“Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous/'Cause we want to be them, and they want to be us.” Drizzy spat that line on “Thank Me Now” back in 2010. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, ballers have been rapping from the days of Deion "Primetime" Sanders dropping “Must Be the Money” back in ‘94 to Iman Shumpert dropping his Th3 #Post90s mixtape this past season. However, it wasn’t until earlier this month when Jay Harris a.k.a. Jay DatBull decided to forgo a scholarship to pursue his music career that athletes rapping has caused so much controversy.
The high school wideout ranked as the No. 17 high school player in the state of Pennsylvania on ESPN's Recruiting Nation, skipped out on a free ride to Michigan State so that he could rap and make videos like the now infamous, “DatBull 4 Life.” The video which features Jay DatBull spitting bars, blowing weed smoke, and rocking with his crew, SquadThaCamp, has amassed nearly 800,000 pageviews in less than a month. With his debut mixtape, Camp Life, dropping on June 1, we spoke with Harris about his plans for the future, why he made his decision, and who his influences are.
Interview by Ralph Warner (@SoloWarnerBro)
How have the past two weeks been for you since this story went national?
These past two weeks have been crazy. It's kinda like I've changed and everywhere I go people know who I am. People are just waiting for my mixtape, you know? There's a lot of hate but I mean at the end of the day I got a good enough fanbase throughout these two weeks, so it's been fun.
When did you start rapping?
I've been rapping since probably like, middle school. But I seriously started rapping in high school and obviously when I dropped that music video recently. That's when I decided that I'm going all out with it.
And how long have you been playing football?
Since I was about eight.
I like football as a game but when you're at Division I level, it's all business. They really don't care about other factors, it's business. Football is just a game to me.
There's different reports that came out saying Michigan State was going to revoke your scholarship because of the video and then there's reports that were saying it was a mutual agreement. Can you tell us in detail how that whole process went down?
They never ever once called me and talked to me about the video. We never had a conversation about the video. I think they heard a little buzz that I might not go to school or whatever, so I called them one day and they were like "we heard you were having a change of plans" and I was like "yeah, I'm focusing on my rap." All the coach said was, "well, I wish we could've had you and if not then I wish you the best of luck" and that's the last time I talked to him. He never even mentioned the video.
What was your parents' initial reaction when you told them you would rather pursue a rap career than go to college?
They were surprised, they were shocked at first. I never really shared my music with them, so they just thought it was me not wanting to go to college or something, or that I was scared. But then I showed them my music and I showed them how serious I was and my dad, he just one hundred percent was like, "I wish I would've seen you play football, I wanna see you in college, but if this is what you want to do then you're still my son and I still love you. I'll support you at the end of the day." So, I mean, no matter what I choose to do my dad's still gonna be there 100 percent.
Have they seen the video that's caused all this controversy?
What's their reaction to blunt smoking, rapping about poppin' mollies, sex, etc.?
Yeah, it's like I was saying, they were kinda shocked but they're like, "if you got a talent just run with it. If this is what makes you happy, run with it. Just make sure you don't go overboard with any other crazy drugs but if it's just smoking weed, then run with it."
Would you say you're a better rapper then a football player?
I couldn't really say, I guess it's up to the critics to say that. But either way, rapping makes me happier than football.
Would you say you've lost interest in playing football? Or that you genuinely like rapping more at this point? Was it a combination of both?
Yeah, it's a combination of both. I like football as a game but when you're at Division I level, it's all business. They really don't care about other factors, it's business. Football is just a game to me. It's not a business, it's not gonna be my life. I still love the game of football, I still love watching it but that's not what I want do for a career. That's not how I want my life to be just solely 100 percent football.
Have you heard directly from any college or pro athletes, rappers or producers since your decision?
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Who have you heard from? What's some of the advice that they've been giving you?
I don’t even really remember half of people's names, I got flooded with e-mails. But I mean the producer M. Stacks, he's worked with me and he just told me "keep it up," and he's sending me beats and stuff. Philly B, he reached out to me, he told me to "keep grinding." I'm planning to work with him over the summer. And then, uh, a couple people from the Michigan State team, like Kyle Kerrick. He reached out to me. He just said "keep doing your thing, if this is really what you're heart is into then run with it." So I mean I got a lot of support, from multiple people and stuff.
