Music producer Shannon “Slam” Ridley remembers the day former Bull Carlos Boozer stepped into a downtown Chicago studio in early 2011 to lay down a rap track called “Winning Streak.”
“He had on a walking cast. He had never been in the studio before,” Ridley, Bad Boy Record’s director of A&R (artists and repertoire), said. “He was like a 6-10 kid coming into a toy store.
“Here I am, 5-9 on my best day--he made me feel like the giant.”
Now, three years later, Boozer and a few other musically inclined NBA players have joined forces with several giants of the hip-hop industry to spit bars on “Full Court Press Vol. 1,” a collection of basketball-themed rap songs that’s due to drop in early October, according to Ridley, the project’s creator.
Rappers and ballers (the hard court variety, though no doubt the lyrical meaning applies as well) pair up on each song on the 10-track album. A portion of iTunes sales of the first single, “I’m a Champion” ($1.29) will benefit the ‘nPLAY Foundation’s fight against childhood obesity.
On the song, NBA free agent Shawn Marion raps, “I’m like Neo, welcome to the Matrix,” playing off his nickname, while co-stars T-pain, Dorrough and Young Cash add verses.
South Side native and former Miami Heat forward Juwan Howard references everything from his late grandmother to Michigan’s Fab Five on “It’s Time to Ball,” backed by Rick Ross and Trina.
On Boozer’s “Winning Streak,” the current Los Angeles Laker rhymes, “Might go base line, one time and abuse ya / Run back down the court like you know it was Boozer.” Twista also features on the track alongside South Side native and “Making the Band 4” singer Willie Taylor.
“The message behind it is you can get on these winning streaks,” Ridley said. “You don’t have to get down. Keep positive, work hard and you will be on a winning streak.”
None of the artists or players shared studio time because of competing schedules, Ridley said.
Ridley pieced the album together from separate studio sessions and by emailing the players and artists. “I flew all over the country to get this done. I live in Miami, so you can just imagine back and forth to L.A., New York, Chicago. I even flew to Tampa to record with (Glen) Big Baby Davis,” he said.
In late 2010, Ridley’s mother, Brinza Robinson, was losing a fight with cancer (she died in January 2011), and Ridley was trying to think of a way to keep his twin 12-year-old boys, Adrian and Christian, motivated and inspired despite the family’s grief. He decided that a “positive” rap album showcasing the talents of NBA players and music stars would be a surefire way to grab young people’s attention.
From there, he found investors to back the album and recruited players with the help of friends and friends of friends, including former “The Apprentice” Season 1 contestant Katrina Campins, who delivered Boozer. As a record executive, luring the rappers-- Snoop Dogg, Trina, Future, to name a few--came easier for Ridley: “It’s star-flooded.”
There was just one rule: Keep it clean.
“I really want people to understand that hip-hop isn’t all about demeaning women; spreading detrimental messages to children,” Ridley said. “Hip-hop used to be fun, motivating, inspiring. I just want to bring that back.”
1. “It’s Time To Ball” – Juwan Howard, Rick Ross and Trina
2. “Airtime” -- Future, Sean Garrett, Rocko and Lou Williams
3. “I’m a Champion” – Shawn Marion with T-pain, Dorrough and Young Cash
4. “Go Hard” -- Bun B and Stephen Jackson
5. “Oh Yeah” – Snoop Dogg, Joe Smith, The Game and Lamar Odom
6. “Welcome to New York” -- Iman Shumpert and Ma$e
7. “Bang ’Em Down Low” – Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Maurice Peterson and Soulja Boy
8. “Winning Streak” -- Carlos Boozer, Twista and Willie Taylor
SAMPLE LYRIC: “I used to be another little fellow with some hoop dreams / Now I got the game laced up--shoe strings”—Carlos Boozer
9. “Ball Hard on ‘Em” – Trevor Ariza, Birdman, Gudda Gudda and Silk Da Shocker
10. “We Hoopin’ (Yeah Boy)” -- Charlie Villanueva and Royce Da 5’9”