Flau'Jae's Off-Court Confessional

Flau'Jae's Off-Court Confessional

By Tobias HessFeb 09, 2024

If you think you’re busy, think again. Few people on earth have a schedule like Flau’Jae, the Louisiana State University basketball superstar and rising rapper who’s gained global recognition for her talent both on the court and on the mic. For those who don’t follow college basketball, Flau'Jae is the kind of generational talent coaches spend years searching for. After gloriously winning last year’s Women’s Basketball national championship with her LSU Tiger teammates, Flau'Jae found herself unexpectedly involved in a national political scandal. First Lady Jill Biden, suggesting that both the LSU Tigers and their rival Iowa Hawkeyes be invited to the White House for a victory celebration, sparked an urgent national conversation on how our country reacts to unabashed Black victory (the Hawkeyes are a notably whiter team). The hubbub was remedied, but amidst that controversy, Flau'Jae and her teammates found their profiles considerably amplified, not just as basketball stars but as national figures.

And to top all of that there was also her music. Flau'Jae's musical journey reads as almost mythic. Her father was also a rapper, the Savannah legend Camouflage, who was tragically murdered before her birth. But through that tragedy and challenge, her father’s legacy lives on with her. “I used to go back and watch his tapes for inspiration,” she told me from her car during a sliver of time between class, practice and travel. How she has the time to produce music that’s so polished, yet so raw, while still being one of the best college athletes in the country, is a mystery. But then again: that kind of drive is rarely explainable. Some people just have it, and she clearly does, as evidenced by her early performances on America’s Got Talent, where she excelled at just 14 as a musical contestant. Flau'Jae's music and artistry have only improved since those early brushes with stardom, and today, she has a new 4-song EP and music video out with EQ (Roc Nation).

Below, PAPER chats with Flau'Jae about her new project 4Wave, building a legacy and the careful balance of pursuing music and basketball.

Take me through how you balance these two passions while also being in school? How do you manage your time and keep up your discipline?

I’m not going to lie it’s a lot of basketball. During our season, I don't get to do a lot of music. I built a studio in my apartment though, so I get to record whenever I want to, which is great. But I don't have time to just sit down and create. In the summer though, I'm focused on music. While in school, I’ll spend six to seven hours in the gym. During the summer, I’ll spend six to seven hours in the studio.

You had coaches in basketball. Did you have mentors in music?

No, I didn't really have mentors. It was just me going into it and feeling it out for myself. My dad was a rapper, but he was murdered before I was born, so I used to go back and watch his tapes for inspiration to explore what I wanted to rap about. My Uncle G, though, has been a part of my career and my journey since I was 7 years old, and he runs the music department of what I do, so having him has been great.

You were on The Rap Game when you were really young and also America’s Got Talent. Now that you’re older and a basketball champion, I’m curious what it’s like to look back at yourself on those shows?

Those were more so coaching moments for me. Being on America's Got Talent, being on The Rap Game, being around that magnitude of entertainment was a big deal for me at 12, 13 and 14 years old. That molded me into a little professional early on.

What lessons did you learn about the industry from those early experiences?

It was overwhelming, but it was amazing. I got to understand what goes on behind the scenes and what it takes to be successful, to see who's really running things. You see all the ins and outs. For me I learned that I just have to just make music that impacts people. I never really got into the politics of it all. I just wanted to make music that I love so I can take care of my family.

And you had your mom with you for that entire crazy experience, supporting you throughout that journey. What was that like?

Having her by my side was the best part. I knew there was nothing I couldn’t do because I had my mom there, and she wanted what was best for me. A lot of people in the music industry don't have somebody who really wants what’s best for them. There’s always a different intention. To have my mom there was very instrumental in my career, even though she didn't really know much about the music business either. We had to feel it out together.

I can only imagine how overwhelming entering the music business was that young. It’s a really confusing business and it can be almost indecipherable to figure out the path to success. That being said, I’m wondering what it was like to sign a deal with Roc Nation and EQ?

[The music business] is a business where you could put so much into itand you don't even know if you’re going to get anything out of it. But [signing with EQ] was amazing. LaMelo Ball was starting a team for girls, and they were like, “We want you to play on it.” My mom was talking to his manager and she was like “She's a rapper. She can't just be a [basketball player].” And he was like, “Let me hear some of her music.” Next thing you know I was on a call with some people at Roc Nation, because LaMelo was already signed to them for basketball. Then I found myself on a flight to New York. That situation has been really good for me. It’s a distribution deal, so I have creative control, which is amazing.

I heard you have a forthcoming song with Lil Wayne?

I have a song that's going to drop with Lil Wayne, hopefully after March Madness. After we won the national championship, he said he was going to put me on a song and I was like, Wow. But his people actually got in contact. I sent him the song and he just did it. It was amazing. I was super excited about that. Some people are like, I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna do that, but they don’t ever actually do it, so that was amazing that he really did it.

You’re still in school while also ascending these two fields. Is there still time and space to take in the everyday college experience? Do you want to?

No, I can't. Sometimes I want to, but a lot of student athletes don't get the real college experience, especially basketball players. We play in the fall and the spring, so our semesters are pretty taken up. I'm like, I guess I'll just party when I'm rich. I just have to miss out on the college parties.

What do your teammates think about your music career?

They love it. They definitely support it a 100%. They’re like, How do you do all of this? I'm always the first one in the gym. I wake up at 5am to get in the gym. I work out after practice. I just have to work there's something in me.

Are there people — artists, athletes — who you look to as role models as you've built this very unique career?

Probably Lebron James because he’s a billionaire [laughs], but also he does a lot in the community. I want to change some things in my community where I'm from in Savannah, Georgia. I want to build a resource center, similar to how he has a school that helps the kids in the community.

Your father was a rapper. Your mom has supported and cultivated your talent. I’ve seen you talk about legacy and I’m curious to hear how you’re thinking about that as you build your career.

Yeah, it’s amazing just being the one that made it out and to come back and give something to the kids. They don't have a lot of that where I’m from. There’s just so much violence and a lot of kids being led the wrong way. So I just wanna just be able to be one of those voices for them. And I want to speak to them through my music. I’m dropping a project this January. It’s a 4-song project, so I’m super excited about that as a way to reach people. But I want to be able to do more things for my community financially. I did a 6-figure give back in my town and gave back to the kids, so I was super excited about that.

What do you want people to know about 4Wave?

It's gonna be great. It's a lot of different sounds. They all have a different type of flow and a different type of vibe. I'm singing on some of them. Some of them are just rapping. My friend Wave made all of these songs with me in Atlanta. He actually produced "Ski" by Young Thug so he’s a big deal. I can’t wait for people to hear.

Photography: Cali Kilo