The 2016-2017 season is just one chapter in Martellus Bennett’s life, but it’s a pretty good one. The tight end more than filled in for the injured Rob Gronkowski; he balled his way to a career-high seven touchdowns and a victory with the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. But then he turned the page.
Bennett decided in the offseason to take his talents to the Packers, where, inspired by Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (his brother), he plans to donate 100 percent of his future jersey sales to afterschool programs. And the CEO of The Imagination Agency made time for another pursuit: releasing an EP titled I’m Not A Rapper But Some of My Friends Are… He’s not the only baller who put out a musical project recently, but Martysaurus Rex is not trying to front like he’s a hardcore rapper. “I’m a dad. I do dad stuff, so I rap about dad stuff,” he tells Complex.
That means on the lighthearted, five-song EP you can expect to hear songs about his love for dinosaurs, his grocery store of choice, and even NBA great Shaquille O’Neal. You know, stuff normal people can relate to, even if they didn’t just sign a $21 million deal. Bennett took a break from training in Hawaii with his brother to talk about the EP, freestyling with Julian Edelman, and whether he’s a better rapper than Shaq.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
This is not your first foray into music. Is this a passion project or something you plan on really pursuing?
People don’t know this, but I actually have another [project] on iTunes from like six years ago, and then I have other mixtapes too that no one really knows about, so I’ve always dabbled in music a little bit. My first EP I did with my brother, we went by Marty and Shaud. It was called Fast Food, which was on iTunes as well, but that was like six years ago, five years ago actually, so that’s why I decided to do another one.
I think I will do something else. I saw something come out that said [Steelers running back] Le’Veon Bell had a tape and some people thought it was better than mine, so that was kind of like a challenge to be like, “All right, let me go make some more stuff.”
So because there are a number of athletes dropping projects, why should someone check out yours?
I think if you wanna know more about who I am as a person, that’s what the music is about. I’m not in the trap. Like I said on one of the songs, “Trappin out the garage movin' apps and not weight.” I’m still trappin out the garage, like now I’m just selling apps; we’re not selling drugs. [Laughs.]
Let’s take the song “Whole Foods.” Most people rap about having a Benz or the big house with a gold chain, but to me, it’s really strange growing up getting all your groceries at HUB or Walmart, and now, always going to Whole Foods. It’s like a huge dynamic change in life, so for me it’s the same thing, it’s like flexin. That’s me rappin like I got 20 gold chains and I got a Maybach, but now, I’m at Whole Foods in the produce aisle handpicking my fruit. I’m a dad, I do dad stuff, so I rap about dad stuff.
shaq was one of my favorite athletes growing up. i wanna make kazaam 2.
What was the inspiration behind the song “ShaqFu”? Are you just a big Shaq fan?
Shaq was one of my favorite athletes growing up. As far as from him being in Kazaam—like I wanna make Kazaam 2—everything from him being in Kazaam, to him rapping, to the way he was on and off the court, he was just one of my favorite athletes growing up. And as a businessman, he’s quite savvy as a businessman, too, so there’s a lot of aspects about Shaq that I really admire, so “ShaqFu” was like a freestyle—Shaq always freestyled, too—so it was like a tribute to Shaq.
Are you a better rapper than Shaq?
Oh yeah. I mean, I ain’t go platinum like he did, but it would be cool to do a remix with Shaq. Get him in the studio and get him on the remix.
Between winning the Super Bowl and getting up to speed as you join the Packers, when did you even have time to make an EP?
The whole mixtape was recorded in 36 hours. Some of my friends are producers, so we picked a couple beats that we liked and we literally wrote it on the spot. And I was just like I wanna make something that’s fun and lively and make a song about Whole Foods, like, who does that? [Laughs.] It was just a bunch of dudes, we left and went to Pappadeaux, I bought everybody lunch, and we came back and made another song.
How has the response been?
It’s funny ‘cause I screenshot the tweets and sent ‘em over to the guys who were in the music. Everybody loved it. For me, creativity is always one of those things where you put yourself out there, and every musician’s like that. I wouldn’t say I’m a musician, but I am a true creative, and that’s everything from interior decorating to writing books to making movies, or whatever it may be. But it was just interesting, a lot of people loved it. And the people that love it is who you actually make it for. They appreciate that it’s different, it’s cool. Every single song was somebody’s favorite, which was the coolest thing about it.
