Dec. 21, 2010
Renaldo Woolridge leans against the wall in the beige hallway just outside the Tennessee locker room beneath the seats of Thompson-Boling Arena. His ear phones are in, jacket zipped up. He's ready to head home. That's Renaldo Woolridge.
Three days earlier, a video was posted online, smooth beat blaring, with rhyming to a recent release, "Orange and White." The lone individual in the scene had the same Mohawk haircut, the same grin, the same expressions as Woolridge. Only that was Swiperboy.
Don't call it a Jekyll-Hyde thing. Yes, Swiperboy is Woolridge in character; it's his stage name for his music career. But there's a difference between the two.
"It's almost completely separate with Swiperboy as far as an artist. It's like two different people," Woolridge says. "When I record or do a concert, it's like that. When I'm on the court, although I might hear people say Swiperboy, it's completely Renaldo the basketball player. I've just been able to separate it. It's basketball season now, so that's my focus."
Woolridge is now an upperclassmen for the Tennessee basketball team, getting his junior season under way. It's different than previous seasons when he could rely on others to be role models. Now he's that person.
"I guess being the older guy now, a lot of the younger guys and inexperienced guys are going to look to upperclassmen so I need to step up," Woolridge says. "It's a different feeling now. I'm not really nervous anymore. I'm trying to be a role model."
And yes, that leadership quality includes his music.
Vol fans may be familiar with Woolridge's musical aspirations as a hip-hop artist, and his focus on the academic side of that practical education is one of dedication. Woolridge was offered a record deal over the summer that would have required him to leave Tennessee and basketball behind. "Just that alone gave me that confirmation that I might have what it takes to do something in the music industry," he says. Yet he turned it down to come back to school. The focus remains in the classroom and on the court, especially during the academic part of the year. But make no mistake: Woolridge wants a career in music.
"In school I'm studying and taking music classes, music theory, learning how to read notes, song writing classes," Woolridge says. "Everyone in college takes classes that will directly affect their future, and I feel I should do the same."
Woolridge leaves the offseason open for his musical aspirations, but is careful to separate the two worlds of music and basketball. He wants dedication to both, as well as his studies during the school year.
"I pretty much do all my musical work in the offseason because there's more time. I'm in the gym for four hours in the offseason or the summer when I'm not in school. Then on the nighttimes I can really record. I write all the time. But as far as recording, any time I get to my room I have a setup so I just record it. It doesn't take very long, probably about half an hour for a song."
And the resume keeps building: Eight concerts, 10 music videos online, six online CDs that are all free, radio play, collaboration with other artists. Woolridge still has about three CDs worth of material that is finished and yet to be released. But that's got to wait until April at the earliest.
"I'm real focused during the season. That's what I'm 100 percent dedicated to it," Woolridge says. "People who work with me on Swiperboy Entertainment, this is their time. A lot of people will start to hear from them while I'm playing basketball. Once the season is over, I'll have more time to do that and it will really pick up."