While in the middle of the NBA season, Victor Oladipo has still managed to work on a major project away from the basketball court. Dropping his debut album, V.O., later this week, the Pacers guard is just a little different considering he’s a crooner and not a rapper.
When he hasn’t been perfecting his game, Oladipo has worked tirelessly to finish V.O., which releases on November 30. But when it comes to preparing to drop a song or get up for a game, Oladipo says that there’s not that much of a difference.
“You really can’t just go and do them. Some people can, but me, I can’t,” he tell us. “I like practicing before I do it. So, with both, I practice, try to learn, I try to do the best at everything to make sure that I’m ready to do whatever it is I’m doing.”
Last season, Oladipo was an All-Star, named to the All-Defensive team, the recipient of the NBPA’s Backbone Award, and was the NBA’s Most Improved Player, catapulting himself into star status during his first season in Indiana. How many people know that the ultra-talented Oladipo had the kind of pipes worthy of recording an album, though? He’s always had them since he started singing in church growing up, but only recently did he think it was something worth devoting time away from basketball.
“It was always a big part of my life, I just didn’t take it seriously until now,” says Oladipo.
During a quick break from basketball, we spoke with Oladipo about last season’s success, what advice Michael Jordan gave him, his debut album, and, most importantly, what fellow NBA player he most wants to collaborate with.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
When did you start singing?
I first started singing when I was a little kid, in church. My mom made me start singing in church. As I got older, I never knew that I was really talented until probably like high school. I didn’t really start taking it seriously until my third or fourth year in the league. It was always a big part of my life, I just didn’t take it seriously until now.
It’s been a little over a year since you put out your EP, Songs For You. What have you learned about yourself while working on your upcoming project?
I learned that I could get better at music just like I could get better at the game of basketball. I learned that the more and more I do it, the more comfortable I get with it. And if I keep working hard that I could be really good at it. So, it’s pretty cool to have a hobby be something you’re good at. Kinda have a goal, and set goals for it and try to be really good at it.
You already have a couple singles out from the album, there’s “Connected” with Pnb Rock and “Lights On” with Trey Songz. How will people, like your fans, players in the league, etc., react when they realize you are both a successful R&B singer and basketball player?
I hope they will react in a good way. First and foremost that I’m singing, you know most athletes usually rap, they don’t sing. And actually sound good.
Bouncing off of the rap topic that you brought up. Which rappers that you know of in the NBA, we know that Damian Lillard is a rapper, Shaq used to rap, Iman Shumpert has an album out, would you love to get on a track with?
Definitely Dame D.O.L.L.A., that’s Damian Lillard’s rap name. I think that would be dope for me to get on a track with him. I think it would be very impactful for the league and for athletes, well young athletes all over the world. There’s a lot of great guys in the league so him to Iman [Shumpert] to Lou Will[iams], to Lance [Stephenson], even Andre Drummond raps a little bit, too. But there are a lot of guys that do music and it’s pretty cool to see.
You mentioned other rappers that I didn’t know about. So are there any low-key singers in the league that you know about?
No, I don’t. If there are, they should come out!
We also know that there are some NBA guys that produce music, like JaVale McGee. So are there any who you would want to lay down a beat for you or who have worked with you in the past?
Nah, I’ve heard some of JaVale’s tracks. I had the opportunity to do that last year, last summer. He’s the only one I know of that produces music. I’m sure others do, but I haven’t heard [them]. But, it’s a great opportunity and I’m open to others as well.
In what ways does the process of creating an album differ from the process of preparing for a game or a postseason series?
I think it’s similar but there are some differences as well. I mean for music, I think the preparation is the same as far as learning songs, or writing songs, preparing yourself to get in the booth, kind of mentally engaging in the music. And kind of putting yourself and your mind to what you’re trying to bring across in the music. You know, so if it’s a love song, putting yourself in that situation or whatever love situation that may be. Then in basketball, I think the preparation is more so Xs and Os as far as strategy—how guys might guard you, how teams might guard you. I think mostly that you have to prepare for them. You really can’t just go and do them. Some people can, but me, I can’t. I like practicing before I do it. So, with both, I practice, try to learn, I try to do the best at everything to make sure that I’m ready to do whatever it is I’m doing.
