After stops in Oklahoma City and Orlando, Victor Oladipo has blossomed into a full-blown NBA superstar on the court with the Indiana Pacers, a mere 50 miles from where he dominated the NCAA scene at Indiana University. With athletes refusing to just “shut up and dribble,” Oladipo prefers to speak out by making music, moonlighting as a burgeoning R&B artist.
Music culture was deep-rooted in Vic’s upbringing, as the Maryland native was exposed to various genres of tunes by his siblings and parents, ranging from country to R&B and hip-hop. “Coming from the Nigerian culture, music is really big. I had a whole variety of music I was listening to and it was definitely impactful and beneficial to my music career,” the 26-year-old tells Billboard. “I started singing when I was 6 years old in the [children’s choir] at church, and I’ve been singing ever since then.”
Oladipo continued to hone his craft throughout high school and college, before deciding to publicly share his art with the world and become the next professional athlete to dabble in the music world. Vic surprised fans and teammates alike with the release of his first single last August, “Song for You,” a dulcet Donny Hathaway cover. Following initial positive feedback on his silky track, the Pacers guard continued to test the waters by delivering his Songs for You EP prior to the 2017 season tipping off in October.
The Maryland-bred hyphenate returned Friday (Nov. 30) with the release of his official debut album V.O., a concise body of work that is more authentic to his personality and connects to his life experiences as a 26-year-old famous athlete. “The main topic I was trying to get across was love and its impact on different relationships. I just wanted to show everyone this is who I am. This is the more authentic me,” he says. “You’ll definitely be surprised when you take a listen, because most people are.”
V.O. is filled with sultry love ballads and even opens with a bouncy potential strip-club anthem. Oladipo exercised his connections in the entertainment realm to notch features from crooning savants in Trey Songz, PnB Rock, Eric Bellinger and Tory Lanez.
With a ton of sensual lyrics touching on Oladipo’s romancing ways, Vic was quick to clear up that his relationship status still reads single. “I’m single right now and I’m in that space as a single 26-year-old. If the opportunity for love presents itself and comes my way, of course, I’m going to take it for long,” he says of living in the moment. “Right now, I’m just at a point I’m done looking for love and I’m going to let love come to me.”
The NBA star also isn’t shy about his faith, but he’s able to separate the conflicting worlds of religion and the explicit content inside his music. “At the end of the day, I’m not a saint. I have my faith and believe in my lord and savior Jesus Christ, but I’m not perfect,” says Oladipo. “I do music to build my brand and I give the music that I like and people would like to hear. I’m just trying to be the best me I can be. If there’s conflict, I guess I’ll have to settle that with my lord and savior.”
On the court, the former Indian Hoosier was putting together another All-Star-caliber campaign, but a knee injury suffered earlier this month will sideline Oladipo for the foreseeable future. When he does hit the hardwood again, Vic looks to gritty hip-hop for an extra shot of adrenaline to get him locked in before games. “Right now, I’m a big Roddy Ricch fan on my pre-game playlist. Drake, Gunna and Meek Mill are on there too,” he says.
Overall, Oladipo just hopes fans withhold judgment and give the project an honest listen. “Don’t sleep. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete, but when people see a basketball player putting out music, they’re first instinct is automatically think, ‘This boy crazy, he just need to focus on hooping.’ Which is fine, but I know my priorities,” the Drake-inspired artist emphatically states. “Basketball is the love of my life and is what I focus on. Music is a hobby and it’s a gift that I’m trying to share.”
Check out the rest of Billboard‘s conversation with Victor Oladipo below, where he gives an extensive breakdown behind the inspiration and creative process to each of his debut effort’s eight tracks.
1. “Lights On” feat. Tory Lanez; producer: Troy Oliver
It’s something new. I think the whole feel for that was, I remember on my first album, my sister and her friends were like, “You gotta get a club banger on there.” When I heard that, I was like, “This is it.” It turned out being great. I’ve experienced a few things in the club in my day. [These experiences] have probably happened to me once or twice. When the opportunity presents itself, who doesn’t like going out? At times, we do because we are young athletes that like to have a good time. It’s fun and we’re smart about it. We’re not reckless. If you want to have a good time, I don’t see why not. People do whatever they want in their free time and we try to do the same.
