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Lil Wayne supports Damian Lillard — on the court and in the studio

‘I told you from the start, he talk about things that matter.’


BURBANK, Calif. – Damian Lillard is a four-time NBA All-Star who is in the first year of a four-year, $191 million contract. But if Lillard had to rap for a living, could he make money as his alter ego Dame D.O.L.L.A?

Famed rapper Lil Wayne thinks so.

“He’d do awesome,” Lil Wayne told The Undefeated. “I think he’d do well. Dame is Dame off the court as well in the music game. What I mean by that is Dame has a lot of friends off the court with other teams, just because of who he is, and how he is. That’s the same thing in music. So, if he was to switch over, he’d have a lot of help. And we all make sure that he won’t put himself out there the wrong way.

“So, if you ask the question without the basketball, if he was just a rapper, with that said, then I think he’ll still be up there. Given what I’m hearing out here today? Yeah, he’d be up there.”

While Lillard, of the Portland Trail Blazers, has collaborated with the likes of G-Eazy and Jadakiss, the biggest star who he has shared a song with is Lil Wayne, who has been on all three of his albums. Sitting in a record studio as the sun rose on the morning of Nov. 24, Lil Wayne talked to The Undefeated about his respect for Lillard as a rapper and basketball star, how he has improved his rap skills, what he typically thinks of rapping athletes, Shaquille O’Neal and more.

When did you and Dame first meet?

Man, I met Dame a minute ago. Dame was so young. I was so young. Honestly, I’ve been following him since school — since I turned on the TV and found out who Damian Lillard was. I think I met him just by being courtside at a lot of the games. A simple meet, handshake, or something like that.

When did you realize that Dame had talent as a rapper?

When I gave him my ear. When I listened to it. First time I listened to it. Anyone who say they rap, I’m gonna listen to it before I hear it. There’s a difference, ladies and gentlemen, hearing something and listening to something. So, there’s no cliché for music.

Everybody’s got a category and the category is individually their own. But those categories, they have umbrellas that they fall under. And when I saw the umbrella that he fell under, I was like, ‘Wow.’ This is not the average sports person that want to rap. They usually have a different — they fall under a different umbrella.

When did you realize that he was serious about music and that he was real? What made this rapping athlete special?

Truth. Plain and simple. When I heard what he was talking about. When I heard what he rapped about wasn’t about what I thought it would be. When you listen to a person like Dame, or any NBA celebrity, NFL, that say they rap, first thing I thought about just like first thing everybody else thought about was, ‘What is this song gonna be about? The Game?’

About basketball? Or is it gonna be about your everyday life, which I imagine is beautiful and we all imagine that? So, what it’s about to be, about how he came up. And it’s about what’s real around him. Once I heard it I was like, ‘Well, what else did I expect?’

Typically, when an athlete says ‘I rap,’ what’s your initial response?

It depends on the person. So when Dame say he raps, I know where Dame from. That’s why I said, ‘Once I did listen to it, I asked myself, what else did I expect?’ That’s why I said, ‘Depends on the person.’ But overall, they are younger these days. That was the difference with Dame. The kids that coming up and play sports and say they rap, they’re younger, so I understand where they coming from with it. They got a different umbrella, different category over there. Dame, he in that, so that made me listen.

What do you think about Dame’s lyrics and his flow?

Love it. Love it. And also, Dame is with anything, gonna keep working at it, especially doing things like this now. Definitely, gonna keep working at it and the only thing you can get is better. He started and the way he’s at now is nice. He don’t talk about nothing fake. That’s what’s awesome. When you cut on a song and you hear someone talking about something that’s true — truthful is something you can relate to in some kind of way and something that’s not fabricated.

Why is he important enough for you to be on his tracks?

Good question.

Because of the lyrics. It’s not something that we’d expect. Not fabricated — this and that, that and this. It’s truthful. He sends me a song and I got to think about the song. That right there is just the difference. I do features every day. Mack [Maine] sends me features every day. I got two features that he emails me every other day.

You got to do this song, you got to do that song. I look at the song title. See what it is. Sometimes I don’t even got to hear it. ‘What’s the song title? Got you.’ Get a song from Dame, I’m like, ‘I dunno.’ I got to sit down and think about this first. Dame talking about all this real truthful stuff. You got to think about it.

What do you think about his court game?

Come on, now. Dame is a killer. I’m from the [Michael] Jordan era as far as the fan and kid watching Jordan. Jordan had the killer instinct. Jordan didn’t see no one in front of him. You can see that in his eyes. He didn’t see no one in front of him. Dame got that. That’s also [Russell] Westbrook to me. Dame got that I don’t see you. The biggest part about Dame’s game that I love is his commitment. His commitment to his teammates, and to that city, and to that team.

It’s not about not going there for this, and doing this, and not joining this person for this. It’s just for the simple fact that he’s there. Plain and simple, he gives his all every time he’s touched the court.

As a Jordan baby, you’ve seen a lot of big shots, right?

I already know what you about to ask.

Go ahead then about Dame’s game-winning 40-foot shot that knocked the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the playoffs last season and was followed by a goodbye wave and a fierce face.

Man, my girl to this day still tries hard to do that Dame face. That face he made after that shot. Her and I have a 20-30 minute conversation about it. She just can’t understand how in such a moment that’s his reaction. She still can’t understand that.

Did you pay attention to Dame’s rap battle with Shaquille O’Neal?

I didn’t even hear the songs. I didn’t pay attention to it. I cannot lie. I’d be lying if I said I did. But I heard about it, obviously. I saw what was going on, but I have no opinion on it other than they totally different … They two different [rappers]. Shaq is a platinum artist. I try to tell people that all the time. Shaq is a platinum artist and I know how hard it is to go platinum.

How do you think he’s grown over these three albums?

As far as an artist he’s grown lyrically. He’s grown subjectwise. I told you from the start, he talk about things that matter. Now, what I noticed in his last [album], something that he wasn’t doing. To me, he was making it a thing to not be what the public [wants], what the general music is, just what I was expecting.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.