Ballers want to be rappers and rappers want to be ballers — or at least, so says conventional wisdom — but typically, those aspirations don’t go beyond locker-room freestyles and heated games of pick-up (just in the Staples Center instead of your local blacktop).
A select few, though, choose to take their hobby to the next level: enter Christine Michael, fourth-year Seattle Seahawks running back, who released his debut — Django: No Lies The Mixtape — on SoundCloud last summer, before going on (after a bit of moving around) to his first 100-yard game during the team’s 36-6 stomping of the Cardinals late in 2015.
Over the weekend, the 25-year-old Beaumont, Texas native took a few minutes after running routes at Seahawks training camp in Renton, Wash. to talk to Billboard about what inspired him to hit the studio, Seattle hip-hop, and the future of his music career.
How did you first start rapping?
Really, it’s music period. It’s been my first love, even before I started playing football — maybe middle school? Sixth grade, just clowning around with it. I didn’t come out with the mixtape until my teammates pushed me, until my friends pushed me. It’s just something I enjoy, something after football that I do for myself.
Were there any specific artists that really inspired you?
Not really. The people that inspire me the most are probably like Meek Mill, Boosie, Kevin Gates — those types of guys. I feel like I get better at it — that I can pretty much balance both football and music.
There’s a few people out there doing it — Dame Lillard, for one…
The thing is, I’ve never seen it in football. Maybe in basketball — maybe. But I’ve never really seen someone do both football and music, and really be good at them. My teammates say I’m good at it — I’m not trying to bump up myself [laughs]. They support me, and so do my friends and family.
With the mixtape, where did you record it?
It’s probably 45 minutes from [Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seahawks headquarters and training facility]? I did the whole mixtape there — the beats, mastering, everything. I’d get off of work here, and go right there, just try to cram it all in. It was fun, it wasn’t hard. No producers, it was just me and Alex (who was the engineer) and his friend Jordan. Those guys, they’re good at what they do. They have a nice set-up — it was comfortable. They did an amazing job.
Are there more mixtapes to come?
No ma’am — I’m just trying to focus, of course, on training camp. I seem to be getting that pretty well though…maybe I can dive into some more music down the line. After training camp, after cuts, after we’re done getting ready for the season. As of now I’m just focusing — writing some things down, not going back and forth too much to record due to the time we’re spending here. But I’m always writing, always listening to beats — always trying to improve.
Are there any beats that you’ve liked recently?
My first mixtape, I used other people’s beats. That’s why I called it a mixtape. But this new project I’m working on has all original beats that no one’s heard. Someone I know on a personal level, he does them, and he’s awesome. He’s from Arkansas.
What’s your take on Seattle’s hip-hop scene, as a transplant?
I can tell you one thing — what’s his name, Mackly? Macklemore? He has a lot of respect around here. I’ve seen that a lot of people like him. I don’t know really too many rappers in Seattle, but he’s one that definitely stands out. He’s on top right now in Seattle.
I wanted to do a video with some Seattle scenes — in the mountains somewhere. That would have been amazing. Put some visuals behind my music. I want people to take me more seriously in music — just like how they’ll take me seriously in football, because I’ve been doing football all my life. Being an athlete, the hardest part in music is trying to get everyone to take you seriously.
Do you consider yourself a Texas rapper?
I don’t consider myself a rapper yet. Like I said, it’s all about who you have in your corner, the people who take you seriously. When I put out the first mixtape, I put it out on SoundCloud — not iTunes or DatPiff or anything. I let people listen to it for free on the first go around, because it wasn’t my beats. It got over 200,000 hits off the whole thing, and that kind of impressed me. It kind of surprised me. I’ll see what happens on the next mixtape — what kind of views I get.
If the 2016 Seahawks were an artist, who would they be?
I guess I’d have to say Drake? That’s probably the only guy I could compare it to because this is such a great team, and he’s such a great musician. We’ve been on the rise for a minute now man, and we’ve got a lot of respect around the league. Just got a great supporting cast behind us.
To get back to basics, who are you listening to these days?
I said Drake due to the team, but I don’t even listen to Drake. I’m a Meek Mill guy. I was the only guy on this team who was standing up for Meek Mill through the whole entire beef. I support the guy.
He definitely needed somebody!
He did, he did [laughs]. I must admit he did. But I can relate to the guy so well, you know? Drake is a great musician, Drake is loved by everyone — but I just relate to Meek Mill better. So that’s why Meek Mill is my favorite.
What do you see as the connection between what you do when you’re on the mic, and what do you when you’re on the field?
Just that it’s about showing what you can do — having fun. Just like I can relate to Meek Mill, maybe someone can relate to me. It’s not really a difficult task to do music and football, as long as you’re taking care of your business in the one that’s paying you. Of course that’s the main focus.
But I love music so much — words can’t even explain. I think about it every single day, I write something everyday, I try to learn something new about rap everyday. Just like I watch film on different running backs around the league, I watch film on different rappers. I try to take stuff from everybody’s game in football, so I do the same thing in rap. Not words, but how they deliver things, or what’s new and popular, and put it into my own stuff.
Would you ever do a show?
If it came down to it, of course! We’ve performed in front of what, hundreds of thousands of people before so…it would be fun.
Is there any one song you have to hear before you go on the field?
Definitely a Meek Mill song — not the Dreams & Nightmares intro. Probably one of his older songs.
Are you guys ever going to collaborate?
I’d assume he’s an Eagles fan [Meek Mill is from Philadelphia]!
He is — I’ve heard him say it before. But you know, maybe he could come support some of the Seahawks.
I mean if he knows he has a fan…
And I guarantee you, I’m probably the biggest Meek Mill fan. When he was going through his whole Drake beef, and everyone was like, “Is Meek Mill’s career over?” I was the only one saying, “It’s just starting” — you know?
Well we’ll have to put it out there — let Meek know you guys need to do a song together.
Absolutely — that would be the coolest. I’d have to put some real bars down there, for sure!