If a rising tide lifts all ships, then Damian Lillard might be melting an iceberg. Fresh off the release of his latest full-length album, Confirmed, the NBA star’s rap alter ego, Dame D.O.L.L.A., continues to level up, bringing energy and deserved attention to Portland’s ever-burgeoning scene.
To be honest, I had no expectations of Dame’s sophomore project. His first did enough to surprise me (including guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Jamie Foxx, Juvenile and Raphael Saadiq), and the novelty of our franchise player dropping a hot tape made it an easy sell—even more so than “Bust A Bucket.” But with the release of Confirmed, it might be time to stop talking about Dame as a “slash” rapper. It’s clear this is no stunt; the 27-year-old is taking the craft seriously, making music that turns heads even without the name recognition.
Over stunning production, Dame retraces his steps, lets his guard down, apologizes for errors, and celebrates success. Less headnod than his first project, Confirmed surprises as a mostly danceable offering. The return of Weezy alongside top-notch cameos from 2 Chainz and BJ The Chicago Kid find the industry heavyweights following Dame’s lead, and don’t distract from the album’s flowing theme.
Despite being recorded in L.A. and rapped by an Oakland native, Confirmed feels like a Portland release, and the city is buzzing for good reason. Everywhere you look, Dame is putting on for the town. Varied outlets such as Sports Illustrated, Billboard and Complex are covering the rapper’s success and his $140 million link to Portland. I can’t even play NBA 2K without animated Dame spitting bars at me.
But what really makes Dame feel like a Portland artist is his presence, and his participation in the local scene. Sharing work from standout artists like Mic Capes and Wynne (with the 1.4 million followers) on his Twitter account not only promotes the culture, but enamours him with the fans of said culture. His label, Front Page Music, has the capacity to further create opportunities within PDX circles with artists like Brookfield Duece—Lillard’s cousin who has already built strong ties to local collective Rare Vibe—signing on.
A lot of people shine bright, but true stars bring gravity. Damian Lillard has proven to be a superstar on the court, and Dame D.O.L.L.A. has the potential to do the same on the mic.