Until The Ribbon Breaks

Allow Us To Put Until The Ribbon Breaks On Your Radar

VIBE sat down with the UK musical trio to talk growing up closeted hip hop fans, their debut album 'A Lesson Unlearnt' and the different sound they're trying to provide the world.

Elliott Wall, Pete Lawrie-Winfield and James Gordon—the three men that make up the UK band Until The Ribbon Breaks—have lots of energy to go around. They’ve just finished their first ever Coachella set and are escaping the beaming Indio sun under the tents of the festival’s gorgeous, grassy VIP section. James, hidden by a mean pair of shades, coolly reclines in the couch we’re seated in, unbothered by the rays or by Pete and Elliott’s playful banter beside him.

“I’m going to say what Elliott said because it’s a compliment,” a distracted Pete says between fits of laughter. “I said to Elliott while you were asking James a question, ‘Have you ever noticed how full on James’ beard has got?’ Elliott said, ‘Yeah, because the other day I saw a photo of him without the beard and I thought dickhead.’” James just laughs at his bandmates-turned-brothers.

Elliott Wall, Pete Lawrie-Winfield and James Gordon—the three men that make up the UK band Until The Ribbon Breaks—have lots of energy to go around. They’ve just finished their first ever Coachella set and are escaping the beaming Indio sun under the tents of the festival’s gorgeous, grassy VIP section. James, hidden by a mean pair of shades, coolly reclines in the couch we’re seated in, unbothered by the rays or by Pete and Elliott’s playful banter beside him.

“I’m going to say what Elliott said because it’s a compliment,” a distracted Pete says between fits of laughter. “I said to Elliott while you were asking James a question, ‘Have you ever noticed how full on James’ beard has got?’ Elliott said, ‘Yeah, because the other day I saw a photo of him without the beard and I thought, dickhead.’” James just laughs at his bandmates-turned-brothers.

Until The Ribbon Breaks first started as Pete’s musical pet project before evolving into multitalented trio—Pete, Elliott and James all handle vocals, brass, keys, guitar, drums, programming and percussion between them—with a bright future in the sphere of electronic music.

In addition to the release of their debut album A Lesson Unlearnt back in January, UTRB have toured with Lorde and Phantogram as well as collaborated with hip hop notables The Pharcyde and Run The Jewels. And things will only go up from there.

After basking in the relief of their first Coachella performance, the trio sat down with VIBE for a candid conversation about the making of their debut album, being closeted hip hop fans back home and changing the way people listen to electronic music. —Stacy-Ann Ellis

 

VIBE: For the people that don’t know, where did you get the name of your group?
Pete: Until The Ribbon Breaks comes from the idea that our music jumps around from genre to genre. When you were a kid, you would make a cassette mixtape for you, yourself or for a girl or your friends and it was just the music that you were a fan of. It didn’t matter what the different genres were; you would play it until the ribbon broke.

Let’s talk about the new song “Expensive Taste” that you have with The Pharcyde. How did that collaboration come together?
P: I have been a fan of The Pharcyde since I was 16 years old. When I first learned to DJ, one of my favorite songs to play at house parties or whatever was “Runnin” by The Pharcyde. And I still love that song to this day. Anywhere you drop that song people still love it. But the opportunity came up because the TV station E! wanted a spoke song for an ad they were making. And the song that we were making seemed like the perfect match. I mean, any chance that we can get to have a hero of ours featured on a song is massive opportunity. Then Elliott had an idea for a song, and Elliott doesn’t normally do much writing but he just had this epiphany.
Elliott: It was an epiphany. I heard this melody that I felt like we had to do something with. Then I took it to James and he came up with some brilliant words. Not as good as Pete’s, but really good.
P: And The Pharcyde was a lot of fun in the studio. They were fairly high... on life. I could add "on life" if you need to.

So, given the song title, would you consider yourselves men of expensive taste?
P: That's a "no" for me.
E: No way.
James: No.

