Mudboy —a metaphor that Sheck Wes described as “a process of toiling through grime to become a man.” Born just three months apart, Sheck Wes, born Khadimou Rassoul Cheikh Fall, and Mohamed Bamba had no knowledge that they would be as successful as they are today.
Story by Thomas Galindo and Miles Eackles
On May 17, 2018, 5-star high school basketball recruit Mohamed Bamba committed to play at the University of Texas at Austin. Growing up in Harlem, he spent most of his free time shooting hoops anywhere he could. Organized leagues. Outdoor courts. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
On his journey to basketball excellence, he made a friend along the way who had a knack for the game as well: Sheck Wes. As they grew up and continued to develop a friendship through the game, they slowly realized their true aspirations. Wes would soon leave behind the game he loved to pursue modeling and music. Wes would sport Yeezy Season 3 for the new installment of Kanye West’s fashion line and support the promotion of his then forthcoming album, The Life of Pablo. As for Bamba, he would continue balling all across the nation, and would catch the eye of major college basketball programs with the combination of his long frame and unique talent.
With both of their careers taking off, Bamba figured a shoutout in Wes’ new song would take his popularity to the next level. So upon request, Wes did just that. In the chorus, Wes would use the simile of “ballin’ like a pro” and “ballin’ like Mo (Bamba).”
Almost a month after Bamba committed to play for the Texas Longhorns, Wes uploaded the track “Mo Bamba” to SoundCloud. Instead of just a one-lyric shoutout, Sheck decided to give his best friend an entire anthem named after him.
When it first released, Bamba took it upon himself to show as many people as possible the song that gave tribute to him. “The first time I heard the song was last summer, when he first came here [Texas], we were lifting weights and he played it,” Kerwin Roach, former teammate and current Longhorn senior basketball player says, “when I first heard it I thought it was trash, I’m not gonna lie. But it kind of grew on me.” As it did with the rest of America, the song would grow to achieve much popularity. Perhaps handing Bamba the aux cord is the reason Wes is where he is today.
As the Texas basketball season went on and Bamba would continue gaining momentum in his draft stock for the NBA, the song would continue gaining momentum in the hip-hop community. Even before Bamba was even drafted, the song and Wes would be popular enough to be able to get him a record deal with Cactus Jack Records (Travis Scott) and G.O.O.D. Music (Kanye West) in partnership with Interscope Records in 2018.
The commercial promotion of this song with the backing of a label garnered this track even more notoriety, as Bamba was considered a top-5 pick in the NBA Draft. By the time the draft came round in June, just over a year after the song first released, Bamba was drafted number 6 overall by the Orlando Magic. On draft night, Bamba celebrated in the most fitting way possible, by dancing along to the song with his best friend.
By the second week of September, the song would reach No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Within the month, Wes would receive his first RIAA Platinum certification for the single.
In the last month, the song would reach Apple Music’s Top 10, and reach 100 million streams on Spotify.. “Everytime we [the team] hear[s] the song, we send him a Snap,” Roach says. “He always gets air time. I’m sure a lot of people do that to him.”
As popularity grew for both of these young stars from Harlem, they’ve stayed close to the ones who got them there, Roach noting that the two remain “best friends.” As proof of their friendship, Wes recruited Bamba to assist in the promotion of his new album.
Wes released his debut record Mudboy on October 5, fleshing out the vibe and success around “Mo Bamba”. With 14 tracks, the album runs short compared to recent rap releases such as QUAVO HUNCHO, Tha Carter V and Queen.
Wes recently made a visit to The 40 acres at UT Austin and enjoyed some time with his first love: basketball. As a household name for hip-hop fans now, he still seems to make time for what he loves to do, which is be with his friends and play the sport he loves. And afterwards, he did what he does best and performed a set later that night.
Mo Bamba and Sheck Wes could not have imagined better livelihoods as kids growing up in Harlem, playing basketball just as all New York kids do in the summer. But, enlisting the help of one another, they made their dreams a reality, and continue to make progress in their respective fields.