Getting Tory on there was a no-brainer. That kind of happened sporadically too. It was really just meant to be, like most of the other features. At first, we had no features toward the end of the summer. We waited and before you knew it, people were just coming out of nowhere saying they would do it. Tory was one of them and he takes the track to another level. That’s what I look for and I’m thankful that he did it. Our relationship was built because of [working together]. We’re close now because we linked up and did the track and it turned out hot. I’ve been following his career and I know he does the same for mine.
2. “Just in You” feat. Eric Bellinger; producers: Southwest, Eric Bellinger
I think “Just In You” is more so for the ladies because I feel like they can relate to it. It’s really just telling them that we’re really into you when we’re in a relationship. In order for me to love you, you have to teach me how to. I think people forget that everybody’s different. When you come into something new, you have to teach them their way of loving, which may be different than yours. If you truly love that person, you’ll do whatever you can. It’s dope Eric [Bellinger] got on there and it sounds great as well. He takes it to another level. Hopefully everyone likes it.
3. “Forward”; producer: Bongo; writer: Scootie?
That’s more of a grown-up track, I guess you could say. I like the concept of it because you’re letting her know what you want, but at the same time, you’re being polite about it. You’re like, “I hope this isn’t being too forward, but I just had to be honest with you.” I think that’s what people want to hear and people like that. There’s plenty of situations where guys are like, “Should I go talk to her?” To the point you just say, “I’m going to be honest with you, shorty.” Then you tell her what it is, but you hope that isn’t too forward. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that song.
4. “Connected” feat. PnB Rock
That’s one of those tracks that I feel everyone is going to vibe with. I think it’s something that’s real dope. Who doesn’t want to be connected? Little things that you do for people show them that you’re connected. It was pretty cool putting that out there before the album dropped, a lot of people liked the song. We were able to hook up with PnB Rock through Meek Mill, who we have mutual friends with. He’s a good friend of mine and the producer Andrew Clifton’s. It was like a connected feel to the song. We definitely had to connect the dots to get that joint jumping.
I went to Rome last summer, and it was one of my favorite getaways. It was a great experience for me to go visit the Colosseum. I’m a real historical and artsy guy. It was pretty cool to go see the major statues and artifacts of Roman history. I had the opportunity to take my mother to Israel this past summer, which was amazing. I try to get away every summer, whether that be by myself or with family.
5. “First Chance”; producer: John “SK” McGee
It’s one of the sleepers on the album. I think people are really going to like that song. I just wanted to show everybody that when you’re in a situation, I want my first chance to be my last chance. Everyone always says you want to have a good first impression. When you have a good first impression, you make the most out of the entire relationship. Whether it’s first meeting someone or their parents, first impressions are everything. When I meet you and have my first chance to love you, I want it to be a good one and the last one. That Rihanna line ain’t true. I wish it was, but I’m going to say, “I’m Sorry,” when I see her at a party. I was just joking on the song. I never had the opportunity to meet her, but maybe one day. That would be a dope experience.
6. “Drown” feat. Trey Songz; producer: Troy Oliver
A lot of people are going to like that one. Having Trey on there sets it off. He already sings those kind of songs and it kind of relates to his innocence and fits his style. I think the females and males are going to like it. It really shows the growth and maturity in me. It’s saying I want to drown in your love.
7. “Testify”; producer: Southwest
I love “Testify” because when you get someone you truly care about, and she’s your queen, you have to let everyone know why she is. If she’s your significant other, you have to testify to why she is. The song relates to me very well because I’m not one to be flamboyant and tell everybody why someone with me is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but when it’s time to, I will. That’s the dope thing about the song, I’m testifying for your love.
8. “Funny Thing About Love”; producer: PATrizio Pigliapoco
I wanted it to be the last one because I wanted to hit everyone with the vocal range on there. I think it shows off my growth and how much better of a singer I’ve become since last year. The funny thing about love is it’s funny. I honestly think love is very unique and a complex thing. There’s no true answer to what love really is. I think that’s why the song is so good for the album. It reiterates that you’ll never really understand it or get what it is, but when it does come, it’s amazing.