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Christian Crosby on Finding Comfort in Discomfort, Quarantine Recording and His Debut Single, ‘Insecure’

The Sixers In-Arena Host is veering into a new lane.

Photo courtesy: jaysvito. @jaysvito on Instagram

I last spoke with Christian Crosby in late April.

During our conversation, the eminently likable host and entrepreneur talked me through his life and career first as a Sixers fan, and then as a trusted member of the team’s game presentation staff. We also talked about the bizarre and surreal nature of the Covid-19 pandemic and national quarantine we’d found ourselves in.

When we spoke again last week, the pandemic and quarantine hadn’t (meaningfully) changed much, but the national conversation sure had. Following the murder of George Floyd — another unarmed black man executed in the street by police — protesters across the country (and the world over) took to the streets to protest the racial inequality that has long permeated the justice system.

The impetus for this particular conversation was Crosby’s announcement on May 29 that he would be stepping out of his comfort zone in a new venture as a musical artist:

As a writer, it felt (and feels) as though any piece of sportswriting that ignores the cultural moment we find ourselves in would ring superfluous and hollow.

So when Christian and I spoke, he first enlightened me with his perspective on the protests before we moved on to the subject of his music. Enjoy.

How’ve you been?

I’ve been good, man. Still home for the most part. But finally starting to venture out a little bit.

Yeah, things are opening up a little bit.

And I think, just from the more I’m reading, I feel like it’s gonna open up even faster than maybe, the whole phase one, phase two, phase three thing. Like [I feel like] it’s gonna skip to phase three faster than people thought.

Yeah, I hope so, and I hope that if that happens, it doesn’t [then] need to be corrected. You know? Like, the worst case scenario would be [things] opening up too quickly, and then we have to do this [quarantine] all over again.

I think you’d agree [in that] I don’t think anyone would do it again. (laughs)

I know, that’s the hard part.

I don’t think they could get us to do it again.

You’re in Philly, right?

Yeah, I’m in Center City, Philadelphia. So I’m in the prime area of it all.

Before we get into any of the music stuff, I just wanted to see if you had anything you’d like to say about what it’s like to be [there] during the protests and everything else going on.

Christian mentions the public statement he wrote and released in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed. He sent me the full statement — which he characterized as the best summation of his emotions and thoughts on the subject:

Courtesy: Christian Crosby
Courtesy: Christian Crosby
Courtesy: Christian Crosby
Courtesy: Christian Crosby
Courtesy: Christian Crosby

I think it’s a really important time in the world for people to use their voice… I think that we, as people, do have power to make change with our voices. I love to see people taking some courage and speaking up for what they believe in.

What I really want to say to people is that, if you’re in the process of educating yourself, get uncomfortable. And be comfortable with that discomfort. For those who, kinda, need to acknowledge some things, whether that’s their privilege, whether it’s their struggle — no matter what, focus your energy toward being part of the solution.

I’ve been challenged with using my voice, and obviously, with that comes a lot of fear. Because you don’t want to divide, you don’t want to lose friends, you don’t want to lose brand deals, you don’t want to lose credibility, and you don’t want to be viewed a certain way. [But] when I think [about] what to do, I always ask myself ‘What is right? What allows me to move forward with integrity? What allows me to move forward with clarity?’ So whatever that answer is, that’s what I do.

Last thing I’ll say [on this subject]: the next step is action. You can speak up, but that’s where it starts, that’s not where it stops. So I want to encourage anyone who’s reading this — get in the voting booth. Not just once every four years for our president. Midterms, state, local elections — they all matter. Keep that energy that you’re feeling right now and bring it to the booth.

Now — as for music — when did you first start doing music? As far as I know, this is the first public venture that you’ve taken with it, so tell me how you started.

