When Marquese Chriss was a freshman at Pleasant Grove High School, he admits now that he didn't do himself many favors as far as shedding his reputation as a lazy student.
“Being a kid, you don't really value the importance of school,” Chriss said. “I was just sleeping and not doing so great. But there were a lot of teachers that helped me. There were also some teachers that kind of (criticized) me. ”
Now the Warriors starting center, Chriss used the off time since the NBA season was canceled in March to write some of those memories down and record the song “I Remember” with his friend and Sacramento-based rapper 2kkhari.
The promotional single for his first album Tip-Off, “I Remember,” (“As a little kid I used to want all that designer / and now I walk inside the store and I buy anything I wanted”) was recorded in a studio in Sacramento's Del Paso Heights neighborhood.
Tip-Off, released Oct. 2, clocks in at just more than 29 minutes. Each of the seven songs features 2kkhari laying the groundwork with his rapping and Chriss (who goes by the stage name “Quese”) soaring over with enhanced vocals. The album is available on iTunes and Spotify.
Chriss recently spoke with the Bay Area News Group in a phone interview about the process of recording his first album, writing lyrics and why he decided now was the time to make music.
Have you been wanting to record a song for a while or was this just something to do during the quarantine?
It was just something that I started doing a while ago, probably like my freshman year in college. It was me and two of my teammates just talking and we were talking about starting a singing group just for fun, and we never really did. It just fell through. And then when the quarantine thing started, me and one of my teammates - the same teammate I had been having conversations with about it - we were just like 'Why not? We already have time. ' He was out here in San Francisco, we're just hanging out and then we're at the house and he's like 'You want to just start trying to do this?' and I'm like 'alright.' So then we just started making songs at the house and they were OK, but it was more so just fun. I don't think our first few songs were that great compared to the ones that we have now. It was just something to pass the time (because) we weren't really doing much. We were just stuck in the house. I started getting more into it.
Then my friend 2kkhari that I've known since I was probably in fifth grade - he actually raps. This is what he does for a career and is making a living off of it - we talked to each other like 'You want to make a song?' That song (“I Remember”), the way that that happened is funny. We went (to Sacramento) and we were recording a bunch of other songs and we had that beat, but neither of us had written for it. I had the verse and the hook, but I had it written for a different beat. So I was like 'alright, I might as well just go in there' and then I just went in there and said it and I had put a bunch of different parts from other verses that I had already written but didn't put on a song and it just came out. It turned out well.
So that first session, were you just sort of messing around in San Francisco? Is that just done with a computer?
It was my computer and then we had a podcast microphone. Nothing professional. Nothing super high-tech. We just made do with what we had and, as I got more serious, I started buying more equipment, more high-end things, so that it turned out better.
And then you went up to Sacramento?
We recorded it at a studio in Del Paso Heights. The producer's name is 'Q.' A lot of people in Sacramento go up there. It's a professional studio. He's made songs for a lot of people. But that was my first time ever really getting into an actual studio, so it was cool.
The lyrics from “I Remember” are about growing up and your time at Pleasant Grove High School and coming up from there. Why did you decide to focus on that for this first song?
Oh, I don't know man. It just came together like that. Thinking back to when I was younger, everybody kind of spit on my dream of trying to make it to the NBA, trying to be a professional athlete, and it weighed on me and made me believe that it was impossible. When I was in high school, I never expected to be in the NBA. I was playing basketball for fun. And even through the recruitment process, I was more so thinking about going to college to get a degree. The NBA was such a far-fetched dream for me because everybody made it sound impossible. So that's how I look at it. I never would tell anybody that their dream is impossible.
I started off not very great. Like I said, I used to sleep in my classes and I was going to school just because I had to. I never really envisioned school being a thing for me. Everybody has to go to school, so I might as well just be here. Being a kid you don't really value the importance of school, so I was just sleeping and not doing so great. But there were a lot of teachers that helped me. There were also some teachers that kind of (criticized) me. I made do with what I had and came out on top, and I'm proud of what I had to go through to get to this point.
Is writing lyrics something you do during the season?
Not really during the season. I freestyle in my head just for fun - I feel like everybody kind of does that. But I recently started writing them down, maybe in February, March. It was always something that was in the back of my mind. Even when I was younger, I tried. I tried so hard but I didn't like how the music sounded. I used to try to write music in my room in a little composition notebook, but it was never good so I was just like, 'I'm not going to do this' and I would quit all the time. But then I finally took it seriously and locked in and actually tried to write some meaningful stuff and now I'm at this point.
You have this smooth, dreamy, West-Coast flow on that song. What are some of your influences or your favorite artists?
I listen to all types of music, but I don't think I try to sound like anybody. I just talk, to be honest with you. However it comes out, it comes out. I don't think I have a specific flow or somebody that I try to match or emulate. I go with the energy of the beat and wherever it takes me, it takes me.
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is the unofficial rap king when it comes to NBA players who are dropping full albums, do you want to stack it up against Damian Lillard's work?
(Laughs) Nah. He's a rapper. I do it for fun. It's something for me just to vent and let some energy out and let some things that are going on in my head out. But he's amazing. I listen to him and I think it's dope what he's doing - merging the gap between athletes and the music industry. So I don't think that there's even a competition there. I do it for fun. I do it for me and my friends to listen to it. I never even intended for anybody to hear it other than my friends, and then I started taking it a little more seriously and making music for other people.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.
This article appeared first (in English) on https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/10/06/marquese-chriss-on-his-first-rap-album-writing-lyrics-and-nba-rap -king-damian-lillard /