The Rock and The Mic
Tennessee’s Renaldo Woolridge is one of many players to dabble in hip-hop.
by Alexandra Rush
Renaldo Woolridge gets busy on planes. While his University of Tennessee basketball teammates catch some Zs, play video games, watch movies or shuffle through their iPods, Woolridge jots down rap lyrics in his rhyme book or types them into his BlackBerry.
“I want to get to the next level – the NBA – but also make it as a mainstream rapper,” the 6-8 sophomore said.
Woolridge’s mix of hoop dreams and hip-hop aspirations aren’t unusual. These days, basketball and hip-hop cultures seem to be as synthesized as Pete Rock and CL Smooth or John Stockton and Karl Malone. Emcees claim to be ballin’ and compare their mic skills with NBA players’ athletic prowess; Prominent NBA players – including Kobe, Shaq, AI, Ron Artest, Joe ‘Beast’ Smith and most recently JJ Redick – have recorded tracks. But their success and acclaim have been minimal.
But Woolridge, whose stage name is Swiperboy, plans to pull off an upset nearly as big as his team’s January 10 victory over formerly undefeated Kansas by being an exception to the trend of basketball players’ flopped albums (has anyone even bother illegally downloading “Shaq Diesel” or Artest’s “My World”?) Woolridge is known around campus as an athlete who can rock the mic and has used his Mac computer to record various songs promoting Tennessee athletics.
Woolridge’s “Yes I Can” anthem features his breathy, laid back, Eric Sermon-esque flow, as well as his lyrics touting all the university teams’ achievements. “Running this thing kind of like cross-country,” Woolridge spits. In December, Woolridge dropped “Tip Off (College Hoops Time),” a track on which he raps the team’s grueling practice schedule and hustle mentality makes Tennessee “ready for the chance” and “ready for the Dance.”
Woolridge also recorded a song to advocate for Tennessee football star Eric Berry’s campaign for 2009′s Heisman trophy. As with many of Woolridge’s tracks, an accompanying video is posted on YouTube; this seemingly big-budget effort features dancers decked out in university gear, a football field scene and Berry bopping along to the steady, screwed-and-chopped, Swisha House-style beat.
Despite rapping many original verses over gully instrumentals such as “A Millie,” Woolridge’s rhymes steer clear of any controversial proclamations. He’s definitely no Iverson, whose 2001 track “40 Bars,” which was recorded under the moniker Jewelz, contains plenty of gangsta rap threats. On his freestyle over the “A Millie” beat, Woolridge raps safe-for-work lines such as “don’t gang-bang, never sprayed so don’t ask” and “I’m all about my green, but I’m never smoking weed.” These PG lyrics are especially prudent, given the fact that Wooldridge’s teammate Tyler Smith was recently dismissed after receiving misdemeanor gun and drug charges.
“I just want to do something positive with my music,” Woolridge said.
Woolridge isn’t the only NCAA ‘player slash rapper.’ Remember kiddie hip-hop sensation Lil Romeo, son of music mogul Masta P? Percy Romeo Miller was a guard for the University of Southern California, averaging 2.3 points and 7 minutes of play per game this season. Miller even made time to drop an album – “Get Low” – on March 3. But Miller was dismissed from the team last week due to a violation from an incident that happened two years ago. It’s not surprising Miller played Division I ball, for his dad had a short stint in the NBA in the late nineties and also runs a sports talent agency called No Limit Sports.
On the odder side of the hip-hop/basketball spectrum, Dartmouth sophomore basketball players Dave “Serious C” Rufful and Josh “Stiltz” Riddle recorded an unintentionally comical rap song, “The Young Cons Anthem,” to promote their Young Conservatives Facebook Group. The political duo recite ultra right-wing, Christian lyrics such as “can’t support abortion and call yourself a Christian” and “I’m reppin’ Jesus Christ and conservative views.”
To the delight of Rufful and Riddle, the right-wing media and politicians have given the Young Cons a fair share of attention. The pair performed their song of limerick-basic lines and faux-deep vocals on “FOX and Friends” this past June, and received praise from hardcore Republicans such as Mike Huckabee and Bill O’Reilly.
“Our song is definitely unique–that’s why it got a lot of recognition,” the 6-9 Riddle said. “It’s never been done before.
Riddle and Rufful said they have no desires for a full-fledged music career. But Woolridge hopes to top the charts.
“For me, music isn’t just a hobby like it is for some basketball players,” Woolridge said.