When he began writing raps at the age of eleven, Ariea Bastami never imagined he would begin his musical career through dorm room freestyles and UT retweets.
Approaching the one year anniversary of tweeting his first rap video about the coming basketball season, things have changed considerably for journalism junior Bastami, most recently, a promotional gig with Pluckers Wing Bar.
Bastami said that he has declined various sponsorship offers for products that he does not use, wanting to maintain his authenticity. But when Pluckers reached out to him to do a rap promoting their wings in exchange for free wings, he couldn’t say no.
“First and foremost, the guy is talented,” said Mac McCann, social media strategist for Pluckers and UT alumnus. “He’s a really good rapper, he’s got a great lightning fast flow, and he’s got a great community with him as well.”
Bastami’s success in music began at the start of his sophomore year when he shared his first NBA rap on social media. The video garnered over 2.6 thousand retweets, close to 6,000 likes and even a retweet from Portland Trail Blazers’ point guard Damian Lillard.
After receiving positive feedback, Bastami began to regularly upload his dorm room raps on Twitter. Eventually, he attracted the attention of many Texas Sports figures, including vice president and athletics director Chris Del Conte, who even made a surprise cameo in the music video for Bastami’s second Texas Sports hype song “Ice Out.” Del Conte said Bastami’s determination to follow his passion and overcome his self-doubt is admirable.
“A lot of people look at different crafts to get out of their shell, whatever it may be,” Del Conte said. “He found his calling in music. It would be a shame that that talent was never seen if he didn’t really want to put himself out there, and I applaud him for that.”
Bastami said his raps have opened opportunities to challenge hip-hop conventions and inspire others.
“This is never a genre that I felt comfortable expressing that I could try and do,” Bastami said. “Once it started picking up last year in the dorms, as weeks went by and more and more people started supporting me I was like, ‘Okay, let’s just try and see how far this can go.’ It just became this thing that I, through other people’s belief in me, it instilled more belief in myself.”
Bastami said he was once timid and bullied for being overweight. Because of this and his Middle Eastern identity, he said he never felt he had a place in the hip-hop community despite his love for the genre.
The rapper’s growing spotlight has invited more criticism than he has ever faced before. Bastami decided to use the negativity to double down on his uniqueness and inspire others to do
“Screw any expectations that I’m supposed to (meet) in this game,” Bastami said. “I’m this Middle Eastern kid that listened to a lot of hip-hop when he grew up, and this is my moment to show everybody, ‘Hey, I can do it just like anybody else.’”
After a transformative year of pursuing his passion, Bastami created his own path in hip-hop.
“The last almost year has been surreal. Just surreal,” Bastami said. “And that’s all I ever wanted it to be.”