“Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous / Cause we want to be them, and they want to be us,” rapped Drake on “Thank Me Now,” the outro to his debut album Thank Me Later. But for NBA All-Star Damian Lillard or, as followers of his music address him as, Dame D.O.L.L.A., that doesn’t seem to be case. The point guard for the Portland Trailblazers is simply just doing what he loves.
“As much as I enjoy playing basketball, I get a lot of joy out of seeing where my music goes,” he said. “Especially knowing that it’s not my number one profession. That’s a big deal for me.”
His music has certainly been going places. It appears to have landed in front of the likes of Jamie Foxx, Marsha Ambrosius, and Raphael Saadiq, who all collaborated with Dame D.O.L.L.A. on his debut album The Letter O. Another place his music can be spotted is on the soundtrack to NBA 2K18, in the company of hip-hop classics like OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” and Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray.”
But R&B’s finest aren’t the only ones cosigning the music of Dame D.O.L.L.A. Not only has he received the support of his peers throughout the National Basketball Association, but he has also garnered the respect of Lil Wayne. The Grammy Award-winning artist, who appeared on both Lillard’s first project and the recently released follow-up, Confirmed, has said that he believes the world should be listening to what the Oakland native has to say. “I’ve never been somebody that moved in a way that I needed validation, but if there was ever any, that’s it,” said Dame D.O.L.L.A. “Hearing him say that showed that I must be moving the right way.”
A couple of days before the official start to the 2017-18 NBA season, REVOLT TV caught up with Damian Lillard a.k.a Dame D.O.L.L.A. Here, the superstar talks his sophomore album, 2K18, and his dream NBA posse-cut.
Why did Confirmed feel like the appropriate title for your sophomore album? This is my second album. There’s always been something to say about me being an athlete and putting out music. I just feel like now I’m going into my fifth season as an established athlete and also I feel like my music is being respected. Confirmed was to say that I’ve reached a certain place and this is who I am and what I do. There’s nothing else to be talked about.
On “No Punches,” you say that there’s a “big difference between when you make it and when you arrive.” Would you say that as a rapper, that you’ve made it or that you’ve arrived? Just based on what my level of “arrived” is, I wouldn’t say that I have arrived. As far as artists go, I don’t think I’ve arrived, but I think I’ve made it to a point where people respect me as an artist. And it isn’t just, “Oh, that’s good for a basketball player.” People are respecting what I put out. I’m getting to the point where I have people who are fans of my music the same way they are fans of me as a basketball player.
What’s one song from Confirmed that has you most excited for people to hear? The song that I always relate to and that hit home with me the most is the song that I did with Nick Grant called “The Let Down.” It’s real. I really want those questions to be answered. Everything is good now, but it could go anyway from here. You can’t tell the future. And those questions can only be answered when we’re actually going through it. I’m at a high point now, so it’ll be interesting to see.
Lil Wayne praised you for your authenticity and your music. He’s even been quoted saying, “I don’t believe only my ears should listen to it. I believe the world should listen.” What does it mean to you to get recognition from a hip-hop legend like Lil Wayne? It’s great. To know that he respected it, I didn’t really need to hear nothing else. I don’t feel like he goes out of his way to compliment people or to have something like that to say, so the fact that he said it about me—as far as my music goes, not even as far as me as an athlete—was a reminder that I was doing my thing and that I was doing what I had set out to do. I was happy to see him say that.
What’s one perk rappers have that athletes don’t? I think it gives you another way to engage with people that is not through how you played or how you didn’t play. It’s engaging with people through your words. You share how you feel about stuff. I’m able to get a reaction and a response from fans on a different level than if I had 50 points. It’s just different.
What is your favorite part of making music? The balance it gives me. I’m able to express myself in a unique way as an athlete to where I’m not in an interview or I’m not doing post-game media. I think it allows me to be free. I’m doing it as if I was a real artist, but I don’t have to be doing it. I get to play in the NBA and also do what I love to do and have fun doing it without the pressure of, “Oh, I need these sales” or “I need to sell out this number of shows.” The fact that I don’t have that pressure of having to be successful makes it more fun. It’s only the pressure of =, are people going to like it or are they going to talk bad about it? I enjoy that part of it.
Your track “Wasatch Front" is on the NBA 2K18 soundtrack, alongside tracks from legends like Puff Daddy, Naughty By Nature, OutKast and others. Although you don’t look for validation with certain things, I’m pretty sure that must be a big deal for you. It was cool. When you hear the names of those artists and those songs that it’s coming on after or coming on before me on the same playlist, it’s like, man, that’s my song standing up there next to some of the great songs. It’s just one of the moments when you sit back and you say “this really happened.” I got a character on the thing, but this is also my music playing on the thing. It’s not often that somebody gets the opportunity, yet alone be good enough to have that type of consideration. It’s real cool.
While playing NBA 2K18’s Career Mode, characters can cut a track at your studio. How did that come together? I did a deal with NBA 2K and usually when you do a deal with them, they try to incorporate something personal to you. Obviously, with me being the guy in the NBA doing the most music right now, they put a scene in there to kind of give it a loophole. They know that a lot of NBA players are doing things outside of basketball that they are passionate about.
If you could put together a posse-cut featuring only NBA players, past or present, who would make it? I’d choose Shaq, Allen Iverson, Lou Will and Iman Shumpert.