Men’s basketball freshman forward Anthony Lee is also an aspiring rapper.
Like many before him, Young Polo decided to travel up North to go to college. What made the aspiring gospel rapper different from countless other college students is the fact that he’s also a collegiate basketball player.
Polo, also known as freshman forward Anthony Lee of the men’s basketball team, spent his first year at Main Campus juggling the two loves in his life – basketball and rapping. Lee, who lived in the Orlando suburb of Eustis, Fla., chose Temple over offers from Georgia, Seton Hall and Virginia Commonwealth, among others.
Well before he became a basketball prospect, Lee discovered his love for music. At the age of 13, Lee started rapping in his father’s church, where he was approached by a group of New York natives, who were also rappers. The men invited Lee to form a rap group with them – an opportunity that helped keep Lee on the right track, he said.
“They brought me into their arms,” Lee said. “They were older guys, so they tried to mentor me. It was a way to keep me out of trouble. It was another way to communicate with God. I do gospel rap, so I don’t curse in my rhymes. Most of my stuff is more positive for the youth and making sure they have goals. I talk about life situations and stuff like that.”
The gospel rap group that Lee, who originally grew up in Maryland, was a part of, played shows across the Mid-Atlantic, including Philadelphia. Lee’s familiarity with the region made his transition to North Philadelphia easier, especially in the rap aspect, Lee said.
“The group I was in did shows up here,” Lee said. “When I was in Florida, I was away from all of them, but I reconnected when I came back up. That’s how I started rapping again, as far as recording. In Florida, I took a two-year break because I was focusing on basketball and getting into college.”
While Lee was forced to redshirt during his freshman year due to a lower-back injury, fans that showed up early for men’s basketball games this year have experienced his work, although they might not realize it at first. The 6-foot-9-inch forward’s track, “All About the Ring,” is one of the songs that the Owls warm up to.
When it comes down to it, both basketball and rapping are shows. The athlete or the rapper performs in front of thousands of people with all eyes on him. Regardless of the similarities, one of the two sticks out as more challenging, Lee said.
“I think it’s more nervous rapping because you have to talk after the song is over,” Lee said. “I might try to explain the song to the audience, letting them know what the message is out of it. One of my songs is called ‘You Can Make it.’ At the end, I have to let them know what I was really trying to say – anything that you might have going on in your life, you might have to struggle, but you have to pick yourself back up, and you can make it. It’s more nerve-wracking because you have to talk. Basketball, you just play.”
For the time being, Lee is capable of balancing rap and basketball, but eventually he’ll have to make a decision on which he wants to pursue.
“I think I would want to make it to the [National Basketball Association] first,” Lee said. “That’s a one-time opportunity that many people don’t get. Even though both careers are short, you can’t do it forever. I’d rather play in the NBA and make an impact there … As far as being a rapper, that’s always going to be there. I can always get something done with that. I look at music as my second love. Basketball’s my first.”
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.