The recording artists, alongside WNBA star Liz Cambage, encouraged student-athletes to chase their musical dreams at adidas Legacy’s “World’s Best Career Day.”
Last weekend, stars from all over the country flew into a frigid Chicago for the 69th annual NBA All-Star Weekend, where they celebrated their accomplishments, promoted their projects, and rubbed elbows with other industry leaders.
The NBA All-Star Weekend often serves as a fun spectacle with slam dunk competitions, brand-sponsored parties, and big music showcases. But on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 15), adidas gathered professional athletes, media personalities, musicians, filmmakers, and other creatives to participate in a more impactful endeavor – making connections with the youth and giving them the exposure and resources to chase their dreams.
adidas hosted 240 student-athletes from eight Chicago public high schools at its “World’s Best Career Day” event in downtown Chicago during the highly-anticipated weekend. The event gave the kids an opportunity to get some hands-on learning experience using professional equipment and face-to-face time with celebrities, including Jonah Hill, James Harden, Candace Parker, and others.
Rappers Pusha T, Rapsody, and WNBA star Liz Cambage ran the “Sound Lab,” which served as the music portion of the seven interactive workshops during the career day. The “Sound Lab” consisted of professional recording equipment, including a vocal booth, turntables, mixing consoles, and drum machines. After a brief panel discussion, the students broke up into three groups, where they could work more closely with one of the stars.
“A lot of people don’t have these opportunities, I didn’t have these opportunities,” Pusha T told VIBE after the workshop. “People weren’t really pushing you to go toward your dreams if they were in the music business. To see all of this put together like such, to have makeshift recording studios, engineers, people of quality, who can really explain the game to you. To me, it just sort of reinforces the idea of pushing kids toward their dreams and goals. I think that’s what it’s about.”
Pusha’s workshop mostly focused on the technical aspect of working in a studio and emphasized the importance of the vocalist and recording engineer relationship. He referred to engineers as “the cornerstone of making music” and explained that while it’s an overlooked job in the music business, it’s an important and lucrative one.
After he spoke with a group of about 13 students, a couple of them went into the vocal booth to spit a verse. The G.O.O.D. Music President gave them tips on recording vocals and explained that having a trusted engineer is crucial.
“When the kids did get in the booth, sometimes there’s a bit of anxiety and feeling like, ‘oh man I gotta rush and hurry up,’” Pusha said. “The engineer is the reason you don’t have to rush and hurry up. You can take your time. You can do four bars at a time, get it perfect. And get another four bars, put it all together, and make it sound seamless. You know just being new to the recording structure, I was trying to share those tips with them.”
Rapsody also shared how she hopes the kids in attendance will learn to “think outside of the box” after the career day event. She said the “Sound Lab” workshop will show them there are many different avenues to pursuing a career in music.
“There are so many ways to inject yourself into the music business, outside of just being an emcee, or just being a producer,” Rapsody told VIBE. “Just opening their minds creatively and interacting with them one on one. It’s always dope to look at people who are doing things that are successful and be able to reach them and talk to them because it gives you an aspiration.”
During her section of the workshop, she and her producers, Khrysis and Eric G, showed the young athletes how to use drum machines and samplers while using her song “Aaliyah,” from her 2019 album Eve, as a reference of how to chop up samples.
“Exposure is the biggest thing for kids,” Rapsody said. “Once you expose them to something, it’s endless, like their mind goes. But if you don’t expose them to it, it’s sometimes* they think that it’s not for them and they put themselves in a fishbowl. So it’s dope to be able to have these kids touch machines and talk to myself.”
After the workshop, Rapsody was approached by a few of the student-athletes, including a young, teenage girl who sang for her.
“I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, and for music and creativity, all I really had was TV. I watched videos,” she said. “If I had something like this, I would’ve started following my heart, my passion a lot sooner. Just to have the knowledge, for somebody to teach, to show me that it is available to me. Whatever I want to do is available to me, that I can do it.”
Cambage, who is a house DJ in addition to playing for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, spoke to the teens about being an athlete who also has a passion for music and other creative outlets.
The three-time All-Star center spoke to them about her love of house music and referenced Canadian DJ/producer KAYTRANADA as one of her favorite current artists because he often takes “old ‘90s hip-hop and (puts) a house beat with it.” During her interactive workshop, she showed them different mixing and beatmatching techniques.
“You don’t know how talented someone can be at something until they try it,” said Cambage, who won a 2012 bronze medal as a member of the Australian women’s basketball team. “We could have the next Mozart in the building today, and I think that’s the really exciting thing. Kids are putting themselves out there, being like, ‘yeah I really am interested in this, and I do want to learn about it.’ And adidas is giving them that platform to go chase another dream.”
Since all of the students that attended the career day event are basketball players, Cambage told VIBE she wanted to show them that they can “break that mold of just being an athlete.”
“We do it all, it doesn’t have to be just one thing,” she said. “There are so many things I love and things that inspire me… So I think it’s really important that we’re not just one thing, we can keep learning, we can keep evolving, we can keep finding things that inspire us.”
Fellow WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike, who moonlights as full-time basketball analyst at ESPN, also emphasized to the kids at her workshop they can be a successful athlete with other interests. Ogwumike worked on the broadcasting workshop, alongside Tracy McGrady, Candace Parker, and Maria Taylor.
She viewed the event as a great way to show the teens, particularly the girls and young women, that they can achieve so much when they have opportunities and the infrastructure to succeed.
“Visibility matters, especially for those who feel invisible in society,” she said. “It’s on us as women to uplift others. For so long, we’ve been so competitive, because like a seat at the table, there’s only one for a woman. Now there are more seats at the table, so instead of being competitive, we’re now being collaborative. We’re harnessing our collective power to lift each other up.”
The “World’s Best Career Day” coincided with the launch of adidas Legacy’s expansion to Chicago. The high school basketball program, Legacy, partnered with eight underserved Chicago public high schools, providing their boys and girls basketball teams with fresh adidas gear and opportunities to connect with peers, learn from mentors, and gain exposure to different career paths. The program was founded in Los Angeles in 2017, later expanded to New York City in 2018, and now serves a total of 28 schools and 840 student-athletes within those cities.
Brandon Walker, adidas’ head of North America Sports Marketing – Basketball, highlighted how Legacy equally serves the boys and girls basketball programs and is made up of 98 percent of students of color.
“I just hope it’s an opportunity for these young men and women to reimagine their future,” Walker told VIBE. “It’s very difficult to dream it if they’ve never seen it. And for them to be in these workshops and see people that look like them, it gives them a chance to realize their potential long-term. Them having a chance to sit across from somebody and get hands-on learning, and say, ‘you know what? Broadcasting isn’t all that difficult, I might be able to do it myself. I’m a real good sketch artist or I can draw, I could be a designer for a major brand.’ Those types of moments are what we hope these young men and women leave with, just opening up their ideas of what’s possible in the future.”