Talk us about your new album, A Lesson Unlearnt. What was your intention behind it and how did it come together conceptually?
P: James came up with the name of the album, so I’m just going to pass this to him.
J: I don’t know if that’s strictly true. The whole point of a A Lesson Unlearnt is if you look at the chronology of all the material of it, some of it we did a couple of years ago and then some of it we finished late last year. So it’s like a long time condensed into one record. But there is a lot of learning that happened through that and I think the whole title and the point of that is that... the problem with electronic music is that it’s really easy to produce things and just make the same stuff all the time. What we try to do in the studio is change things up all the time, like switching around instruments. Set certain rules in the studio like, ‘you’re not going to use that thing on more than just one track.’ Just to try to mix it up and create a much more varied record, really. Because we all like a lot of different types of music—if you combined all of our tastes together it would be a really weird type of mix. That’s kind of what the whole point is; to not get caught in any habits, basically.

When did you guys know when the album was absolutely done?
J: There was a point in time, I guess about six months ago, where we had just finished some new stuff that we'd made on the road a bit in New York and a bit in L.A. and it just felt that was kind of enough now. Let’s try and book end there and just get that out into the world.

And you guys have also worked with Run the Jewels. Talk to us about your working relationship with them, how you met and what projects we can expect from the two groups.
P: Me and Elliott come from a tiny little fishing town in Wales called Penarth, which has got the population of like 17.
E: He always says in interviews "a fishing town"; Penarth is not a fishing town. There is no fishing boats, no. Where are the fishing boats ?
P: Penarth means, translated in Welsh, "a bear’s head." Penarth juts out on the coast and looks like a bear’s head... Sorry, that’s very boring for you. (laughs) Hip hop is not a thing in Penarth that you would normally be into. It’s kind of a strange thing to be into. I had to listen to it on my headphones will I was skateboarding. And one of the first rappers I got into was El-P when I was 16 years old. Years later when I was making hip hop and I moved to New York, I was working with rapper Mr. MFN eXquire and he asked me who my favorite rappers were. I said El-P and he said "No shit, I know El-P." I was like oh my god like a fanboy. "Do you think you can send him some of my music." And he was like, "Yeah, for sure, I’ll send it to him now." I didn’t hear anything and like a month later I got an email from El-P saying, "I checked out your track I loved it." That was enough for me. I could have quit that day. But then he was like, "We’re making a thing called Run The Jewels, would you like a feature on our record." So I sung on that first record and then when time came to make our record I just asked if they would return the favor, I suppose. And I love Run the Jewels— if there is one band I’m seeing in Coachella this weekend it's Run the Jewels.

If there is one takeaway that you want people that don’t know you to know about you and why they should listen to you, what would it be?
J: Anyone who is listening or reading, I think the thing about our music is that the core of the whole thing is imagery. A lot of people have got a lot of stuff going on in their lives and it’s nice sometimes just to listen to something that you get into. Because, let’s be honest, a lot of the stuff you hear on the radio, a lot of the buzzy records that come out, they’re not really things that take you away that far or kind of transcend life too much. The thing that our stuff will always do and hopefully just make you feel like you can get the fuck out permanent.

Photo Credit: Stacy-Ann Ellis

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Micheal Lavine

Kash Doll's Confident Spirit Earned Her The Last Laugh In 2019

It’s rightfully challenging for Kash Doll to align a track from Stacked to her everyday mood. Much like her layered debut album, Arkeisha Knight is full of admiring qualities and feelings. Charming yet vulnerable, aggressive but reserved, the rapper also possesses one thing many crave—confidence.

Her high morale has been one of the most consistent traits, earning fans from all over the boss lady's spectrum like Rihanna and Serena Williams as well as co-signs from the top rappers in the game (Drake and Big Sean to name a few). But these things aren’t aligned to her spirited aura. “It's hard to explain because it's a mix of the dance world and the confidence my mother put in me,” Kash tells VIBE. “When I was growing up I started to believe in my greatness and say, 'I am that I am that.' I'll tell you one thing, can't nobody tell me sh*t.”

Pulling that energy from within is something black women do so well. A 2017 Harris Poll arranged by Glamour and L’Oréal Paris discovered black women, in fact, are more confident than their white and Latinx counterparts. The study, comprised of 2,000 women across America, revealed black women were more likely to describe themselves as beautiful and successful. But we don’t need stats to prove what we already know.

