Basketball and Rhymes
Former Tar Heels, current rappers.
by Drey Wingate / @ProStatus85
When you talk about the University of North Carolina, you’re not just talking about an alumnus of great basketball players; you’re also talking about many generations of great people. We as basketball fans know that Chapel Hill has produced some of the greatest names in basketball history; Coach Dean Smith, Michael Jordan and James Worthy just to name of few. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as these guys is an honor within itself, but to be a part of the tradition and what the basketball program stands for is to be on another stage. This institution has made its mark not only in the world of basketball and education; it is also making its presence known in the world of hip-hop. Thanks to former student-athletes Quentin Thomas and Terrence Petree, the Chapel Hill tradition of greatness will continue to be known as one of the best.
Signed to Jamla Records, owned by Grammy Award Winning producer 9th Wonder, GQ (Quentin Thomas) and TP (Terrence Petree) are on a mission to make some noise away from the basketball court. Both of these cats have already released projects that have been embraced by fans of good music. And when I say good music, I’m referring to a sound that has something for everybody. GQ recently released his latest EP entitled “Blended 3” last week, and TP created his buzz with “TP Is My Hero”, which was sponsored by Jordan Brand, earlier this year. When you’re known for doing one thing, sometimes it is hard for people to picture you doing something else. Many of us allow the critics to determine how far we go in our aspirations, but for Quentin and Terrence it’s not about what people think, it’s about accomplishing the personal goals they have set out for themselves and they seem to be enjoying the hard work while doing it. I had the opportunity to talk with the both of them about their new careers as artists and get their point of view of being Tar Heels working for one of the biggest Duke fans ever.
SLAM: The whole Jamla Movement is making a lot noise. People are saying that real hip-hop is back now. Having been a part of another major career path before linking up with IWWMG, what has the transition been like for you?
Quentin Thomas (GQ): The transition has been smooth so far but they’re two completely different arenas. They both just have common similarities. Being blessed to be a part of a label like Jamla is just like being a part of a team. To me my label mates are my teammates and the Soul Council are the coaches with 9th being the Head Coach. So I just try to do my part and help improve our whole unit as a whole. I feel the dreams and goals are endless when you have an entire group with so much talent yet no one cares who gets the credit. It’s a Wonderful World (No Pun intended).
Terrence Petree (TP): Interesting. I’ve noticed many things directly translate from music and sports; for instance, the discipline of practice. The interesting part is now…instead of basketball first and writing songs second; it’s writing songs first and basketball second. That’s tough to say but I’ve lived my hoop dream playing basketball at UNC, now it’s time to chase and live more dreams.
SLAM: After being a part of a great basketball tradition at UNC, what have you taken from college experience that is helping you in your career as artists?
GQ: For me like basketball or any other sport it’s always great to be coachable. When I first met 9th and Fatin they told me I stood out because I was coachable. They said a lot of the characteristics I learned from sports could easily help me in becoming a great artist. It’s all about getting better for me and being challenged. When you’re around people like Skyzoo, Remo, Rap, Hardy, etc. it motivates you and challenges you to be better daily. Plus the fact I’m brand new to this whole music scene I definitely make sure I soak up as much knowledge that I can from all aspects. Never wanting to limit myself, always wanting to improve.
TP: So much. My road to being a part of the UNC basketball program was one less traveled so I learned so much during the process. I learned that if you have a dream, go for it and never give up. Believe in yourself, no matter what…deal with the politics and keep chasing the dream. That’s half of the inspiration behind my mixtape title; sometimes we have to be our own hero. So as an artist, whenever there’s adversity, I look back at my basketball career at UNC, and I keep going on.
SLAM: Who did you listen to before a game to get you focused and amped up?
GQ: I listened to whatever I was feeling at the time. Sometimes rap/hip hop gets me amped up, other times it can be R&B or Gospel. It’s all about feeling for me. After that I just zone out and let the music work.
GQ: Damn…….difficult to chose. But my favorite rapper of all time is Tupac. I never had an all time favorite hoop player, but probably Jordan or Kobe would compare best with him as an artist. They both brought so much to their craft. And with that made it more than just basketball and rap. They became iconic for something they loved doing with their God given abilities and passion. Timeless music and highlights from two people that did what they did at the highest level possible and no matter the opponent or challenge, always rose to the occasion.
TP: Michael Jordan vs. Jay Z. It’s a blessing being in the circles I am in (i.e. UNC, Jordan Brand, Jamla) because I hear personal stories about both all the time. The interesting thing about the stories is they never disappoint; instead they normally build their legacy, and afterwards I respect them even more. MJ and Jay both have that life story, the story that inspires kids all over the world. Both appeal to a mass audience, are well spoken, and represent success. The similarities go on for days but last and probably the best thing to me is, Michael Jordan and Jay Z didn’t stop at being the greatest ballplayer or emcee, they used their greatness to brand themselves in preparation for life after basketball and rapping. They are multiple business owners involved with multiple companies. For an up and coming entrepreneur like myself, this is my BIG dream. I hope for “TP” to represent more than a baller, emcee, or leader but a brand and lifestyle that inspires all people, but especially young people, to chase and live their dreams.
SLAM: Which was more exciting, signing with UNC or signing with one of greatest producers in the industry?
GQ: Signing with UNC was bigger because not only was I rewarded for my hard work and dedication up to this point, but who knew me going to UNC would have me being a part of Grammy Award Winners label? Even though I hate the saying at times it never fails, “everything happens for a reason”. A black kid (especially black male) from Oakland, CA receiving a full ride hoop scholarship to UNC, winning a national championship my first year, graduating with a BA degree and have the most wins (2nd most now) in UNC Men’s basketball history is a blessing all by itself. BUT then you add me being a part of Jamla now, having a relationship with good people such as 9th and everyone else I’ve been around, and who knows what God has in store for myself. I’m just excited about the future man and appreciate every moment, good or bad, because I know there are others who would kill to be in my position. So everyday I’m humbled.
TP: I think it was all part of God’s plan. I definitely believe one put me in position for the other, so I’m thankful for both.
SLAM: Being in the spotlight is something you guys are used to due to your college careers as student-athletes, is there any difference being known as emcees now?
GQ: Like I said I’m just now getting involved with the music scene so I don’t know much as of yet. But I can honestly say it is weird at times when people consider me a rapper. I never thought I’d be involved with music let alone be rapping. But God works in mysterious ways. I feel the UNC spotlight prepared me for what’s next to come. Something I had to experience so that once took place in my life I wouldn’t go into shock and would know how to handle myself with everything. But I’m still growing as person so it’s still all new.
TP: Yes. It reminds me that rapping is not a hobby anymore. Making music is my new playing basketball.
SLAM: Both of you have been very successful in your personal endeavors. Just how important is it to remain humble for the journey ahead?
GQ: If nothing else I pray daily that I remain humble through whatever success comes my way in life. It’s so easy to get caught up in things with so many different lifestyles and people around to influence you. People now-a-days don’t even know who they are anymore because they’re so use to acting like someone else. Being grounded and staying humble is what I feel will take me beyond where others have been. And that’s all I want for myself, the best…
TP: My confidence got me here. My humility will keep me here.