NBA Star Victor Oladipo Breaks Down His R&B EP ‘Songs for You’
In an era when athletes are spotlighting their musical talents more, Indiana Pacer Victor Oladipo is perhaps one of the rare few who, one, is tackling R&B, and, two, has been singing since he was five years old in church.
“I was in the children’s choir back in St. Joseph’s church in Upper Marlboro, Maryland,” he told TIDAL weeks before the release of his debut project, Songs for You. “I was just singing pretty much my whole life. I used to sing everywhere to the point where my family used to get annoyed a little bit because I used to sing so much. As I got older, people kept telling me I need to share my gifts and then finally I did.”
Ask him if his love for music or basketball came first and he’s quick to say, “I’ve been hoopin’ since I was in the womb.”
Still, it wasn’t until a teammate finally egged him on to push out a proper release that he decided to put out a record. “I would have to say Jay Henderson, who’s on my team right now, definitely pushed it for me. ‘You need to give everybody and show everybody your gift. You can’t just keep this to yourself,’” Oladipo said. “It’s crazy because within this whole year, numerous people come up to me like, ‘Yo, you really need to share this gift. You don’t need to just keep this inside and have this in your back pocket. You need to share what God gave you.’ So that’s what I’m trying to do.”
While the seven-track set is millennial-friendly R&B (singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger assisted Oladipo on the writing side) with songs like “Unfollow” and “Blessings.” There is also a modern-day twist on a Donny Hathaway classic with “Song For You” and a 2 Chainz feature on the workout-ready “Rope a Dope.” The closer, “Nothing Like Your Ex,” might seem like a message to bae on the surface, but Oladipo assures that the concept extends to relationships as a whole, especially after he recently reconnected with his father after a publicly rocky relationship.
Here, Oladipo breaks down his EP song by song, assuring that he’s got some game off the court. “I might be [the first R&B singer in the NBA],” he adds, “But if I’m not, I think I might be the best one so far.”
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“Song For You”
Donny [Hathaway is] one of my favorite artists and I love all his songs, but ‘Song For You’ was one I could kind of relate to. It’s kind of similar [to what] I’ve been through in my lifetime. I want to pay my respects and pay my dues to him, then, at the same time, add a little twist and modern-day feel to it so it’s like my story in the end. I think it turned out pretty good.
Eric [Bellinger] wrote this. Eric’s always been somebody I look up to, especially in music. I listened to him a lot beforehand, then, when he came to me with the project, I was like, ‘Man, it’d be an honor to work with you.’ So it was definitely humbling to have somebody of that stature and somebody who’s so gifted, especially in this field, to want to work with you. It turned out great. Plus it’s kinda catchy and people can relate to it too ‘cause it’s been a point in everybody life when they need to unfollow somebody.
I just felt like, again, everybody could relate to it. Everybody has been in or might have been in a situation where you really care about somebody and, at first, they might not feel the same way you do or you might care about somebody, and, unfortunately, you guys had to separate. I’ve been in a situation before where things happened like that and years go by, months go by and you see the person again and it’s like nothing changed. It’s still the same. They might have left but the feelings are still there. The feelings are still genuine. I feel like people can relate to that song. It’s catchy. Plus, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, is the biggest moment in basketball so I feel it could relate in that aspect, too.
At the end of the day, I feel like without music, I could play the game of basketball but music makes it that much better. Like I listen to music before the games, I listen to music after the games to calm me down. You got NBA guys who could rap, NBA guys who could sing, there’s just a lot of NBA guys who sing in general, who could make beats and stuff, too, so it’s all intertwined now.
My man Sam Hook wrote that one but I came up with the hook, though. What’s crazy is when me and my boys were growing up back home, we used to try to holler at girls and some of them be acting like [they] feeling theyself a little bit so when they don’t speak back, they don’t try to converse with us. My man, Ray Broward, hit him with the, ‘Don’t miss your blessings.’
And then this is one of the first beats I ever got when I started making music, getting in the studio and that was the first hook I came up with — ‘Don’t miss your blessing.’ And girls can say it to guys, too. Don’t miss your blessing, I’m your blessing, I’m here to improve you. I’m here to get you to this next level.
“Still Want You”
It’s got that West Coast cookout vibe. Everybody been in that relationship when you got your ups and your downs but at the end of the day, I still want you. You go all the way back with that person to when y’all didn’t have nothing, she was there and through everything, you still want her. Plus it’s fun. I love that song.
I just felt like I wanted to do something that kind of told a story. I wanted songs that told stories that people could kind of relate to. And at the same time, do some real R&B. Anybody that knows me [knows that] I’m an old soul so I love old-school R&B. I feel like people do, too. There’s always a point in time when people need that rhythm and them blues. I just feel like I want my first project to say something and really make a statement toward that. Hopefully, that does.
“Rope a Dope” Ft. 2 Chainz
My producer and his little brother, who’s 20, actually made [the beat]. I’m an athlete so I wanted to make a song where I could kind of put that into perspective as far as put that in a song and have people do something athletic and be able to listen to it at the same time. I feel like that’s a great gym, workout vibe song.
I’ve always been a 2 Chainz fan. I met him recently. He used to hoop so that makes it a lot easier to have a conversation with somebody like that.
“Nothing Like Your Ex”
I feel like people are gonna really love that song. People are really gonna learn to really fall in love with that song, especially women because I feel like we sometimes let our past relationships dictate our current ones. Whether it be a friendship, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, whether it be your relationship between your parents.
It’s funny, because I’ve recently been through a situation where I had to tap into my past — my relationship with my father — and let it go. I didn’t even know that affected everything else like my whole life, my relationship with people, with women, with my mom and my sisters. Because I didn’t let that go and I didn’t tap into that relationship and actually make the initiative to go fix it. And when I did that, it felt like a weight was lifted off my chest.
It’s funny ‘cause I’ve been in relationships and situations where women I’ve talked to are really affected by their past relationships, like they’re really hurt by that. It sometimes affects what I do or what the current relationship may consist of. I’m just letting you know I’m nothing like your ex. I know you’ve been through a lot. I know loving you ain’t easy but at the end of the day, I’ma stick with you and I want you to know I’m nothing like your ex.
Me and my dad’s relationship ain’t nothin’ like it was before. I had to grow out of that and I had to tell myself that. I had to write it down, walk in and work on our relationship as a 25-year-old, not me as a five-year-old. It’s amazing how you really go back and think about it. I had to write a four-page letter to my father and a lot of things came out that I didn’t even know was there and after I let that go, I sat down, I went home and talked to my dad for four hours. Now, I’ve talked to him more this summer than I have any other summer in my life.
That’s why my whole mentality, my whole demeanor, everything has changed. I used to care what people thought about me, and at the end of the day, all that doesn’t matter. All that’s in the past, your ex is in the past, I’m your present-day, future. I’m here to improve you. I’m your missing piece that you need. I think people are gon’ like that concept. It’s one of my favorites on the jam. I love ‘em all but I thought it would be a great ending to the EP.
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