Have the coaches at your school said anything to you about it?
My coach [Michael Matta], he supports me 100 percent. I mean, obviously he wants to see me going to college but he just wants to see me graduate school and just be successful and if this is what I want to do, he's gonna be behind me 100 percent.
You mentioned that you got hate from people over your decision. What do you say to those saying you're making a huge mistake?
What I say to those people saying I'm making a huge mistake is worry about the mistakes that they make in their life 'cause this isn't theirs. That's all I gotta say to them. They keep on hating on me and that made me famous today.
What do you have to say to those who suggest that you could've had time for school, football, and your rap career?
What I got to say to them is: I can always go back to college, I'm only 18. I can go back to college if I want to but it's not like...I'm not gonna go and shame the name of MSU football by being a Division I athlete and then rapping about what I rap about. You can't do that. If I went up there they would not allow me to rap the way I rap, they would not allow me to do the things I do. It's just natural, people forget that it doesn't work that way. It's not like I can just go up there and play football and rap. It doesn't work like that.
What NFL player would you say you most resemble on the field?
I can do them chill beats like Wiz do, I can give you some up-tempo shit like Meek, and I can go creative like Lil Wayne.
Okay. And how so?
I'm smaller, fast, I get open, and I'm a big playmaker.
What rapper would you say you pattern your style after?
I never try to sound the same on every track. My influences in rap would be Wiz, Meek, Curren$y, Chief Keef, and Lil Wayne. Those are my influences but who I sound like, it depends on what kind of beat I get, 'cause I can do them chill beats like Wiz do, I can give you some up-tempo shit like Meek, and I can go creative like Lil Wayne. It's my own style I don't really resemble anyone.
You mentioned a few rappers there, how does each of them influence you?
I grew up listening to Lil Wayne. He's creative and he's not scared to try new things.
Wiz influences me because he's straight outta PA, he started his own Taylor Gang movement and that's kinda what I'm trying to do with this SquadThaCamp movement. I just see his work ethic, he did everything himself from the ground up, so that's basically what I'm trying to do.
Curren$y, he appeals to a lot of different crowds. You know what I mean? 'Cause I'm not a gangster rapper. It isn't for like the hood-type people who are out there selling drugs and all that shit. I don't rap like that. I'm from the suburbs so I rap about shit, smoking weed, what we do out here. You know, and that's Curren$y. He's one of the realest people and that's why I try to keep it real like him. He just talks about his real life.
As far as Chief Keef, I'm a year older then Chief, so like, I just see how he worked and age isn't really a factor nowadays. So I mean if he was 16 and able to do it, put in the work, then get famous, get all the money that he's got. I mean that just influences me that like, the rap game has no age limit. If you really about it then you can do it.
What's your day-to-day life going to be like in the fall now that you won't be enrolled in school?
I got a lot mapped out. I'm gonna be working with producer M. Stacks. I'm dropping my mixtape June 1. Shooting another video within the next week for one of my songs "Winning." I'm gonna leak that off the next tape. In June, I'm gonna be working with Philly B and stuff. I'm actually planning on dropping a single with DeSean Jackson in June, too.
Oh, with DeSean Jackson?
Yeah, I was in contact with Philly B and then he got in contact with a couple people and got me to him. I haven't directly talked to him yet but it's in the making right now so...we were just making a whole bunch of songs. You know?
Do you have a name for the mixtape that's dropping June 1?
Yeah, the mixtape dropping June 1 is Camp Life.
And that title is in reference to your crew, right? How many people are in SquadThaCamp?
Are they going be featured on the mixtape? Or is this just going to be a solo project?
I mean, I got people. My one boy does mixing and engineering. I got another boy who's going to handle my e-mails. Everyone plays their own part in the group.
So not everyone in your crew raps.
Yeah. Well, I got my little brother, Tyon, we call him "Young Smooth" and when I get on, I plan to put him on. So we got two artists in there doing their thing.