At least they didn’t have to jump through hoops to get on the show.
Thanks to the involvement of Wracket Music Supervision Inc.’s Everton “Big Easy” Lewis Jr., a several young, promising Canadian rappers have landed their joints on Anyone’s Game, a 30-minute, six-episode CBC high-school basketball docu-series following one of the NBA’s most promising talent pipelines, The Athlete Institute.
Based in Orangeville, Ontario, the institute builds its Orangeville Prep team as the players pursue the NCAA Division 1 scholarship, and hopefully an eventual shot at a pro contract; the accompanying doc showcases the talents of such up-and-coming rappers as Toronto-raised, Montréal-born Patrik, Ghanaian-Canadian Friyie (pronounced FREE-yay), and GTA MC collective Lunch Room Poetz.
Lewis Jr., who served as music supervisor for Vice Canada for three years, said he was mandated by the CBC to feature Canadian music, though he shied away from established talent in favour of rookies. Some of the placements were artists that Lewis Jr. had previously been aware of, or whose music he had included in Vice documentaries.
“These guys – especially Patrik – have been building a buzz,” he says. “I stage-managed him years ago at Canadian Music Week; he was really hustling, working, and coming up from the bottom. And his song ‘High End’ was selected for TikTok Canada’s music campaign, which is one of the same songs that’s licensed in the show. I felt it was appropriate to include him and his sound and provide him with additional exposure, while simultaneously riding his coattails.”
Lewis Jr. says he worked with Friyie for the 6ix Rising: Toronto’s Rap Ascendance doc – Friyie’s “Money Team” served as pro boxer Floyd Mayweather’s theme music when he confronted Conor McGregor at a press conference – and found the Lunch Room Poetz collective through a lifelong association with the quintet’s Phil “Philly Regs” Rego.
“They’re more of the underground and the raw, true art form of hip-hop,“ Lewis Jr. explains. “I always felt that was really important, because a lot of what basketball was framed around, it didn’t start with this newer age kind of music – it started with the KRS-Ones back in the day, and the Nas influences, things like that. The Lunch Room Poetz are five battle MCs, and they’re vicious! I thought that original Toronto-New York City gritty kind of sound needed to punch through on Anyone’s Game.”
The artists involved are grateful for the opportunity.
“It means a lot to be a part of the basketball culture in Canada,” says Patrik. “As someone who took basketball growing up, and had aspirations playing in a league, playing in university, it’s nice to be in that atmosphere… The involvement of my music makes me feel like I’m an extension of the story of what’s happening in Orangeville.”
When creating flows like “High End,” Patrik says the rhythm is the initial grabber. “I always go for the beat first,” he explains. “I’m not a producer or a beat-maker, so usually I work with multiple producers and beat-makers, to find a vibe, or the mood I’m in. In terms of writing [lyrics]… I start off by just praying and asking for understanding and wisdom, or the right wording to express what I’m going through.”
In the case of Lunch Room Poetz – Young Stich, B1 The Architect, Lotus James, KP, and Philly Regs – their previously released song “The Grind” just happened to align with an Anyone’s Game episode also called “The Grind.” “It’s perfect, man,” says B1 The Architect. “It talks about the struggle, the grind ,and the hustling, and it’s something very akin to [our experience] in our group. It’s not easy being an independent label and trying to launch your own product, just as it’s not easy to be an independent basketball player trying to get recognition and actually making it to the NBA or NCAA.”
Lunch Room Poetz’ key to creativity is to enter the studio with a batch of beats. “Someone will kick it off with a verse, and then everyone will write together and try to stick to a concept,” says B1 The Architect. Philly Regs and B1 both says that the group’s appearance on Anyone’s Game only heightens their credibility. “It gives our group a bit more notoriety within the rap community, because proving that you can do this is big,” says Philly Regs.
Friyie is still enjoying his relationship with Mayweather, whom he calls “a mentor” and “a big brother.” He says the placement of his song “Pushin’” “is a great opportunity for my music to be featured on its own, because as an artist you’re trying to get as much placement as possible. I played basketball myself in high school, and I’m a real big fan, so… it feels like an accomplishment.”
Friyie – who worked with rapper Tory Lanez and Roddy Ricch on his debut album ANF (Ain’t Nothing Free) – says he starts off his creations by freestyling. “I tell an engineer to just record me in the booth,” he says. “I’ll go in there with a blank slate because I don’t like to over-think songs… I’ll listen to the beat for a couple of seconds, and when I start to freestyle, I’ll record the whole song twice, or three times, just spitting out whatever comes into my head. Then I’ll listen back to it and pick out the parts that will make the core foundation of the record, then just build onto that.”
Anyone’s Game will no doubt help Friyie, Lunch Room Poetz, and Patrik in the long run, and might even make them future contenders.