Before suffering a devastating knee injury during last year's first round series vs. the Miami Heat, Iman Shumpert established himself as one of the game's best perimeter defenders. Since then, he's been busy growing a hi-top fade that would rival Kid from Kid-N-Play and recording his new mixtape, "Th3 #post90s" under the rapper alias 2wo 1ne. And unlike most NBA players turned rappers, Shump can actually get down on the mic, making our list of the 20 best sports rap references of 2012. We caught up with the New York Knicks guard to talk about his music, his return, Stephen Jackson and more.

Download "Th3 #post90s" at imanshumpert.com or head over to Soundcloud as an alternative for the album stream. Also, be sure to check out his Youtube page for visuals and follow him on Twitter.

Interview by Angel Diaz (@graffnameramo)

You have a new mixtape dropping. Are you excited about it?

I’m actually extremely excited about it. It’s been done for a little while now and we’re just waiting on a date to release it, so I’m happy we finally have a date.

Is this rap thing for fun or are you going to take it serious?

I take it serious, but it’s not like I’m trying to have a career. It’s just something I’m going to continue to do throughout my basketball career. I’ve always done it. It’s for me, it’s not like I’m going to try and actually sell records.

I was going to ask you if your career is going to be more like Kobe or more like Shaq’s?

[Laughs] I wouldn’t compare myself to either of them. I think they both did their thing and my thing is my thing.

You’re just doing it as a hobby?

Yeah, definitely.

Is the mixtape all original songs?

I think there are some beats on there that aren’t original, but for the most part everything on there is original.

Explain the name of the mixtape and your rapper alias.

The 2wo 1ne thing is a spin on my No. 21 jersey and also 2wo 1ne represents two people in one. The mixtape is called Th3 #post90s because I was born in ‘90 and I actually miss the ‘90s. I wish I was in my 20s during the ‘90s to really fully live it. I feel like that was a pretty exciting time being from Chicago, seeing Jordan win six rings. That was a time I would love to be older in and now I see myself as a collection of the ‘90s. I sort of got trapped in the ‘90s. The post ‘90s is about somebody who lives a ‘90s lifestyle today.

 

The 2wo 1ne thing is a spin on my No. 21 jersey and also 2wo 1ne represents two people in one.

 

That’s how we can explain the hi-top fade then?

Yeah definitely. It’s my dedication to all my favorite players that had it. Most of the ‘90s Knicks wore it at one time or another. I grew mine like Skywalker. A little higher than everyone elses, but I’m just having fun with it. It’s something I wanted to do. It was a hairstyle I’ve never had before. This and dreads, but I don’t think I’m going to have dreads. I’m sticking with the hi-top. 

How do you feel about some of these cats biting your hair style?

It’s cool. I like it. I want people to wear it because they like it. If you just wear it just to wear it, it’s pretty shitty, but if you like the fade go and rock it. Make it look good, don’t just have one.

 
Who was your favorite rapper growing up?

Growing up it was Jay-Z, Kanye, Lupe. I’m a Hip-Hop dude.

Did you produce some of the tracks?

I sat in on the production, and helped find the sound that I wanted, but I didn’t actually get on the beat machine.

I saw your video. Are you going to start rocking sneakers on your head?

Nah, nah [Laughs]. People really don’t get the concept to the video. The concept to the video is that when PhlyyB is rapping, if you notice, when he is walking around everyone expects him to be me. He’s exactly the opposite. He’s a quiet dude, chill, doesn’t really say much, but when he’s rapping he’s in his element. He’s wild and he’s crazy. Me, on the flipside, I’m always wild, and talking a lot, having fun, but when I start to do something like rap I become extremely focused and I go about things a lot calmer. When I have the outfit that you think is really calm where I’m wearing the Knicks jersey the right way, with the hat on the right way and some shades on, people look at me crazy because I usually don’t do that and I usually do something wild.

What concepts are you touching on the mixtape?

It’s just something real. It’s music with substance. A lot of situational music and stuff you can ride in your car to. I touched on getting to the NBA, I touched on losing my Aunt to cancer. I have a song on there called Perfect Woman describing the type of woman I would love to run into but I never do. I have a song called "Super Fly" with Chrisette Michele. She did some fun stuff. I did a song about if I get a Maybach called "Heights." Everything on there has a purpose, nothing where I’m super wylin’.

 

It’s just something real. It’s music with substance. A lot of situational music and stuff you can ride in your car to.

 

Are you going to get a chauffeur for the Maybach or are you going to be driving?

I’m going to be driving, man. I ain’t got time to pay somebody to drive my vehicle.

So David Stern won’t be handing out any fines to you after you drop this tape?

Nah. The cursing on it is minimal, and mostly by the guys featured on the project. I get my point across with minimal cursing.

 
How does coach Woody feel about it?

He likes my music. He thinks I’m pretty good with words. He doesn’t want me focusing on it, but he understands that I use music to keep myself out of trouble. Everybody has a thing that they do outside of basketball that calms them and makes them chill. A lot of the guys on the team play golf, but I don’t play golf. I rap. Woody doesn’t see it as a bad thing at all. He just sees me as a 22-year old that likes to rap. As long as I’m not out here with my pants hanging down my ass,

 

Coach Woody doesn’t really care what I do, he just wants me to keep my pants up.

 

You used to do spoken word in high school. Do you still write every day?

I just write verses. I don’t write all day long. When I have something that needs to be said, I just write it down on my notepad in my iPhone.

Can we talk about when you’re expected to return?

There’s no exact date right now. I’m just working. I’m starting contact practice next week. I’m going to start getting hit with a pad and accepting contact again. After that, I’ll move into the stages of practicing with the team and from there we’ll be able to move ahead and set a date. As of right now, there's no date set in stone.

It’s headed in the right direction, though? 

Yes. I haven’t had any setbacks.

I’m excited to hear this mixtape because you spit better than some of the other NBA guys in the league that try to spit.

You’ll actually be able to listen to the music. A lot of times when you listen to NBA players, you’re so worried about evaluating their lyrics that you’re not listening to the music. I think that listening to this mixtape, you’ll totally forget it’s me.

You don’t feel like throwing any shots at these NBA rap cats?

I think that Stephen Jackson’s been running his mouth a lot and I think that at some point it’s going to have to be confronted (on the mic), but right now I’m not worried about it.