Woolridge bouncing to his own different beat

Rapping basketball players are a breed most often mocked for their attempts at entertainment crossovers. For University of Tennessee basketball player Renaldo Woolridge, an honest laugh at his predecessors precedes his explanation that the stereotype is not indomitable. Go "Inside" this special feature to see a different side of Woolridge.

Rapping basketball players are a breed most often mocked for their attempts at entertainment crossovers.

Labeled as oblivious buffoons desirous of more limelight, professional basketball superstars such as Shaquille O'Neal, Ron Artest and Allen Iverson have left even their most loyal fans laughing at their records.

But like everything in life, there are exceptions.

For University of Tennessee basketball player Renaldo Woolridge, an honest laugh at his predecessors precedes his explanation that the stereotype is not indomitable.

"It's tough because anybody who hears that I can rap, that's the first thing that comes to mind, it's a basketball player trying to rap," Woolridge says.

The basketball player stands with his hands on his hips, still slightly catching his breath after another long afternoon practicing with his team.

"I really want to do this; I want to be the first."

Aside from serving as forward for the Volunteers on the court, Woolridge kills time searching for samples, writing lyrics and recording songs under the pseudonym "Swiperboy."

"It was just a west coast phrase type of thing," Wooldridge explained. "It's like swiping the spotlight in the aspects of basketball, music, and girls, pretty much everything. I thought it'd be a good rap name, it's catchy."

Hailing from Sherman Oaks, California, the 6-foot-8 sophomore is known by some Volunteer fans as the tall kid with twist curls, who in his first back-to-back games as a starter knocked down 4-of-6 three pointers and shot a blazing hot 67 percent from the floor… against No. 1 Kansas.

His other fans know Woolridge for different numbers, such as his YouTube hits, album downloads on mix tape websites and plays on MySpace music.

"A few years ago I watched (rapper) Soulja Boy on the news," Wooldridge explained. "He said he used social networking devices…He was the only example (then) how he went straight from his stuff on YouTube to being a millionaire. I took after that. I have stuff all over MySpace, twitter, YouTube."

"At the beginning of last year I had one song on YouTube, and I said by the end of this year I want to have a channel people can listen to. Now it's a year later and I have 40 something songs. I'm trying to take steps ahead."

To a budding Woolridge, marketability is central vocabulary in his vision towards entertainment greatness, which to the young man, will uncertainly lead to a basketball court or concert stage.

The student-athlete chuckles and then stares deeply into nothingness at the thought of signing a record contract today, the idea of abandoning the foundation he has built in Knoxville, his team of brothers shooting baskets in the backgrounds of Pratt Pavilion.

"I would tell them that if you can fit it around your schedule I would be the first of my kind," Woolridge says with a grin. "Marketing wise I would make them a lot of money. As far as what I'm doing, this is what I came here for, I grew up wanting to play college basketball and be in the NBA."

Admittedly, at least verbally, the son of 13-year NBA veteran Orlando Woolridge puts basketball ahead of music.

"It was just all that I knew," Woolridge said. "It was something that I fell in love with real young, so I got a chance to go to games real young. When I was about five he played in Italy overseas, so I lived there for two years."

On the other end of the spectrum was his mother, Patricia-Jackson Woolridge, a piano teacher who first exposed her son to a less strenuous form of entertainment.

"My mom was a musician," Woolridge said. "Around nine, I grew interested in it, like I would listen to the radio and start rapping. My mom told my aunt that I rapped, she came to one of my talent shows and she said I should try out for this commercial. It was for Skippy peanut butter and that was when I was eleven."

A juvenile Woolridge would provide a voice-over for the commercial, which would become one of his first recorded raps.

Fast-forward eight years, Woolridge has played the role of a superstar small-forward at Harvard-Westlake High School, a promising four-star recruit and now a growing contributor at a major college basketball program.

Still, the Californian at heart walks the sidewalks of campus, earphones buzzing Tupac Shakur, silently dreaming of becoming a rap musician.

Swiperboy lists Common, Talib Kweli, and Busta Rhymes among others, carefully counting fingers to me, not to forget any of his idols, all just digital inspirations that reside in his Ipod, daily reminders between classes and practice the passion that bounces to a different beat for the 19-year-old.

"I don't know what the future holds," says a still conflicted Woolridge.

"I enjoy being on the stage," he concludes with a grin.


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