New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram is putting in work on the court, in the studio
When the star forward isn’t trying to lead his team to the NBA playoffs, music is his No. 1 escape
Mannie Fresh, Birdman and Master P. are superstar hip-hop producers and rappers who hail from New Orleans. When forward Brandon Ingram isn’t making big buckets for the New Orleans Pelicans, he has been moonlighting in the hip-hop icons’ footsteps by making beats and rapping in New Orleans.
“He has over 500 tracks,” Pelicans guard CJ McCollum told Andscape about Ingram. “He has been in the studio and enjoys the process of making music. I actually heard one of his songs and it was solid. I told him I wouldn’t have pressed next if I was driving, which is a compliment.”
The way Ingram has been playing has been music to the Pelicans’ ears at a very important time as they are trying to secure a spot in the NBA postseason.
The Pelicans’ postseason hopes appeared to be in serious jeopardy after they owned a 33-37 record after losing to the rebuilding Houston Rockets on March 17. NBA All-Star Zion Williamson (groin) and guard Jose Alvarado (tibia) being sidelined to injuries didn’t help matters. But the Pelicans have flown back into playoff contention by winning seven of their last eight games, with Ingram leading the way by averaging 30.3 points and 8.2 assists during the time span of those eight games. The Western Conference Player of the Week for games played March 20 through March 26 has scored 25 or more points in nine straight games, and credits much-improved health for his surge.
“We’re trying to get in the playoffs, and I’ve had a chance to actually have my legs under me while playing for a few games,” said Ingram, who missed 37 games this season due to toe and ankle injuries. “I got into this little groove, and my conditioning is getting better going up and down the court. I’m able to play through the whole 48 [minutes of a game] and not be tired. I think that’s the reason for my play right now because I’m able to work out the same way that I play.”
Said McCollum: “He is playing the best basketball of his career and that’s saying a lot considering how well he played in the playoffs last year. He looks like a top 5 or 10 player in the league right now and is only going to get better because of the work he puts in.”
When it comes to basketball, no one is a harder critic on Ingram than he is on himself. The same thing can be said about his music and the reason it hasn’t been released to the public yet.
“I’m my biggest critic in everything that I do, so I got to do something perfect. I got to be perfect,” Ingram said.
Ingram, 25, credits his parents and his grandmother for his sparking love for R&B and ultimately hip-hop music while growing up in Kinston, North Carolina. As a child, he regularly heard such R&B icons as Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, Al Green and The Spinners. He also fell in love with the music from 1990s R&B artists Mary J. Blige and Erykah Badu and rappers Jay-Z, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg.
“My grandmother used to play a lot of old music and my mom listened to a lot of R&B. Dropping me off at school and riding with my grandmother, I ain’t never know the station she was on. But it always some good old music,” Ingram said.
Whether it’s simply listening, writing lyrics or making beats, Ingram said, music is what he uses to relax his mind when he needs to get away from basketball.
“You got soulful music that just settles you down a little bit. You have so much in your head and putting it on paper gives you a little bit of relief. So that’s probably my biggest escape, my No. 1 escape, that makes me feel a little better,” Ingram said.
Ingram’s adoration of music led him to get a makeshift recording studio built in his garage in New Orleans. That eventually led to him upgrading to a larger recording studio built in his home in New Orleans that has the equipment to record an album. The 2020 NBA All-Star said he makes hip-hop and R&B beats with help from some of his musically inclined friends. He has also penned countless raps and recorded bars on several of his tracks. He even listens to older music to try to find beats or a hook from a line in a song, preferably from a woman’s singing, to add to his developing tracks.
“I got a bit of a studio at my house,” Ingram said. “So, a lot of my friends from back home rap. So, I’m just in there from time to time. You know New Orleans is a big place for a lot of musicians and stuff, so they be having different people come over and they just trying to get something going, so I just go in there every now and then …
“I can make music. I rap a little bit. Sometimes, some of my friends make beats. So, I’m in there just helping them out with what a good sound needs. But that’s all I really do. I just dib and dabble, so I’m kind of rapping a little bit.”
The laid-back Ingram says that his rap style sounds like himself and is “different than everybody.” So, when will the world get to hear some of his raps and produced tracks?
“I don’t know. Maybe this summer I can get more time to put out one of my best songs,” Ingram said. “Right now, I’m just trying to skim through my music and see what’s my best stuff.”
The NBA will also soon see if the Pelicans make the playoffs, play-in tournament or fall short. New Orleans is expected to announce on Wednesday if Williamson could be available to play, which could add a major boost.
As long as Ingram keeps hitting the right notes for the Pelicans on the floor, New Orleans could be signing his praises into the playoffs.
“B.I. understands the moment coming down the stretch of the season. These games are meaningful,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He’s missed some time. So, he is anxious to get on the floor and continue to improve and get better. And we’re seeing it with his play.”
Said Ingram: “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to go against the best and you’ve got to beat them.”