Exclusive Interview: The Game and Courtney Lee of The Boston Celtics
Wed, 02 Oct 2013 11:10:26
The Game's vision has always been much bigger than rap music. Right now, he's launched The Robin Hood Project, and it's one of the most inspiring charities of the 21st century. He's giving away his own money to people in need—personally. Of course, he's got Marrying the Game on VH1 and a new album looming on the horizon, but he's consistently finding time to do more.
Another guy who constantly pushes himself is Boston Celtics star Courtney Lee [twitter]. On the court, he's become one of the team's key players, and he's one two watch in the 2013 season for his pure skill, charisma, and impressive tenacity for the game.
Turns out, Lee and The Game have quite a bit in common. In this exclusive ARTISTdirect.com interview before training camp began, Courtney Lee of The Boston Celtics and The Game discuss everything from The Robin Hood Project to Courtney possibly playing in The Drew League. Also, they talk Game's next album and where it might land.
Courtney Lee: I just wanted to start off by saying I've always been a fan of yours since The Documentary album came out. I know you're focusing on your charity right now. What do you want to say about The Robin Hood Project?
Game: About The Robin Hood Project, I met a kid in Australia about three weeks or a month ago. When I'm in other areas and cities outside of the country, I can't walk around with my usual five racks that I do when I'm at home so I only had like one-hundred bucks of Australian currency on me. I went into the grocery store. We went shopping to get food because we stayed in one of those little condos. We were going to cook a bunch of food so I ended up spending about eighty dollars. When I came out of the store, there was a kid. I only had twenty bucks left. This kid told me his story about how he and his family are really poor. They came from Nigeria. He and his little brother were playing so I gave him what I had, which was twenty dollars. They were super excited, man. For the next couple of nights, it really ate me inside because I wanted to do more and give more. I would've given him everything I had if I had been home with my usual amount I travel with. Immediately, I created The Robin Hood Project in my mind. I didn't have a logo or an idea. I just started giving money to homeless people when I was in Australia. When I had about two or three days left before I came home, I saw the story about Tiana Ricks, the six-year-old girl who was gunned down in Los Angeles. I reached out, got in touch with her parents, and wired them $10,000 so they could cover her funeral costs. Ever since then, it's had a snowball effect. I've seen stories about these kids. There was a woman who was murdered in the 99 Cent Store in Los Angeles a week ago. I've been helping them. Drake came in with me and donated a nice amount of money as well as Khloe Kardashian and Top Dawg from Top Dawg Entertainment. I'm doing something with Nick Cannon this week. It's all good. It's been happening that way. It's been bringing a lot of positivity in my life.
Courtney Lee: It's good to donate to a cause or charity, but you doing The Robin Hood Project is so genuine. You get to see these people's reactions when you donate to them. You see their expressions on their faces. I know you mentioned something about your reputation. People don't see that good-hearted side of you because they only see what they see on video. When you're out involved in the community and you're doing it yourself, it's much more rewarding. I can relate to that.
Game: Definitely, man! There's a two-year-old girl who passed away the other day. I met her father. He came down and told me all about her. I was able to hand him a check for $5,000—me and one of my friends. To meet these people and see how big of a help we can be in someone else's life is amazing. As far as funerals are concerned, lifting the financial burden off of someone is really big. The first thing they stress out about is where they're going to get the money to bury their loved ones. Being able to take care of that for people makes it a little easier to sleep at the end of the day.
Courtney Lee: Did you want to reach out to fans and show them another side with Marrying The Game as well on VH1?
Game: Not really, man [Laughs]. That wasn't even my idea. My girl wanted to do that, so I just did it. People started loving it. It was anybody from young people to old women I'd meet in the store who were like, "We love your show!" It's just cool. Everything in my life has been having a really positive spin. I've been damn near on my knees every night thanking God for all of the things that have been bestowed upon me and being able to turn over a new leaf in life. I can't tell you enough how good it feels coming from where I'm from and being who I used to be, growing and becoming wiser as I get into my mid-thirties. It's all a blessing, man.
Courtney Lee: It shows on Marrying The Game. You've got that soft side. It shows you love your family, your boys, and your daughter. Out of all your songs, which one has the most meaning for you?
Game: Probably "Dreams". It almost won me a Grammy. Everywhere I go around the world, when I play or perform that song, I can look at a crowd and find two or three people in tears—not necessarily just women either. It's both genders. I always hear people saying "Dreams" did it for them. Sometimes, it's someone who's the same age as I am or somebody who was just a kid when it dropped. I've talked to guys in the penitentiary who said that song helped them through a rough time. It's definitely "Dreams".
