Interview: Rapper Big Pooh, Thurz, and Donwill Talk Fighting Irish, '90s Sports Apparel, and Mick Boogie's "ALL IN: NOTRE DAME" Mixtape

Hip-hop x sports, the perfect combo.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Yesterday we brought you a leak off the Mick Boogie x adidasALL IN: NOTRE DAME mixtape slated to drop later this week. While putting together the tape, Boogie took some time to speak with Rapper Big Pooh, Thurz, and Donwill to hear their thoughts on this year’s Fighting Irish, the sports gear they loved to rock as kids, and what it was like working on the ALL IN: NOTRE DAME mixtape.

Interview by Mick Boogie (@mickboogie)

What are your thoughts on the connection between sports and hip-hop?

Rapper Big Pooh: The connection is more a mutual kinship than anything. We relate to each other’s careers and understand a lot of the nuances that it takes to become great. The crazy thing is the amount of athletes that fantasize about being artists and artists that fantasize about being athletes.

Thurz: The connection is major to me. When I think of my favorite basketball players while growing up in Inglewood, I think of players like Penny Hardaway, [Allen] Iverson and [Stephon] Marbury. They all had a direct relation to the urban community and hip-hop. Iverson was the poster boy for the hip-hop and basketball marriage--his image, hairstyle, and tattoo gave me and my peers something we had never seen on that extreme level. It created a lasting impression for me to always want music infused into sports.

Donwill: Sports and hip-hop have been intertwined from the beginning. When Kool Herc was plugging his speakers into those street lights, you can bet there was a basketball court right behind them with people rocking out to the music. Pooh is right, rappers want to be athletes and vice versa.  Even Ice Cube said he "messed around and got a triple-double."

In the ‘90s, having the dopest Starter jacket was essential.

How did you become a Notre Dame fan?

Big Pooh: A lot of people always wonder how a kid from Northern Virginia ends up being a Notre Dame fan. It's simple: Notre Dame was the only college team I got to see play every Saturday. Before all conferences had their own networks, Notre Dame had their deal with NBC. At the time, no one in my family had attended college so there was no other prior allegiances.

Donwill: I grew up in Cincinnati, which is like three to four hours away from Notre Dame in a car.  So regionally, it was right there. Plus, I remember as a kid growing up that Notre Dame had the freshest Starter jackets. In the ‘90s, having the dopest Starter jacket was essential.

That's a great point.  I used to save up all my money for those jackets.  Growing up, having the dopest sports attire (jackets, hats, throwbacks, sneakers) was a must.  What were your favorites growing up?

Thurz: All the Penny Hardaway kicks, the pinstriped Penny away jersey, the black cement Jordan IIIs, the Space Jam 11s, and because it's L.A., the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar adidas shell toes.

Do you guys have any funny Notre Dame stories?

Donwill: This is going to sound silly ‘cause it's about the fighting Irish, but not the Fighting Irish. I have a cousin on my mom's side, Pauly, he’s mixed. His dad is from Ireland. He got into a lot of trouble as a kid so we used to call him Lil' Fighting Irish. [Laughs.] Unfortunately, Pauly was not nearly smart enough to go to Notre Dame.

Who’s your favorite Notre Dame player of all time?

Big Pooh: My favorite Notre Dame player of all time is Jerome Bettis. Being a bigger guy myself, I was always amazed at the speed and agility he had for a big back. I actually had the chance to meet Bettis at a Derek Jeter charity event and I talked his ear off. [Laughs.]  My favorite player this year is Theo Riddick. I love his versatility and perseverance. He came to Notre Dame as a running back, was switched to wide receiver, and finally switched back to running back due to injuries and suspensions and he has stepped up!

The Notre Dame defense this year is probably better than the defense from '88.

Donwill, you've rapped over some interesting samples in your career but have you ever rapped over a fight song before? 

Donwill: No. Definitely not. I thought nVMe did a great job flipping something like that into something current and energetic. It was fun to rap on that. I need to practice my Rick Ross grunts, though. [Laughs.]

Do you guys see a lot of similarities between their 1988 championship team and this team?

Big Pooh: I definitely see a few similarities between this team and the 1988 championship team. The mobile quarterbacks, Tony Rice in '88 and Everett Golson. The running game keyed the '88 championship, just like it is vital for this team.  Also, solid defenses. The Notre Dame defense this year is probably better than the defense from '88.

Thurz: Besides going 12-0, people are referring to the coach as the "the new Lou [Holtz]."

I'm excited for you guys to be on this project. Tell me, what does "All In" mean to you?

Donwill: To me, it means to be 100 percent committed to whatever you do. Whether it's your career, your art, your family, your baby mama, or whatever. It's investing yourself heavily in whatever it is that you love.

Thurz: "All in" means not holding anything back when you're going for the glory. It's the only way to win.

What can we expect musically from you guys in 2013?

Big Pooh: The music don't stop. I'm still promoting my current project, Fat Boy Fresh Vol 2: Est. 1980. I'm also preparing to release an EP on my birthday, February 12. Also, Roc C and myself are finally releasing our project, Trouble in the Neighborhood, and a few other project surprises.

Donwill: My partner Von Pea has an EP called Duly Noted coming out in January and a full Donwill / Von Pea LP is almost ready for spring. Stay tuned.

Thurz: Blood on the Canvas. just aiming to make something timeless and unlike anything else in the market.

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