LSU women’s basketball signee Flau’jae Johnson is not only one of the nation’s top incoming basketball players, ranked No. 26 by ESPN Hoopgurlz, but the niece of famed Hip-Hop star Lil Boosie also has carved out quite a niche for herself as a rap artist with Jay-Z’s label. At the age of 14, she made the quarterfinals of America’s Got Talent and watched her career literally take off to where the native of suburban Georgia has nearly 650,000 followers on Instagram and another 30,000 on Facebook and Twitter. Johnson took time out of her busy schedule April 19 and the following is an interview she did with Tiger Rag Radio.
TIGER RAG: Out of all the opportunities you had, and certainly you’re one of the elite players in this country, what was it about LSU that made it the place that you wanted to be?
FLAU’JAE JOHNSON: “One word: Mulkey. (Johnson laughs). Obviously, you know, even before the season started (last) year, and I (saw) the turnaround she did, I told my coach, ‘I want to play for Kim Mulkey.’ And with her moving to a new school, I was like, ‘It would be, like, a perfect opportunity and a new fresh start for the both of us.’ I would be one of her top recruits coming in, and I would be able to come in and help push the culture forward. And she’s such a great coach. Naismith Hall of Fame. So, it doesn’t get much better than that. And I really wanted to be coached by the best, and she is the best.”
TR: For some girls, her approach can be difficult to deal with and she can get under people’s skin. And some other girls like to get pushed the way she (pushes). Like, Alexis Morris loved her – meaning, she (Morris) followed her (Mulkey) after getting kicked off the team at Baylor. What is it about her, her approach, that appeals to you?
FJ: “We have the same approach to the game. We both want to win, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to win. Like, I know she’s gonna give it everything she’s got and she’s gonna protect her players. And I’m gonna bring the same fierce type of energy. I watched her when she played in college, and I (saw) her, and I was, ‘Wow, that’s like a little me right there.’ Her energy. How hard she played. That’s how I want to be. And I’ve never been afraid to be coached hard. That’s really what I want, you know? Everybody’s like, ‘You know you’re going down there; that’s a hard coach.’ I’m like, ‘Duh.’ Like, I mean, I know that. But I grew up in a tough household, you know? My mom’s like, ‘You’re gonna work for everything; you’re gonna give everything you’ve got.’ So, I’m kind of used to it. But, you know, in basketball I feel like the greatest thing you can do to a good player is, like, coach them hard, you know what I’m saying? So that’s what I want.”
TR: What has been, just as you’ve gone through the All-Star games and seeing these other elite players that maybe you haven’t been able to go against at certain times, how do you feel about where your game stands? How confident are you feeling about the contribution that you can make? And you’ve seen some freshman over last couple years in the NCAA come in and have huge impacts; do you feel like you have the skill set and the ability to come in and be that type of transformational player?
FJ: “I feel after my performance at the Jordan Brand Classic, playing against the best of the best girls in high school, I’m like, you know, ‘This is a good place to have my confidence’ … going into college, just being the best of the best, being MVP, and I’m just like, ‘Hopefully it translates to the next level.’ And I know it will with the coaching staff at LSU. You know, I told them I’m ready to get to work. Because I know it’s different in high school than college. But I’ve always adapted, and my hard work will show on the court. So, I’m looking forward to it, you know, just to make an impact. But I really just want to make an impact wherever Coach Mulkey needs me, you know what I’m saying. If she needs me to play
defense, if she needs me to rebound, if she needs me to score, I just want to do that.”
TR: You, in a sense, took a chance, and when you signed early, LSU (hadn’t yet made) this run that evolved into a 26-6 season and a second-round NCAA Tournament appearance. Now that you’ve seen what they’ve accomplished, how excited did it make you to follow (the team) and to be a part of that now?
FJ: “I’m super-excited, because it just shows that I was right. (Johnson laughs again.) It
just shows that I was right, man. Everybody was like, ‘What are you doing?’ You’re going to a
school where they have nobody, or they just have a new coach, a new ‘this.’ But I believe in Coach Mulkey’s ability so much, because I feel like she did it at Baylor. And then I talked to her, and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, this my coach right here.’ Like, ‘I know this is going to be my coach.’ Because, you know, she wants to win, and she don’t care about the haters, the doubters, any of that. She’s gonna win. So, seeing that, seeing they made that run and they were the No. 2 seed, was just the icing on the cake. And you know I was glued to the seat every time they played a game, just watching that, wow, they’re really doing it. So, I just knew I made the right decision.”
TR: There’s so much to you as a student-athlete. And you’ve come along at a very interesting time, when there is more freedom for student-athletes. When you look at those opportunities that you have with your music career, with what you bring to the basketball court, do you feel like LSU’s going to put you in a great position to take advantage of all of those opportunities as well?
FJ: Definitely, because LSU’s brand is so big. Like, I live out here in Atlanta and I see people with LSU plates on their car and LSU flags in their window. So, I’m like, ‘This brand alongside my brand is just so huge.’ And, you know, seeing that the fans in Baton Rouge already are rooting for me on Twitter, on my Instagram or on my social media, they’re excited for me. So, the support for me is going to be unreal in both of my careers, rapping and basketball. So that’s why I literally can’t wait. That’s why LSU is a perfect place for me.”
