It’s well known to most people in the area that Portland has the NBA’s best rapper. Damian Lillard, sometimes known as Dame D.O.L.L.A. where his music is concerned, has gained a lot of positive recognition in the last year or two. He put out an album called “The Letter O,” which included guest appearances from the likes of Lil Wayne and Jamie Foxx. It’s pretty clear at this point that the hip-hop community respects Lillard, not just as a basketball player who can rap, but purely as a rapper.
But it’s still difficult for a sports star to gain recognition just for his music. While most hip-hop fans who listen to “The Letter O” seem to like what they hear, he’s still an NBA point guard who raps – not a traditional hip-hop artist. So fans have to wonder: how could he make his music more mainstream?
The best way is probably just to keep making music. “The Letter O” really did make an impression in the rap community, and rumor has it Lillard is at work on a second album. Lil Wayne is helping him out again, and supposedly he’s spent a good chunk of the NBA offseason in the studio. For his part, Wayne has said he thinks the second one is going to be better than the first, and in a way it seems like Lillard is becoming a legitimate rising star in the business. Putting out great music is ultimately the best way for him to gain recognition and respect, not as a converted athlete but purely as an artist.
Lillard could look for unorthodox avenues as well – such as gaming, which seems to be more and more appealing to music artists. Some of the most high profile examples are in the world of casinos, where games have made a successful transition to smart devices and thus have become far more popular. We’ve seen a few classic artists and bands seek new popularity by basically branding these games with their content. We’ve also seen a few EDM artists get involved with indie mobile games of late. It’s unorthodox, again, but if Lillard lent his talents to a game maker he could gain a new group of fans who just enjoy the music, maybe without even realizing who’s rapping.
Somewhat similarly, Lillard could also look into filmmaking. We seem to be in a golden age of documentaries of late (CNN even did a whole series about impactful music this year), so he could simply chronicle his music-making efforts and perhaps sell a series to a streaming service. Alternatively, there are a lot of rappers who have explored careers in acting as well. Lillard could join their ranks, either by trying to get a chance to perform on a soundtrack or by actually appearing in a film.
These are ultimately bizarre ideas to consider, because Lillard has already achieved such stardom on multiple fronts. He’s not like your average independent artist on the rise. But as such a genuine hip-hop talent (and one Portland should be proud of), one wonders if he’d jump at opportunities to make his music more popular beyond celebrity circles and NBA audiences.