When most people hear the names LeBron James and Kevin Durant, it is exceedingly unlikely that the first thought that comes to mind is rap artistry, instead focusing on both men’s meteoric basketball careers. Now, according to Slate, a long-buried rap single produced by both ballers has hit the scene via a Soundcloud leak.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, an event which saw pent-up players looking for a little action seeking new avenues of expression, LeBron James and Kevin Durant decided to channel that energy into producing a rap song together. Finding their voices in a Cleveland studio setting, and being guided by Ohio producer Franky Wahoo and STEWBILLIONAIRE — the former being the source of this recent leak in the first place — the two basketball superstars cut a sick rap track that borrows from both 1980s and 1990s hip hop sensibilities.
Thus, “It Ain’t Easy” was born, being buried for the better part of a decade before being unearthed.
A simple, smooth guitar lick plays on top the beat, looping ad infinitum, complete with fret noise. A thick, measured bassline blends in overtop early on in the song’s runtime, bouncing up and down before being joined by a simple drum track that doesn’t seek to overpower the lyrical content.
Kevin Durant kicks things off with some fast-rapping verses that call to mind early gangsta rap icons such as Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G, spitting rhymes that meld equal parts nostalgia and homage for his past with the quick-living lifestyle common to both rap artists and top-tier ballers.
King James and KD are the rap duo you didn't know you neededhttps://t.co/JTkavIF6ai— XXL Magazine (@XXL) September 8, 2018
The rap continues in a serious flow before meeting an entrancing hook provided by a female vocalist — hitherto relegated to a background sample, but brought forward to show some melodic chops — illustrating the song’s title. Then, LeBron takes over, his deep baritone delivering a more measured, heavy sounding rhyme. LeBron’s thick rapping has a sense of heft about it, hammering syllables out in near perfect time, driving at a more heartfelt and sentimental theme than his predecessor on the track.
According to Noisey, the track was little more than a form of entertainment, almost an afterthought. There was to be no formal paperwork signed by either artist, nor the producers, and the track faded into obscurity before resurfacing over the course of the past year. After TMZ allegedly offered a large sum for the demo tape — which Franky Wahoo declined — the profile of the collaboration continued to grow.
Local DJs started incorporating the rap track into their sets, and it seemed to be a matter of when — not if — the full track would eventually be leaked to the larger public. So, acting proactively, Franky Wahoo decided to drop the entire matter onto SoundCloud for general consumption.
Thankfully, the end result is flattering for Durant, LeBron, Wahoo, and STEWBILLIONAIRE. The track itself is drawing huge acclaim on social media, as well as directly on the streaming service to which it was initially shared. Comments of flame emojis and the use of “fire” are seemingly crowding out all negativity.