Meet Jaycee: Australian basketball's new storyteller
Hip-hop and basketball have always had a close relationship. As cultural icons they feed each other, cross-pollinating via art, fashion, film and entertainment. Turn on your radio and chances are high that you will hear one of the biggest rappers dropping references about the NBA’s top athletes and teams. Yet for Australia fans, the bond between hip-hop and basketball has long felt distinctly American.
Perth-based rapper, producer and multi-instrumentalist Jaycee wants to end that trend. The young and hungry musician is doing his part to tap into our homegrown basketball scene and use it as inspiration for his music, and by doing so, fill the void between Australia basketball and hip-hop.
While music has always remained his north star, basketball has had a place in Jaycee's life. Growing up in Perth, a city famous for its sporting prowess, basketball was an avenue for socialising and meeting new people.
“I’ve always loved the sport and social aspect of it. Going down to the beach and shooting some hoops. Playing 21 and HORSE and always having some sort of small bet riding on it which made things pretty competitive between my mates."
For much of his life, basketball remained a pastime Jaycee loved, but never fully immersed himself in. As the sport grew in Australia, and the profile of the NBL began to rise, what began as a beachside recreational activity became a real interest for the up and coming artist.
“It was recently that I started looking into the NBL and seeing the amazing growth the league was having. Knowing that basketball and hip-hop go hand-in-hand I started tying the two things together and taking more of an interest in understand the landscape and watching some Wildcats games."
For Jaycee, the connection between basketball and hip hop became natural. Their interconnectedness made them an organic fit. As well as sharing similar cultural roots, the mentality of the practitioners are also similar.
“Hip hop is all about flaunting your shit, be competitive, and stepping up in the clutch - kinda like that battle-rap mentality. Basketball has the same kind of hustle as hip hop and vice versa.”
In the midst of his hunger to learn more about the sport an idea began to grow; to merge his life-long love of creating music with the growing Australia basketball scene. What quickly stood out to Jaycee, and stoked his desire to greater heights, was the lack of an Australian voice in hip hop that was fully embracing the NBL.
“No one was really claiming the Australia league. People watch the NBA and get around the Lakers and Miami Heat and all these American teams, but no one is really talking about what’s going on in the NBL [Australia’s own league] and the players and teams in it.
“I feel like it's up to artists like myself, and other creatives to really influence the audience in this direction.
“I wanted to represent my country and put it on the map. It’s an untapped resource, no one is doing it.”
Jaycee’s first big foray into combining the NBL with his music is based on someone that could quite easily be the most hyped up player the league has ever seen - LaMelo Ball. As far as NBL stories go, there are few that have matched the intrigue and narrative that currently surround Melo.
With an infectious beat that playfully bounces along to Jaycee’s lyrics, the song chronicles the story of the youngest Ball brother and his journey from the glitz of Chino Hills to the Sandpit in Illawarra.
“I just found his story so inspirational. Here you have a young dude, that had his choice of anything, going to any of the amazing colleges in the States to play basketball [and take the normal route].
"But he decided to forge his own path and go against the grain and come to Australia and use the NBL as his stepping stone to the NBA. I love that! That's why I wrote the song about him."
“I resonate with hardworking confident hustlers. Melo is amazing but that song could have been about anyone. I’m using LaMelo as the character that represents a hardworking guy following his dreams. His story inspired me big time to write this, but the song also goes out to everyone going out following their dreams because that’s what he’s doing at the end of the day.”
Continuously looking to merge all his passions (music, sport and culture), Jaycee recently had a huge breakthrough and personal win. His biggest song to date, 'One Of These Days', was chosen by First Ever and NBL Store to be the backing music for their 2019/20 NBL jersey campaign. As well as this, Jaycee also made an appearance in the ad.
The song’s lyrics explore the trials and tribulations of what's required to achieve your goals, staying humble and remaining true to your roots. Seeing the way the NBL has embraced his music was an overwhelming experience and was a huge validation of his hard work.
“It has been incredible to see the ad all over the internet and have my music heard by a new audience. Making music is what I love to do, [and] for my art to be connected to an organisation as great and exciting as the NBL is really dope!”
Jaycee is currently week 12 of 26 into his OneSongOneDream project, where every Monday for a period of six months, he will be dropping a brand new song and music video.