France

Interview with Amadi McKenzie, a pro basketball player and rapper

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American forward Amadi McKenzie (6’7 , 30 years old) made himself a great name in France through basketball for almost nine years. But he is also known to be a confirmed rapper. We met him to talk and learn more about his two professions.

Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Amadi McKenzie, born and raised in west Atlanta, Georgia.

How did you started playing basketball?
My dad put a basketball goal in front of our house when I was a child. I started playing basketball on that goal with my older brothers. I’ve loved the game ever since.

How did you started singing or writing rap music?
I started rapping when I was 11 years old. In the lunch room of my school with some friends. My love for music started there. I was sang in my church choir with my brother and parents for years.

Coming from Atlanta, doing rap music is natural for you?
Yea, Atlanta has a special style of music and people from the city have a lot of influences that have shaped how we view rap music.

After your college years at Tennessee Tech University, you started your pro basketball career in 2008, in Vichy, France. What did you know about this country and this city?
I knew absolutely NOTHING about France or Vichy or French Basketball lol…I just knew that it was an opportunity to play basketball at a high level and get paid for it.

You quickly adapted very well to the French championship and you stayed there during your whole career if we removed your 2013-14 season in Ukraine. For you, did that became natural to stay a such long time in the same country abroad?
I made somewhat of a second home here in France. I liked the people I met, I liked the life here, and I liked playing basketball here. So it made sense to me to stay where I was happy. And I was worried about not being paid on time in some other countries. Like in Ukraine for example…. They still owe me money lol.

In France, there is some others american basketball players which are playing here for few years. What kind of relationship do you have with them?
Most of the guys who play here a long time are cordial. We will talk before or after the games and we’re genuinely concerned about each other because we are in the same boat. We all know how it feels to be abroad, to be away from family and friends and the experiences we share here will last a lifetime.

In 2010, you have even been named the best power forward in french Pro B (second division). At that time, did that award was a goal or a blessing for example for you?
It’s always a blessing to be recognized for your work. I was happy to have received that award but I would have preferred to have played in the playoffs that year.

« I did the most of my work on my album in the summer and in the end of 2016, so now I have time to focus on basketball and win games and prepare my body for next season »

Amadi McKenzie

For the second consecutive season, you are now playing in french NM2 (D4) with Gravenchon and you are still one of the best players of the competition. Comparing french D1 or D2, what are the main differences with D4? How your season is going with your team?
The biggest difference for me is the training. With my team we don’t practice as much as I’m used to. So I have had time for my body to rest and heal from the injuries I’ve had in the past. Basketball is still basketball… There are some good players in this division. And some good coaches also. People are still competitive and want to win and be the best. This season started off pretty bad for us because of injuries and a lack of intensity. They changed our poule from last season which was a much easier poule…to a poule that has some teams that are (in my opinion) just as good as some Pro B teams I have seen in the past. So once we understood that we have to play harder and more together to win games we made a much better season with better results.

In the same time, you are working on music. Is that difficult to do both professional basketball and professional music? How do you manage your time?
It’s not so difficult, I did the most of my work on my album in the summer and in the end of 2016, so now I have time to focus on basketball and win games and prepare my body for next season.

You recently launched your second album named « Pardon my french ». Where people can listen and buy your music?
I’m currently ordering physical copies of the album so they will be available in a week or two. The digital version of the album is available everywhere… (iTunes, deezer, Spotify, Napster, Google play, etc) but I’m currently no longer working with my manager and I’ll be making a lot of new music when I get back to Atlanta this summer.

What your songs are talking about?
Most of my songs are about my life, things I’ve experienced, what I lived thru, love, lost, dreams, disappointments. It’s a window into my life.

What are your expectations for the futur concerning music and basketball?
Musically I will continue to make music that I like and if others like it…tant mieux pour moi lol. For basketball, next season I will look at possibilities with pro teams. I’m no longer injured and I’m still young enough to be effective at a high level. So I will do whatever it takes to prove myself at that level.

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