As black women continue to break barriers, we’re often met with pushback—especially in the music industry. Women who happen to be rappers have been vocal about this throughout the genre’s existence. Think Queen Latifah’s glorious “U.N.I.T.Y.” track. Consider how people questioned the pens of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown. Take a listen to Nicki Minaj’s testimony from her My Time documentary. Even rewind the very awkward times industry heads glossed over Cardi B. With more women in rap dominating the charts and the culture, artists like Rico Nasty, Doja Cat, Rapsody and Kash Doll are bringing their own bold cocky flavor to the table.

“When you love yourself, you don't try to hide it,” Kash says. “You're either going to take me as I am or have nothing but either way, I'm going to be me. People that like me, I f**k with you and if you don't, well f**k you. I ain't gotta talk to you and you don't have to listen to my music. We don't have to fake it, for real.”

It explains a lot about Kash Doll’s identity on and off wax. Her year has been a big one thanks notable appearances at Rolling Loud’s first New York turn out, scoring crossover status with collaborations with Iggy Azalea and the star-studded Charlie’s Angels Soundtrack executively produced by Ariana Grande. Through all of this, her biggest win is the gift of loyalty received from her fans, the Kash Bratz.

“I never knew what it meant when artists said they would be nothing without their fans but I get it,” she says in between laughs. “Them Kash Bratz, they keep me on my toes. They keep me going since they only want content.” Their wishes were granted with Stacked. Released late fall, the 17-track album provides effortless bad bi**h anthems like “Paid B***hes,” reworked gems (“Cheap S**t” from Keisha vs. Kash Doll is a pleasant surprise) and strong collabs with the hottest women in R&B like Summer Walker (“No Lames”) and Teyana Taylor (“Feel Something”).

The album’s intro “KD Diary” provides a peek into the pages of Kash Doll’s intriguing life and the battles she’s faced in between. Her father’s passing at a young age makes her cherish love at a special level while legal drama with her former label taught her a lesson in pushing through the most severe blows. Now signed to Republic Records, Kash officially broke free of her previous label which kept her in a legal battle for almost two years. After wrapping up "that paperwork" she scored a hit with her major-label debut, "Ice Me Out" in 2018. It was a perfect segway from her very viral track "For Everbody" which showcased her strong storytelling skills as she imagined the conversation between Belly character Keisha and Tommy's young sidechick. As she notes on "KD Diary," touring without her music on streaming services forced her to grind at an old school level in a new school digital world.

“I just wanted to give a heartfelt moment,” she says. During her ascension to the top, her lyrical chops dished out standout tracks, but Kash wants people to get a glimpse of the woman behind that Detroit grit. “You’ve heard all these songs but do you know me? Have you ever had a chance to get an understanding of who I am? So that's what my inspiration behind it was,” she explains. “The intro was called 'KD Diary' because it really is like one. It's like I'm spilling all my beans.”

A hometown hero through and through, the rapper has been steadfast in making sure her 2019 was everyone’s golden year. On the fashion front, she rocked brands from local designers like Jennifer Walker’s Furluxx fur coats. She also surprised mothers on Detroit's east side at the 7th Annual Breastfeeding Community Baby Shower, has continued her high school prom giveaways and supplied families with free turkeys during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Her genuine nature is also extended to peers in the game as she continuously shows love to Megan Thee Stallion, Fabolous and “Crazy” collaborator Lou Got Cash. To Kash, the only thing that matters is living life to the fullest and staying clear of any drama. It’s why she remains focused on her grind and cementing her place in the game. Settling previous spats with peers Lil Kim and Cardi B has been a part of that as well as celebrating the gift of life with her day ones.

“It's amazing because it's what I always wanted,” she says of her success. “I don't want anyone to ever put me in a box. I never wanted people to say, ‘She's this kind of artist.’ It just makes me feel like this is what I was destined to do, and it's so amazing, so amazing."

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Courtesy of adidas

The 6 Degrees of Damian Lillard

It was the shot and meme that was heard around the world. Earlier this year, Portland Trailblazers' star point guard Damian Lillard hit a series-clinching jumper from beyond the arc as time expired, advancing to the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. The shot, launched over former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George's outstretched hands was a big deal to seemingly everyone else on the planet, but for Lillard, it was simply business as usual. “We’re a really resilient team,” Lillard told a reporter in a post-game interview. “We knew it was ups and downs throughout the series, we just had to keep our heads right, stay focused, stay together. We stayed together and it came down to one play and we executed really well and we were able to get it done.”

