Metta World Peace — then known as Ron Artest — released a single titled “Champions” six years ago to commemorate his 2010 NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers. This song was very bad. Chunks of it made no lyrical sense and its blandness solidified World Peace’s spot in the ever-growing universe of failed NBA rappers. This is an expansive universe, but if star Portland Trailblazers point guard Damian Lillard’s sample size thus far is any indication, he will stay out of such a sad place. On Oct. 11, Lillard (who raps by the name of Dame D.O.L.L.A.) released “Hero” on SoundCloud, and it’s really not bad.

It’s partially carried by R&B stalwart Raphael Saadiq, who immediately (and often thereafter) pipes in with an infectious hook, belting “I just want you to know (everybody needs a hero) / That so much more (everybody needs a hero) / We will try (you should try) / We will try (you will try) / We will try (you should try).”

The formula is fairly poetic — a veteran (Saadiq) leading the charge for a newcomer (Dame) as both sing about being an admirable person for those younger and/or not as wise. Lillard continues this theme on his first, and strongest, verse: “It’s a jungle out there and people watch your back / And watch your front because people be trying to front / I ain’t got them type of problems, never been the kind to stunt / Where I’m from that get you burnt, and I ain’t yearning for the sun.”

We often see athletes making it out of rough areas and become the type of role model they never had. It’s cool to actually hear Dame talk from a place of righteousness. He’s in an influential position, one in which he can warn others about the dangers he once faced. It’s always nice to hear virtuous rap; it’s especially nice to hear it, genuinely so, from an NBA star. That’s why any technical issues are negligible in this case — they can be set aside to make room for Dame’s sorely needed fresh take. His thoughts make for respectable listening.


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