Hawks’ visit to local record label brings team closer together

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Despite the rain Wednesday afternoon, learning about a portion of the business world left members of the Hawks singing a tune. At least, learning how to make beats had them smiling and singing what they created.

As part of the NBA’s Business of Basketball initiative, the Hawks headed to Generation Now, an Atlanta-based record label, to go over the impact of music on Atlanta’s culture and economy. It also went over music licensing and then ended with a beat-making competition among the players.

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In the past, the Hawks leaned on the theme of financial literacy for the annual event. This year, they wanted to branch out and do something that connects the players to a different avenue.

With 16 of the 18 Hawks players in attendance, they heard firsthand accounts from Leighton “Lake” Morrison, Tyree “DJ Drama” Simmons and Don Cannon on how they leveraged their brands to create the label. The three began building the studio in 2012 and completed it in 2015.

The Hawks listened as the three shared where their visions and dreams began and how they were able to turn them into a reality.

“This is dope to have being in a city like Atlanta,” Morrison said at one point during his spiel. “We know how connected the music industry is to sports, and we know that this city is motivated by the music industry.”

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Morrison also made the connection to how each player has strengths and roles. He added that everyone on the team has to make sure that they’re using their strengths to benefit the team while not getting in each other’s way.

Wednesday’s team activity allowed the players to get an understanding of how the organization likes to incorporate music into the game experience. The Hawks have had plenty of halftime concerts from local artists, such as Ne-Yo, who performed at halftime during the team’s matchup against the Nets. They’ve also partnered with Mr. Hanky for beats that they can use on their social media accounts.

In addition to hearing the founding partners of Generation Now share their stories of coming up through the industry, the players heard from Sonny ”Sonny Digital” Uwaezuoke. The 32-year-old producer rose to prominence after working on the song “Racks” by rapper YC, as well as ILoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday” and 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song.”

Uwaezuoke, as well as Morrison, Simmons and Cannon, encouraged everyone to use the brand they have created as basketball players into something they can use once they stop playing.

“It just reminds me that, you know, is a lot of aspects and avenues in life that I can go down, and as he was saying, there’s just that connection, and obviously (basketball) is what we do or we call our job or how we create a life for ourselves,” Hawks forward John Collins said.

“But there’s so many other aspects that can happen once you excel in that craft. So, it’s just keeping your mind open to all possibilities, and that’s really the biggest part because I don’t think any of us thought we’d be here.”