Former NBA All-Star Baron Davis Talks Black Santa Movement, Producing 'Winter Wonderland' Mixtape
Baron Davis and his Black Santa movement return to once again spread joy this holiday season. “I wanted to do something that could bring a solution and inclusion with fun. Something that could give my culture a figure they could be proud of,” the former NBA All-Star tells Billboard.
The inspiration is simple, "I want to create resolution and inclusion, so I created Black Santa because his eyes see no color. The culture is the diversity,” Davis explains. This time around, B-Diddy took a creative risk, piecing together a holiday-themed mixtape for the first time in his life. “What better way to enter the holiday market than through music,” he claims.
After sitting in and observing studio sessions with the legendary No I.D., Common, and the gritty Schoolboy Q, a shrewd Davis felt inspired to branch off and craft his own project with the motivational push from industry friends. Once the 38-year-old found his team of producers and A&Rs, the Stevie Wonder-inspired creative blended elements of contemporary R&B with hip-hop to birth Winter Wonderland, which hits all major music marketplaces nationally on Friday (Dec. 8).
What makes this project appealing to a diverse audience? It contains captivating animations that coincide with each track. The 17-track project features characters played by various artists, all taking on a winter theme -- and Davis was the brains behind the imaginary personas.
“I created all the characters and their profiles on how they function in the world," he says. "The team went out with producers to adopt these characters and own them through music. My thought was what's the best way for us to express this music and not be so genre specific? That's through animation.”
The Los Angeles native teamed up with Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch for a toy drive, which Davis described as an “Incredible experience” last Friday (Dec. 1). “We did it last year and we didn't really get the audience, but this year the word traveled and there was lines around the block," Baron continued. "It was so dope. It wasn't about Black Santa, it was about the 10-year-old girl who got $300 worth of toys. It was about the families who said 'Thank you,' because they wanted someone who looked and could communicate like their kids.”
Baron is once again holding toy drives of his own on December 15 and December 17 after a successful event raised $30,000 last holiday season when the UCLA All-American paired up with Brooklyn’s Fabolous to give back. “I think the blessings come when you're in a giving mode,” says a humbled Davis. “The blessings that come for us are emotional blessings. For us as a company, our equity value is deep rooted in the smiles. How many smiles we can get around the world."
The grind doesn’t stop for the former New York Knicks point guard, as he’s setting up a loaded celebrity basketball game in Los Angeles going down on December 16, "It's important to make sure people feel like they're apart of this. I love this time of year, people are vulnerable to goodness and we can reinforce that they can feel like this all times of the year." A star-studded cast will be making their way to L.A. for the pick-up game representing a good cause including: Matt Barnes, Hall-of-Famer Allen Iverson, Adam Levine, Lauren London, Casey Veggies, Lil Dicky, BDotADot and more.
The NBA has become a tradition to play games throughout Christmas day, providing a major platform for players that includes premier match ups and millions of eyeballs on the players. Unfortunately for Davis, he never got to compete on the special occasion once in his career, "I would've loved to play on Christmas,” says the California native. “For me, that's the start of the NBA season. It's got all the best match ups and that's the one day that you know it's about to go down."
Don’t rule out a comeback from the point guard, who teased an NBA return during an interview while sitting courtside for a recent Kings-Clippers game saying, "I love basketball; I play every day. Keep getting in shape and you never know what will happen." If that doesn’t come into fruition, expect Baron to return to broadcasting in January with TNT.