Part III: Football comes first for Lloyd

Brandon Lloyd realizes what others might think of his musical hobby, and he's well aware that the image and reputations of other athletes have been tarnished by similar pursuits. Here, in the last of three parts, Lloyd moves forward with his project after receiving encouragement from prominent Bay Area rapper E-40, and he takes a grass-roots approach to get his music to the masses. But Lloyd says it won't interfere with football and the 49ers, which will be his only focus once the season comes.

Lloyd also is a NFL player of some repute, and he is well aware of what many others will think of his hobby.

Some will say he should scrap hip-hop and focus on being a better wide receiver for the 49ers. Some will say his rapping is a trivial pursuit, and some will even call it detrimental to both him and the team. And if the music does not go over well, he'll be ridiculed on the field and off, perhaps causing irreparable harm to his image.

That has happened to other athletes who've entered the rap arena. Artest – the Indiana Pacers forward whose reputation has taken a beating because of other reasons – is one of the latest examples.

Artest asked the Pacers for time off last November to promote his rap album, and Lloyd called that approach, "Terrible. He had no tact, no class about it. The season's not a time to deal with that stuff."

Lloyd has seen too many other prominent athletes – from Artest to Iverson to Kobe Bryant to former Houston Texans running back James Allen – become either embarrassed or shrugged off as irrelevant because they were infatuated by the allure of hip-hop without really having a concept of how to balance their athletic commitments with their musical endeavors.

Allen, who raps under the alias Mersilis, released his debut album on his own record label last year but has yet to make much of a splash in the Houston hip-hop scene. Lloyd is hoping it will be different for him, and he's patiently and methodically rolling out his songs through listening parties, clubs and exposure on his personal Web site.

Lloyd has moved full-force forward with his project since the 49ers' season ended in early January. His confidence to do so grew after he received endorsement from E-40, a prominent Bay Area rap veteran and entrepreneur known for his inventive lyrical style.

Lloyd said that last fall, after developing about seven songs and "feeling all right with them," he got to a point where he needed to decide, "What am I doing, am I going to do this or not?" So he contacted E-40 for guidance and brought him a selection of songs to listen to and critique.

"Here, listen to it and tell me if I need to stop," Lloyd said he asked the established rapper. "Seriously. Tell me. Don't blow smoke. Don't beat around the bush. Be honest with me. I won't spend another cent on this. That's the point I'm at. Just tell me if I need to stop."

Instead, E-40 immediately told Lloyd he was on the right track. He also gave Lloyd some prudent pointers – most significantly, to work on a shoestring budget while developing his music – and to get a finished product before taking the next step.

That affirmation convinced Lloyd to move ahead and, as Weisner said, his music has progressed to a more sophisticated level since the calendar turned to 2005.

"Making this album was a dream, you know what I mean?" Lloyd said. "This is something that I'm going to have for the rest of my life. I'm going to have this album. The opportunity presented itself, so I attacked it. Right now, I am young, I can do this, so I attack it."

But Lloyd said he continues to take E-40's advice about working on a limited budget and presenting his musical product to the masses through a grass-roots approach.

When asked how much of his own money he has invested in the "Training Day" project, Lloyd said, "Not very much. And that's my whole mentality behind it.

"Athletes, we've got the money, so we tend to skip levels instead of making music – in particular hip-hop music, which kids in the inner city are listening to and buying and living this life – and then just completely skipping them and going to the stores and going to MTV and going (other) ways. So I'm completing my music, making wax vinyls and handing them to DJs. There are no levels that are being skipped."

While Lloyd makes it abundantly clear that he's not skipping out on any of his football commitments to make music, his offseason aspirations haven't appeared to create any reproach so far in a 49ers locker room where Lloyd was publicly criticized last season by teammates Fred Beasley and Kevan Barlow for his jewelry collection, braided hair and attitude in practice.

And new head coach Mike Nolan, who's making big waves this year as he attempts to inject the moribund franchise with a new kind of character and accountability, is keeping an open mind regarding what Lloyd does when he's away from football.

"Some guys work on their (college) degrees in the offseason, some guys work on their rapping," Nolan said with a shrug and a smile. "Hopefully, it's a career after football, not during. I know he does a little bit of it now. As long as it's not a distraction to his job, there is time in the day for those guys to do some other things. As long as they're maintaining their workouts, it doesn't concern me."

Lloyd, after achieving moderate success last season in his first year as a starter, when he had 43 receptions and led the team with six touchdown catches in 13 games, says he will have no problem separating his rapping from the more important demands of his day occupation.

"I mean, this is the offseason," he said. "I kind of started the project toward the end of the season last year, and the first three months of the offseason, it was strictly music. When the offseason came, I really hit it and was really working on my craft and getting everything down and it kind of sounds like I'm coming into my zone.

"But I want to finish this project, because I don't want to be doing this during the season. I'll still be creative, but I won't be pulling the all-nighters on Monday nights when the season comes around, especially with the opportunity that we have as a team this year. I want to be done with it before the season arrives and let (Weisner) do what he does and that's it."

Weisner, who describes producing every track on Lloyd's debut album as a "huge opportunity" for his own pursuits, wouldn't have it any other way.

"The man is dedicated to football first and foremost," Weisner said. "He's a football player. That is what he does. That's what he loves, and if you've seen him play, you see how hard he's worked. When it comes time for football, it's football, and he's not going to mix the two.

"But the guy can do music, too, and he's passionate about it. He has creative drive and his own sound, and he wants to be out. He's really coming into his own and has found his rhythm, so to speak. Some people see it possibly as a negative, but I see it as a positive. So many people like him as a football player that once the music comes out – once people hear the music – he'll just have that much more of a universal fan base."

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