Portland Trailblazers superstar Damian Lillard has many nicknames: Dame, Dame Time, Big Game Dame, and most recently, Logo Lillard. This past summer, after sending the Oklahoma City into roster purgatory and making a run at making the NBA Finals, Lillard shifted his attention to a different name: Dame D.O.L.L.A.
Fans know Lillard is nice on the hardwood against some of the coldest NBA players we have ever seen, but the challenge in the offseason was to corral your ear and show you why he also is a quality talent on the microphone. In August, D.O.L.L.A. released his third album, Big D.O.L.L.A., which he describes as his best work, a breakout project that illustrates his current life.
Right before the most storied free agency period in NBA history kicked off, Lillard’s new contract extension was just as big of a splash as his dagger over Paul George in the playoffs that just concluded. Brian Windhorst of ESPN broke the news of a four-year $196 million contract extension between Lillard and the Blazers, that could bring Dame $54.3 million in his final year.
Not only did that deal confirm Lillard’s status as one of the league’s elite talents and the key piece in Portland for the foreseeable future, but shaped how he would approach the content of his forthcoming rap album.
Speaking with The Source, Dame D.O.L.L.A. shares on his growth as an artist, giving back to his hometown of Oakland and why the Blazers are not mentioned in contender lists like the Lakers and Clippers.
The Source: This summer you’ve been a rapper more so this summer opposed to the formalities of a basketball player. Has it been wearing two hats or having them overlap?
Damian Lillard: Every day that I get up, I do all my training. So basketball player duties still continue every day. First things first and then later on in the day is when I’m getting into all the stuff with the music. But this summer it was cool to like really go in on it. I got to be more invested in music than I have been before as far as my career. Even with that, it didn’t seem like much really changed. The people that I had assisted me in supporting me was already really changed. I have more people that can give it more legs.
People that follow or listen to you, know your love for Oakland, representing home in music and everything. How important is it for you to stay aligned with home and what are some of the efforts that are currently working on there as well?
That’s such a huge part of why I am the way I am. That’s why it’s such an emphasis in my music because I want people to understand that connection and understand me better through my hometown and experiences in my upbringing.
I got a lot of things that I’ve been working on back home. Supporting local artists, rebuilding pieces of my high school. We rebuilt the gym, we rebuilt the weight room, we built a recording studio on campus. I’ve been doing a community picnic where we provide backpacks, school supplies, free haircuts, free hairstyles for women, and clothes for women. There is a stage for live performances, firetruck rides, everything’s that could be of service to the people in the community as much as possible. I’m still working on trying to find ways that we can support as well. That community was part of the foundation of me as a man and I’m forever going to be going in debt to the city.
For this album cover, it’s two Bentleys on the cover, you in one and then your son in a mini one. Hip-Hop is known for having the baby picture cover art but you did it a little different. What made you think of doing it that way?
This album was me going in a completely different direction. Before this, I hadn’t said any curse words on my first two albums. Just kind of like PG-13 and for this one, I wanted to really embrace where my life is now. I signed a supermax extension, living in the kind of house that I live in, having the type of things that I have, my family being in a position that we’re in. And also me having a son now. I did the cover like I’m leveling up from where I was my last album. That’s why I called it Big D.O.L.L.A. The music is embracing what my life actually is and not trying to dumb it down or play it off like is not what it is. It was me embracing it and kind of flexing. I felt like that’s what people wanted to see, a light turn up and do something good. And I think that’s part of why they respond so much better.
What is your creative process like in the studio and since the season is returning, I’m assuming this is all going to be reduced some?
Naturally, it will go on the back burner just because I’m in a profession that takes a lot of time and focus and attention. They pay me that kind of money to be able to perform and to be able to focus on that. But music is something I’m invested in and I’m going all-in on. So there’s a team of people that I have that are going to be still promoting it and pushing it and doing stuff like that. And it’ll probably be still some music. I’ve worked on a lot of music even beyond my album that’ll still be getting dropped over the course of the season. But it won’t be to the point where it’s like a distraction.
We see you on the court and it’s going hard at everybody. And then we saw you in the whole Marvin Bagley thing and it was like, I’m going to get you off the court and you can get it here too. What creates that demeanor in what you do?
The stuff that I do, I take a real interest in. Like I really love to do music and I’ve done it as long as I’ve played since I was a kid. So like I don’t just do it halfway. I do it for real. It’s even to the point now where I’ve heard my music played in visiting arenas. It played in Dallas last season while I was shooting around, they played it in Milwaukee one time and I didn’t tell him to play it. It was a known thing. People respect the music.
This album has been received more positively than previous efforts. What growth have you seen in yourself between The Letter O, Confirmed and now Big D.O.L.L.A.?
My understanding of how to create music and a sound. The first two I didn’t really know what I specifically wanted my music to sound like. I wanted to show people I can rap and it put together quickly. It was just talking about myself instead of creating a song about something that might not even be directly connected to me. Now, it’s creating a song and the production and how I want it to sound and how I wanted to feel like.
Shifting to the court. You are getting ready for training camp. The ESPN rank is starting to come out and CJ McCollum is at 13. You’re in the top 10, but at the same time you can go to that same group of ESPN analysts and talk about West Finals representatives and they will talk about the Lakers, the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors and won’t mention the Blazers. Why do you think it is your team gets slighted even though y’all ran through almost everybody last year?
Yeah, just the way it is. You got to talk about was the hot take and that’s not us. We have a smaller market. We haven’t won a championship since ’77. We’ve been good for a long time, we been consistent, steady and just keep showing up. It’s not like I’m getting big free-agent acquisitions and big-time trades happening. So it’s not sexy to mention us or talk about it.
A lot of these analysts, they say stuff and when they’re right, they right. But when they wrong, they not held accountable for being wrong. They talk about stuff that’s going to grab people’s attention, which is not what the Trailblazers is, you know, the Lakers or the Clippers or the Rockets, some of those teams. So that’s just what it is.
Aside from winning your ship, what is a goal for you this year on the court and then back in music?
My goal on the court aside from winning the championship is to be the MVP of the league. I want to be there repeatedly and win the championship. Off the court, I want to put out a platinum album. Even if that means my current album is up, just getting on the right playlist and end up going gold or platinum or something like that. I want that platinum album.