We caught up with one of the original AND 1 mixtape Players, Aaron Owens a.k.a. AO, just before the squad embarks on its first overseas tour. AO gives us some insight on the tour, talks about his future in the NBDL, and lets us know why he thinks Jigga is the best to ever grab a mic.
Halftime: How did you get an opportunity to join the And 1 squad?
A.O: I played in a Hoopstv.com game in 2000 and one of the guys who work here, Peter Small whose overseas now, talked to me after the game and I came up [to the office] and met with some of the people here at the end of the summer. That was the first tour we did, the three city thing, and I’ve been on ever since.
With all the different games you’ve been in, what is the sickest move you’ve put on someone?
A.O: I dunno, it’s a lot of things. I caught this guy in L.A. last year when I faked the oop and threw it around his back and he spunt around and I hit him in the back of the head with the ball. As a matter of fact I did it this year when I threw the ball off the backboard and the guy turned around and then hit him in the back of the head. There’s many, but one of them two probably.
They always show Hot Sauce working on his new moves. When it comes to moves do you think about it beforehand or do you just do whatever comes naturally in the flow of the game?
A.O: Everything I do is generated during the game. It’s impromptu, so whatever happens happens depending on the defense and whatever’s happening in the game. That’s about it.
What do you feel is the most difficult thing about being on the And 1 Tour that most people might not realize?
A.O: Probably defending our tour, [letting people know] that it’s not staged or fake. It’s just basketball with a little flair to it. There’s gonna be haters all the time, but it gets to the point where I gotta sit here and really get into arguments with guys and tell them ‘˜Play me!’ and see how fake it is or see if I’m good enough.
I heard the tour is going overseas to England, Spain, France, Germany and Italy. How crazy is it to really see streetball becoming a worldwide phenomenon?
A.O: It’s real crazy because I just got into the office and I got the announcement today that they were giving out tickets at Foot Locker yesterday in all five markets and they’re all gone in one day. That’s streetball defined right there.
Are you guys going to be doing any open runs, if so what are you expecting from the comp overseas?
A.O: I don’t really know how the schedule is [or if we’re going to do any open runs]. I don’t think so, but if it is we ready to buckle down and get it on with anybody.
Even considering that And 1 going overseas now there has been an on going argument that streetball is just a fad and that it’s going to end soon. What do you see in the future for streetball?
A.O: Before this tour started I thought maybe it had a shelf life of maybe two more years. [I thought] it probably would be a fad, but then with the way the TV show went as far as picking up other guys at the open runs and that whole rollercoaster right there I think it went mainstream. With adding on Professor, Spyda and Helicopta more of the country is involved in it now, it’s not just an East Coast thing.
You’re pretty much a vet as far as the team goes. What are some of the things that have changed for you on the tour?
A.O: Just teaching the new guys that it’s more than just basketball. It’s about entertaining as far as the game goes. No matter what’s going on around us or anything we might be mad at we still gotta go out there when them lights come on and entertain. There’s more than just coming out and scoring some baskets or making moves you gotta keep the crowd involved. The streetball thing, as far as our tours, is way harder than a regular NBA game because every time down court something amazing has to happen or the crowd won’t be into it. That’s how the game has to go, so you have to tell them you gotta do something every time and have a smile on your face and go out there and play and have fun.
That’s sounds like a whole lot of added pressure knowing that you have to do something incredible.
A.O: Yea [it is] because you always have to try and outdo what happened the time down court before. You’re just trying to do something spectacular every time and it is pressure. Big pressure.
Do you ever hold back till the later quarters or work a guy till you can pull off a big move later in the game?
A.O: Yea, that can work. Sometimes when you’re playing guys they are waiting for something [to happen], therefore you have to go past them a couple times. You just gotta play. I’m right past you, I’m right past you [again], now I’m scoring buckets and talking trash. Now the next two times down court I go past you again. The next time here it comes and there it goes.
I watched the ESPN Streetball show last summer and they showed you trying out for some NBA teams. Is that something you are continuing to do now and if so what are you doing now to get to the league?
A.O: I just signed another contract with the NBDL, so I’m going back to the D league this year. My team folded so I have to go into the draft pool again.
What was your experience playing in the NBDL last year?
A.O: It was regular. I felt like a journeyman I guess. It was different for me because I’m on TV everyday. As far as the fans I was getting more attention than some of the guys the NBA journeymen that were down in there. I know its going to be crazier this year because it’s the second year of the show. It was hard because we were on them buses taking 16 hour trips for back-to-back games from Roanoke, Virginia back to Mobile, Alabama. It was nothing like the tour bus, it was a regular greyhound.
How have things changed for you personally, I’m thinking you can still walk down the street and blend in.
A.O: Come on man it ain’t got that crazy yet, but the other day I went to the gallery and Chingy had a free after school concert. I wasn’t even thinking about the concert being down there, we were just going down there to get some sneakers and stuff and I was going to Chick Fil-A. When I get down there, there had to be 10,000 people in the mall and all these little kids started chasing me because the concert was over. I’m over here trying to eat and I forget [that people recognize me], but I do what I gotta do and sit there and sign. My name is easy anyway I can sign thirty autographs and before someone else gets a chance to sign four.
As far as hiphop is concerned what artists are you checking for and who are some of your favorite artists?
A.O: All I listen to is Jay. Anybody from Philly I listen to, but other than that I just listen to Jay. I think Jay is the best ever. I’m really into hiphop since way back in the day, but if Biggie and Pac was still alive today he would have showed the world he was better than them. He is just too smart, if you not listening to what he is saying man something wrong. Biggie was a nice story teller and he could put stuff together. Right now I can listen to ‘œLife After Death’ and the guys rapping now is not even on Biggie’s level and that was six or seven years ago. But as far as Jay go if he isn’t the best ever something wrong. You always gonna have that factor that Pac and Biggie are dead, but he would have distanced himself from both of them. I never thought Pac was a good lyricist anyway. It was real issues that he was dealing with so everybody felt it, but I knew. He was from New York. His first emcee name was MC name was MC New York. He went to Baltimore and graduated from a performing arts school. He was an actor. So all that stuff was basically what he do, drama. I ride to Jay man I think he the coolest nigga in the world.
So you think Jay-Z surpassed all the stuff that say a Big Daddy Kane did?
A.O: Those guys are not even on his level. You gotta think about what they saying back then and now. If that’s the case then Big Daddy should be able to come out with a nice record now. I’m sure Jay could come out with this ‘œBlack Album’ this year, then don’t rap for five years and come back and fit right in. Can KRS-One or Big Daddy come out with an album right now and fit in?
Based on the consumers and fans that are really pushing the records to go platinum these days I don’t think they could because I think they moved past some of the stuff that’s really popular right now.
A.O: What I’m saying is five years from now whatever is popular at that time I think Jay can come in that type of form and still fit in. You talking about they past that, but Jay could be past that too and five or ten years from now he still could come in and whatever they rapping about or whatever is going on I think he’ll fit right in.
What’s your perspective on what’s happening in hiphop right now?
A.O: To each his own man. 70%-80% of rap albums are bought by white people anyway. It’s what they like. We don’t even buy albums, we buy mixtapes. I guess its staying the same because every five years it’s a different era anyway. You went from Kane and Tribe Called Quest with the medallions and all that then you jump back with N.W.A and Onyx to they little era and then you went into the dark era when Big and Nas came out and you jump back in there where Jay and Dmx start doing their thing. They’ll sell but [I don’t think] it will get to the point where Chingy and Nelly is the top and music is going their direction.