Funny thing is, the only way Artest stands out is that he’s tall. No kids mob him for autographs or pictures, no adults try and scheme on favors. This isn’t because they don’t love him—quite the opposite. Ron’s not a visiting celebrity as much as he is just another resident. It’s just another day in the hood, which is the way he likes it. The way it should be. “Even when I first got drafted, I announced I was going to the NBA in my neighborhood,” Artest says. “Everything I do, I do in my neighborhood, just because the people that grew up there, sometimes they feel like they ain’t got no chance. And there’s always a chance.”
“No matter how much loot I get I’m stayin in the projects, forever” — Mobb Deep (Havoc), “Survival Of The Fittest”
Ron Artest is 27-years-old and a millionaire several times over. He grew up right here, in the heart of QB. Went to high school at LaSalle Academy over in downtown NYC, then to college at St. John’s in Queens, earned his nickname (“True Warrior,” of course) at the Rucker, played AAU ball with Lamar Odom and Elton Brand. It doesn’t get much more New York than that. He was drafted 16th overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1999, which meant he never had to go back to QB again. Only he did. Over and over and over—so much so that when he comes back it’s not so much a reunion as it is a regular occurrence. Ron-Ron loves Queensbridge and it loves him right back. He’s got the letters “QB” tatted on the back of his sizeable calves, wears 93 on the court because of their resemblance to the letters.
“Growing up, it was a little rough, at times, you know,” he says. “It was fun, though. I was definitely in my environment—how I grew up was how I grew up, so I ain’t grow up like, ‘Man, I gotta get out this place,’ I grew up like, ‘Wow, I live in this place,’ you know?” Ron even says that would have been a math teacher if he wasn’t a basketball player.
Save the image of Ron as a math teacher for a minute—a 6-6, 240-pound math teacher—and go back to the rap stuff. He didn’t do this record because being a pro athlete and celebrity allowed him to fulfill a lifetime dream. He did this album because being an athlete and celebrity gave him more to speak on. From growing up in QB, to the infamous brawl in Detroit, all the way up to the aftermath, he’s been collecting material. On the very the song, “Haters,” where he gives his take on the brawl, he also calls out NBA commissioner David Stern: “David Stern, damn David Stern, I gotta teach you about the ghetto, some things you should learn.” Here’s hoping Ron didn’t send an advance copy to the League office.
“Stop walking through life as if you were blind / You should reach for your goal ’cause I’m reaching for mine / And I’m from The Bridge, Queensbridge” — MC Shan, “The Bridge”
“They said I shouldn’t rap / Said I shouldn’t pursue it / When I heard that / Ron started to lose it / Yeah, went months in a zone / Wrote and spit real lyrics / Over DJ Megatron / The closest real dog to MX / Y’all live in a fairytale, we all live in the projects” — Ron Artest, “Rap Game”