Recently Canadian rapper Filip Filipi dropped his mixtape hosted by Gucci Mane titled, Nine Roses. The project coincides with the unveiling of his elaborate plans to build a high tech basketball court in Akron, Ohio, the home of LeBron James. The futuristic backtop is dedicated to Filipi’s former manager Kiza, their shared heritage, love for music and basketball.
“I grew up on basketball culture, I’m obsessed with basketball. If you ask me, ‘Who was the 12th man on the Celtics in 2004?’ I can tell you – I love basketball trivia. So the court was inspired by my former manager who passed away two years ago at the age of 33. It was very important for me to do something with a humanitarian aspect of my music and we decided on the proceeds of the music, the merch and with some donations, we were going to make the most high tech basketball court. It has Wifi, it has eco-friendly paint, it has solar-powered benches that have wi-fi and everything you would want. But it has an important political message that speaks on the media manipulation using motifs of Serbian art that show the area where we are from. I can’t wait to get started on it. I don’t care if I get 10 billion streams or 10 million or 10 hundred. The fact that people would come play here and contribute to the court in any way – I’m proud. It’s something for the community.”
While Filip Filipi is still building his buzz, he has been working on the craft of Hip-Hop for over a decade and has had his music placed on major nationwide television shows after his Sizzerb mixtape garnered widespread attention.
“In middle school around 10th grade, me and my friend were freestyling in class and we started recording on his computer mic at his parents’ house when we were like 15,” Filip Filipi said. “Back then, my thing was basketball, by the time I got to college I played a little bit of ball, and then I began to focus on rap. People were saying I could spit, so a few months after I started, DJ Vlad hosted my tape, and it sold like 11k physical copies. For me it was a really big deal because I’m from a small town in Canada and people were buying it in New York.”
Following up with a few more mixtapes, Filip Filipi found commercial success with his single “Boom” on the show So You Think You Can Dance. Stepping away from his more conceptual 90’s style, Filip Filipi was estranged from the rap he knew and he felt his story was becoming distorted.
“When I was coming up the sound was Dipset and that soul sample style on the beat, and every beat had the set of samples. We used to sample old Balkan and Serbian samples and really kind of made that the trademark of our production. There was a time when I started to not like the direction that Hip-Hop was taking toward Techno and EDM. To this day I listen to Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Lauren Hill, Bob Marley, The Fugees and that’s my gold standard of Hip-Hop and music. Like all the tracks remixed with the Backstreet Boys and other boy bands, that’s not Hip-Hop to me.”
Choosing to step away to focus on humanitarian work, Filip Filipi, recalls going on a hiatus from music after he felt local artists were attacking Drake on a chat group.
“I just had to step away and focus on humanitarian work. I’m from Canada, and I turned away from rap music in Canada at the worst time. Toronto was a black hole for music for a time and then Drake hit. He had been coming up with his Degrassi following but he just blew up and at that point it wasn’t really cool to blend Degrassi and rap. At one point, I remember on MSN messenger when everyone was dissing Drake and they started picking on him like a cybergang for like 30 minutes. At that time, my home country was going through a really rough time, so I was already thinking about trying to use my music to do something there. I guess that convo was the straw, because it made me focus completely on the humanitarian stuff, the organization, UN, all that. So I just exited that MSN convo and then The Weeknd, Drake and a whole bunch of other rappers broke big a month later.”
Now back for more Filip Filipi is merging the worlds of basketball and Hip-Hop in memory of his former manager. He hopes music, art and basketball will come together on the court in Akron to provide refuge for other young kids, like they had for him.