As a kid growing up in Detroit, alumnus Maurice Ager had two very prominent dreams — to become a professional basketball player and a successful rapper — both of which he has made a reality.
The former MSU men’s basketball player has become the first NBA veteran to be nominated for a Grammy Award since former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal in 1997.
After playing in the NBA for four years, Ager’s single “Far From Home” from his debut album “Moe Town” is one of 44 Grammy nominees for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. His song is one of several tracks from different artists that will be narrowed down to five official nominees on Dec. 6.
“Far From Home” features artists LP, J. Peso and G. Curtis. Ager said the unique collaboration and original track stemmed from a competition between him and artist LP.
“Me and LP were sitting in my studio one day with nothing to work on and he challenged me, he said, ‘Let’s see how fast you can make a beat,’” Ager said. “I made a beat in 10-12 minutes and he wrote the hook. We wrote the verses, recorded it and had our buddy come over and sing the hook.”
After returning home from visiting his alma mater for Homecoming weekend, Ager received the news that he was on the Grammy ballot, which he said was a blessing and surprise.
“The song was submitted to the Grammy board about a year ago and I had no idea it was submitted,” he said. “When I found out it was on the ballot I didn’t even know it was even being considered.”
The song touches on Ager’s experience with leaving home to pursue his dreams and embodies a uniqueness that Ager said makes the song Grammy-worthy.
“It was an unusual collaboration considering the beat was not necessarily a hip-hop beat,” Ager said. “It has a soulful sound; it’s different and unique. I think that made it an easy pick.”
Ager’s sister Celeste Stevenson said his nomination is something he has worked toward his whole life.
“Since he was really, really young, basketball and music has always been a part of his life,” Stevenson said. “When he wasn’t playing basketball, he was in his room with one of those little Casio keyboards. It’s always been a part of him.”
The Grammy-nominated song is one that Ager said is a definite reflection of his wide-ranged and theatrical style of music.
“The best way I can describe it is, it’s like a movie,” Ager said. “My music tells stories. When I’m making a song I always visualize it.”
The 56th-annual Grammy Awards are Jan. 26 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Detroit-native now calls home.
As a 2006 first-round draft pick, now with a production company, a radio show and Grammy nomination, Ager has accomplished what many would deem impossible. However, Ager said there’s still more to come.
“I have the ‘Interlock System’ (music) video coming out and a TV show I’m working on,” Ager said.
Ager also is involved in a charity in Lansing called Original Heroes that works to end poverty.