The riotous NBA offseason has been a mix of the drama in Cleveland, Chris Paul joining forces with the Beard, and the borderline absurd hype machine behind Lonzo Ball. And we’re still waiting on Carmelo Anthony to shed the blue and orange.
But at least Lance Stephenson hasn’t changed.
He may not have Paul George by his side anymore, but he’s still getting ready to ball and he’s still about those rap bars. Stephenson—who raps as BornReady, a name given to him by the legendary Bobbito Garcia during his time balling at Rucker Park—released his latest cut “Better Believe It” earlier this week. With its auto-tuned croak and chirping ad-libs, Stephenson’s latest is a likable jam that recalls fellow Brooklynite Desiigner’s delivery.
However, Stephenson is a couple years older and isn’t G.O.O.D. Music-affiliated. He’s a 26-year-old (he’ll be 27 on Tuesday) who came up as a prodigious basketball talent in the New York summers of Fabolous hits and aggressively bright headbands. Now he’s an NBA veteran with a hankering for Meek Mill.
Bleacher Report spoke to the mercurial guard about that come-up, Big Baller Brand and who in the NBA is holding out on giving us some bars.
Bleacher Report: On the “Check” freestyle you rapped, “Rapping is a hobby, I just do it when I’m free.” Is that still the case?
Lance Stephenson: I just write music in my free time during the summer, when I have time to relax and have fun. I have my friends in the studio and we feed off each other. During the season, I just focus on basketball.
B/R: Do you and your teammates discuss rap a lot during the off time?
LS: Yeah, my teammates hear all my songs, and I get feedback from them. I play my songs whenever I’m around a crowd and see what they say before I even put it out. Before I even put it out, I know if it’s going to be a decent song. I already got good feedback from everybody when I posted [“Better Believe It”].
B/R: Who in particular gave you feedback for “Better Believe It”?
LS: I was with all my friends who I grew up with in the studio. The dude who played the beat...I was like, “[sucks teeth] This beat is aight.” One of my friends was like, “You better believe it.” I said, “What? Say that again.” It just made the song right there.
B/R: You were coming up when Fabolous and Dipset were still hot in the New York streets. Are they still inspirations for your raps?
LS: Fabolous is one of my favorite rappers. Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Biggie, and I like J. Cole. I got all types of different music; that’s just one version of it. I’m just taking my time putting them out. I don’t want people to think I’m just focusing on music. You know, basketball first.
B/R: How many tracks do you have in the chamber?
LS: Man, I got like 20 tracks.
B/R: So you have enough for an album pretty much.
LS: Yeah, I could put out an album. Like I said, I don’t want to put it out and people just think I’m focusing on music.
B/R: Who in the NBA do you think is the best rapper?
LS: I ain’t gonna lie, I like Damian Lillard. I actually got that song with him and Lil Wayne on my playlist. I don’t want it to be a battle going back and forth, but I definitely like Damian.
B/R: But competition is a part of hip-hop, though.
LS: [Laughs] But I don’t want to make this a battle, though.
B/R: Is there anybody in the NBA who raps but hasn’t put anything out yet?
LS: Paul George got a couple of songs in the studio at his house. Victor Oladipo just put out a song, but he does R&B. He’s singing like Keith Sweat or something. There’s a lot of guys that rap, but they just don’t want to do it. They’re scared of the feedback.
B/R: Who would you say is your favorite artist right now?
LS: I’d say Meek Mill. I feel like he motivates me to strive for the best with the way he comes off in the songs, the stuff he be talking about—he’s just so real.
B/R: You ever link up with Meek?
LS: Yeah, I actually know Meek Mill. We went to a couple of parties and things like that. I tried to get him on a song, but you gotta go through all types of paperwork and I ain’t got time for all that. I just want to put music out and have fun.
B/R: Which new draftee catches your eye this season?
LS: I like Lonzo Ball. I’ve been watching him through the whole summer league and I’m feeling like, he got the full package. He just gotta put it all together and do it in the season.
B/R: What do you think about the Big Baller Brand?
LS: I actually like it. I feel like he’s confident in his own brand, and he got the guts to do it himself—make your own sneaker and put it out there. You gotta hope the people like it and live up to high expectations. So he’s putting a lot on the line. It’s tough for a rookie, but if you got that confidence, you can do it.
If you’re in the gym and doing the stuff that you need to do, it’s going to show in the game. As long as he’s doing that, his brand is going to be all right.
B/R: You both come from roughly similar high-pressure situations: Ball with BBB and you coming from New York.
LS: Coming from New York is definitely a lot of pressure. You have high expectations and you’re in the big city. They big you up at a young age, so you gotta live up to that high expectation your whole life. I was reigning No. 1 since fourth grade, and I had to live up to that expectation my whole life. It was tough, and every game I played in the AAU or high school, everybody was coming after me making sure I don’t score. It was tough, but you gotta have a big heart to get through it.
B/R: I’d assume Rucker builds you for the pressure.
LS: Playing in the Rucker, that got me my confidence. I played in the Rucker when I was like 13 or 14 and playing against grown men. Once I knew I could play with grown men that was playing in the tournament, I was like, “I could play anywhere.” Once I knew I could score on them, that’s when I felt like I could play with anybody. That’s how I build my confidence.
B/R: Would you buy Big Baller Brand sneakers?
LS: Yeah, definitely. If he plays good on the court, of course I’ll buy his shoe. If he ain’t doing LS: nothing. I ain’t buying it. But if he’s killing it on the court and living up to expectations, I’ll buy his shoe.
B/R: And when he hits the court, are you coming after him?
LS: You can’t ask me that. When I’m on the court, I got no friends. I want to go after everybody. It don’t matter who you are, I’m going after you.
B/R: Including Paul George?
LS: Paul, like I said, that’s my brother, but when it comes to the court, I ain’t got no friends. After the game, we could go out to eat.