Basketball Star Flau'jae Johnson Has A Point To Prove With Her Debut Album

Rapper and basketball star Flau'jae Johnson's debut album
Rapper and basketball star Flau'jae Johnson's debut album "Best of Both Worlds" releases June 28. Courtesy of Flau'jae

Flau’jaeJohnsonhas a crowd of about 150 bopping to the beat of her melodious voice at this year’s JBL Fest outside of JBL’s flagship store in Soho, New York City, when a middle-aged white man interrupts her momentum. His curiosity about her performance trumps any “read the room” decorum, as he tries to keep the exchange going for longer than necessary. The surrounding audience awkwardly waits for the man to fall back so the artist can continue her set. Instead of getting out of her element, she speaks to him with the same humility and confidence she carried prior to his interruption. “My name Flau’jae,” she tells him, and he’ll know exactly who she is if he sticks around.

Her name already rings bells for fans of women’s basketball. She’s the NCAA championship-winning guard from Louisiana State University who’s held her own alongside former teammate and WNBA star rookie Angel Reese. She was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2023 and McDonald’s All American in 2022. The rising junior is used to performing under pressure and making it look effortless. And she’s ready to show the world that’s not just on the court; it’s with a mic in her hand, too.

This starts with her debut album, “Best of Both Worlds,” which is set to be released Friday under the mononym Flau’jae. The title is a declaration of a dual mastery. One important thing, however, separates Flau’jae from the archetype of the athlete turned rapper (or vice versa): She’s been both for nearly her entire life. And the work she’s put in is evident.

JBL ambassador, basketball player and rapper Flau’jae Johnson sets the stage ablaze at JBL Fest on May 18, 2024, in New York City.
JBL ambassador, basketball player and rapper Flau’jae Johnson sets the stage ablaze at JBL Fest on May 18, 2024, in New York City. Ilya S. Savenok via Getty Images

The Savannah, Georgia, native first started performing when she was a part of a group called VHK at age 8.

“I’ve been doing music for so long and I feel I kind of been a little professional at it for a while,” she told HuffPost after her Soho performance last month. Her resume includes opening up arena shows for big-name artists, a stint on Jermaine Dupri’s “The Rap Game,” and getting the so-called golden buzzer on “America’s Got Talent.” (She didn’t win, but said she doubled down on her dream to pursue music.) She signed a distribution deal with Roc Nation, while also racking up multiple NIL — name, image and likeness — and ambassador deals, including her latest partnership with JBL for its PartyBox series launch. She said her timing is perfectly aligned with her path.

“That’s where my journey is right now,” she said. “I feel even though I’m just well established as a basketball player and as a brand and I’m getting there as an artist, I just want to make sure I do all the proper channels as a new artist to make sure I have a solid foundation, ’cause I want this to be a real career, not just a moment.”

Like in her basketball career, Flau’jae is digging her feet in the ground to make sure she has longevity in hip-hop. But her rap story started years before she was even alive. Her father, Jason Johnson, was a celebrated rapper who went by the name Camoflauge. He helped put Savannah on the map in hip-hop and frequently gave back to his community. Flau’jae never got to meet her father, however, as he was gunned down in 2003 before she was born. Without even fully realizing it when she first started rapping as a child, Flau’jae inherited his passion for the genre. She carries his legacy into the booth when she records.

“I was his biggest fan, so I try to just mimic what he do. I feel like he’s the greatest to ever do it ’cause I just felt we have that musical connection,” she said. “I try to emulate him to the T. Like how Kobe did with Jordan. He’s, like, my favorite artist. That’s all I listen to. That’s what I try to be like.”

The 20-year-old’s music ranges from party-worthy bangers to more vulnerable songs that shed light on her story. The rawness on her “Ready or Not Freestyle” earned Wyclef Jean’s stamp of approval.

Leading up to her album’s release, she’s dropped the singles “Pop It” and “AMF” featuring NLE Choppa (a call-and-response favorite among the JBL Fest crowd). She also teased a song featuring Lil Wayne, no small feat for a debut.

“Scoring on the court is the same [feeling I get onstage],” she told HuffPost after last month’s show. “I think life is about energy and who you give your energy to, how your energy affects other people. On the court, I’m always thinking this is a show — like, it’s people in the seats, they looking at me. There were so many people [at the JBL show], they were looking and watching too.”

Flau’jae Johnson of the LSU Tigers reacts in a game against the UCLA Bruins at MVP Arena on March 30, 2024, in Albany, New York.
Flau’jae Johnson of the LSU Tigers reacts in a game against the UCLA Bruins at MVP Arena on March 30, 2024, in Albany, New York. Andy Lyons via Getty Images

Interestingly enough, music had always been Flau’jae’s top priority; basketball wasn’t initially in the cards. But her talent — thanks to her mom placing her in the boys league when she was young — was undeniable. Even before the age of 21, she’s already accomplished many of her big dreams. And she has more ahead.

Flau’jae is focused on going into her new era. She knows that eyes will be on her to lead going into next year’s college basketball season, especially with the new fans the sport has attracted. At the same time, she knows she’ll have to market herself as a player as well as an artist. She is confident that her work ethic will take her exactly where she wants to go on both roads.

“I really want to be a legend in both,” she said. “My story will go down as iconic. [This is] only the beginning. And as I build through music and basketball, I’m gonna be able to change people’s lives because everybody ain’t gonna like music. Everybody not going to like basketball. But I have something to reach a wide amount of people and give it to them in a positive way.”