Dame DOLLA wants respect in the rap game: “I am not a basketball player who raps, I am a rapper”

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Damian Lillard will go down in history forever as one of the greatest basketball players to honor the NBA… and now he brings that same energy to the music industry. Best known for his time on the Portland Trailblazers, the athlete set the bar very high as one of two players in Trailblazers history (alongside Clyde Drexler) to become a six-time All-Star. As a result, he took on the nickname “Lady Time”, which directly correlated with his ability to deliver winning shots in times of crisis.

As a rapper, the athlete took on the nickname Dame DOLLA, which stands for Different On Levels the Lord Allows. While dreams of hoops were in the foreground growing up in Oakland, so was music. In fact, with his rigorous basketball training and training schedule, he sees music as a way to escape.

Recently, the star released her highly anticipated fourth studio album titled Different on the levels (the) Lord allows, enjoy featured features from Raphael Saadiq, Snoop Dogg, BLXST, Mozzy and more. The 12-track corpus came on the heels of his previous single “About That Time” with G-Eazy, P-Lo and White Dave, which debuted on the Space Jam: A New Legacy Soundtrack. Additionally, Dame helped the United States team win the trophy at the Tokyo Olympics.

REVOLT caught up with Dame DOLLA to discuss what music means to him, how he got his rap name and more. Read the chat below.

How does rap help you hoop?

I don’t think it helps me with my strapping, but it does help me keep my mind straight – having something else to balance it out. When you focus on basketball what the media are saying, winning and losing, playing well and not playing well, it can be a lot. It helps me give myself something else to have my mind [on], something else to feel good.

How was the name of Dame DOLLA born?

All my roommates at college randomly called me Dame DOLLA, I guess because that’s fine with me. When I started to come up with an official rap name I wanted it to be Dame DOLLA but I didn’t want it to sound like I represented money so I found an acronym.

Was “The Juice” inspired by the movie Juice?

It’s actually inspired by the movie Juice. I don’t know how many people noticed the guy in the movie Juice is in the video. The first guy Pac killed, Raheem, he’s in the video. This is the guy who is at the top of the rock with the stick. He is the reverend inside the church and in the confessional. The details! And you missed it.

Where was the video shot?

It was in LA, in the desert. We were in Lancaster, it was very hot. But, it was a beautiful drive, and I’m not even a tourist person like that.

What impact did the film and Pac have on you?

This movie showed me your friends and the people around you – just because they’re around you doesn’t mean they’re the people who are really for you. You see everyone turning on everyone in this movie. I didn’t have any friends like that. I’d seen stuff like this in real life, but that’s what made me realize it was a real thing.

You say you wrote the song a year ago. Why is now the time to let it go?

Well, this is the intro to my album. My first albums I wrote in a short time. It was rushed because I had so much shit to do. This one, I wanted to take my time and set it up the right way. I wanted to make sure it was strong and that it assembled the way I wanted it to. Time passed, I slowly put songs together, recorded, put the puzzle together. Now we are here.

What can we expect from Different on the levels that the Lord has allowed?

This is what DOLLA stands for. It is essentially me who expresses it. These songs are truly a look under the hood. I share information about myself. Where I am now in my life, how I got here. Express why I think this acronym suits me.

Is this your most personal project to date?

I would say so. I’m pretty vulnerable with all of my stuff. People can listen and they will know that I am telling a real story. This one is the most vulnerable, I share the most on this one. It’s a lot of power in that.

How did you relate with BLXST on “We the only ones”? He’s on fire right now.

I came to LA because I did a show with Cardi B on Facebook. I was doing an episode of his show where I taught him to hoop. I had a few days before I had to introduce myself. I was in the studio and he came to the studio, we started working on it. It just happened like that. We were in the studio together, they started playing beats and we started putting them together.

Do you have other features that you are passionate about?

Lil Wayne. Mozy. BLXST. Q-tip. To spy. Derrick Milano. Jane Hancock is another Oakland artist.

What does Oakland mean to you?

Oakland means everything to me. I learned so much from Oakland, that’s where I grew up. My most traumatic and best experiences have been in Oakland. It’s a big part of who I am. Why I have become who I have become.

What did it mean to team up with G-Eazy, P-Lo and White Dave to make a song for Space Jam: a new legacy? It’s huge for the Bay!

It was cool. I hadn’t done anything super related to Bay Area. Once I got into the movie and they asked me to be part of the soundtrack, we were trying to figure out which direction to go. They had this idea and it made perfect sense. It was cool because I know them all too.

How was it the voice of Chronos in Space Jam: a new legacy?

It was cool. I love the way they incorporated something related to my real life for the character. I was happy to do it, they showed me a lot of love with this character. Even in the scene, I had a little time. I was excited to do it and I was excited for other people to see it.

Can we expect more players in the future?

Absoutely. Basketball player / rapper / actor / boxer. I have been boxing for a long time.

Are you going to follow the path of professional boxing?

No, I respect sport too much.

What did it mean to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics?

It adds something major to my heritage as an athlete. The experience was really cool. I used to think: “It’s the Olympics, you’re going to play. When I got there and we had the opening ceremonies, all these different times that we were in other countries, you see how proud they are to win and beat the United States. Being there gave you a sense of pride. Maybe we need to tighten up and really realize that they’re really coming for us, there’s a reason for that. It was cool to be part of it and get a gold medal.

How does it feel to have your own signature shoe?

There aren’t many people with a signature shoe. It is an honor. It’s a good feeling to see people supporting and buying my shoes. I go to the summer league game, or an AAU game, or even sometimes the guys that I play against and they put my shoe on me. People ask me all the time, “Damian, what’s it like when people wear your shoe?” It brings me back sometimes like, man, I actually have a shoe. You grow up cradling all these other people’s shoes, then you do them and now you have your own. It’s a crazy feeling.

How does it feel to be on the cover of NBA 2K20?

I grew up playing 2K. I’ve been on the back cover, I’ve been on the PC cover, the China game cover. Everything except the main cover. It was really cool to finally be on the main cover. I’ve had a bunch of copies, my whole family has.

What does it mean to be black in America today?

It’s an uphill battle to be a black man in America or to be a black man anywhere. I think we are working in the right direction. We have been placed in a place where you cannot be the self-pitying man. You almost have to accept that it’s going to be harder for you. Because of the path we had to take to get to where we want to go, to be successful and to survive, that makes us even more qualified in the end. It makes us better in the end. This is what it is today. In the end, that makes us the best. This is why we are the best because we are who we are.

You are one of the greatest NBA players to ever do this. What does greatness mean to you?

Greatness becomes the best version of yourself and stays true to yourself. I don’t think it’s great having to change who you are and doing all of these things to accomplish something if it’s not who you really are. How many people are you impacting? How far does your reach go? Once you’ve achieved something or become something and it’s all for you, then it’s not as powerful. When it touches other people and it makes things better for others, that is real greatness.

One thing you want fans to get out of your new project?

What I want fans to take away from my new project is that I’m not a rapper basketball player, I’m a rapper.


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