Dwyane Wade would like to be abundantly clear: He's not pivoting to rap now that he's retired, despite dropping "Season Ticket Holder" today, a new single that also features Rick Ross, Raphael Saadiq, and Heat lifer Udonis Haslem.
It's about to be a busy weekend for Wade, whose jersey is being retired at American Airlines Arena on February 22, followed by the debut of his ESPN documentary, Life Unexpected, on February 23. "Season Ticket Holder" is the appetizer, serving as a shout-out to both Miami and Wade's prolific NBA accolades. "Season Ticket Holder" wasn't actually part of some long-discussed, heavily planned media rollout. Mostly, Rick Ross peer-pressured his friend Dwyane into giving a few bars a shot, and Wade eventually relented by jumping into a recording studio after a Heat win during his last year in the NBA. "The nice thing is I didn't even have to really rap, I could just use my regular voice," he says. "I didn't have to get into a full rapper mentality."
Below, Wade expounds on his music industry debut and which basketball players are the best rappers.
GQ: It's your first day as a recording artist—has it gotten to your head yet? You ready to win a Grammy?
Dwyane Wade: I have no idea, I've been super busy since I woke up this morning [Laughs]. I don't even know how it feels yet. A lot of friends and loved ones didn't know me and Ross did a song together, so the response from my inner circle has been cool.
Have you gotten a chance to at least queue it up on a streaming service?
Last night at midnight, I went to my Apple Music and searched "Season Ticket Holder," and it popped right up. I was like, this is wild. It's one of those things where we did it for ourselves, it was a Miami thing, a collaboration that we wanted to cross off the bucket list. We did it, and then turned into an actual song.
How did this come together?
Ross came over to my house shortly after I decided to come back for another year, and we were having a meeting about a shoe collab that I wanted to do with Li-Ning. I wanted it to incorporate the city of Miami. We finished the meeting and Ross said, "D, I'm gonna need you to jump on a track." I was like, what? He gave me the spiel—if you've ever heard Rick Ross talk, his voice is very similar to what you hear on the music, and he captivates you with his voice. I was like, "You know what man? Alright. Let's see what the lyrics can be like, and what the beat is like, and we'll go from there." Eventually it got to the point where I realized, this isn't about me trying to act like a rapper; this is more so me talking about some moments in my life and having a little fun.
When did you actually go to the studio?
It was a while after Ross and I first talked about it. I had been sending Ross some sounds, which he'd send back with notes. We didn't get into the booth until at least January 2019. It was after a game one night, and Ross was at the game. We won, and I said, "Yo, big homie, let's do it tonight." I was feeling good and the vibe was good. He was like, "Bet, I'll be there."
So the vibe is good, you're coming off a win, what happens next? How many takes in the studio?
A lot of takes. But first of all, when you're in the car and you're rapping to a beat, it's different than when you're in the studio and you know what you're recording might be heard around the world. Ross and his engineering team have been at this for a long time, and they know how a song needs to feel. It took a while to get it all right. But it was cool to be in there—a long night of sitting there, eating chicken wings, talking a lot of trash back-and-forth, talking about music. So it was mostly an easy process, but a little nerve-wracking, because I'm not trying to come off like I'm trying to be a rapper. I'm not trying to be a rapper. For me, it was crossing off a bucket list item—like, how many people can say they did a song with Rick Ross? And that aside, we wanted it on the documentary. Sony heard he wanted to put it in the documentary, and they were like, "Well, let's release it then."
Who's the best basketball player-turned-rapper of all time?
I have no idea of all-time. You look at Damian Lillard right now, and he seems poised to be that, but he has some more to do. Shaq went platinum, so it depends on whether you're talking about bars, lyrics, or success? Ultimately, hoopers are hoopers, and to have the ability to rap or sing, that's just another passion that guys have the platform to showcase.
Okay that's fair, but if we change the parameters a little bit and incorporate all of that criteria, it sounds like your Mount Rushmore has Dame and Shaq. Anybody else?
I know my good friend Kobe had a run when he was rapping a little bit, and his rap game was so intelligent. He was hitting them with words that sounded like Stephen A. Smith would rap [laughs]. That was so dope. I think I really just enjoy hearing these guys try their own style and flow.
Did you have a favorite pre-game song?
Over the course of time that obviously changes, but the most memorable one to me that I went back to over and over was Eminem's "Lose Yourself." What that stood for—you only get one shot, don't miss your chance—that started in college, where our college coach played that to get our mind right. I fell in love with the meaning behind the song, and it carried on throughout my life.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Watch Dwyane Wade and Rick Ross Talk Retirement and Their (Mostly) Unreleased Rap Album
Tomorrow, the Miami Heat will retire Dwyane Wade's jersey. Today, he reflects on a career that's become legend and a life he never expected as a kid growing up in Chicago.
Originally Appeared on GQ