That may be true, but you obviously catch a lot of heat for doing it. Do you pay attention to the blogs out there that take shots at you for rapping during the season?
Yeah, I saw a couple people were mad the other night when I put the mixtape out right after the game. A couple people were mad because we lost. But then I also read people writing, like, 'Wow.' They appreciate that I have this other side to me and they like to see me putting out new material.
But isn't it hard to avoid all of the negative press you get for rapping? I give you a lot of credit for sticking with it, but when you go online and see people saying negative things about you, what do you think?
I know a lot of people do it, but I can't really listen to all that. I don't know who these people are. [Laughs] It could be a little Asian girl posting as 'Tom.' It could be an Arabian dude from India posting as 'Gangster Dude.' So, why should I listen to what they have to say? I'm living hip-hop. Who's living it more than me? I am hip-hop. So I don't really let none of these people bother me. They can't tell me nothing.
It sounds like you do a good job of blocking your haters out. Like, you don't dwell on what they have to say too much.
No way. After everything I've overcome? I overcame the struggles that it took to get to the NBA. I overcame having to come home after that and having to worry about people asking me for thing. I overcame everything. So I dare someone to say that I'm not a rapper. I'll overcome that, too.
You got a lot of support of this project from some of your fellow rappers. Nas, Bun B, Gucci Mane, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire and a handful of other artists make guest appearances. Did you have to call in a lot of favors to get them involved? Did you know them prior to asking for verses? How did it all go down?
That was all me. That was hard. I put this whole mixtape together. Like, for instance, I know Birdman but that's not how I got the Gucci Mane and Birdman song, "Mouth Full of Gold," that's on the mixtape. I got that from Gucci. He actually used my name on one of his songs [Ed. Note: Artest gets a shout-out from Gucci on his single, "Gucci Time."]. So I reached out to him and told him that me and a lot of the Lakers mess with his music and he was open to giving me that song for the project. Everybody else that appears on the tape, I built relationships with over the years. Obviously, Nas is my man.
Was there anyone you reached out to that wasn't receptive to sending you a verse? Or, anyone that you wanted on the mixtape that you couldn't get?
I was going to get a verse from Prodigy from jail, but I didn't want to get him into any trouble for doing that. I wanted to get the jailhouse exclusive, but I ended up not doing it because I know he gets out soon and I didn't want him to get into any trouble for laying down a verse for me.
We started off talking about your "Champions" and the Lakers winning the title last year. But your squad has been struggling for a couple of weeks now. What do you think you guys need to do so that you can get to work on "Champions 2" in a couple months?
Actually, we already started working on the record!
Really? You must be pretty confident that you guys can turn things around after the All-Star break this weekend.
Yeah, "Champions 2," I'm already working on it. But to answer your question, it's very important for us to start playing more like a unit. The Lakers team is a family. And we have to start acting like it. We have to be like the Huxtables, man. That's what it's gonna take. We have to be more like the Huxtables during the second half of the season and that's what we're going to do. And once we do, I'll be able to give my fans the "Champions 2" song that they're looking for.