Sierra Vista’s Space Washington raps his way to glory off the court
Wed, Jan 12, 2011 (5:50 p.m.)
Photo: Steve Marcus
Sierra Vista’s basketball team silently exits its locker room, shuffling into a hallway to the side of the bleachers, where the players calmly wait. As the first beat descends from the speakers, the Mountain Lions soar onto the court, leaving their relaxed demeanors behind.
It’s a scene you might find at thousands of gyms across the country any night of the week, apart from the song playing overhead. That’s Sierra Vista’s own, a rap titled “Blue & Yellow,” written by 16-year-old student Jaylen “Space” Washington.
“Every time we come out to that, it lets us know who we are,” says Sierra Vista senior guard Viko Noma’aea. “Listening to it gets us more hyped and gets us into the game.”
That was Washington’s mission when he decided to write and record the song a few weeks before the season began. He felt confident his friends had a chance to put together the best season in school history. They just needed a modern-day fight song to help spur them on. “I had to do it because the school shows me love,” Washington says. “Everybody knew I rapped and listens to my music, so I had to do ‘Blue & Yellow’ for them.”
Washington wants to be on the floor alongside Noma’aea and the other Lions. The junior with a point-guard frame calls basketball his first love and played on the freshman and junior varsity teams the past two years before an injury interrupted his hoops career. During a pregame shootaround last season, Washington went up for a dunk but never got off the ground, severely breaking his ankle in the process. The fracture produced egg-sized swelling and required a surgery to insert screws. Washington was told he couldn’t play basketball for a year.
“I couldn’t even believe it. A year?” he says, twisting in his seat as if he’s still made uncomfortable by the thought. “It was January, so my whole year of 2010 I couldn’t play basketball. I was like, what am I going to do?”
Washington underwent surgery in early February, missing almost a month of school while he recovered. That’s when he realized he had a real talent for rapping, something he’d previously considered only a hobby. “I was just so bored,” he says. “I was sitting at home all day and had nothing else to do.”
Washington began recording songs and posting them on the Internet. When he added videos on YouTube, they registered thousands of views and caught the attention of local rap label Hard Tyme Records. “Blue & Yellow,” which samples the instrumental track from Wiz Khalifa’s “Black & Yellow,” exploded for some 4,000 hits within the first month.
Students from at least four other area high schools even made songs mimicking Washington’s version. “I haven’t heard one yet that comes even close to Space’s,” Sierra Vista basketball coach Kent Johnson says. “Space’s sounds professional. Everyone else sounds like they did it on their laptop.”
Washington wants to play basketball as a senior when his ankle is fully recovered. In the meantime, he’s enjoying the Mountain Lions his song helped create. “No one really cared about this school, but now there’s school spirit,” Washington says. “Everyone talks about wearing blue at this game, yellow at this game, white at this game. It upped the ante on that.”