Saunders turns from baseball diamond to rap career


Damon Saunders is a local rap artist based in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Becky Feigin

Damon Saunders, a Lexington rapper, is about to take Kentucky by storm when his debut album gets released at the end of March.

Saunders, who goes by Stōōp in the music world, is a 24-year-old UK graduate who grew up in Louisville. He first started rapping four years ago when his UK baseball career was coming to an end.

“I remember one day I wrote a verse and it just hit me – I could probably do this music thing,” Saunders said.

Saunders didn’t consider rapping professionally until he became friends with Willie Cauley-Stein. One weekend, Cauley-Stein’s cousin Rexx was visiting Lexington and was introduced to Saunders.

“I met him and the first words out of his mouth to me were ‘I bet you don’t rap,’” Saunders said.

The next day Saunders went to Rexx’s house where he had a home studio. They created music together and by the end of the day had a full song finished. Since that day, it’s been Saunders’ goal to make it in the music world.

Saunders is part of a bigger movement in the Lexington rap scene. He along with friends Rob Baker, better known as Yazoo; EJ Jones, also known as El Karnel; and Eli Masharbash go by Harvard Drive. While all are individual rappers, they work together on their music with only one album getting released at a time. Saunders, Baker, and Jones rap while Masharbash produces the music.

Marsharbash has had plenty of experience in the industry including touring around the world at the age of 18, so he helps keep the rest of Harvard Drive focused on their goals.

“I feel like the biggest piece of us being professional is because Eli has been through all of this before,” Saunders said. “He knows the industry and tour life. He’s just kind of our guide through this all.”

Harvard Drive formed after all four men were working at an Apple Store together. They had already known each other, but working together got them talking about the idea of starting something big in the rap world.

Saunders currently has no plans to sign a record deal, even if the opportunity presented itself, saying that he doesn’t want to be controlled by a record label. After Chance the Rapper’s success and rise to fame, he believes that anything is possible, so he doesn’t see why he should let himself get stuck in a contract.

“I just graduated so I understand what debt is and when I look at the industry now it just seems like a loan and you just have to pay that all back,” Saunders said. “You don’t really get to grow from that, definitely not financially at least.”

Saunders’ favorite way to write a song is to hear a beat and let the beat tell him which way to go with the song. He also enjoys poetry, so some of his songs are more sporadic and don’t flow quite like a normal rap song would. He tends to start out with a thought on a relationship that he’s had and builds from there depending upon the vibe he’s feeling.

Saunders and Harvard Drive will perform at The Burl on April 1.