For Stevie Johnson, rap and football are synonymous—he even quotes Drake on "Thank Me Now"—and he's gained recognition in both realms thus far. He signed a five-year, $36 million contract with the Buffalo Bills in the offseason and the 26-year-old wide receiver also released his first mixtape last fall called Why So Serious? If his mixtape title doesn't ring a bell, it refers to The Dark Knight quote he wrote on his undershirt to insult Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens (both are leading candidates for the Struggle Man of the Year award) after he scored a touchdown on the Bengals in 2010.
Johnson is beloved by Buffalo Bills fans for his outrageous personality, on-field antics, and the excitement and production he brings to his team. The Bay area native spoke with Complex about this season's Buffalo Bills, his music career, being friends with Lil B, and whether he would rather be the greatest rapper alive or win the Super Bowl. Read on to find out more to find out why Johnson may be the most "based" athlete in the NFL.
Interview by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia)
What are your thoughts on the season so far?
The season is basically a tale of two halves. Either we’re playing well in the first half and then the second half is pretty bad but if we put it together, everything will be good. We still have to take care of taking the division and making the playoffs. It’s up in the air and that’s all we ask for.
What's the team chemistry like right now?
We still have work, we’re not there yet and we know that. We know what it takes. A few weeks ago in Arizona, I think it helped us out a lot by keeping us together, as far as once practice was over with, we all didn’t go our separate ways. We still were with each other. We were able to talk to each other and basically put a lot of things on the table, as far as emotions go and how people will respond to it. It was a good feeling for us and I think it should boost us for the rest of the season.
I don’t feel sorry for my guy Fitz, because there’s stress on everybody. If I make a mistake, they’ll be on my head just like that. We understand, and I’m pretty sure Fitz understands, that nobody’s gonna be perfect. Once he has a big game, everybody’s gonna love him again.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s getting a lot of heat from everyone for throwing nine interceptions through Week 7. What are your thoughts the criticism he's been receiving?
I don’t feel sorry for my guy Fitz, because there’s stress on everybody. If I make a mistake, they’ll be on my head just like that. We understand, and I’m pretty sure Fitz understands, that nobody’s gonna be perfect. Once he has a big game, everybody’s gonna love him again. It’s a matter of time before everybody’s loving Ryan Fitzpatrick. I’m just gonna do my part to make sure that I can try to make that happen for him, each and every week. It’s just a phase right now, he’ll shake out of it though.
We heard you now have a show on WGR 550 Sports Radio. How’s that going?
It’s good. It gives me a chance to speak my mind on certain things. It gives the listeners a chance to know what goes on in the huddle. Not just saying the huddle on the field, but inside the locker room and what’s going on in the players’ minds.
I’m from Buffalo, so I know the emotional rollercoaster of being a Bills fan and how the team affects the entire community. What is your relationship like with the community of Buffalo overall?
It’s pretty cool. I’m happy. I’m not from here but the people basically took me in—my whole personality, the things I’ve done. There’s things I’ve done that weren’t good, and they still backed me. The relationship with the fans is sweet. Like I said, the fans will be on my head once I do something bad, but I know it’s for the best of us. They just want to see a winning team. Hopefully we can give that to them.
You’ve kind of become this role model to a lot of kids in Buffalo. First, for football, but also for your involvement with hip-hop. Let’s start things off by talking about your cooking dance. Why did you choose that particular dance?
The cooking dance actually came from back home in the Bay Area. My friend, he’s also a rapper, his name’s Lil B [Ed. Note—Yup, we're familiar]. He began doing the whole cooking dance, the whole swag cook and all that stuff. I just wanted to bring it out here to Buffalo. It’s something fun. It’s something easy and I think a lot of people would take a liking to it. Everybody wanna have swag or be around something with swag. So I just took it to the end zone and made it something fun out here for the Buffalo fans.
I’m probably one of the most based athletes in the NFL.
Would you say that you’re a “based athlete” then?
Most definitely. I’m probably one of the most based athletes in the NFL.
Who are some of the other based athletes?
Besides myself, I’m gonna keep it in Buffalo. My guy, Leodis McKelvin, he’s out there doing the special teams, but he's out there getting hyped with me. He’s so based. Once we hear the music, we turn it up. I feed off his energy and I love it. That’s what it’s supposed to be about. He’s having fun and I’m trying to have fun. That’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to bring that energy here in Buffalo.
Lil B just tried out for the Golden State Warriors D-League team. What do you think would happen if he tried out for the Bills?
I don’t think he would make it but I think he’d definitely bring some positive swag to the team. It’s still gonna be on us to make things happen. This is the NFL, it’s a tough game. It might look easy watching it, but it ain’t peaches ‘n' cream when you get on that field.