This wasn't the first time he had shattered a championship contender's dreams and delivered defeat as a cold dish served. In May 2014, Lillard buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the ‘Blazers a 99-98 win over the Houston Rockets, clinching a 4-2 win in the first round of that season's NBA Playoffs, Portland's first in fourteen years. When asked about his ability to keep his composure during these pressure-packed moments, Lillard credits his big-picture outlook with keeping him poised. "It's usually not a whole lot going through my head," he says. "I think what allows me to be confident and just keep my cool in those situations is knowing that I put the time in to give myself a chance to be successful and to end these games and staying in shape physically and just having my mind in the right place. And also understanding that I can shoulder the success and the failure of it. Whichever one happens on that night, I know I can handle both. So I go into those situations not really concerned with the outcome."

Selected by the Trailblazers in 2012 with the sixth overall draft pick, Portland, Oregon would be a culture shock for the average kid bred in the mean streets of East Oakland, California. But for Lillard, his collegiate tenure at Weber State in Utah, where he competed in Portland on several occasions, afforded him some familiarity with the city. "I always liked Portland," he shares. "Because when I was in college, at Weber, we'd play Portland State every year. So when you get a chance to come to a real city like Portland where it's like an actual downtown and stores you can go to and kind of move around, you just have a different appreciation of it when you're playing all of these different small towns. I already kind of liked the city to begin with. Now I get to explore more. My best friend was already going to college here when I got drafted so I've always liked it even before I got here. When I got here and started to meet people and learn the city, move around and just being a resident here, I've only grown to like it more. It's become more of a home to me over the years."

Many words have been used to describe Lillard's play on the court, but one of the most appropriate is "ruthless," which is a major theme of the concept behind the DAME 6, his sixth signature shoe with adidas. Released November 29, the DAME 6 is another reflection of Lillard's ties to the city. "It's a great feeling especially for me because I live in Portland," he says. "And [with] adidas being in Portland, we're able to have a strong partnership. Because of the communication and us being able to get in front of each other, it's not hard to figure things; it's always one drive. I can get to them or they can get to me and I think it makes things easier. If it's a shoe I need to see or some type of hoodie or anything, socks, whatever, they can get it in front of me right away, it's not a drawn-out process."

According to Rashad Williams, adidas Basketball Senior Director of Footwear, the brand set its sights on making Lillard one of the pillars of the three stripes not long after taking the league by storm during his Rookie of the Year campaign. "I'm from the west coast so I knew where Weber State was," Williams recalls. "And then him being a lottery pick, I think he got on everyone's radar. And Dame played in adidas growing up, all the way through college so we signed him on to the family. Then I think it was by his second or third year, we were like, 'Wow.' Not only did the Trailblazers realize they had something special, adidas realized they had something special as well."

When it comes to the shoe’s creation, Williams credits Lillard with streamlining the designing process with his own ideas and input. "I think that's the big thing with Dame, he constantly challenges us on every shoe. If something's on his mind, he'll text you or he might pull up to the office, but that's how we grow and it's real." Aside from being relentless within the confines of the game, a term that embodies who Damian is as a person is "duality." He can go from being calm and collected in the midst of family and friends to transforming into a fiery floor general. And it’s artistically reflected in the DAME 6, which has many different dimensions, layers and moving parts that speak to Lillard's multifaceted lifestyle.

"I think the best way that it mirrors me is just the duality, having both sides of the shoe looking different," the All-NBA point guard explains. "I think as a player on the court, I definitely have a mean streak. That's one side of me you won't always see, but then my demeanor and my face is completely calm. Right after the game, I'm playing with my son, during the game I'm completely different so I think that's the way that it connects. Just the duality: who I am on the court and off the court, being a rapper, being a basketball player...I just think there are so many sides to who I am.”

As a long-time rap fan and aficionado, Lillard began to share his talents on Instagram with his #4BarFriday posts. Lillard, who raps under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A. (the acronym standing for "Different on Levels Lord Allowed") upped the ante from there. In 2016, he released his debut album, The Letter O, and launched his record label, Front Page Music. Featuring appearances from Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Jamie Foxx, Marsha Ambrosius and Front Page Music's flagship signees Brookfield Duece and Danny from Sobrante, The Letter O peaked at No. 62 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart, a respectable debut for any new artist, let alone one tasked with carrying an NBA franchise on his back. After returning with a sophomore album, Confirmed, the following year, Lillard's reputation as a lyricist began to precede him with a number of rap artists and critics viewing him as the most talented rhymer currently in the NBA, rather than an athlete moonlighting as a gimmick.

