Day 37: "Loyal to the Soil" – Damian Lillard (Dame D.O.L.L.A.) feat. Lil Wayne, The Letter O, 2016
The NBA is back, baby! And while I don't follow the league that closely, I do follow enough to know that after one game the dominant narratives are: Golden State Is Doomed (probably not true long term) and Holy Shit Damian Lillard (probably true long term). Damian Lillard, who is the, uh, [ googles furiously] point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, sunk 39 points last night, making him the frontrunner for league MVP before most teams have even played a game. But that wasn't even the craziest thing to happen to him yesterday!
That's right, Lillard got served a slam dunk of a legal threat from Cash Money Records (where hoop dreams do NOT come true) because of his little preseason warmup project, a rap album called The Letter O, which features the likes of Juvenile, Jamie Foxx, Raphael Saadiq, and—you guessed it—Lil Wayne. It is, by all accounts, pretty good for a basketball player (thus setting up an inevitable future this year where Lillard and Iman Shumpert end up rap battling for some reason). Also, it happens to be the latest pawn in Wayne's spat with Cash Money.
A consummate sports fan, it's not hard to see why Wayne would jump at the chance to give an NBA player a verse (who knows what kind of financial agreement was involved), but clearly he did it on his own. Lillard tweeted yesterday that Cash Money was making him remove the song despite his arrangement with Wayne, although it's still available on YouTube and Spotify for now.
Anyway, as long as we can still enjoy this song, let's celebrate Wayne's love of sports, including the one he dominates (rap: "when it comes to the crown I done dreadlocked it down") and one he is biologically predisposed not to dominate (basketball: "what's more precious than time? / 'cause life is too short / I got that from Too $hort / couldn't ball I was too short / but rich like I played two sports"). Wayne is making a quiet case for himself as MVP this year, too: Even on what another rapper might dismiss as a throwaway track, Wayne sounds amped to be here, giving Damian a little Auto-Tuned shout out and making his case for being best rapper alive down to the percentage point. He's also been unusually raw about loss in his verses this year, and here is no exception: He raps, "rest in peace my daddy Rabbit he in heaven hopping 'round."
Still, let's not overlook what Damian Lillard is good at—assists—and give some credit where credit is due. Not only does Lillard more than hold his own on this track, rapping with a Jay Z-like timbre, he takes things into deep, emotional territory, talking about his family and environment growing up, as well as his triumphs since then. He lays the groundwork for Wayne to sweep in and clean up, and, if that doesn't get him on your radar for dominating the league this year, who knows what will?
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