Henry Quesada ’22
It has long been rumored that the two faces of the modern NBA, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, recorded a rap song together during the NBA lockout prior to the 2011/12 season. Although short clips of the song had been posted on Twitter and potential lyrics have been leaked, it was never abundantly clear whether a studio-recorded version existed in its entirety until earlier this month, when the song was released onto SoundCloud. Since its release the song has been removed due to legal issues with ownership of production. The song is titled “It Ain’t Easy,” is about 3.5 minutes in duration, and features a verse each from Durant and James. According to Kristian Winfield with SB Nation, “It Ain’t Easy” was recorded by Spider Studios in Cleveland, Ohio.
It is important to understand the era in which this song was recorded. In 2011, with a few exceptions, most notably Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil, NBA players did not record music in the offseason. Today, NBA and NFL players alike hit the recording studio in droves during the summer; however, the line between rappers and athletes was much more defined when “It Ain’t Easy” was recorded. This is perhaps one reason why the song took nearly seven years to be released publicly.
Prior to the 2011/12 NBA season, the careers of LeBron James and Kevin Durant looked vastly different than they do today. The rivalry we saw play out in 2012 and in the past two NBA finals had yet to materialize. At the time, James was entering his second year with the Miami Heat and was coming off what threatened to be a career defining loss in the 2011 NBA Finals. He was facing a level of scrutiny that had never before been seen, and had not yet made peace with his decision to leave Cleveland in free agency in the summer of 2010. Kevin Durant was entering his fifth season in the league and after earning two consecutive scoring titles, his global fame was ascending.
“It Ain’t Easy” is largely centered around the lives of the two athletes at the time. Both James and Durant rap about navigating in an increasingly complicated social media world and address the drawbacks associated with fame and fortune. They lament the fact that with success comes doubters, and with failure come the critics. Durant in particular focuses on his expanding fame and the ways in which his life has changed since his career took off. The song begins with a verse from Durant, followed by a chorus from an unnamed artist, and finishes with a verse from James. The song is professionally produced and both NBA players conduct themselves surprisingly well. Damian Lillard is the current gold standard for NBA player musicians. Lonzo Ball released an album in the summer of 2017 to popular acclaim. Victor Oladipo, who focuses more on R&B, also released a well-received album last summer. Although James and Durant are not on par with the foremost athlete/musicians of 2018, “It Ain’t Easy” is far superior to the ill-fated debuts of previous generations of NBA players and I believe that listeners will be pleasantly surprised.
A lot has changed for James and Durant since 2011. James has won three NBA championships and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason, while Durant is currently entering his third season with the Golden State Warriors with two titles under his belt. One thing that hasn’t changed, despite the rivalry on the court, is the friendship between James and Durant. With the release of “It Ain’t Easy,” the only question remaining is whether Durant will finally meet up with James on the Lakers in 2019.
Photo Courtesy of NBC Sports