So, this is crazy because I’ve been really scared to put this out because I have kept this from many people. People that are extremely close to me. But the truth is, I’ve been doing music since I was a little kid. It’s always been a love and a passion of mine that I’ve never put to the forefront. I just more so did it for passion and fun and for the love of it. At one point in time as a kid I used to rap for my church. I was a Christian rapper. At one point in time it was my main thing. I was all about it, it was my number one talent that I was focused on more than anything else. But as a grew older, you know, life happened. And I started to fall in love with other things like entrepreneurship and being a host and personality.

And Taekwondo, I remember that was early, too.

Tae Kwon Do, martial arts — you know the story. Music, just, from there, became something that I did either on my own or not at all. So about, I’d say, two years ago, I made a decision that I was just gonna start doing it therapeutically. Like, [I would] just make music because I love it and I miss it. I wasn’t sure at the time if I was ever gonna put it out. But I knew that I was supposed to do it. So I just did it anyway. And I never felt like the time was right. I always felt like there was something that deserved my time a little bit more. It just didn’t feel right. [And then] for the first time in my life, with everything happening in the world, it just felt like the right time. So, I have a lot of songs, I have a lot of different topics and issues and things that I touch on in my music. And I think what I’m gonna do is just release it one step at a time. I’m not gonna release an album [today], I’m gonna release this full song and music video, which I’m really excited about. And I think every few weeks or so I’m gonna release a new song and a new video, and once I feel comfortable and confident, I’m gonna put out a full project. And I’m really excited about it. [So] I’ve actually been doing music my whole life, I’ve just never told anyone about it.

That’s very exciting, congratulations. Who were some inspirations for you, musically?

Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Oh man, I mean, if we’re talking about hip-hop… I would say the people that I look up to are Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Drake. Those are guys that I look up to, I love what they’ve been able to do with their careers and with their voices. But I’d say the most influence I have specific to my music is more like J. Cole, Childish Gambino, guys like that. Even somebody like Mac Miller. They’re good storytellers, they articulate really well with their music, and they have vibes. They have good vibes that tells a story that a lot of people can relate to… I look up to guys like Meek Mill. Coming from my city, and to see all that he’s done and all that he’s been through, to see him on CNN, like, that’s crazy. It’s pretty insane to know [that] I used to watch his rap battles on YouTube. They used to have, like, 25,000 views. That was back when I was in college. And now I turn on my TV and this dude’s on major news networks talking about politics.

It’s pretty incredible. In the press release that you had for ‘Insecure,’ you mentioned how goldfish and balloons are visuals that you’re going to be using for the music — how did you come up with those?

Photo courtesy: jaysvito. @jaysvito on Instagram

I really like creating visual branding for things and having meaning behind it. My family always told me to have purpose behind every single thing that I do. So when I decided I was going to do music, I wanted to make sure that I had some type of visual metaphor for the reason I’m doing it. So, I started googling stuff, and when I came across the meaning of goldfish, there’s a lot of history behind [them]. People thought goldfish were symbolic of good luck and tranquility and long life. I found balloons, and they were more so symbols of childhood innocence and total freedom. Those are the things that really hit me, because I feel like everyone gets to a point in their life where they feel like they have to sacrifice themselves for the sake of making money. And I struggled with that as much as anyone else does. And for me, I just can’t live like that. I don’t want to live like that. I want to feel free. I want to feel like me. I want to keep that innocence and that total freedom that I felt when I was a child throughout my entire adulthood. I don’t want to be held captive [by] society and what I’m supposed to be and what they’re telling me I’m supposed to do. So, for me, putting this music out is symbolic of me breaking free of that fear in my own life. Anytime I put music out, I’m gonna somehow, some way tie those to visual metaphors to it. I think so many people fear the results of being themselves, and by doing that they live lives that they’re not really proud of. And I think that’s sad, and I refuse to do that for myself. So I hope that when people see me doing this, it inspires them to do it for themselves. It’s never too late.

I saw online that Matisse Thybulle was listening to ‘Insecure’ in the car. What is it like to see some of the [Sixers] players support your new venture?

