Bulls' Denzel Valentine celebrates V-Day with release of first rap album

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Rob Schaefer
·3 min read
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Denzel celebrates Valentine's with release of first album originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Denzel Valentine had something close to his heart that he was eager to share.

How perfect, then, that the Bulls guard released his first album -- titled "517 : Made Me" -- on Feb. 14, tying together the release of multiple singles and music videos over the course of the past year.

"It feels great," Valentine said after the Bulls' Sunday practice of putting the project out, which he added had been in the works for about a year. "I've been making a lot of songs. But to make a bunch of songs, select the ones that I want and mix and master and go through the whole artist process is different. It's time consuming."

That process effectively began when the NBA paused its 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic last March. With newfound free time, Valentine threw himself into his long standing passion for music, using a studio he has in his house to concoct and refine tracks, then thread them together into the eventual, 11-song EP.

"The first couple months I was in the studio damn near every day," Valentine said. "Just kind of getting my mind free, because I didn't know what was going on, whether we were starting back up or the season going to be cancelled... (Quarantining) definitely allowed me to get more creative on the music side."

And the album's ethos is, well, the story of Denzel Valentine. 5-1-7 is the area code of Lansing, Mich., where Valentine grew up. He filmed a music video for one of the record's singles -- "Get Ya Grind Up" -- in Lansing, starring multiple members of his family, including his older brother and parents.

In the first three tracks, Valentine reflects on his upbringing, journey to being a lottery pick and NBA aspirations. Those themes permeate, but there are also more grandiose allusions, including getting paper cuts from counting his money ("Paper Cutz"), penthouse living and sipping wine with a love interest ("Ride").

"It's just letting the fans get to know me a little bit better," Valentine said. "Telling my story and how I grew up and how my lifestyle is and everything like that."

As far as influences go, Valentine said he grew up on Biggie, Tupac and Jay Z, and that his father instilled a passion for music in him young. In high school and college, that blossomed through freestyling, which he picked up as a hobby.

And as fulfilling as the project was to create, Valentine added that it grew his respect for artists that regularly pump out music.

"I'm really excited to get feedback from everybody," he said. "I've just had a real passion for music ever since I was a little boy... To actually be able to get in the studio and make songs and put out an album is huge for me."

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