Flau’jae Johnson Steals the Spotlight — on the Court and the Stage

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“Came to LSU my freshman year and we made history,” is not only a line in Flau’jae Johnson’s 13-song mixtape “4 My Fans.” It’s also an accurate description of the rapper and LSU basketball player’s life since she won the 2023 NCAA championship as LSU’s All-American guard. Since those lyrics became a reality, the 5-foot-10 multihyphenate’s life has been on a fast track. She’s been featured in a Super Bowl commercial, secured multiple deals with sports and lifestyle brands, and signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation.

This past March Madness, Johnson made headlines when the LSU Tigers lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the semifinals and the team spoke honestly about their experiences with the media. Her support of Angel Reese, a fellow Black woman Tiger, was poignant. But despite the emotional moment, Johnson believes all the coverage of women’s sports is a good thing. “LSU, Catilin Clark, South Carolina — these are great storylines and people are getting more interested to see, that’s only going to grow,” she says.

Johnson, 20, started playing basketball as soon as she could walk, and she realized she could take her skills far when she kept beating boys on the elementary school courts. Kia Brooks, the athlete’s mother and manager, put her in Amateur Athletic Union Circuit, or competitive, basketball. It was here that her love of the sport grew. The Savannah, GA, native’s intense focus led her to score over 1,900 points throughout her high school career, and she became the all-time leading scorer for her school’s team before finding her place on the LSU women’s team, where she averaged 14.9 points per game during the ’23-24 season and 11 during the ’22-23 season.

Like most great athletes, Johnson is the first one on the court and the last one off. Rising at 5 a.m. every morning before class, the star player likes to take at least 500 shots a day to maintain her practice. But she has multiple commitments, and her strict schedule involves hours in the gym, conditioning and playing; studio sessions spent recording new tracks and mixtapes; and time to unwind and connect with family. “It’s about being disciplined in my schedule,” she says.

Now, before you start thinking Johnson’s music career took off because of her NCAA fame, think again. The multitalented entrepreneur has been performing since she was 7. As the daughter of Jason Johnson — also known as Camoflauge, a popular Georgia-area rapper who was tragically killed before her birth — Johnson has always used rapping as a way to continue her father’s legacy.

“I try to help people go through what they are going through,” the rapper shares of the meaning behind her lyrics. “It’s always something I’m going through, too. I just know how to bottle it up and put it in music. It’s like therapy.”

“I see it, acknowledge it, but I don’t let it get to me.”

Johnson was only 12 when she appeared on Lifetime’s “The Rap Game,” a television series hosted by Jermaine Dupri featuring aspiring kid rappers. At 14, she was on the 13th season of “America’s Got Talent,” and took both opportunities as a way to grow her brand and enhance her musical talents. Today, the Georgia star has more than 300,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.

Managing a full-time college basketball schedule and rap career would make many people’s heads spin. But Johnson sees it as a blessing to be able to use two of her gifts simultaneously. It was the reason she chose LSU as her college; according to Johnson, it was the only school that provided options for her to succeed in both. But during basketball season, the star focuses on the sport, dedicating only three to four hours a day for music.

“It gets stressful, time management wise. I’m still working on that,” Johnson shares. “That’s one of the skills when I get that one all the way down pat, I’ll be gone. I’d be able to execute ideas and all the stuff I want.”

Johnson has an exciting year ahead with basketball and the May release of her new project, “Best of Both Worlds.” As her first official EP, “Best of Both Worlds” boasts nine songs, including one that features hip-hop icon Lil Wayne. The sound represents a departure for Johnson.

“I can’t wait for people to hear this,” the musician says. “Ain’t My Fault,” or AMF for short, is one of the three songs on the EP that was released early. Featuring Memphis rapper NLE Choppa, the song gives nostalgic nods to her late father and her basketball role models. She raps, “Balling like my daddy, stunning like my daddy” and “I keep on pimpin’ like I’m Scottie,” a tribute to Scottie Pippen, the former Bulls forward. Johnson says she spent a little less than a year crafting the tracks.

Despite all her exciting accomplishments, Johnson hasn’t always been cheered on by the public. “I’ve been getting way more hate than I ever did in my life,” she shares. But she chooses to turn the other cheek: “I see it, acknowledge it, but I don’t let it get to me. Because I’m able to choose whether it affects me or not, I don’t even let it get that far.”

“Finally, it’s our time. Women’s sports and basketball is going nowhere anytime soon.

That doesn’t mean she isn’t privy to the headlines, both positive and negative. And she is aware that she’s being scrutinized for being a Black woman in America, and that she has Black girls looking up to her. “It isn’t necessarily a weight, but it is very nerve-racking being in the public eye,” she says. “They get a scope on you, so you’ve got to just move in a certain way, especially when you inspire so many people. Then trying to just navigate that with being a regular kid, it can be a lot.”

But all the hard work and dedication has been worth it. Johnson has monetized her name, image, and likeness (NIL) through numerous sports drinks, fashion, and beauty deals. According to On3, her NIL is valued at $1.1 million. And together, Brooks and Johnson have become a mother-daughter power duo that has landed deals with Powerade, Nike, Puma, Meta, JBL Audio, Experian, and many other brands.

Where many 20-year-olds might rebel against their parents, Johnson holds Brooks close. “I just know she’s got the best interest in me at heart,” the point guard says of their professional relationship. “Nobody’s going to have my best interest like my mom. She’s learned the game, learned how to manage, and learned so much stuff [to get me where I needed to be] that it only made sense that she’d be my manager and walk me through these doors. I just thought, keep my mother by my side.”

In addition to family relationships, Johnson keeps a strong tie to her hometown. In 2018, Johnson became the first teenager to receive Savannah’s key to the city, and she is very involved and committed to giving back to her community and state. Throughout her collegiate career, the star has teamed up with her various donors to gift headphones, school clothes, and sports shoes to kids in Georgia.

Carrying out this work, Johnson’s next big goal is to build a resource center for the children in Savannah. “I want to supply the kids in my city with an outlet where they can go to play sports, be creative, and learn,” she says. Johnson is very aware that this requires a lot of time, resources, and dedication, and she’s in it for the long haul. “I want my brand and business to grow because I don’t want to do that just on holidays. I want to help the economy and environment throughout the year. I’m staying in school so I can learn business and gather the tools needed to successfully see these goals out.”

In everything she does, Johnson hopes to be an inspiration for others and keep the momentum up around women’s sports. “The presence that women’s sports occupies is so beautiful,” Johnson says. “Finally, it’s our time. Women’s sports and basketball is going nowhere anytime soon. It’s just going to be normalized.”

Natasha Marsh is a freelance writer who writes about fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Prior to freelancing, she held styling staff positions at The Wall Street Journal, Burberry, Cosmopolitan Magazine, British GQ, and Harpers Bazaar.

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