By now, you've probably heard Damian Lillard's first single—Soldier in the Game—that he released as Dame DOLLA on Soundcloud last week. Rapping over an instrumental of Future's F**k Up Some Commas, the Blazers star makes a strong case for the NBA's rap crown. (We're going to go ahead and ignore Mason Plumlee's tongue-in-cheek submission for that honor.)
If you haven't heard Dame DOLLA, this is required listening.
Lillard's musical talent didn't come out of nowhere. In 2013, Lillard started #4BarFriday, a popular weekly Instagram competition where fans, followers, and Lillard himself would record their best verses in 15 seconds or less. The competition and hashtag took off. Then, in February 2015, Lillard made a more serious case for his off-the-court talents. Appearing on SiriusXM's Sway in the Morning, he delivered this insane freestyle. (Be sure to stick around for Lillard saying "I tried to tell y'all" through a mile-wide grin.)
Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to ask Lillard why music is important to him.
"It expresses how you feel," he said. "A lot of these things that I’m telling you about right now it’s what’s locked up inside of people. I experienced a lot of stuff, growing up. And the way that I expressed that is writing rhymes. I could say the same about a lot of musicians, they express themselves and their upbringing and the things they’ve been through in their music."
In that spirit, here are five of our favorite Dame verses. (There's a lot more where these came from, so if you're not already following him on Instagram, go do that.)
5. Rose City
Not much to say here, except this is why fans love him.
4. Spoon Fed Dudes
Lillard's earlier videos show his growth as an artist—the beats are nonexistent, the delivery is less confident, and the lyrical constructions are simpler. But certain themes in his lyrics are constant: his tough upbringing in Oakland, his belief that success means hard work, and his reminders to himself to stay grounded.
Dame is clutch because he wants to be clutch.
2. Living by the book
Another frequently recurring theme: he takes his position as a role model very seriously.
Dame posted this as the Blazers were preparing to take on the Houston Rockets in the 2014 NBA playoffs—and a couple weeks before he hit his instantly-legendary, game-winning, buzzer-beating three to win the series. Which makes this one that much sweeter.