“I think one of the things people recognize is that I'm a real student of hip-hop. I know the history of hip-hop and I respect the history of hip-hop. The reason I rap is ‘cause of some of the best people who have rapped. I'm a big, big 2Pac fan, big Nas fan. Big Andre 3000 fan, Juvenile, all of these guys. Wayne, Common...like I'm a fan of that type of music. Just creating a feeling and people being able to connect with what you're saying and because I'm a fan of that, that's the kind of rap I like to create. I like to put words together to give people a feeling and allow them to be able to connect with what I'm saying. And I think a mix of all of those things, being authentic with my music and genuine with my music, I think people can hear it and they can respect it. They can connect with it and I think they respect it more when they're like, 'This dude is a basketball player.' There are people who do this as their primary career who don't know the history of the game that they're playing. And they don't respect the history of the game that they're playing in. I think a mix of those things has allowed people to respect me doing it.”

Dame's quest to be not only the best rapping athlete but the greatest rap artist of all-time has not come without its share of challengers. The biggest contender for the crown is Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley, a former No. 2 overall pick whose debut mixtape, Don’t Blink, dropped on the night of the 2018 NBA Draft. During an appearance on ESPN’s First Take, analyst Max Kellerman asked Bagley who would be the victor in a rap battle between the two, to which he responded by picking himself as the superior rhymer. As the competitor that he is, Lillard accepted Bagley's challenge, prompting the former Duke star to throw down the gauntlet with "No Debate," a direct shot at Dame D.O.L.L.A. Not one to be outgunned, D.O.L.L.A. fired back quickly with a pair of tracks, "Bye Bye" and "MARVINNNNNN???." Bagley retorted with "Checkmate," which would be the final salvo in the pair's brief yet entertaining back-and-forth.

While a number of NBA players have released material, two had never engaged in lyrical warfare, making Lillard and Bagley's battle a historic one. "That was the reason I did it," Lillard says. "At first, I was like, 'If somebody ever says something to me with some music, I'm just gonna say nothing at all' 'cause it ain't that important for me. I rap for me, I'm just pushing my own music. I ain't in competition with no athletes. He mentioned my name once before and then it was on TV and it was like a thing. I started to prepare myself for it to happen for that reason, 'cause it hadn't been done before. So to be a part of the first, it was enticing. We did it and then after that, I was like, 'I'm not gonna do it.' Unbeknownst to Lillard, his days of sparring were far from over, as one of his own comments would land him in hot water with none other than retired NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, who didn't take too kindly to a reference Lillard made during an appearance on The Joe Budden Podcast.

Lillard's remark caught the attention of Shaq, who unleashed his vengeance against Dame on "The Originator," which saw the veteran comparing D.O.L.L.A.'s net worth and lack of championship hardware with his own. Undeterred, Lillard tossed out a pair of diss tracks, “Reign Reign Go Away" and its follow-up, “I Rest My Case.” While a large chunk of the public deemed Dame D.O.L.L.A. the victor in their dust-up, Lillard makes it clear this will likely be the last time he lyrically goes head-to-head with a fellow athlete. "Again, that was it," he reiterates. “The fact that it was Shaq, and that's like a big stage for my rap career. Having such a huge figure that I'm engaging with, I was like 'That's cool.' But that's probably it for my battle rap career."

With the release of his third studio album, Big D.O.L.L.A. — which has been billed as his most impressive project to date — Lillard plans to keep his buzz afloat this NBA season. "I mean, I've only recorded during the season maybe once or twice my whole career,” he shares. “Typically I just rap in the summer and I go away during the season, but this is the first time I did a lot of stuff in advance. I recorded a lot of extra music and I partnered with a lot of different people so that my music can continue to have legs and keep moving." He continues, “I got some stuff coming up, for sure. During the NBA season, I got some stuff coming, and something else that I can't mention right now, but y'all gonna see. But next summer, hopefully, I'll have another project ready.”

