From shooting hoops to bustin’ rhymes
Lanny McHugh can still remember the first time he stepped foot on a court, the first time he fell in love with the sport.
He can also remember the first time he fell in love with the beat, the first time he won a rap battle never offering defeat.
For McHugh, hip hop and basketball have been intertwined from a young age. They have been the common ground between his family and him. The beat of the ball and the flow of the music have kept McHugh going in the right direction.
McHugh, 23, grew up on the Siksika Nation reserve just an hour east of Calgary. At the age of seven, his dad encouraged him to play in minor league basketball.
“My older sister and mom have always played basketball and my dad coached a ladies’ team, so it was kind of in my blood,” says McHugh, who now plays forward for the Trojans.
He says playing basketball is a therapeutic experience for him.
“I can come to the gym and leave my everyday problems at the door for a couple of hours. It’s like an escape.”
He began making his own music in his early teens and won his first freestyle battle when he was 17, calling himself L.B. Savage.
“To me, it means being savage on a mike by saying something and doing something by any means.”
Because of the competition, he won the chance to make his own album, called Rhymes from 49 by Swag Records.
McHugh says he looked up to rappers like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who rapped about their experiences in their neighborhoods.
“I use to rap about what it was like growing up on the reserve because it was kind of a ghetto place.
“It was pretty hard music that maybe not everyone would have understood.”
Soon after, other music labels started to pay attention to McHugh. But he decided to focus on his education first. Now McHugh is in his second year of Business Administration, marketing major.
“I’m hoping to learn how to market myself for my music career. This degree will help to open a lot of doors,” he says.
“It started off as something I was just messing around with but now I’m really going to push for it.”
McHugh says that playing basketball with the Trojans and free-styling with his teammates has helped him to focus his music on more positive things.
Jamil Pierre, a Trojans forward, admires McHugh’s passion for his music.
“I think he’s so good because he listens to all kinds of music,” says Pierre.
“He’s doesn’t have a one-track mind. He’s diverse.”
“Now he’ll freestyle about all of kinds of things: ball, girls, money, pretty much anything that comes to mind.”
McHugh says he’s also gained a lot from maturing.
“My mindset is so much broader now, I guess you have to take a couple of steps to be able to walk.”
And for him, the ball and the beat will always be connected.
“I think it’s because when you spit rhymes you have to do it with confidence, which is the way ballers play on the court.”
“It may come off as cocky in both realms, but you need confidence to succeed.”