Lonzo Ball has had quite a few crazy days over the course of the last few months. From leading UCLA to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament to appearing alongside his father LaVar on numerous ESPN and Fox Sports 1 shows to revealing his new $495 Big Baller Brand sneakers, it’s been a wild ride for the 19-year-old basketball star, who is expected to be one of the first players selected in the 2017 NBA Draft in June.
But Lonzo had one of his craziest days yet on Monday after he decided to release a remix of Drake’s "Free Smoke" that featured him dropping lines like: "Give all my time just to make it happen/Now I’m spittin’ flames like I’m a fuckin’ dragon/In a couple months, man, I’ll be in a mansion/With my car clean and my diamonds dancin’." Lonzo, who goes by the name ZO2, has actually been rapping for a while now, and if you search YouTube, you’ll find a handful of videos that show him freestyling for the camera. But the "Free Smoke" remix was his first official rap song and served as an introduction for a lot of people who didn’t realize that he raps.
Surprisingly, the song got a pretty positive response, too. There were definitely a number of people, including T.I., who told Lonzo to put the mic down and stick to playing basketball. But for the most part, people praised Lonzo for being better than they expected him to be after they heard the song. There were even a few people who suggested that they wouldn’t mind hearing more from Lonzo in the future.
But Lonzo wasn’t the only artist on the track. He recorded the song with his close friend Daijon Davis, a 17-year-old junior at Lonzo’s alma mater Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California. Davis is a 6-foot-7 forward who spent last season playing alongside Lonzo’s younger brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo after moving to California from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2016. He’s also spending the spring and summer suiting up for the Big Ballers AAU team coached by Lonzo’s dad LaVar. And when he’s not out on the basketball court, Davis is an aspiring rapper who goes by the name DC the Don. He doesn’t have much music available as of right now—he says he only started taking rapping seriously in January—but one of the first songs he ever recorded, "Everything 1K," served as the soundtrack for the video that SLAM put out to announce Lonzo’s Big Baller Brand sneakers.
DC the Don is also the reason Lonzo dropped a verse on the "Free Smoke" remix in the first place. He invited Lonzo to his home studio a few weeks ago to record the song and then put it up on his SoundCloud account on Sunday night. And while the song has since been removed from the account due to a complaint filed by Universal Music Group, he put up another song he recorded with Lonzo called "Strav Mode" on Monday night.
In the coming months, DC t he Don is going to try and capitalize off the success of "Everything 1K," the "Free Smoke" remix, and "Strav Mode" by releasing his debut mixtape, Purple Hearted Lion. He’s also going to drop new music directly to his SoundCloud page. But in the meantime, Complex caught up with him to talk about how he linked up with Lonzo in the studio, what he initially thought about Lonzo’s "Free Smoke" verse, and how far Lonzo plans on taking his rap career.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
So it’s been a pretty wild week for you, huh? First, "Everything 1K" was featured in the Big Baller Brand commercial that everyone was talking about. Then, you came right back with the "Free Smoke" remix and had everyone talking about that, too. What was it like walking around at school on Monday?
It was crazy. My phone was just blowing up. I don’t know how to explain it. I was in school, so… I was missing a lot of stuff, but people were talking to me telling me, "Oh, did you hear what T.I. said about Lonzo?" Or "I heard your song." It was a good experience. I liked that, and I want more of that, so I’m just going to keep going hard.
How did Lonzo end up picking "Everything 1K" for the commercial? I imagine he could have called on any number of rappers to provide a song for that. Why did he choose yours?
I guess they asked him what song he wanted to use and he said he wanted to use mine. One day we were in the studio together and he was like, "I’m going to use your song," and I said, "Yeah, go ahead." I think that’s when things really started and doors started opening more.
Did you have any idea that the commercial was going to be such a big deal, or were you as surprised as the rest of us when Lonzo announced he was releasing a $495 sneaker?
I found out just like everybody else. It was crazy.
How did the "Free Smoke" remix come about? Was it your idea to record the song, or did Lonzo want to do it?
I’ve been catching a lot of attention throughout the Chino Hills area. Nothing really too big, but Lonzo liked my music. So one day after practice, he was like, "Get me in the studio," joking or whatever, but we ended up going. This happened like three weeks ago. We went into the studio and recorded "Free Smoke" and "Strav Mode."
Had you and Lonzo ever rapped together before those studio sessions?
All throughout the summer, we train together all week, so whenever I go to Lonzo’s house, we freestyle over random YouTube beats. We just be in the room freestyling and laughing and just playing around with it. We never really took it seriously.
A lot of people were surprised with the verses Lonzo dropped on the songs. The freestyles I’ve heard have been OK but nothing like what he came with on "Free Smoke" or "Strav Mode." Were you surprised at all by his verses?
Nah, not really. I been hearing him freestyle and everything, and he’s pretty good. I already knew he was good, so me making a song with him was no problem. Honestly, I feel like he’s better than a lot of rappers right now. So me making a song with him, even if he weren’t Lonzo Ball, it would still be a good song.
One of the things some people did criticize Lonzo for was spending time working on rap songs when he should be getting ready for the NBA Draft. How much time did you guys actually spend in the studio together?
We went to the studio two times. It took three hours each time. We did our thing. It wasn’t really nothing premeditated. It wasn’t nothing planned. We just kind of did it.
Do you know if Lonzo has any plans to continue rapping?
It was kind of just a spur of the moment thing. I don’t think it was anything too serious. We’ll see. We’ve been freestyling together for a long time and just having fun. Everything is just spontaneous with what we do.
If he does stick with it, how do you think he’ll stack up against some of the other NBA players who have tried to rap?
Damian Lillard got some competition now. [Laughs.] Damian Lillard had that title for awhile. But Lonzo can spit, too.