Tell us about "The Yeevie," there's a clip on WGRZ of you briefly explaining it. Is that something beyond the cooking dance?
Just a little dance, something simple. It’s basically like my split personality. Everybody on my team calls me “Yeevie” when I’m on the field. I’m real cool but I got a fiery style to me also. That’s what they also say, “Hey man, you turned into that Yeevie.” So I just do a little dance.
There's also a video of you and Game when you were in the studio together. You were talking about how music and sports are synonymous. You even quoted Drake. How did you get into making music?
First of all, I was introduced to music by my stepdad so I’ve always been around it. I’ve never written lyrics at all, but me being an athlete, we always listen to music. My cousin, Ya Boy, is also a rapper. He sat down and wrote my first rhyme, and I was just captivated how he was just fixing bars. When I was working with Game, I definitely quoted that Drake lyric like, “Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous/Cause we want to be them, and they want to be us.” I think it’s true because most athletes, they live the lifestyle that the rappers rap about.
It’s just a game of similarities, as far as athletes and musicians, they talk about a lot of things that not only football players, but basketball players, baseball players—we live. I think that kind of brings us together. When I was talking about Lil B, that’s just an example. Every musician pretty much can play basketball. We all grew up playing basketball, football, baseball, something. We just jumped into our own lanes. Lil B's is music, but he’s still got a love for sports and he tried out for the team. I don’t know how far he’s gonna get with it, but at the same time, it just shows the similarities. There’s natural things that we all come up with.
Very true. Who are some of your most influential artists?
My first one, was Nelly, Country Grammar, that was the first CD that I ever bought. I like listening to Adele’s music, too. She’s got some solid music, just the way she changed her whole negative situation and just shared it with the world. I think that’s pretty sweet how she put that out there. Right now, I’m listening to The Weeknd. All three of his mixtapes are pretty fire. I’ve listened to that a lot.
My cousin, Ya Boy, I’ve listened to his mixtape, The Fillmore Renaissance Story. It’s telling his whole story, I think it’s tight telling the story how he came up. I’m listening to A$AP Rocky, that LiveLoveA$AP mixtape. Definitely listening to Drake, he's got a way with words. Big Sean is ill, and Kanye too. I haven’t really listened to too many Kanye albums, but whenever there’s a song that I come across with Kanye, I always listen to it. You never know what he’s got to say. It’s something that’s wild, but it teaches something. It’s a different character. The G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer tape, I'm listening to that. And 2Pac, his emotion, the beliefs that he had.
That's an interesting mix, especially with Adele being on there. These are albums that you enjoy listening to, but what do you listen to before a game? What are you guys playing in the locker room?
Mostly everything that I just said is what I’m listening to. [Before games] I’m listening to A$AP, Big Sean, and Kanye.
Deion Sanders is the greatest athlete rapper. I think he was the first to do it and how he did it was great. He was true to himself.
Who do you think some of the greatest athlete rappers are?
I've got to say besides me, Deion Sanders. I believe he sold a lot of records. I think he was the first to do it and how he did it was great. He was true to himself. And everybody talking about this “swag,” that was Deion Sanders before anything. I’m gonna keep Deion up there. A lot of people tried it. Kobe tried it and I don’t think that worked out. Shaq did his thing, I know he can do a little bit, but it was nothing like Deion Sanders though.
If it was up to you, would you win the Super Bowl or become the greatest rapper ever?
Man, I would definitely become th—no, win the Super Bowl.
Do you have any future music projects coming up? Is there anything that you’re working on?
Yeah. Right now, me and Ya Boy, we’ll be working on a mixtape. It should be done coming soon. We’ve got a few songs done but I’m looking forward to it.
Everybody always talks about hot chicken wings and everything, I go to Big Tree Inn. It’s right next to Ralph Wilson Stadium. That’s where I go to get my wings.
We'll be looking for it. We're sure Bills fans are curious as to what you do during your time off while in Buffalo. What are some of your favorite places to hit up in the city?
I like to go to the Bedrock Eatery. It’s right there on the water, right in the Blasdell area. I think that’s a pretty good place. Pearl Street Grill is always a good live place. I have little functions there. Everybody always talks about hot chicken wings and everything, I go to Big Tree Inn. It’s right next to Ralph Wilson Stadium. That’s where I go to get my wings.
Your team is 3-4 but still in the hunt since the division-leading Patriots are only 4-3. What can your fans expect from you the rest of this season?
I can just promise mad energy and excitement. You’ll see me working, working to get a win. You might see some frustration but that’s just how I play. I'll be mad, so don’t take it personal. You’re gonna see a guy out there that’s ready to win and uplift the City of Buffalo