Courtney Lee: The song that's most meaningful to me is "Like Father, Like Son" because where I grew up, I can't say it's similar to Compton, but it wasn't the best of neighborhoods and my father was never around. When you're listening to a song like that and you see how much passion you had making that song and thanking the doctors and whatnot for bringing your son Harlem into the world, I sat there and I was like, "I never had that feeling with my father". I don't know if your father was in your life like that or not, but when my time comes to have kids, I want to sit back and have that same feeling and amount of joy when my son or daughter is being born. That's one of the most meaningful songs to me.
Game: Thank you! "Like Father, Like Son", when I wrote that song, I was just playing the beat. I had on these headphones. I was in the living room of this apartment Dr. Dre had gotten me. I had Harlem right there. He was probably about three-months-old. He was in a car seat. It was crazy. When he was that young, I was always scared to take him out of the car seat [Laughs]. He was my first kid. I love him so much. I didn't want to drop him because I get a little clumsy sometimes. I would just keep homie strapped up in a car seat all day, man [Laughs]. His momma would come in and be like, "Are you going to take him out of the car seat and sit him somewhere?" I'd say, "Sit him somewhere? You're acting like he's a piece of a furniture!" I kept him in the car seat! Kanye West gave me that beat, and I took it home and wrote that song. I remember the walls closing in on me, and I was able to somehow visualize everything I experienced the day he was born, and my mind started to project it on the walls. I think it took me no less than an hour to write it from start to finish. That song was dope too. It was my second option I thought of when you asked me what song was most meaningful.
Courtney Lee: It's such a dope song. With you being the pioneer of bringing West Coast hip-hop back, do you ever see yourself doing a duo album like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre or Kurupt and Daz Dillinger?
Game: I talk to cats all the time. I talked to Kendrick Lamar about doing something in the future. Nipsey Hussle is a good friend of mine. Of course, Snoop Dogg always wants to get down. You just never know which way the music is going to take you. I wake up every day, brush my teeth, and get ready to attack and seize the moment. I carry myself like that day by day. Hopefully, one day, I get to add one of those types of albums to my legacy.
Courtney Lee: I heard you're about to go down to Miami to start working on your new album this fall. I know artists have a certain amount of albums in their contracts for record labels. That leads to the next question. When your contract is up, do you see yourself leaning towards any other record label?
The Game: Yeah, my contract is done with Interscope. I was done after my fifth album, which was Jesus Piece. I'm a free agent now. I've been getting lots of calls. There have been so many meetings. The cool thing is to have five platinum albums under your belt and still be able to have people appreciate you and the momentum to keep it going, it's just beautiful. I don't know specifically where I'll end up. I've been entertaining a lot of options. It's like you in the NBA. I'm a fan of you. I started watching you when you played for The Magic. I remember watching you on TV and being like, "Damn, this dude is nice!" However, when I played NBA2K, they had you at like a 72 with no hops! My man Courtney Lee be banging out on the court though, but on the video game [Laughs]…
Courtney Lee: [Laughs] Listen, when I tried to reach out to the 2K, I was like, "We've got to change that man!"
Game: Well, on the court, you can bang out, but in the game they've got you doing these power layups. It's crazy [Laughs]. It's funny how music and sports are one in the same. When it comes to that free agent period with you guys, you get in there with your agent and you talk to different teams. You've got to really make a decision based on the possibility to win a championship because that's the goal in the NBA. Sometimes, it's not that, you've got to put that on the scale and weigh it up against the financial aspect. Most of the NBA players have kids and families. I'm entertaining all options. I'll pick one probably later on closer to the fourth quarter when the music business shuts down for two or three weeks and comes back in January. I'll probably announce it in January. I think it's going to be a surprise for everybody to see which way I'm going.
Courtney Lee: I don't want to spill the beans, but I was listening to Jesus Piece, and there's one song I kind of got the hint from.
Courtney Lee: I'm not going to put it out there!
Game: For people who are fans of The Game and really got the last album, I've been leaning that way for a little while. I talk to Stunna at least two or three times a week. He always says how big of an opportunity it would be for him and for myself to swing that way. You never know, man! I know he's got a lot of money, and I love money [Laughs]!
