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How the Song 'Mo Bamba' Got Bigger Than Mo Bamba

Master TesfatsionFeatured Columnist IAugust 14, 2018

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 12: Mo Bamba #5 of the Orlando Magic poses for a portrait during the 2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot on August 12, 2018 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
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It started with a simple request in high school. Mo Bamba just wanted his name thrown in a verse once he caught word that his friend, Sheck Wes, had begun rapping.

Less than a week later, Bamba received an audio file. It was called "Mo Bamba."

"This dude named a whole song after me," Bamba told Bleacher Report.

Not just any song, but a club banger that has made Sheck Wes a star, a smash hit that'll make you spazz in the whip, a track tailor-made for any workout playlist.

"I'm known more for that song than my basketball career, which is crazy to me," says Bamba, who was drafted sixth overall by the Orlando Magic in June.

More than a song, "Mo Bamba" is a soundtrack for a friendship that dates back to the days when the two grew up playing basketball as teenagers in Harlem, where Wes led the city's public league in assists.

Bamba raved about Wes' basketball IQ, but the now 19-year-old star decided instead to pursue a modeling career in high school and appeared in the Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden in 2016.

"I had a Bronx Borough playoff game, and I had to make a decision: Like, am I gonna be a part of this game, or be part of this fashion show?" Wes told Slam in May. "And I made the decision to go to Yeezy Season 3. That show opened up doors for me, and it opened up my mind."

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TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 12: Mo Bamba #5 of the Orlando Magic poses for a portrait during the 2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot on August 12, 2018 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

After building up his network, Wes realized his true passion was rapping. And when Bamba heard that the young Celtics star Jayson Tatum had a song named after him in high school by St. Louis rapper La4ss, he turned to his longtime friend for the musical shoutout.

"There was a lot of other people that had their own song, or their name in a verse in high school," Bamba says. "I was just, like, to stamp my high school career, I gotta get my name in a song."

The audio file caught Bamba by surprise, but he immediately loved the song. Wes had taken the concept of basketball recruitment and flipped it to describe the recruiting process from record labels he dealt with at the time.

"After the months and months and years went, I was always playing the song in the weight room," Bamba says. "People started gravitating to it. Then something happened, and it blew up. Now, it's playing in every party and every club. It's crazy."

Wes pushed the track that would launch his career, eventually signing a joint record deal with Kanye West's GOOD Music and Travis Scott's Cactus Jack labels. Bamba says the song is so big now that he tries to avoid playing it in his leisure time, knowing that other people will often play or sing it in his presence. Still, he couldn't help but dance when the song played during his draft party with Wes in attendance, or at the NBA rookie symposium on Aug. 12.

"People slept on the song for a while," Bamba says. "Now it blew up, and everybody loves it."

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