TR: You had an unbelievable career at Sprayberry, over 1,600 points in your career. So those in
Atlanta, those in Georgia, knew a lot about you. What’s been the feedback after the Jordan Brand game, when you put up 27 and you were MVP and people saw on a national stage that ‘This girl can play?’
FJ: “It just goes to show all my hard work. I just wanted people to know – like, people, they’re like, ‘She’s a rapper, and she ain’t really hoopin’ like that.’ And I had to show them, like, ‘Um, yes I am,’ you know what I mean? Like, I wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American for no reason. … I just had to go out and show that. And people are really like, ‘Wow, this is actually a whole big situation right here,’ because there’s no way she came and did this, and she’s a rapper, and she has so much going on, that she’s still dedicated to both of them. So, showing that was like the biggest goal for me. Because I really want people to respect me, both on the court and as an artist.”
TR: The time management skills you must have – and I’m sure your mother certainly helps out with that, but – coming to college, that’s, for a lot of people, the hardest thing to learn, because so you have so
much time compared to what you were used to before. You have a career. You are working. And you’ve been working for some time. Do you feel like that gives you an advantage, a leg up, coming in?
FJ: “Definitely. … There are people (saying), ‘How do you do it? There’s so much disciplined.’ But now, I have advisors to help me. I have coaches. I have a set schedule, you know, that I have to follow, and I’m like, that’s going to be easy, because I’ve been doing it so much already,’ you know? I keep myself on a set schedule so that I can get all of what I need to do done. So, it’s going to be easier in college, because they’re going to have that schedule for me. I just have to follow it.”
TR: They do an early Top 25 for women’s basketball, and LSU’s nowhere to be found. This is Coach Mulkey’s element. She likes to be able to prove people wrong. …
FJ: “I love to be the underdog; you know what I’m saying? I’d rather be the underdog than take the spot and be at the top and then lose it. … So, Coach Mulkey and me have that same mentality, like, ‘We’re fixin’ to go out here and get it, we’re fixin’ to prove them wrong.’ And Coach Mulkey, she’s even told me, ‘Being the underdog, it can work in your favor sometimes.’ So, I don’t like to do too much talking. I like to do the work on the floor, for real, because at the end of the day, the scoreboard, that’s what’s gonna tell the story right there. Them are the numbers right there.”
TR: What’s funny to me is … your other gig is talking. That’s what hip-hop is, is being verbose. It’s being braggadocious. It’s being lyrical. As a player, you said, ‘I want to show it on the court.’ Are those two sides to your personality, or how do you exist in both of those realms? What part of hip-hop do you bring to basketball, and what part of basketball do you bring to hip-hop?
FJ: “Oh, man, I bring that confidence to basketball, you know what I mean? From being a rapper, you have to have a certain type of swag, a certain type of confidence. And I feel like I bring that onto the floor. What I take from basketball to rap is the work ethic. … I work so, so, so, so\ hard, so both of those, they just go hand in hand. Music and basketball definitely go hand in hand.”
TR: LSU is losing Khayla Pointer, two-time first team All-SEC point guard. Where do you see yourself fitting in? … In recruiting, did Coach Mulkey paint of picture of ‘This is how we foresee you, in this role?’
FJ: “Nah, she just told me, ‘We’ve got to figure out how to get the ball in your hands and get you scoring,’ you know what I mean? (Johnson laughs). I can shoot the 3, I can attack the rim, I can play off the pick and-roll, I try to create for my teammates. So, wherever I’m needed, that’s where I’m going to be at. I just can’t wait to see where I’m at. In Coach Mulkey’s offense you move freely. I was studying KP (Pointer) for this past season, because I don’t know where I’m going to be at. So, I’m studying everybody. But … it’s just so free in the offense, you know what I mean? Getting into my mid-range shot, getting to the basket, shooting my 3. So, I’m just really excited to get in where I fit in.”
TR: If you had to choose – NCAA championship, or platinum album, No. 1 single – which would be it be?
FJ: “I’m not gonna lie to you. That just sounds crazy, how you said it. But, you know, I’m thinking we can do a little bit of both. I think I’m gonna to be the first ever to have an NCAA championship and a platinum plaque at the same time. Wouldn’t that be one for Baton Rouge?”
TR: Why not? Why not? You know you’ve got to let some of that Georgia go when you’re coming to Louisiana, though, you know that, right?
FJ: “Whoo. I’m ready to be adopted, you know what I mean? And Baton Rouge already has showed me so much love. The crazy thing is when I visited, I was like, ‘Wow, this looks so much like Savannah, this is crazy. It was like my second home already.”
TR: Let us know when some more tracks are coming out. … Tell folks how they can follow you on social media too, if they want to keep up with you.
FJ: “Coming out May 4. I’m dropping my EP (extended play). It’s gonna be called Big 4. Y’all be on the lookout, please, BR. … You can follow me everywhere @flaujae, on all platforms.”