By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
LeBron James is a man of many talents and a man that wears multiple hats.
On the court, he is arguably the best player of all time, being the only player to rank in the top 10 all-time in the NBA in scoring and assists, and recently passing many people’s candidate as the GOAT, Michael Jordan, for No. 4 all-time in the scoring category.
Off the court, the title of music mogal may soon be added to James’ already impressive resume after teaming up with rapper Tauheed Epps a.k.a. 2 Chainz to represent as Chainz’ Artist & repertoire (A&R) for his recent album Rap or Go to the League. The Atlanta native looks like he has a huge success with this album, with many saying its his best album yet.
2 Chainz was wise to bring King James into this project due to the basketball player’s business acumen and social justice conscious, both of which seemed to seep into Chainz’s work on Rap or Go to the League and made it into a more substantial set of songs than he usually produces.
Grammy-award winning artist and frequent NBA socializer, Aubrey “Drake” Graham, was not lying when he said “I swear sports and music are so synonymous, ‘cause we want to be them, and they want to be us.” The relationship between music and sports is an everlasting marriage based on the way your favorite artists and can motivate great athletes to perform their sport on a daily basis and the way athletes can in turn inspire artists to reach levels of showmanship that they may not have imagined for themselves.
Highlighting the NBA specifically, many artists are sitting in front row seats watching the best players play every night. They are constantly citing the names and efforts of NBA players within their lyrical content to help create relativity to their target audience. We also cannot forget about how artists like Drake work with NBA teams as ambassadors for their respective franchises, and the fact that many artists like J. Cole, Chris Brown, and Quavo actually have basketball skills and have demonstrated those skills in the NBA’s Celebrity All-Star game during the league’s All-Star weekend overtime.
Regarding the music industry, many professional athletes have been involved in creating their own musical content, especially in the NBA.
In the 1990s Shaq and Allen Iverson became trailblazers for putting out their own recordings while maintaining all-star seasons and other athletes followed at some point in their time in the league including Kobe Bryant and more recently Iman Shumpert, Victor Oladipo and Damian Lillard. But no NBA player has become the A&R of a project like James has, and like in just about everything else he accomplishes, he’s managed to change the game in adding another layer to the behind-the-scenes relationship between rap artists and professional athletes.
Chainz has a basketball background himself, having playing basketball in high school and was highly recruited for college basketball before running to the streets to be a drug dealer. Run up to today and Rap or Go to the League, a project that highlights social justice issues in comparison to Chainz’s personal experiences — his growth from being a drug dealer to a family man and challenging the established narrative that the only way a poor black boy can get out of the inner city is to either rap or be a ball player.
The album celebrates black excellence, harps on the idea that there is more to life than drugs or sports, and encourages young black men to pursue educational opportunities and entrepreneurship, a goal of substance that Chainz wants to heavily highlight. This is a common theme that James represents and stands for in his public statements and persuits.
James is a kid from the projects of Akron, OH. Growing up, he had dreams of being a professional athlete but he never thought the dream would come true and he would not make it out of the hood, because the hood was all he knew, he mentioned in an exclusive behind-the-scenes interview with Apple Music.
Once he made it to the league, James made it his mission to be a “Family Comes First” man, empower the youth to through education with his I Promise School, and use his various platforms like UNINTERRUPTED and his HBO show The Shop to speak politics and promote social justice in a frank, unedited fashion.
The role of A&R in a music project varies from artist to artist and the labels they are represented by. However, one of the roles of A&R is to have a voice in how the band/artist will market its albums and will help to build a basic promotional foundation for the album. Thanks to James’ business acumen, he created a deal with Apple Music to film the behind-the-scenes discussions to highlight not just 2 Chainz’s goals for his project, but also James’ impact on the project and everything that encounters that album process, a first of its kind.
Within that film session, James also highlighted an implemented idea of re-releasing the album a couple weeks after its original release date to add a couple songs that never made the original cut, another good business move to add more hype to the album and increase streaming views to increase revenue.
James has already changed the game on and off the court, but his work as an A&R for a respected artist such as 2 Chainz may have started the process of change regarding insight for the way music is created and opening another avenue for athletes to indulge in their their musical interests with other professional artists.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR