Alter egos have always been creative tools of the masters, but they can get tricky. In literature, most protagonists are written in some likeness to their authors. Marcel Duchamp was one of the first conceptual artists to step out as a second self. Music has many prolific examples: Bowie did it with Ziggy Stardust, Nicki Minaj has several, George Clinton created an entire alternate universe out of them. And sports are rife with them because there’s something to be said for creating an in-game persona that’s capable of consuming nerves and doubt and converting them to confidence when it’s time to compete.
But a cross-vocation hybrid?
JaVale McGee’s alter ego, “Pierre,” isn’t a secret. He released a self-titled album with it in 2018, and continues to produce music under it, most recently on Justin Bieber’s February 2020 album on the track Available. McGee has dabbled in producing media with him behind or around the camera for just as long. He hosted the Parking Lot Chronicles during his time with Golden State, a funny and candid show where he interviewed teammates in the parking lot outside Oracle, and since arriving in Orlando for the season restart has been releasing his Life in the Bubble vlogs that chronicle the charming daily ennui of he and his teammates.
It’s clear that McGee is a true creative, in the sense that he is most happy when he is turning his gaze out on the world and producing something, free to try new things. For his latest interpretation, a new podcast called Finding Pierre, McGee’s turned all the way inward, going past Pierre as a veneer and attempting instead to find and simultaneously write the origin story of his alter ego.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to make music.” McGee muses in the opening line of the podcast’s trailer, over his own new original track, Round of Applause, “But when you can run the floor and protect the rim like me, basketball, it just kind of chooses you.
The story that’s promised to unfold is loosely based on McGee’s own trajectory into the league, a young first-round draft pick who was “picked from my mama’s house in Flint, Michigan and thrust into the big leagues.” McGee narrates the intro to Finding Pierre as himself, at first, but shifts in and out of person and persona in the way one would in their own head.
“Basketball by day, alone in a strange new city by night with nothing but my music to keep me company,” McGee recalls, delving into some of the stress that came with his success and self-interpreted doubt. “I was a lottery pick, Slam Dunk Champion, but I’ve also led the league in air balls and been traded three times in four years. My commitment to the game was questioned from day one.”
When McGee introduces his on-court alter ego, Sly Malone — the one who’ll be narrating the new Audio Up produced podcast — he slips easily into the story. We haven’t spent any time with him but he’s as fully realized as McGee, plucked directly from his brain completely whole, an NCAA basketball player living a secret identity by night as a music producer, navigating two paths at once.
“The real truth is, without my music I’d never survive the stress of NBA life. I needed an alter ego. A mask, to shield Sly Malone, the basketball player, from the scrutiny of fans and media. So I created Pierre,” McGee says sunnily. “Super producer. He saved my life.”
The show will feature new and original music by McGee in every episode, a chance to showcase what he’s done since he was a freshman in college. You can hear an exclusive snippet of one of his tracks, “Let’s Get Loud,” below.
On his venture into podcasting, following a handful of other NBA stars like his teammate, Danny Green, McGee says, “Podcasting is something that I’ve always been interested in. The way Audio Up and CEO Jared Gutstadt takes both music and stories, and turns them into something much bigger, is catching a lot of people’s attention. I’m excited to be a part of this first wave.”
“I’m creating a whole new album, featuring music by my alter ego Pierre. It’s going to be unlocked throughout the original stories within each of the eight episodes. It will be the perfect way for us to expand my digital brand and get some music out in a dynamic way. Folks discover music in all sorts of ways, and Podcasting could just be that new primary avenue. It could turn from being a podcast, into the next big summer blockbuster or animated series!”
Will Sly Malone ultimately pick basketball, like McGee did, will Pierre the producer prevail, or will both find a happy coexistence in each other’s heads, much like McGee himself has created a cerebral coalescence with.