Dame D.O.L.L.A., better known as Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers’s point guard, all-star, and franchise player, released his debut full-length album “The Letter O” on all major music platforms. Its an unusual situation; a globally renowned basketball superstar is honing his musical skills, having just put out an album with features from mainstays in the music industry, such as Lil Wayne, Jamie Foxx, and Adrian Marcel.
Lillard first catapulted his rapping career most notably when he rapped for Sway in the Morning, during which he showcased his flow, wordplay, and lyricism. After that, his side gig gained national traction through Soundcloud uploads, State Farm commercials (No Good Clipper!), and weekly editions of #4BarFriday on Instagram, cementing his spot as basketball’s best rapper, and also rap’s best basketball player.
“The Letter O,” which represents the three places he has lived (Oakland, Ogden and Oregon) and the number zero (skip to 5:23) on the back of his jersey, boasts mostly relaxed beats and meaningful lyrics, providing a nostalgic yet inspirational feel throughout the record. These factors blended in with his clever metaphors definitely justifies why he reached #2 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart. My favorites off the album have to be the opening track “Bill Walton,” “Loyal to the Soil (Feat. Lil Wayne),” and the bonus song with Raphael Saadiq, “Hero.”
The first song highlights Dame’s ability to compete with the best in the rap game today. He also showcases his versatility as an MC as he provides both the chorus and hook on this track, much like a variety of songs throughout the album. Lillard has an unorthodox rhyme scheme, syncopating rhymes within lines. (“Aye waddup, It’s Dame D.O.L.L.A. / I just wanna holla / About the changes [of] being famous / the pain and all the dangers, emotional rollercoaster being sought by all the strangers”). A recurring theme throughout the entire album is him paying homage to his 9-to-5 job (“To the game I was chalking it / trying to bring a ‘ship to Portland just like Walton did.”). It was a very inviting and intimate first track, laying out a precedent for the rest of the album.
D.O.L.L.A switches gears on “Loyal to the Soil,” catering more to the conventional modern rap style. Equipped with a more hard-hitting beat, the duo explore self-discovery amid the fame and money. Like the song name suggests, it is about staying grounded to your roots. Lil Wayne’s bit on the track adds a more experienced verse, but Dame does not lag too far behind.
The twelfth song on “The Letter O” is a spiritually lifting track with Oakland’s own Raphael Saadiq. The use of drums definitely compliments the Dame’s rhythm and Saadiq’s soothing vocals. Much like the rest of the album, this song has substance, telling a story of his upbringing while spreading a positive message. (“You can’t tell me we ain’t capable of rising / Tryna’ get the people following like I’m Verizon.”)
Aside from the solid music, the album artwork has a very interesting nuance. It is not marked by a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” tag. Normally a staple in modern rap/hip-hop music, curse words are nonexistent throughout the entire album, an impressive feat considering there’s a feature from Lil Wayne. This speaks to Lillard’s character and how he tries to cater to audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Holistically, this is a solid work of storytelling and quality production. Now imagine what types of sound this man could create if this were his main job.