Courtney Lee: I agree! I was actually out in Los Angeles training with Rob McClanaghan. I'm working with him right now. They told me that the Drew League just finished. I know you like to get out there and hoop. It's competitive. Let's put a good squad together! Is that something you plan on doing as long as your legs allow you to?
Game: I'm about to be 34-years-old in November. This last Drew League was tough on me. I was the fourth in scoring in the league. I played my ass off this season, but it was rough on my knees. Them 34-year-old knees got that Patrick Ewing tingle when you take off now [Laughs]. I'm going to see what I do next year. I was at an NBA2K event the other day, and I met Harrison Barnes. I'm talking to you today. Low key, behind your backs, I'm putting my roster together with ya'll included you just don't know it yet [Laughs].
Courtney Lee: That's ironic because I wanted to get out there and play in that. You said that your knees are getting bad. You only get a certain window of opportunity in the NBA, and you've got to make the most. Sometimes, rappers dream about being pro athletes, and pro athletes dream about being rappers. I always look back. I'm appreciative of being a pro basketball player. As long as a rapper can keep his pen sharp and keep going with the lyrics, he can do this for twenty years!
Game: You definitely have to get out to the Drew. It's something you have to experience personally if you really love basketball. I played in The Rucker when I was like 25-years-old. We took The Rucker, and we ended up beating Terror Squad which is Fat Joe's team. They had Jerome Williams and a few other cats from the East Coast as well as Rayford Alstin. I got my nickname from throwing him over a bleacher. They called me "Loose Cannon" out there man! That's when I was young and wild. You definitely have to get out there. It's fun to experience. There are A-list NBA players. They definitely ain't ready for Courtney Lee. Like I said, I'm a fan of you too, and I wondered why you were a 70-something on the game. It just killed me! [Laughs] I told Ronnie from 2K the other day about a few cats who are sleepers on my little fantasy team, and they need to get them right in terms of the ratings. He said they got it right this year!
Courtney Lee: Hopefully they do me some justice [Laughs].
Game: There's something I want to know. I ask all of my partners this, and I've got a bunch of cats I grew up with who play in the NBA that I befriended throughout my rap career. How did it feel when you woke up that morning and it was just time to get into the NBA? Like draft day? What was that day like? Who did you take with you that day?
Courtney Lee: When I came up, I came out of a small college. I went Western Kentucky. I was on track to be the mid-to-late first round. You learn your lesson before from people who go to the draft. They go, and they don't get their names called. I didn't want to be one of them. What I did was I flew back to my hometown, which is Indianapolis, Indiana. I was with both of my brothers and a couple of my buddies. They rented me a hotel room downtown. We went down there. They had a couple of bottles of Rosé for me to calm my nerves.
Courtney Lee: I was on the phone with my agent nonstop like, "Did you hear anything? Anybody call and say they wanted to take me?" We had promises from like ten different teams. Like the rap industry, it's a business. You can only trust the people who came up with and yourself. I was still nervous throughout that process. My boys did a good job of calming me down with the drinks. We were in the hotel. It gets to the Magic's picks. I was sitting there nervous. I had a good workout with them and I had a good vibe from them. I heard them call my name. If I could relate it to something, it'd be like how you said you felt when Harlem was born. It was one of those feelings!
Courtney Lee: My stomach dropped. All of those years being called underrated and not good enough as well as everything I went through paid off. Once they called my name, I felt that. Next thing I knew, my brothers ran through the door, and they tackled me. That was one of the highest moments in my life. Having that and waking up the next day knowing I was in the NBA, especially after I signed my rookie contract to make it official, was one of the best moments I had in my life.
Game: That's super dope, man! Once your name got called, did you wish you had actually gone to the draft?
Courtney Lee: Yeah, I did! I wish I would've across in my little fly suit and shook Stern's hand [Laughs]. I celebrated it. It was a special moment for me and my family.
Game: I can't wait for next year when the Drew League comes. If you come on out, I'll make sure your stay is nice and you have a good time. We definitely on the Money Gang in the Drew League to come out and compete with us.
Courtney Lee: Get me a roster spot, and I'm out there!
Game: We've definitely got a roster spot for you! We'd love to have you out there. I'm a fan of yours too, man. I've always loved the underdog. Everybody always looks to the first or second player in the draft. I think of so many great players like Derek Fisher. One of my homies I grew up with Tito Maddox went in the late first round. He was the 25th or 26th pick to the Rockets back in the day. I appreciate you bro!
Courtney Lee: I appreciate you taking the time out to make this happen.
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See Courtney's review of The Weeknd in Orlando here!