The first time Denzel Valentine ever freestyled for anybody was in middle school.
He came home from class and sat with his older brother, Drew, who asked how his day went. The future Bulls shooting guard told his brother he had a few bars to get out.
Seconds later, he had a YouTube instrumental track pumping through their computer speakers and dropped a smooth flow for a kid in middle school.
“I was like OK, man,” Drew said. “I remember telling him he’s gotta put in the work if that was something he wanted to do on the side.”
Drew and Denzel grew up listening to Biggie, Tupac and Snoop Dogg and transitioned to Jay-Z, Nas and 50 Cent as they got older. Their dad, Carlton, had them listening to everything.
The second they jumped in his car, driving through Lansing, Michigan, the music was turned as loud as it