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The 2019 NBA season starts in just a few weeks, but the fireworks have already begun, both teasing the sparks to fly and maintaining the last vestiges of summertime. Of course, I’m referring to the incendiary battle rap tracks traded between the NBA’s reigning best rapper Shaquille O’Neil and his heir apparent Damian Lillard, which showed that some rivalries can play out across arenas and generations as the pair of rapping ballers worked to settle the debate of which is truly the best NBA player to pick up a mic.
Shaq has already laid a strong foundation for his claim, but in recent years, Lillard has also put in his fair share of the groundwork for his own stake at the top. He’s independently produced and released three albums, The Letter O, Confirmed, and most recently, Big D.O.L.L.A., and has become the head of a burgeoning indie music empire. His Front Page Music record label is the current home to Dame’s releases, as well as those of cousin and signee Brookfield Deuce, whose America’s Orphans debuted earlier this year as well.
And much like his forebear and current rival, Dame D.O.L.L.A. — as he prefers to be called when exercising his lyrical muscles rather than his physical ones — has seen his music career grow in esteem. He’s a real rapper, capable of earning the respect and musical contributions of industry heavy hitters like 2 Chainz (who appears on “Anomaly” from Confirmed, Lil Wayne (who has so far popped up on all three of Dame’s albums to date), and Mozzy (a fellow North California veteran who destroys his verse on Big D.O.L.L.A.‘s “Baggage Claim”) and holding his own alongside them.
His weekly Instagram freestyle competition, 4 Bar Friday, garners hundreds of entries each week and has built its own lasting, vibrant community, with whom Dame regularly interacts. It’s safe to say that his interest in rap is no passing fancy or temporary distraction from his Portland point guard duties, as some fans and detractors have suggested. With his name buzzing and his new video, “Money Ball” featuring Jeremih, Front Page artist Danny from Sobrante, and songwriter Derrick Milano, in development, I stopped by the set of the shoot in East Hollywood to find out more about Dame’s plans for his music, his label, and what it takes to be — in the words of one Pusha T — a legend in two games like PeeWee Kirkland.
So what’s the concept behind Big D.O.L.L.A.?
The whole idea behind it was just to embrace the new level of my life, the financial situation, living situation. Things I like, stuff like that. Just addressing the changes. Having a sign now, being able to elevate the people around me, like my family, and being able to open up opportunities for them and just like letting people in on a different level of life for me. You know what I’m saying? To where it was almost like not getting outside of myself, but giving them a different side of what they had known. Where it was like a little bit more flexible, a little bit more flavored than they’re used to getting, you know more than I give off. It was like, all right, let’s give them something.