If there was an opportunity to create a song with a rapper past and present to make a hit, who would you choose?
In the past, if I had an opportunity to record with someone it would be Biggie, because he’s one of my favorite old school rappers, and I feel like that would be an epic track. Currently, If I could do a song with a rapper, it’d probably be Drake, just because I feel like my voice on a song with his rapping. Hopefully, one day that opportunity might come.
During the offseason, you hung out with the Serena at the U.S. Open and went to New York Fashion Week and spent time with Chadwick Boseman. What other extracurricular activities do you like to do, aside from singing, in your free time?
I like singing, going to fashion shows. I like going to other sporting events like hockey games, soccer games, baseball games. I also like to hang out with my dogs, and just have fun with friends and family. That’s pretty much what I like to do. I like to read as well because I feel like when I read I expand my mind. A book will make you learn much more than just walking around, or watching TV.
What’s your favorite book that you’ve read most recently?
It would have to be between The Inner Game of Tennis or The Compound Effect.
Express also featured you as a part of their “Game Changers” ads. How have you evolved your style from a college ball player to a professional basketball player, and now a recording artist?
Oh man, honestly, it’s like night and day. When I was coming out of college I didn’t even know what style was. I was wearing all kinds of stuff. Anything that I could find I was just wearing. And then as I got older, got into the league, my fashion changed. And then from when I was first in the league to now, and now it’s literally like night and day. I’ve become more aware of my style. I realized that with styles you can tell a story. And that story, you can tell about yourself. And it represents who you are. So, I’ve embraced that and have tried to include that in my everyday style.
On the topic of fashion and clothing, you’re a Jordan athlete, so how does their partnership, them noticing and acknowledging your ambition and hard work affect your drive?
Being a part of the Jordan brand is just something that’s hard to put into words. Obviously, because a lot of people, like myself, consider Jordan one of the best to have ever play the game. So to be a part of his brand, to be a part of something bigger than myself. It almost has added enthusiasm that you make sure you go out there and play at your optimum level, because you’re not only representing a brand, you’re also representing a family as well.
"I was placed in a new role, they expect more of me so the biggest thing I had to do was relearn my game. I had to pay attention to my body, learn new spots on the floor, where I’m effective at and where I need to be effective at."
Since you’re affiliated with them, have you gotten any advice from MJ?
Yeah, I have actually, I had an opportunity to talk to him last summer and he just told me to keep doing what I’m doing. To keep leading by example and pushing myself and my teammates for more and continue to get the best out of myself and out of my teammates too. So we had a really great conversation.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the league? Are there any guys that give pristine advice, or good one on one partners, stuff like that?
I think [Dwyane Wade] is definitely one of the guys that have influenced me sometimes when he doesn’t even know it. And has influenced me when he does know it. When he talks one on one with you, it’s been really helpful in my career and then just watching him from afar. Watching the things he’s done, and keeps doing just inspires me to continue to keep working hard so I can one day be as good as him or be better. There are a lot of guys in the league who are playing with guys that have done a lot of great things that have paved the way for guys like us. That we can kind of learn from so we can just keep doing what we’re doing. For example, LeBron, he’s doing a great job. My old teammate Russell [Westbrook] is doing a great job on and off the floor. It’s more than just basketball so it definitely inspires younger guys like myself when other guys give us permission to do something.
You averaged 23.1 points per game last season, were named to the 2018 All-Star team and also the NBA All-Defensive team. You showed your versatility on both ends of the court. So how did you become a productive scorer and also a great defender in the league?
I think the biggest thing is just a new environment. I was placed in a new role, they expect more of me so the biggest thing I had to do was relearn my game. I had to pay attention to my body, learn new spots on the floor, where I’m effective at and where I need to be effective at. I think those are the two biggest things. Trying to get to your spots as much as possible and consistently as possible.
During the 2017 offseason, you played on Team Africa in the NBA Africa Game. You represent your nationality on social media and are a proud Nigerian. How did it feel representing your country on a global level?
It felt good, last year was my first time in the motherland and going to South Africa, going on safaris and being able to take my twin sister with me was a great experience and something I’ll always remember and never forget.