Detroit Pistons v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s literally like a dream come true. So, like I told you, I didn’t send the song out to anybody. And when I posted online I got a lot of text messages, from not only friends and family but — yeah — from players. Matisse being one of them, Ben Simmons being another. They asked me to send them the song, obviously, because they were either gonna listen to it and tell me it’s hot or listen to it and make fun of me. Either way, they had to listen, so I was down to send it. And Matisse hit me and was like, ‘Yo, this is really good. Like, this is, like, my favorite song right now.’ And I’m like, ‘Shut up, shut up.’ [He’s like] ‘No, it’s legit my favorite song right now.’ And the day [the announcement] came out, he actually was in the area so he pulled up, and he turned the song on really loud. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I gotta film this.’ Because, you know, for me — I’m from the area, I’m a Sixers fan. Like a real, true Sixers fan. So seeing a Sixers player, even though he’s my friend, still, to see him supporting my song, it’s like… holy crap. Like, last month, people didn’t even know I do music. This month, I have a song on the radio and I have my friends playing it in their cars.

That’s pretty surreal.

It’s crazy. And Ben also likes the song, we talked about it on the phone. He’s like, ‘When you get big and famous I’m gonna ride that wave.’ (laughs) I’m pretty sure you have your own wave to ride, my friend. But it is really cool. And as you know, the Sixers had to sign off on us doing this interview, so that tells you right there that I have the support of the Sixers. So, to have the support of the players and the organization in something different that has nothing to do with [the team], it says a lot about our relationship and it feels really, really good. That probably was one of my fears. How will the Sixers react? How will everyone that I’m working with react? And as long as you’re staying true to who you are, I think things will work out.

How much crossover do you think there will be between your music and Live Life Nice?

That’s a great question. As much as there possibly can be. I’m still 110% committed and dedicated to pushing forward Live Life Nice as a company and as a mission to empower, inspire and motivate people to be nice and do nice. I believe in that to my core. It’s a part of who I am. So any chance I get to cross that brand with my music, I will. In my music video, obviously, you’ll see me wearing the apparel. But I think I’ll take it further than that as I move forward. For now, I’m just getting my feet wet so I don’t know exactly what this is yet. As my music grows, obviously the brand will grow, too. So it makes perfect sense to put those two things together.

I know that you said that you’ve been working on music for a while, I’m sure you had the experience of working on it during regular life, and [also] working on it during quarantine. How different was that? Was it more difficult or easier?

I think a little bit of both. It was more difficult from the standpoint of recording. I actually did not have the opportunity to record anything during quarantine. All the studios were locked down as we all took it very seriously. What it made easier was that it gave me time to think and write. During quarantine, I’ve written probably about 15-20 songs, give or take. And I already had about 20 going in [to quarantine]. So quarantine gave me the opportunity to create more, and it gave me the luxury to have the time to create more. And now that things are starting to open back up, I want to jump in the studio when I have free time and try to finish up my project. I have to choose the best songs to go with, especially with the climate of our world, I want to be sensitive to that. Quarantine has definitely changed me. I came into quarantine as a Sixers host, I’m coming out of it as some… rapper. (laughs)

And a Tik-Tok star.

That’s right. It’s funny what a quarantine will do to you. In this case I’m excited about what’s next.

My last thing: can we expect a revamped version of ‘Here Come The Sixers’ on a Christian Crosby album? What do you think?

Hey bro, you know what? That is not a bad idea. If anybody was gonna make it, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make a good one. But it’s gotta be good, so I don’t know! I think maybe. I’m open to it. Never say never, bro.

It might be a rights issue, but if anybody has the support of the Sixers, it’s you.

It’s not a bad idea. I think I know the gentleman’s name who actually owns the rights to the song, I should reach out to him and see what he wants to do. But that’s not a bad idea, maybe I’ll give you some credit.

I’d again like to thank both Christian and Sixers PR for helping to coordinate this interview. And a special thank you to Christian for his time and his candor.

Christian’s debut single, ‘Insecure’ is now available to stream on all online platforms.

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