Sept. 23, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
Renaldo Woolridge can't help but chuckle a bit when asked if he's retiring.
Tennessee's 6-foot-8 sophomore swingman isn't talking basketball. He's talking music and his pending hiatus from releasing any more mixtapes as alter ego "Swiperboy" until next year.
And although Woolridge likes Jay-Z, he's not going to retire and unretire. He's just taking a break from recording.
"I feel like now since the season's about to start, my No. 1 focus (is basketball)," Woolridge says. "Especially with the team we have this year, we could be something special. I want to dedicate my 100 percent. Whenever I'm not in class, I'm going to be in the gym."
But Swiperboy fans will have plenty of material to digest.
Woolridge has released three mixtapes since February and has about 100 songs available online. His latest, "Break Thru," posts this weekend on DatPiff.com.
But that's it until April, Wooldridge said.
"April, that's a long time from now," he said. "But during the season, for people to be able to see me on the court or me cheering my teammates on and everything and be able to go online and see my alter ego and my emotions out there, I think it'll be a cool thing for people to see."
It's already been a lot of fun for Woolridge.
The Southern California native first started rapping as an elementary school kid in Bel Air.
Yup, Bel Air. As in Fresh Prince of.
"It was almost like a `Fresh Prince of Bel Air' kind of thing," says Woolridge, referring to the 1990s TV show starring Will Smith. "I was kind of a misfit. When I got there, I started rapping. We had talent shows and that kind of stuff, and I was rapping.
"Just seeing the kids, how they reacted to it, they loved it. It was something I feel in love with."
Woolridge still loves music, and he sees his future beyond basketball there. And despite the hiatus from recording, Woolridge won't stop writing.
That would be too tough.
"If I'm in my room about to go sleep, if I wake up in the morning and something's on my mind, if I'm on a plane on my way to a game, I write stuff," he says. "Most people are playing with their phone or listening to music. I'm usually writing. I think that's the best way for me to release anything that I have in me."
But last season, his first at Tennessee, Woolridge heard some people say that he should spend more time on basketball than rapping.
"Once I have something written, if I go to record it, it takes no time," says Woolridge, who does most of his recording with an Apple laptop, microphone and a keyboard with an equalizer. "I guess as far as fitting it into my schedule, it's hard because it's not really time consuming. It doesn't take that much time. It's hard for people to understand from the outside looking in because of all the songs I have."
Some of those songs have generated a buzz in Knoxville.
"BallerVol," recorded during Woolridge's senior year of high school, was a hit with Tennessee fans. "Yes I Can" is on the pregame mix at volleyball and soccer matches.
And Woolridge's rap about All-American safety Eric Berry got airtime inside Neyland Stadium. It even sent Woolridge sprinting to hear for himself after he got a call telling him it was on the pregame playlist.
"Once it said, `Eric Berry!' everyone was dancing and stuff," Woolridge said. "It was like a dream come true."
That's sort of how Woolridge views the chance to pursue both his passions.
" Just doing this -- being able to play basketball and do music like this and the response it's had - I'm just blessed," Woolridge says. "It's fun."