Lillard looks to make up for 2018's loss in the Conference Finals and shepherd the Trailblazers toward an NBA championship. However, with squads like the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Utah Jazz all retooling, the western conference is as daunting as it's ever been. "I knew it was gonna be a tough season just because of every team getting better," he says. "And us coming into the season with a completely new roster, a lot of our guys that we had for the last three to four years are on new teams now. And we brought in a new group of guys, so it's like not only did everyone get better, but we're in a process where we're trying to figure each other out. We're trying to learn each other, we're still trying to put plays in and get our chemistry together and it's just gonna be a process so we're trying to find our way in an already tough western conference. I know it's gonna be tough, I know it's gonna be a battle, but we just gotta keep our head in it for the full eighty-two [games]."

And he intends to play in every single regular-season game, an anomaly of today's NBA superstars in the age of load management. Birthed by Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs and popularized by Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, the load management theory has been pegged as a key component in winning NBA championships, with last year's Raptors squad being the latest test case. Just don't expect Damian Lillard to be sitting any games out voluntarily anytime soon. "I mean, I think LeBron said it best: ‘If I'm healthy, I'm playing,’" he says, shrugging off any notion of him logging DNPs. "I think as somebody that just loves the game and I've worked hard my life to be able to play in an NBA game, I'ma have a whole post-game career to do load management or whatever. And I also think everyone doesn't have that luxury,” he adds. “I think that's part of the reason why so many top players are teaming up and trying to go to the team that's the strongest. Because it kind of affords you that opportunity more often than not where you can say, 'Okay, I'm not feeling great. I'ma sit this one out and worry about me because we have a team that's good enough to go out there and win without me.' But me personally, I love to play the game so I'm gonna always choose to play, but I also wouldn't wanna put my teammates in that position where I put myself above the team. We all can go out there and play, I always put myself on the same level as my teammates."

Lillard's game-winning shot may have been heard around the world, immortalized in memes and gifs, cementing him as one of the most clutch performers in the game, but the story didn't end there. Upsetting the Denver Nuggets in seven games in the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, Lillard, CJ McCollum and company were stymied by the Kevin Durant-less, Steph Curry-led Golden State Warriors, who swept the Trailblazers in four games, ending Portland's most successful season in nearly two decades. And with starting center Jusuf Nurkic not expected to return to the lineup anytime soon, not to mention losing Moe Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner, Seth Curry and other key players from last year's roster, Portland is looking to integrate various moving parts on the fly. Currently sitting at 9th in the Western Conference with a 9-13 record as of press time and depleted by injuries, the Trailblazers haven't gotten off to as hot of a start as expected, but with an eighty-two game season and one of the NBA's top floor generals at the wheel, counting Portland out of contention wouldn't be the safest bet.

And if Portland's recent acquisition of free agent Carmelo Anthony—who was recently named Western Conference Player of the Week (from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1)—out of basketball exile can give a jolt to the Trailblazers’ offense, a return to form is certainly not out of the question. "I'm always optimistic about every team that I'm on so I think we always have a chance,” says Lillard, whose streak of double-digit scoring games was broken the night before this sit-down in a home loss to the Raptors. "Last season, we got to the Western Conference Finals and I think that experience of playing that deep into the season was our first time and you felt it. We were up against a championship-caliber team, an experienced team and that's where we lost it; We had double-digit leads in every game, it's just that championship mentality and that championship experience kind of outdid us. But I think it's all about that process for us to just continue to move forward and try to get better so that we can get back to that position and hopefully the outcome is different."

Back to that loss at the hands of the Raptors. Afterward, as Moda Center employees, team personnel, and security hold court by the loading dock, family and friends of Blazers players await to console them after a tough defeat. Portland shooting guard CJ McCollum emerges from the press conference first, with Lillard trailing. McCollum greets Lillard’s two-year-old son, Damian Lillard, Jr., who is being held by a member of Lillard’s entourage while the man of the hour holds court with a few close pals. Clad in street clothes and looking unlike a world-class athlete that just finished fielding questions from a room of reporters about what went wrong and what they could've done differently, Lillard shadow-boxes with his son, a moment that brings to mind a remark he shared about how he keeps up with all of the moving parts of his life while living under the constant flicker of the lights.

