Q+A: Tito Lopez
A candid conversation with the Gulfport MC.
SLAM: Coming up, who were a few players you looked up to?
Jordan, Jordan, Jordan, Jordan and Jordan. That’s my top five. By the time you come out the womb you know Michael Jordan. Jordan and Michael Jackson, that’s what you’re bred to know.
But I always looked at Joe Dumars and thought, I like that dude because he always gave Jordan a run for his money. I used to hate the Pistons because they would beat up on him, but I liked Joe Dumars—always had extra respect for him. Always had extra respect for Dominique Wilkins, always had extra respect for Kobe, just as a player you can’t deny him.
Now, it’s all OKC, those are my boys. I said one time in an interview that I liked the Celtics and I was getting all this hate from that. I will clear it up right now: I like the dudes on the Celtics and I just ride with them. If they had ended up on the Warriors I would have still liked those dudes. They were always on different teams and I liked them and they ended up on the same team and I continued to like them.
SLAM: Who doesn’t like Ray Allen?
TL: I loved him since he was on the Sonics and from when I saw He Got Game!
I love basketball, growing up in Mississippi, you don’t have a team that you have to root for. So for me, it was straight Bulls. Now, my squad is OKC, not because I’m jumping ship, I always loved those boys. Westbrook is starting to mature, Harden came out of the blue and going extra crazy and I always loved Durantula. Another thing with the Celtics, I love Doc Rivers, he’s like a father-figure to the whole team.
I just like to see the underdogs winning. When the Mavs won last year, that was the shit to me. You think Jason Kidd didn’t deserve to have a ring after 15 to 16 years in the League? Plus, Dirk is the man. I like to see them underdogs winning, man, that’s what it’s about.
Jordan is so synonymous with winning, that people forget he was an underdog. He got cut from his high school team. That made him say, ‘OK, I’ma show you how I do it.’ You start off getting played out to go extra harder, that’s what happened to me. When no one was listening to my tapes and no girls were giving me dates, I needed my spotlight and that’s why I go extra hard now. It’s not an arrogance thing, I’m not even an arrogant person. I don’t even like cameras and all that, but it’s gratifying to now have a video on MTV and dudes are like, ‘Yo I’ve seen your video,’ and calling me and knowing that you weren’t my friend. But it’s all good because it gives you that confidence.
SLAM: Was there an iconic Jordan moment you remember loving as a kid?
TL: The flu game… No, the shot against the Jazz when he stood there and held his hand up. I was playing in 10th grade and I used to do it all the time, and I used to get so much flack for doing it. I was a PG and SG, but I wasn’t a starter, I was the sixth man. I never was the starting front guy or whatever, but I was good. Every time I got on the court I was thinking of the shot in ‘98 and I would hold my hand up and miss and the other team would run down the court and score.
Matter of fact, it was the fact that it took seven years to win the Championship that everyone keeps forgetting. I hate when people want to hate on Jordan for being a winner, but when he started off the team was a bunch of bums! He started off with Charles Oakley and a bunch of bums and made them better. My whole answer to that question is: My main “Jordan Moment” was the fact that it took him seven years to win a Championship.
SLAM: I think that’s a thing a lot of people forget both in basketball and the rap game that success isn’t overnight….
TL: Exactly. People look at me now and say, ‘Well he doesn’t have the same buzz as this person and that person.’ And I’m not tripping on any of that because what I always say is, ‘What takes longer to build, takes longer to destroy.’ So when you see something being slowly built up, it’s all good. You got I’m Serious from T.I. which flopped, Illmatic didn’t sell as many copies as people remember. Reasonable Doubt didn’t sell a whole bunch of copies. Not that I want to come out and flop—please buy the album. But if you come out and already sell 15 million, there’s nowhere else to go. You get so much respect when you grind and build.
SLAM: I hear you… A lot of people get on with that one-hit song then get a lot thrown at them and they’re not ready for it…
TL: Exactly! And then even the fans are like, ‘Damn.’ I want people to get to know me, I even told them at my label when I was getting signed that my goal was to be legendary. If you’re on the same page as me and want to build with me then let’s do it. It’s easier to do it with these U2s and Maddonas. With rap, you got a handful of dudes who are going to sell physical copies, Kanye, Jay, Eminem because the people like that person. I want to go buy the physical copy because I want to look at the liner notes and the pictures because I care about this person’s life.
That’s why I make songs like “It’s Hard.” I get texts all the time and hit on Facebook and Twitter from people saying, ‘I just had my first little baby boy, put him in the car, took him home from the hospital and played “It’s Hard,” so the first song he ever heard in his life was “It’s Hard.” You’re my favorite rapper, man.’ This is something bigger than just “I like your song.” My music gets people through hard times. I don’t worry about nothing man, I want that to be widely known, I don’t care about everyone else’s expectations. I wouldn’t care if someone walked in right now and said, ‘This kid sucks.’ I don’t care. I can already foresee the future, I know I’m going to be up there with Jay, Em, Big and all these legends but it takes a minute.