There is a common denominator between music and sports. A number of prominent musicians and rappers excelled in both arts. Rappers Master P and Nelly reportedly possessed enough skill to earn looks from sports scouts. R&B legend R. Kelly took time from his extraordinary career behind the microphone to play pro basketball.
Isaac Lucas aka Relaye was destined to immerse himself in music and sports since his father Aaron did the same. The inventive rapper’s father Aaron ran track at the University of Kansas, where he met his wife Dorothy. The couple formed a reggae band.
“I was involved in music and sports at a young age,” Lucas says. “I really didn’t have much of a choice since they both were always there. My mother taught me how to play piano when I was 5 and I started playing soccer around the same time.”
Like most athletic boys, sports became a focal point. When Lucas wasn’t running track (the sport that inspired his moniker Relaye), he was honing his basketball skills.
Off the court, Relaye could often be found jamming with his family band playing keyboard or trumpet, and when the young renaissance man was alone, he penned poetry. “I didn’t match up my poetry to music until I was in high school,” Lucas says. “I would make up melodies and flows to sing along to existing songs, but in high school I started getting into beat making and attaching those original melodies and lyrics to empty beats. The first beat I made was with an app on my phone called ‘beatmaker.’ I used that app to make dozens of beats and bought a boombox to bring on the basketball team bus for away games that i’d play them on. The whole team liked to freestyle so we would spend long bus rides freestyling to what I came up with.”
Music was just a hobby until Lucas entered college in Los Angeles. “I studied architecture but it didn’t allow me to be as creative as I thought it would going in,” Lucas admits. “My older brother studied mechanical engineering in school but I just didn’t want to go into that world. I didn’t even realize that music was even a possibility until I was a year into college. Given my parents experience in the music industry, they were skeptical of my pursuing it at first, but I went for it anyway since I knew it was what I wanted. They wanted me to pursue a career with a little more job security, but once it was obvious how serious about it I was, and how passionate I am about music, they were on board. Especially once they heard what I had been working on and realized that I can make music.”
That’s evident after a spin of the tracks, some of which may be featured on Lucas’ debut album. It hasn’t been easy for the prolific Lucas to whittle his massive collection of songs down for the album since he has crafted a song a week during 2016, in addition to the songs being made specifically for his first full length project.
However, Lucas, who raps and sings, has nailed it with an eclectic batch of tunes, which are dense, atmospheric, cerebral and visceral.
The detached “Catchin’ Feelings” is a dramatic, clever, anthemic track with an irresistible beat. “Afternoon” is a soulful gem, which features rapid fire raps and smooth crooning. “That song hits on some different levels,” Lucas says. “It has that soul kind of vibe, which connects with what I grew up on since I listened to a lot of reggae and old school funk. It brought me back to the O’Jays, The Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire. Once I head that beat I came up with a melody and had that hook within a half an hour.”
“Show Me” goes in yet another direction. The electronic tune features fluid raps and a production so dense that it requires a few spins to fully absorb. “That one was a little more difficult,” Lucas says. “It’s more electronic than hip-hop and it took some time to figure out how and where the hook should go.”
But Lucas makes it work. Even though it requires more effort, he is striving to make an adventurous album rather than produce a project, which features a single and nine songs that sound like it.
“I like incorporating different styles within my music,” Lucas explains. “Hip hop is definitely the crux of my work but I’m open to all styles, and try to venture outside of my comfort zone when I’m creating. I’ll add in some old school flavor, funk, blues, reggae. If I hear a cool jazz instrumental, maybe I’ll add something like that to a song. Whatever makes it as interesting as possible, or as nuanced as possible. You gotta be willing to take some chances.”
That’s what Lucas did with a few of his older tracks, which are amusing in a manner reminiscent of the punk-funk pioneers Fishbone during its prime. “As serious and passionate as I am about making music, I definitely don’t take myself too seriously as an artist. I have several pretty silly songs that people still seem to like a lot,” Lucas said.
That’s a huge reason Lucas is so different than most of his peers, who treat their material as if it’s precious and fragile as china. Lucas can be bawdy but self deprecating. He sticks his neck out, but that’s the way it goes when you craft a song a week.
“I want to take risks,” Lucas says. “I think that’s the way you evolve. You try to be inventive and you look out and see what can make your music as good as it can be. As an artist of any kind I think if you want to lead rather than follow, you’re always looking for new ways to approach something that haven’t been done before. I feel like either too much pride or fear of failure are the only things stopping a lot of artists from trying new things, but to me thats like shooting yourself in the foot. Like twice.”
It would have been easy for Lucas to be working in a cubicle and taking architectural meetings. However, he went out on a limb, and it’s obvious to even his parents that he has the skills to go far in the world of music.
“My family is very supportive,” Lucas says. “They were concerned because of what know about the industry, but they really like what I’m doing. Hopefully lots of other people will like what I’m doing as well.”
After a spin of 9 to 5, the odds are in Lucas’ favor of a long, fascinating career in the world of music. As for sports. “I love sports,” Lucas says. “But I found what I want to do.”