"It's one thing to be a professional athlete and have to deal with the era that we play in, where people have so much more access to you on social media," Lillard candidly shares. "Instagram, Twitter, all these ways to kind of just poke at you, positive and negative. Like you saw, we come back there through the tunnel, the loading dock and it's a bunch of people and you're faced with what your job is all the time. People on TV are commenting on everything you do so it adds stress and it adds pressure. It just makes it harder to play in this era. But when you’ve got that family support and your own kid and that real love, that unconditional love around you, it just keeps everything in perspective and it makes it easier to deal with what your job is. It makes it easier to step out of that, even in the arena that I just lost the game in. I'm still able to step out of what my reality is."

As pleasantries turn into farewells, Lillard picks up Damian Jr. and the pair fade into the Portland night. With the Trailblazer’s set to embark on a six-game road-trip, Dame’s stay in the city will be short, but at that very moment, his face says it all: there’s no place like home.

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Jerritt Clark

Lil Mosey Talks ‘Certified Hitmaker’: ‘I Want The Top Spot’

Most kids' milestones leading up to their late teenage years include gaining their parents’ trust to stay home alone, talking to their crush at the school dance, and avoiding that big, red pimple in the middle of their forehead on picture day. But by the time Lil Mosey turned 18, he had already earned his own music festival, a co-sign from Ice Cube and a spot on the Billboard charts.

 After releasing a handful of songs on his Soundcloud page, the 17-year-old rapper saw his career skyrocket in 2017 after his song "Pull Up" became a viral hit and garnered millions of streams on Soundcloud and YouTube. The streaming numbers grew considerably after a pair of successful follow-up singles ("Boof Pack," "Noticed") and before he knew it, Lil Mosey became an online sensation.

The buzz that surrounded these singles trickled into the following year as the Seattle native signed a deal with Interscope Records and earned a spot on Juice WRLD's WRLD Domination Tour. His debut studio album, Northsbest, debuted at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was met with a positive reception from fans and outlets like HotNewHipHop and XXL. To cap it all off, the baby-faced rapper landed a spot on XXL's coveted Freshmen Class this past June. 

Lil Mosey entered a new phase in his career with his latest album Certified Hitmaker. It's a bold title but one that fits him. The 14-track album is filled with melodic trap bangers like "Rockstars" and "Live This Wild" with features from Gunna, Trippie Redd, AJ Tracey, and Chris Brown.

For the most part, Certified Hitmaker follows the same formula as its predecessor in which the baby-faced star talks about living life and having fun---the things a 17-year-old normally does. "This is my style and how I'm living. I'm at the point now that I can do whatever I want with music," Lil Mosey tells VIBE. "But I'm still trying to show off my style and show off my way of music. I'm still trying to put that out there."

VIBE caught up with Lil Mosey to speak more on Certified Hitmaker, how recording with Chris Brown inspired him, staying level-headed in the music industry at such a young age, bringing a festival to his hometown of Seattle, which NBA player he compares his career to, and more. 

It’s been a year since you’ve dropped out of school to make rap a profession. What has your first year in the music industry been like so far?

I think it’s been a big year. I learned a lot and I became an adult. I went out on my own and lived real life experiences. I learned a lot when I first blew up when I was 16 and since then the year got bigger. I learned a lot of things like the business side and where the money goes and everything. 

You’ve been hitting the festival circuit crazy lately. How do you manage with the grueling tour schedules at such a young age? 

I just know I have to do it. To me it’s fun actually so I just have fun with it and just try to show off. Every show matters and all my fans are going to be there. I have to be there for them. They came out for me.  

When did you know things were really popping off? 

Before “Pull Up” I started blowing up off Soundcloud and that’s when I really started taking it seriously. After “Pull Up” I moved out to LA and once I did that I knew to keep my foot forward and keep going. I never stopped and it took me to where I’m at now.  

What do you miss about the regular life of a teenager?

Before I blew up I was still living how I live now. I don’t feel like too much has changed, I mean yeah there’s been a lot of changes like how I go about stuff. But it’s been fine. I like doing what I do as an adult.  

You’re following in huge footsteps like Sir Mix-A-Lot and Macklemore. How does it feel to be the next big thing out of Seattle? 

It feels good. There aren’t a lot of people from Washington that go crazy so like just to put on for the whole state feels good. Not just Seattle but all the cities and towns that are near there. It feels good to be the one to do that for them. 

