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Andre Drummond on breaking up with the Pistons, being the best rebounder ever, and his new rap album

A career-spanning Q&A with the Cavaliers center.

Andre Drummond of the Cavaliers.
Cavaliers center Andre Drummond.

Heading into the 2019-20 season, Andre Drummond’s NBA career was metronomic. Just 26 years old, the two-time all-star had spent seven seasons with the Detroit Pistons as, for better or worse, a model of consistency.

Before the season ended, Drummond’s relatively calm NBA journey was flipped upside down when Detroit traded him to Cleveland for John Henson, Brandon Knight, and a second-round pick. He only played two games with the Cavaliers before head coach John Beilein was let go. Then Covid-19 shutdown the NBA.

Since, Drummond has donated $160K to support Cavaliers arena staff and healthcare workers, while also helping supply over 10,000 headphones to schools in the Cleveland and Detroit areas. Drummond has also spent almost all of his free time working on his second album, which is set to release on May 1.

In a phone interview with SB Nation, Drummond spoke about his whirlwind season, his upcoming album, why he’s the best rebounder who ever lived, and so much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

SB NATION: Where are you right now?

ANDRE DRUMMOND: Miami. We’ve got some family down here.

SB: What has the past month or so felt like, having to adjust to a totally new routine?

AD: The past few weeks, it’s been crazy. Just not doing anything, locked in the house and really not knowing what’s going on. So I think the unknown is probably the most crazy thing for me right now. I’m getting a ton of time to spend with my family, which is really good for me. Obviously you don’t normally get to spend so much time with loved ones, so that’s been good. But other than that it’s kind of just a waiting game right now.

SB: Are you following the latest developments with the season, whether it’ll come back or not?

AD: I’ve seen different things and gotten memos and things like that but it’s still all up in the air.

SB: Can you describe an average day from sunup to sun down?

AD: Seven in the morning I’m awake, I ride my Accell bike. Then I’ll do some workouts with my best friend. We use gallons of water as weights. So we use those to workout a little bit outside. Then the rest of the day I’m sitting here listening to beats and writing songs.

SB: How hard is it to stay in shape?

AD: For me it hasn’t been difficult at all. Like I said, I have the bike here and a pretty long runway in the back of my house as well, where I can go right outside. So it’s not that hard to stay in shape.

SB: Do you have access to a hoop?

AD: No, I don’t, actually.

SB: When was the last time you touched a basketball?

AD: Whenever our last practice was in Cleveland.

SB: A few players have said that. Would you have participated in ESPN’s televised HORSE competition a couple weeks back if someone asked you to?

AD: Yeah I would’ve did it.

SB: I saw you were shooting threes in Cleveland towards the end of the season.

AD: Yeah, letting them go.

SB: How would you describe the year you had before the season ended?

AD: I think it was going well. I was playing really well, added a few things to my game. Obviously the three-point shot is something I’ve been working on, and I showcased it this season a lot more. The trade obviously happened so we’re all aware of that. It was definitely a different environment and a different feel. But I’m definitely enjoying it so far. [The Cavaliers] did a great job getting me adjusted, getting me acclimated to the city and the team, and it’s been really fun. It’s just kinda sad that I didn’t get a chance to finish the year out with them.

SB: You said something this year that caught my eye: “I think I’m definitely the best ever when it comes to rebounding. I don’t think there’s anybody who’s even remotely close to the things I’ve done when it comes to [rebounding].” When did you first think that?

AD: I’ve always thought that about myself. I’ve just never been vocal about it. I’ll never put another man before myself. I’m always gonna think I’m the best. Even if I’m wrong I’m still gonna say that I’m right. I’m still gonna find a way to try and prove it.

SB: Did you catch any flack for that statement?

AD: No, I mean, everybody has their opinion. I don’t really read into it.

SB: Throughout your entire career you’ve been one of steadiest, most durable players in the league. But then the year you’ve had would feel bumpy for any player. First you’re in trade rumors with the Atlanta Hawks. Then you’re dealt without any forewarning from the Pistons — as you tweeted — and sent to a lottery-bound Cavs team with a loaded frontcourt. You play just two games for John Beilien before the team lets him go. What was the strangest part of it all for you?

AD: I just think that two-week span, with all those things happening. Just between the trade, and Coach B getting [fired] and then all of this happening. It’s just a crazy stretch. You just gotta let it happen. There’s not much you can do. You can’t fight what happened. I just try to be the best professional I can and try to help my team win.

SB: I assume some of you wanted to stay in Detroit for the rest of your career, but was there ever any part that said “Hey, maybe this breakup is the best for the both of us? We didn’t really have any postseason success and weren’t showing progress.” Where was your head before the trade happened?

AD: For me it was just a part of the game, a part of the business, and I just happened to be falling into it, so it was definitely a different experience for me. Do I have any hard feelings for Detroit? No. Do I have anything negative to say about it? No. Because at the end of the day that was home for me. And they’ve always been good to me, so I have nothing negative to say about that. I’m in Cleveland now so that’s all I can worry about now.

