Damian Lillard holds a unique position in Portland’s hip-hop community. Not only is he the Portland Trail Blazers’ beloved starting point guard, he’s also the best rapper in the NBA.
Unsurprisingly, he’s having no trouble exceeding expectations, both as a lyricist and as a supportive force within the scene. Since last summer, Lillard has sold out his first headlining show at the Crystal Ballroom, thrown a stellar local hip-hop show and basketball party for the release of his Dame 3 Rip City Colorway shoe, and dropped his debut LP as Dame D.O.L.L.A., The Letter O. And now he’s finally put out a project that’s solid enough for me to talk about.
Earlier this month, Lillard released his sophomore album, Confirmed, which features Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, and BJ the Chicago Kid. The cover is a photo of Dame holding his hands in prayer and wearing nothing but a crown, a chain, and a watch—no doubt a reminder that it’s “Dame Time.”
When Portland rappers talk about all the hunnies and money they’re getting, it feels like they’re reaching just to sound cool. Since the Oakland-raised baller is already rich and famous, none of his lyrics about his lifestyle, drive, or lessons learned sound phony or eyeroll-worthy.
Opening track “No Punches” sets the tone: It’s an honest confessional in which Lillard reflects on his upbringing, examines how he’s grown, and accepts his position as a role model. “Boss Life” also slaps—the bass-driven production is a great backdrop for lyrics that flex his status: “Everywhere I go they recognize me, even women/Promise I don’t drop my name or look for no attention/Been a chick magnet before I signed for my extension/They be dimes, but I like my girls with more than one dimension.” He gets major props for working in the “so Ginuwine, they wanna ride the pony” reference.
Another highlight is “Switch Sides,” about loyalty to family, friends, and his cities. It features a chorus from Verse Simmonds and an excellent second verse from Lillard’s cousin, Brookfield Duece. “Run It Up,” the record’s lead single, features Lil Wayne as Lillard raps about staying on his hustle, regardless of the haters.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Shoota.” It’s catchy as hell, with lyrics about being confident when it comes to pursuing relationships (and life). Plus, it’s fun to sing along to—though I did side-eye him at the line “got a weak spot for a mixed thang.”
Other standouts include “Trap Party (Funeral),” “The Let Down,” featuring soulful vocals from BJ the Chicago Kid, and the romantic “One & Only,” which I assume is about his longtime girlfriend, since Lillard sings (with the help of Auto-Tune) that she’s got him “thinking ’bout a baby.”
Throughout Confirmed, there are moments when Lillard’s delivery reminds me vaguely of Ludacris. And there are a handful of songs I either didn’t care for or found forgettable (namely “Anomaly” and “5th of Henn”). But overall, the album is a commendable sophomore effort—releasing this right before the start of regular basketball season was a smart marketing move. With Confirmed, we are now officially in peak Dame Time.