You really are putting on for your city. You brought the Northsbest Fest to it. What’s it feel like doing that for your hometown? 

It’s lit. I didn’t grow up off any festivals in Seattle so I’m just trying to bring some fun and something they’ve never had before. 

Are there plans to make it a big thing on the level of like the Astroworld Festival or Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival?

I’m trying to make this as big as possible. Sooner or later, hopefully, it’s going to be the biggest thing Seattle has ever seen. I basically already had a festival on my tour. We were already lit and had multiple heads performing with me. We wanted to add like five more people and we were lit. I was just trying to bring something special to Seattle. I really want the next one to be bigger than the last. This next one is going to be a lot bigger for sure. Hopefully we can move to an outdoor venue and really go crazy. Either an amphitheater or something big like the WAMU Theater.  

You’ve gotten crazy numbers on YouTube, earned a spot on XXL’s Freshmen Class list, been on an international tour and you’ve hit the Billboard charts. What else are you aiming for? 

I want the top spot. I want to be number one. I need my whole album to go platinum and I need some more plaques too. I’m really trying to go crazy.

How do you keep yourself level-headed after getting wins like these? 

I just think at the end of the day that this isn’t all that’s in store for me. If this shit doesn’t go the way I want it to go I’m obviously going to push my hardest to make it work. But there’s a lot of other stuff I have to do besides just music. I want to open businesses, invest in different things, and put more time into modeling and acting. I keep in mind that this isn’t the only thing that I do. I can do a lot more stuff. It doesn’t matter as much as some people might think it matters to me but it matters for sure.

What’s a day like in the studio for you? 

I just go through my day and when I feel like hitting the studio I go. I’ll start freestyling and thinking about what I can make and stuff. I just play through beats I’m fucking with and start freestyling over them. I don’t force myself either I try to have fun. If I go crazy then I go crazy. Some nights I’ll make about five songs in one night.  

You stuck to the same formula for Certified Hitmaker, why is that?

I feel like I created my own sound and style. I'm using this sound to show people that this is the wave. I feel like I'm definitely a melodic artist. I try to use a lot of rap elements but my main thing is melodies. I feel like what really brings them in is the melody of the song. They don't even need to know what I'm saying it'll just be replaying in their head multiple times. 

You went from flipping “You” on Northsbest to having the “G-Walk” record with Chris Brown on Certified Hitmaker. What was that like having that experience with him?

It was fire. With Chris, I pulled up to his crib and it was a straight-up vibe. I walked around his crib and he had girls making food and stuff [laughs], it was some real rockstar superstar shit. It's cool seeing all these artists I've been around before and shit. It's inspirational. He started playing the song over and over for 10 minutes and then he started freestyling that bitch. I was looking at him like this nigga is crazy. Definitely seeing other artists do that and seeing that there are other ways to record besides like taking your time and always trying your hardest, you can also just feel it and go and have fun.

I notice the album has an outer space vibe from the album cover to the spacey production. At the end of the album you can hear a voice say “Mosey you have landed in the land of make believe.” Is there a story you’re telling here?

Yea all my projects connect. That's for the next chapter though, The Land of Make-Believe.

Is that the title of your next project?

Yeah. We're going to have some shit on the way for that. It's going to be crazier and more vibes.

There have been people talking about an alleged beef between you and Lil Tecca. Were you talking about him in that Instagram freestyle you dropped? And if there isn’t any beef would you collab on a record with him?

Nah. I wasn't even thinking about Tecca on that shit. I'm not going to keep talking about it. I said what I said. He's his own person and I don't know anything about the way he creates his music. As far as collaborating I'm not sure, probably I don't know.  

Looking at your live performances your fans go crazy for you.You’re giving out three free shows in the cities of Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle. What’s the story behind that? 

It's basically showing off the album and giving the kids the opportunity to see me live and watch a good ass show. I'm doing it off the love for them supporting me the way they do. I'm going to give back to them what they're giving me. I love going crazy with them. When I see them running towards the stage when my set starts and shit at festivals, that shit be lit. That shit be turning me up. When I see them go crazy it makes me go crazy for sure.

I know you were big on basketball growing up so who would be your NBA comparison? 

I feel like Lebron James, man. I feel like the king right now. I feel like LeBron in his prime. I feel like I put in too much work over everyone else. 

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