SB: I know there’s obviously a lot more important things going on but have you thought about your own future, and where you’re leaning with the player option in your contract?

AD: For me I haven’t really thought too deep into my next decision yet because obviously we can’t really do anything yet.

SB: I know you just said you’re spending more time with family during this downtime, but are you doing anything else now that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do?

AD: I’ve really taking the time to work on music and finish my album so that’s been the biggest thing I’ve been working on thus far. Spending time with my family, getting to see my daughter down here. That’s really about it.

SB: When you say “working on your album” can you be a little more specific?

AD: More time to write. More time to really sit down and pick what kind of beat I want to use instead of just picking a random one and going in. I’ve taken my time with it and think it’s gonna be really good.

SB: How many songs have you already recorded?

AD: I’ve done 14 in less than a week.

SB: Do you have a release date?

AD: May 1.

SB: You put out an EP in 2018 called FYI. I believe your new record is called FYI 2. What are some differences between the two?

AD: The first one was just my coming-out party. Me sharing that I do make music and I take this seriously and I’ve taken the time to really perfect my craft. That was obviously my first project and what I thought was really good. And when I listen to it now, I’ve come a long way. My sound, my beat choices and my lyrics. So I’m excited to share the new version of me.

FYI was all over the place with beat choices and more just having fun with it. Just trying to get a project out to let the world know. But now the process I took with FYI 2 is more in depth, and the meaning behind the songs are definitely more meaningful because they actually come from a place.

SB: When did you first know that you wanted to make music and actually put out a project?

AD: I’ve been making music since 2013 and I had over 2,500 songs I’ve made. Those were all just trial-and-error songs. And over time I kept making more and more. Some of the songs from my project in 2018, I made in 2013, 2014, so those were some songs I made a while back and decided to put out.

SB: Do you write your own lyrics, and if so how long does it take to put a song together?

AD: For me, it doesn’t take too long. Once you get me out of my seat when I hear a beat, then it’ll be a good day, but there’s always days where I’ll go through beats and say ‘this doesn’t sound too good’ but I’ll listen to it anyways. It’ll take me maybe an hour to come up with an entire song. Sometimes I just go in and start making the melody and start placing the words while I’m in the booth. I don’t even write it.

SB: Who helps in the collaboration process? Are people just sending you beats?

AD: I have my team of people that I bring with me to the studio. The beat-picking process is pretty easy. I have a wide variety of beats from different producers all over the world. You know it’s just whatever I come up with, whatever idea I come up, we’ll hear a beat and start shooting ideas. It’s a really fun process. I just started working with Rico Beats, Pop Smoke’s producer. RIP to Pop Smoke. Other than that I used a beat from Gigahurtz, he’s out of Portland.

SB: Dame Lillard and Iman Shumpert are two NBA players who’ve shown legitimate ability as rappers, too. But sonically I wouldn’t really throw you in that same category. Is it fair to say your sound isn’t like theirs?

AD: No, I’m more commercial.

SB: [Laughs]

AD: That’s not even a knock against them! I’m just not a rapper [laughs]. That’s not me. I don’t have a rapper’s mentality. I don’t have that sound. When you hear them rap it sounds good. Whenever I rap … that’s just not my sound.

SB: Which musician out there would you compare yourself to, if you were telling someone who’s never heard your music before about it and wanted to get an idea of what it was like?

AD: I just have my own sound. I don’t think anybody should compare themselves to anybody.

SB: A couple years ago you said in an interview that Jay Z, Biggie, Tupac, Nas and Kanye were your five favorite rappers. It’s strange for me to call someone who has those five on their list an old soul but I also feel like there aren’t too many people in their mid-20’s who’d have that type of list. Has it changed? Is anybody new catching your eye?

AD: That’s still my top five. That’s just the music I listened to growing up. I love the way they rap. I love their music. And I love what they were talking about, which drew me to them. There’s all kinds of stuff [being played] in my house so it depends on who’s the DJ that day. We were listening to Afrobeats yesterday. [I listen to my own music] all the time.

SB: I read that Candy Rain is your jumpoff record as a DJ. You’re 26. How is this possible?

AD: That was my go-to! [Laughter]. Whenever I felt like the crowd was dying I was like ‘let me go to the 90s real quick.’

SB: When did you start DJing?

AD: I started in college actually. I didn’t really take it seriously until I got to the NBA, when I could afford a DJ set. I’d use the DJ set at the bars. When I got to the NBA I started DJing for real and had a lot of fun doing it.

SB: Have you thought about starting your own Club Quarantine?

AD: I’m actually planning on starting something really, really soon. Probably in the next week or so. I’ll start getting on Instagram Live and start DJing. Look out for Drummond Quarantine Radio!

I have my equipment in storage. I just have to get it. I don’t know how many records I have, there’s a huge box full of them. Maybe a little less than 100. It’s hip-hop, and some oldies that my mom gave me.

SB: On your new album, are there any guest stars people might know?

AD: Yeah but I can’t say them. We all agreed on a day when we’re gonna announce that.

SB: Do you know what day?

AD: I will not tell you that either [laughs]. You just have to wait and see.