more of an audience?
Moufy: He’s real–this city loves him. So when he’s showing love to somebody, you know how people feel. That’s a three-time World Series champion and a World Series MVP. He’s that guy out here. So when he gave me that co-sign it was crazy. When I look back though, I hate the song (laughs). I hate the song. I don’t let anyone play the song around me. I think it was a little too “bubble-gum” in retrospect. In hindsight, I would have gone a little bit more urban but it’s neither here nor there. It still was a good look. I think it got like half a million views–the whole region rocked with it. I wouldn’t change it though to be honest, even though I’m not too high on the song.
Dime: Who are your influences in booth and on court?
Moufy: I think I’m really influenced the most by the people who not only did great on the music side but also who embraced the business side as well. When you’re in the music industry you start to learn that there’s two sides to the music world. There’s music like writing and composing songs but then there’s the business side. So to me, I really not only liked the artists who did well on the music scene but also transferred their attention to the business side and grew on that side of the game. I like the Jay Zs of the world, the Rick Ross’s of the world, just because of what he did with Maybach Music. I like the Wiz Khalifas of the world not necessarily because of their music. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m the biggest Wiz Khalifa fan but the fact that he built a brand from the bottom appeals to me. I really like the brand builders like Diddy. He’s not the greatest rapper in the world but look at how he took Ciroc and turned it into one of the top brands in the world.
To me, I understand how hard it is just to compose music and to build a brand so when I see artists that do both, those are the artists that I watch and pay attention to. Even Jay-Z with the Roc Nation Sports thing, that’s impressive to me. That’s the stuff that I really follow. So when I think of artists, I think of artists that build a brand and keep their music going.
GN: On the court, my coach Fred Hoiberg has played with guys like Kevin Love so being compared to those types of guys and just how they’ve been looked over for their body and not being the most athletic but doing the best that they can with their body. Recently, I’ve looked up to guys like Doug McDermott because people say he’s white and that he can’t do a lot of things but he led the nation in scoring. There are people out there that can get buckets and take names later so I think that’s just how I view my game.
Dime: How close do you think you are of making it to the league?
GN: I think I’m real close. It comes down to me getting in better shape, doing a little more and doing me. That’s one thing that Moufy’s always preached to me: “Be you, be original, be who you are” and that’s where it’s got me and hopefully it’ll get me where I want to be. So that’s what I’m hoping for and I hope to get another crack at it next year and win a national championship and go from there.
Dime: Last question to both of you guys. Fill in the blank to this statement: “Georges Niang warming up for the Boston Celtics with Moufy playing on the stadium speakers would be _________”.
Moufy: That would be epic. That would be crazy (laughs). Everybody plays for the Celtics that we grew up with. That would just be crazy because we’re all Celtics fans. That’d be ridiculous and it’s not too far fetched, either.
GN: That would be an amazing feeling, like Moufy said “epic”. I just feel like for both of us coming from Boston to make it to the bright lights, big stage and for both of us to be successful, that’s more than any two kids growing up could ask for. I’ll be proud of him, he’ll be proud of me and that would just be an amazing feeling.
What do you think?
Follow Matt on Twitter at @DimeMatt.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.