LEXINGTON— “Basketball’s an art, Dame’s a masterful portrait. Stats is important but his impact’s enormous.”
Those are just a couple bars from Devine Carama’s latest rap, a collaboration with the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers that came about after the team slid into the artist’s Instagram DMs in early February asking him to create a short four-bar rap and video hyping up star point guard Damian “Dame” Lillard ahead of the deadline for the league’s All-Star voting, not that he needed much help.
Jumping at the chance, Carama accepted the invitation and immediately contacted long-time collaborators Brandon Turner, a videographer at KET and the owner of Unsung Hero Media, and Jaysyn “JK-47” Wyche, studio engineer and producer, to help craft a video of the artist rapping his bars at Charles Young Park on the city’s east end. Within 48 hours Carama and Turner had the project filmed, edited and ready to go, even adding in a last minute clip of Lillard’s game-winning shot against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 30 to further enhance the push for the point guard’s All-Star bid.
“I wasn’t about to do just another cell phone video like I normally would for #4BarFriday,” said Carama. “I wanted to take this seriously and put together a high quality production … I guess we hit a clutch shot with time until our deadline winding down, just like Dame hitting a buzzer beater.
Since then, Lillard’s late-game heroics have only continued to mount. On Wednesday night he scored 43 points, including a go-ahead three-point play with 16.5 seconds left, to lead the Trail Blazers to their sixth consecutive win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The highlight reel performance proved that he’s not just a worthy NBA All-Star, but one of the likely favorites for league MVP as well. Now a six-time All-Star (although he narrowly missed out on the starting lineup this year following a tiebreaker with the Dallas Mavericks Luka Dončić), as of Thursday night Lillard sits at fourth in the NBA in scoring at 29.3 points per game, third in three-pointers made with 105 and tenth in assists per game with 7.4.
The All-Star collaboration came about through Lillard’s #4BarFriday weekly rap series on Instagram, first started in 2013 as a way to showcase and build up his own rap career, where he’s known as Dame D.O.L.L.A. The series now has over 62,000 followers and Lillard uses it to showcase other up-and-coming artists from around the country and world.
One of those frequently featured artists has been Carama, who has submitted 105 verses since his first contribution May 2017.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Lillard teamed up with Genius.com to host nine weekly rap cyphers broadcast live on Instagram pitting top members of the #4BarFriday community against one another. One of those select few was Carama, who came out victorious in two of the three cyphers he participated in, falling short in the other due to technical issues with his phone. He was the only two-time winner during the series’ limited run thus far that has been judged by hip-hop heavyweights like Benny The Butcher, Lil’ Cease, Common, Fabolous and Genius’ Vice President of Content Strategy, Rob Markman.
Since starting to engage with the #4BarFriday community Carama has seen his Instagram followers nearly double to just north of 7,200, including follows from the likes of Lillard, Lil’ Cease and Markman, among others., helping to give his music a platform like never before.
“To have people like Little Cease follow me on Instagram and have Fabolous, an artist I’ve been a fan of for years, quote one of my bars is incredibly surreal,” said Carama. “However, it’s opened up a lot of doors not just for my music but most importantly for my youth mentorship programming and other projects related to my business Believe in Forever Inc.”
Since the video was shared by the Trail Blazers’ official Instagram on Feb. 9 Carama says he’s received calls, emails and DM’s from youth mentors and teachers nationwide inquiring about mentoring and Black History Month programming. And the young people he works with have been full of excitement about seeing his rap about one of the NBA’s biggest stars getting shared around, with over 28,000 views.
“To be even more validated by the young people that I serve is what’s most rewarding out of all this as it creates more of an opportunity for me to impart my wisdom on them due to the momentum and clout gained through my rapping,” said Carama. “I’m not really in this to become a big star. The most gratifying part to me is being able to use this notoriety and funnel it back into my work in the community here.”