*We’re certain you’ve heard the term ‘what a difference a day makes’ but in the case of Ron Artest it’s more like what a difference 7 years makes.

He had gone from catapulting St. John’s University into the NCCA tournament to living out a lifelong dream of becoming a NBA basketball player, and he wasn’t just any old bench rider! He was a force, as his NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award can attest.

But things quickly seemed to sour after the legendary brawl in Detroit after which he was suspended an NBA record 72 games. Wow, now whenever you mention his name you have to say NBA Champion Ron Artest. In addition, he’s doing his part to help shed light on mental health issues as well. With all the positive energy that’s flowing his way as of late Mr Artest and his Ron Artest Media Group are trying to put a significant stamp on the rap game as well with his new mixtape “Ball’N.”

Can he walk and chew gum at the same and with equal effectiveness?  Lee Bailey hooked up with him out in Los Angeles to find out.

“Definitely you know.  I think I am a renaissance man, totally,” Artest explained. “God gives you so many gifts it’s only normal to put (them) to use. It’s totally normal to take advantage of whatever you can take advantage of. For me it was not giving into the word can’t or not really giving into criticism or other people’s opinion. Hearing opinions, because that’s good, but just sort of creating yourself. That’s what I like to do.”

Though Ron hopes this is potentially his most commercially successful music project to date, he feels it is in part due to his previous attempts in the rap industry up to this point.

“Had the song with 112 a long time ago,” said Artest. “That was my first project, then I had my album. Then I had that “Champion” single that was released.  We’ve had about 4 or 5 mixtapes.  It took a long time, it could have been mentally draining but as long as you have faith and stay consistent emotionally you will be able to get through the bad times and not get overly excited with the good times. That just means consistency for m

Though the music industry is not his bread and butter, and he’s unlikely to make even a third of what he makes in the league doing music, he tells EURweb that it has still been difficult. It’s not all about fun and games to him. Here he explains.

It’s been very frustrating for me. A lot of trial and error. A lot of things that I’m doing now would not have worked back then because I really didn’t have no idea about the music industry. I didn’t go to school for the music industry. I learned on the job, trial and error. It’s real because you can get caught up in this industry. There’s no union. Like, the NBA has the Players Union. There’s no artists union, there’s no general managers. You are who you are. Totally independent. Just like the wrestling thing when everybody’s wrestling in the cage? The Royal Rumble! That’s exactly what it is.”

So, if music is not your mainstay, and you’re making millions as a professional athlete, why continue to do it? Because Ron knows somebody, perhaps not a lot of people, but somebody is listening and he says he’s learned to do things a bit differently this time around.

“I think it’s been like that a little bit but at the same time I have a bunch of different things that I’m doing,” said Ron-Ron. “I have artists, I used to be an artist myself. I have my own particular fan base and I’m trying to get more fans. Those are questions fans typically ask ‘why, what, who?’ But it’s up to them to listen to the music and find out whether they like it or not. Then maybe there’s another song that you might like from Ron Artest. Then you grow your fan base from there. So, opinions are opinions, you know. The problem is when you stop believing in yourself or stop having fun.”

It’s been a long time since an athlete has made significant noise in the music industry while still in the league. One of the very best was the late Wayman Tisdale, but Artest says he’s looking at Shaquille O’Neal’s success as a goal.

“Shaq! He did have a platinum album and I know a lot of people that had platinum albums that you might call one hit wonders, but Shaq did have some credible music. He had “Outstanding” on that album, he had “Biological” where he was talking about his biological father and that kept people’s thought process on Shaq. He put out 2 platinum albums. Shaq was also involved in the Ray J single “Sexy.” It’s tough because Shaq does Icey Hot commercials, comedy shows, shoes, the police thing … he’s got a lot of things on his plate. Personally, I believe he could have kept doing it if he wanted to.”

“I totally understand the climate of the music out there,” said Artest when asked of his aspirations to expand his brand. After all, he does have fans.

“What’s new is what’s going to be hot. Ron Artest may be old, but I have my own little fan base that I can do. I have my own little fan base that I can satisfy, whether it’s one, ten, 100,000 or 1 million. I can satisfy them with what I like to do.  We also have artists as well that will be able to satisfy fans accordingly.”

The artists of which Artest speaks are his in-house talent, but the “Ball’N” mixtape will feature some serious talent that have sold millions of records combined and tote their own significant fan base as well.

“I have 3 females artist then I have 2 rappers, myself and that’s it. I guess my kids don’t count, they enjoy music,” he joked. “They’ve seen their Dad play basketball, do music and act like a fool on TV, and they do some of the same things, play basketball and do music. Also, they all have a great sense of humor. Before, it was difficult because we were all developing artists. Now we’re dealing with people that are already developed talent.  We’ve got Rena C, she’ll be singing the national anthem on April 4th.  You’ve got Tez, she’s on the George Lopez single, ‘Go Loco.’ You’ve got B-Real (Cypress Hill), Fat Joe. You’ve got Shin, she’s on a song with Nas and she’s working on her project right now and people are gonna see what I’m talking about. We’ve got real talent that I didn’t develop and I’m really excited about that. Then I got Rugby, my nephew. He’s a rapper and he’s up and coming. Hip-Hop is what you make it. There’s no blueprint to success.  There’s no blueprint to what’s going to take off.  You just sort of adapt to the moment.”

Speaking of George Lopez, it seems as though the Queensbridge native has forged an unlikely friendship with the comedian/talkshow host and, as mentioned, Lopez appears on the mixtape as well.

“I’ve performed on ‘Lopez Tonight’ twice already,” said Artest. “I did a song called “Champion” and we’ll be performing ‘Go Loco’ on March 23rd. It’s very funny, his first song of course. He’s on the hook. People like the song and they say, ‘where’s George Lopez?’ The reason you like the song is because of him.  George Lopez is on the hook.”

Now, some of you are probably asking just what is a mixtape? And while some might already know what one is, Artest felt the need to break it down for the potential buyer who doesn’t.

“The mixtape is what it is. It’s just creation, yo! We were just in the studio from Shin, myself, from Dub C (Westside Connection), to Paul Wall, to Ray J, to George and everybody is doing different things. Everybody gave input and everybody had fun. A mixtape is not an album we’re just in and out of the booth real quick and put it out.  Some people put out mixtapes that are better than people’s albums. Lil’ Wayne had mixtapes that were better than people’s albums. 50 had mixtapes that were better than some people’s albums. So, a mixtape is basically a promotional album that you can put out for free or you can sell. Really, an album is not necessary no more. These days you put out a mixtape, sell a couple singles on iTunes, put out a few videos and go on tour.”

We know we’re supposed to be unbiased and all, but we can’t help but wish Ron the best of success with his new album, and Lakers fan Lee Bailey wishes him the best of success with the NBA season as well.  Meanwhile, I sit idly by as the Knicks appear to be imploding … again.  🙁  Go Spurs! No disrespect, Ron!

Remember to tune in tonight (March 23) to “Lopez Tonight” on TBS to watch Ron-Ron rip the new single “Go Loco” live.