I saw a behind-the-scenes video on Instagram that showed you freestyling in the car. Is that where you get a lot of ideas?
I freestyle with all of my friends all the time. I even freestyle in the locker room; we have Freestyle Fridays. We just get instrumentals, and all the guys would get in a circle and just start rapping and it was just kinda fun. It’s something I been doing for a long time.
You did that with the Patriots?
I did it with the Patriots, I did it with every team I’ve been on. Me and Julian Edelman freestyle in the car all the time.
That’s something I really respect about you, how you reject stereotypes and don’t let people confine you to football.
I think that’s the whole goal. I think everyone should define themselves because if you let others define you, you’re never gonna like the definition of who you are.
A.J., the character you created to star in your children’s books and app through The Imagination Agency, is based on your daughter. Does she understand your day job as a professional football player?
I hope not. She likes to play football with me, she likes to play catch, but I try to make it so she doesn’t have to deal with the stresses of the game or what I do. She looks at football more as, “Oh daddy, you’re gonna play football?” And l’m like, “Yeah, I’m bout to go to play today.” But then she looks at me making A.J. or drawing or doing cartoon characters as my job. She sees me in the office doing that; she gets to spend time in there. She’s like, “Oh daddy, let’s go make something.” She looks at me more like a creative than an athlete, but she knows that I play football.
once you start winning, it's hard to go back to losing.
Speaking of football, last season you won the Super Bowl. It seems like you’d stay in New England if you want to keep winning.
The Packers were in the NFC Championship last year, so they were a couple plays away from being in the Super Bowl. So I feel like it’s another organization that has a winning tradition. Once you start winning it’s hard to go back to losing. I’m at the point now where I’m interested in winning on the field but I also want to continue to win at life, so I just felt like the Packers and the organization, they let me be who I am, and I feel like that’s gonna let me continue to win as well as perform well on the field.
Did you feel like being with the Patriots added scrutiny to your pursuits off the field?
I never really gave a shit. A lot of guys, they don’t have morals or ethics. I am who I am and I believe in what I believe in. I’ma stand true to that. Like I always said, there’s a lot of issues and things in the world; I’m still a part of the world, I’m still a part of this universe, so things, they affect me, they affect my family, my friends, they affect people I care about, so I’m not one of those guys to just stand by and watch someone get robbed. If I see someone getting robbed, I’ma do what I can to help out.
a lot of the nfl is old school, and the powers that be have been the same way for centuries.
What’s your take on what’s happening with Colin Kaepernick?
I think there’s several different aspects of it, but I do think that a lot of people are afraid of that. They’re afraid of an individual who’s able to speak up, especially with the quarterback, who’s the face of the franchise. It’s different when you’re a receiver or running back, you know, they don’t view that as the face of the franchise. They feel like the quarterback represents the entire franchise, so I think it’s a little bit harder for him right now to get work. But he was playing well—there’s a lot of quarterback getting jobs that are not playing to his abilities or playing the way that he did last year signing contracts every single day.
Kaerpernick’s a good friend of my brother’s; they talk all the time. I think what’s his is his, it’s gonna come to him. I think a lot of the NFL is old school and the powers that be, they’ve been the same way for centuries. We’re probably one of the least innovative leagues around, or least progressive.
These are takes you aren't shy about expressing on Twitter especially. Do you appreciate being able to use social media as a platform?
It’s hard sometimes when you do interviews because your thoughts are rechanneled to fit the way the story rolls and things like that, but if there’s anything I want to say, like tweet it. It’s like direct, exactly what I wanted to say, exactly how I wanted to say it, which I appreciate.
Then as far as branding goes, for me my brand is authenticity; I am who I am, what you see is what you get. But a lot of guys like to craft these personas and show those things for the marketers and things like that. I don’t have time to craft myself. I never understood why Clark Kent wanted to be a news reporter and then Superman. I was like, if I’m Superman I just wanna be Superman all the time. I’m not gonna hide the most awesome part of myself just to fit into society. I’ma walk around and be like, “Hey look, I’m Superman!” That’s just who I am.