Damian Lillard will forever go down in history as one of the greatest basketball players to grace the NBA… and now he’s bringing that same energy into the music industry. Best known for his time on the Portland Trailblazers, the athlete set the bar as one of the two players in Trailblazers history (alongside Clyde Drexler) to become a six-time All-Star. As a result, he picked up the nickname “Dame Time,” directly correlated to his ability to make game-winning shots in crunch time.
As a rapper, the athlete took on the moniker Dame D.O.L.L.A, which stands for Different On Levels the Lord Allows. While hoop dreams were at the forefront growing up as a kid in Oakland, so was music. In fact, with his rigorous basketball training and practice schedule, he sees music as an outlet to escape.
Recently, the star unleashed his highly anticipated fourth studio album titled Different On Levels (The) Lord Allows, reeling in all-star features from Raphael Saadiq, Snoop Dogg, BLXST, Mozzy, and more. The 12-track body of work arrived on the heels of his previous single “About That Time” with G-Eazy, P-Lo, and White Dave, which debuted on the Space Jam: A New Legacy Soundtrack. Additionally, Dame helped the United States team take home the trophy in the Tokyo Olympics.
REVOLT caught up with Dame D.O.L.L.A to discuss what music means to him, how he got his rap name and more. Read the chat below.
How does rapping help with your hooping?
I don’t think it helps with my hooping, but it helps keep my mind right — have something else to balance it out. When you focus on basketball, what the media’s saying, winning and losing, playing well and not playing well, it can be a lot. It helps give me something else to have my mind [on], something else to feel good about.
How’d the name Dame D.O.L.L.A. come about?
All my roommates in college would randomly call me Dame D.O.L.L.A., I guess because it fits. When I started coming up with an official rap name, I wanted it to be Dame D.O.L.L.A. but I didn’t want it to sound like I represent money, so I came up with an acronym.
Was “The Juice” inspired by the movie Juice?
It actually is inspired by the movie Juice. I don’t know how many people noticed that the guy from the movie Juice is in the video. The first guy that Pac killed, Raheem, he’s in the video. He’s the guy that’s on top of the rock with the stick. He’s the reverend inside the church, and in the confessional. The details! And you missed it.
Where was the video shot?
It was in LA, in the desert. We were in Lancaster, it was hot as hell. But, it was a beautiful drive, and I’m not even a sightseeing person like that.
What impact did the movie and Pac have on you?
That movie showed me that your friends and the people around you — just because they’re around you, doesn’t mean they’re the people that’s really for you. You see everybody turning on everybody in that movie. I didn’t have friends like that. I’d seen stuff like that in real life, but that’s what turned me on to it being a real thing.
You say you wrote the song a year ago. Why is now the time to drop it?
Well, it’s the intro to my album. My first few albums I wrote in a small timeframe. It was rushed because I had so much shit to do. This one, I wanted to take my time and put it together the right way. I wanted to make sure it was strong and came together how I wanted it to. Time was passing, I was slowly putting songs together, recording, piecing the puzzle together. Now, we’re here.
What can expect from Different On Levels The Lord Allowed?
That’s what D.O.L.L.A. stands for. It’s basically me expressing that. These songs are really a look under the hood. I’m sharing information about myself. Where I am now in my life, how I got here. Expressing why I feel that acronym fits me.
Is this your most personal project to date?
I would say so. I’m pretty vulnerable with all my stuff. People can listen and they’ll know I’m telling a real story. This one’s the most vulnerable, I’m sharing the most on this one. It’s a lot of power in that.
How’d you link with BLXST on “We The Ones”? He’s on fire right now.
I came to LA because I did a show with Cardi B on Facebook. I was doing an episode on her show where I was teaching her how to hoop. I had a couple days before I had to show up to it. I was in the studio and he came by the studio, we started working on it. It happened like that. We were in the studio together, they started playing beats and we started putting it together.
Any other features you’re excited about?
Lil Wayne. Mozzy. BLXST. Q-Tip. Snoop. Derrick Milano. Jane Hancock, she’s another artist from Oakland.
What does Oakland mean to you?
Oakland means everything to me. I learned so much from Oakland, it’s where I grew up. My most traumatic and best experiences were in Oakland. It’s a big part of who I am. Why I’ve become who I’ve become.
What’d it mean to link with G-Eazy, P-Lo, and White Dave to do a song for Space Jam: A New Legacy? That’s huge for the Bay!
It was cool. I hadn’t done anything super Bay Area-related. Once I was a part of the movie and they asked me to be a part of the soundtrack, we were trying to figure out what direction to go in. They came up with that idea and it made perfect sense. It was cool because I know all of them too.
How was it voicing Chronos in Space Jam: A New Legacy?
It was cool. I like how they incorporated something connected to my real life for the character. I was happy to do that, they showed me a lot of love with that character. Even in the scene, I had a little moment. I was excited to do it and I was excited for other people to see it.
Can we expect more acting in the future?
Definitely. Basketball player/rapper/actor/boxer. I’ve been boxing for a long time.
Are you going to go the professional boxing route?
No, I respect the sport too much.
What did it mean to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics?
It adds something major to my legacy as an athlete. The experience was really cool. Before, I thought, “It’s the Olympics, you go and play.” When I got there and we had the opening ceremonies, all these different times we were around other countries, you see how much pride they have about winning and beating the United States. Being there gave you a sense of pride. Maybe we need to tighten up and really realize they’re really coming for us, there’s a reason for it. It was cool to be a part of that and get a gold medal.
How does it feel to have your own signature shoe?
It’s not a lot of people with a signature shoe. It’s a honor. It’s a good feeling to see people supporting and buying my shoes. I go to the summer league game, or an AAU game, or even sometimes the dudes I’m playing against and they got on my shoe. People ask me all the time, “Damian, how does it feel when people wear your shoe?” It takes me back sometimes like, man, I actually have a shoe. You grow up rocking all these other people’s shoes, then you make it and now you got your own. It’s a crazy feeling.
How’s it feel to be on the cover of NBA 2K20?
I grew up playing 2K. I’ve been on the back cover, I’ve been on the PC cover, the cover of the game in China. Everything but the main cover. To finally get on the main cover was really cool. I got a bunch of copies, all my family got them.
What does it mean to be a Black man in America today?
It’s an uphill battle being a Black man in America or being a Black man anywhere. I think we’re working in the right direction. We’ve been put in a place where you can’t be the man to feel sorry for yourself. You almost gotta accept that it’s going to be harder for you. Because of the route that we had to take to get where we want to get to, to have success and to survive, it makes us even more qualified in the end. It makes us better in the end. That’s what it is today. At the end of the day, it makes us the best. That’s why we’re the best because we are who we are.
You’re one of the greatest NBA players to ever do it. What does greatness mean to you?
Greatness is becoming the best version of yourself and remaining true to yourself. I don’t think it’s that great to have to alter who you are and do all these things to accomplish something if it’s not who you truly are. How many people do you impact? How far does your reach go? Once you achieve something or you become something and it’s all for you, then it’s not as powerful. When it touches other people and it makes things better for other people, that’s real greatness.
One thing that you want fans to get from your new project?
What I want fans to get from my new project is I’m not a basketball player that raps, I’m a rapper.