The Ball family is to basketball as the Kardashian family is to the other parts of the entertainment world. The three children are constant topics of drama and controversy, and their parental figure (LaVar) made millions commodifying their children and building an international brand. Now, eldest son and current Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard Lonzo is seeking to break into a new sphere of pop-culture relevance through rap.
Lonzo Ball, rapping under the moniker Zo, released his debut mixtape, Born 2 Ball, a safe, unexciting project. It’s clear Lonzo has four main topics of interest: basketball, money, family, and Big Baller Brand (BBB). He doesn’t have anything particularly new or interesting to say, so he never truly flops on the album. However, he certainly never shines. Ball rides overused rap tropes and simple lines to an adequate but lackluster debut.
The beats aren’t actually half bad. Granted, they’re pretty typical trap-inspired beats that have been done before. However, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys searching “Future type beat” on YouTube, you’ll love Born 2 Ball’s instrumentals. But for some reason, eagle screeches and basketball swish sound effects litter the mixtape. If it’s a producer tag, its a strong nominee for worst of all time. Coupled with the screech throughout the album is a tacky basketball swoosh that sounds like an iMovie preloaded effect.
The worst thing about Born 2 Ball is how much it feels like an advertisement for BBB. The company ties are obvious on tracks like “BBB” and “ZO2” (named after his signature sneaker), but they’re too prevalent throughout the album. Several songs sound like they were written with a PR executive overlooking, and each track, lyrically, sounds near identical. Lonzo is careful to avoid any brand damage and plays it safe by sticking to vaguely hip lyrics.
The best way to make your brand seem better is to show you’re better than your competition, and Lonzo certainly tries by enlisting some of the worst feature rappers around. The album features one verse from DC the Don and six verses from Kenneth Paige. There’s a reason you’ve never heard those names. They’re from somewhere in the depths of the G-League of rap, and Lonzo sounds much more legitimate next to the scrubs he enlisted.
Out of context, for any regular 20-year-old, Born 2 Ball is not a terrible mixtape. However, considering his social prominence and the resources available to him, Lonzo should’ve done better. Add in some regrettable rapping and a heavy dose of product placement and top it off with some abysmal feature verses, and overall Born 2 Ball will be looked back on as a blemish on Lonzo’s career. At least it isn’t as bad as his rookie season.