AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the middle of an interview, Ariea Bastami interrupts himself to shout hey to a passerby in front of Gregory Gym.
He might very well be the most popular kid at Texas.
“I’d walk up and down Guad going to classes and stuff, and people stop me and take a picture with me,” the sophomore journalism major said. “I’m like, ‘Why are you taking a picture with me?’ And then they’re like, ‘Dude, you’re the guy that raps. Can we get a picture?’ ‘I’m like, ‘Absolutely!'”
No, he’s not a football or basketball player, or an athlete at all. Instead, he just raps about them.
And those athletes have taken notice.
“A bunch of the guys on both the football team and the basketball team, they’ve just been extremely supportive, which is crazy for me because I fanboy on them,” Bastami said.
He’s gotten twitter shoutouts from ESPN analyst Jay Williams and NBA All-Star Damian Lillard. But his popularity on campus, exploded when Kerwin Roach retweeted one of his raps. That’s when Sam Ehlinger got involved.
“He had DMed me, he was like, ‘Hey, man, I think it’d be great if you did a football one,” Bastami recalled. “So I worked on it immediately, as soon as he had asked me that. Finished it by the next day.”
Once that rap blew up, it was head coach Tom Herman’s turn to take notice. With National Signing Day right around the corner, Texas football’s director of creative media invited Bastami to the football complex.
“This is a very coveted place for me,” Bastami said. “I’m like, ‘Holy cow, the Pantheon.’ So I start meeting all the coaches. I’m like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ And this was the part that was crazy for me. I’d seen most of the coaches. I didn’t see Tom Herman yet, and out of nowhere, I kid you not, I’m in a hallway, Tom Herman comes out of nowhere, comes to the doors, and then he goes, ‘It’s the rapper himself.’ I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. You are Tom Herman. that does not happen.’ So I lost my mind. It was just one of those things where it’s an out of body experience, like what the heck is going on?”
Once Bastami got a tour of the Moncrief – Neuhaus Athletic Center, he went to Herman’s office, where the head coach had a special request.
“They asked me to do a recruiting rap,” Bastami said. “They asked me, ‘Do you think you can make a brand new rap in a day with a quick turnaround?’ And in my mind, I’m saying, ‘I’m so busy, there is no way I can possibly do this.’ But, obviously, my sports fandom and mouth spoke before my mind could ever, so I’m like, ‘Absolutely. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.'”
After a six-hour writing session, Bastami went back to Moncrief to work on his first music video to help Texas celebrate its third-ranked recruiting class.
“I don’t considerate it a music video, but it is,” Bastami said. “That’s exactly what it is. And I’m like, ‘I’m not in a music video, I don’t know what this is.’ And then I’ll watch myself, and I’m like, ‘That’s my face. I am on this music video with Texas football.'”
But for as effortless as he makes it seem, it hasn’t always been easy for Bastami.
“Confidence was one of those things that, for me, internally, was a struggle,” he said. “So, again, I say this with all the support that people have been giving me, it really does, it builds you up and builds your confidence.
“I think a lot of people have talents that they just keep to themselves, or restrain them to themselves, and they shouldn’t. I think if you got it, I think this is what that experience has taught me, is just go and do it. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world that this is all happening and people are so supportive.”