Kawhi Leonard Is Working on Culture Jam Part 2 : 'He's Very Hands-On' Says Partner Eesean Bolden

·4 min read
Eesean Bolden with NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard for Culture Jam Vol. 2
Eesean Bolden with NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard for Culture Jam Vol. 2

Mark Peaced

Kawhi Leonard is a man of few words. The two-time NBA champion, who usually lets his quiet dominance on the court speak for itself, is continuing to let his actions do the talking, now with music and culture.

Last summer, Leonard, 31, stunned fans when he and his creative partner, Eesean Bolden, quietly released Kawhi Leonard Presents: Culture Jam Vol. 1 during the first round of NBA playoffs. And now, he and Bolden are working on their next release.

"Kawhi is hands-on," Bolden, 37, tells PEOPLE. While Leonard does not lend his voice to the project, he's "a passionate hip-hop head" who hand-selected the artists featured, alongside Bolden.

"We've really been locked in and focused on the second volume. We have some incredible artists that want to be a part of it that we're working through. Kawhi is hands-on. He's picking the records, along with myself. We have artists like Cordae and Swae Lee, just to name a few that we expect to be on the project with Part 2."

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Bolden says he and Leonard "talk about the artists that he likes because he's a hip-hop head himself." The industry executive also works with the LA Clippers guard on "educating him on how these records are made, how we come together to do this."

The first volume, a seven-song mixtape merging basketball and hip-hop, was a "passion project" for the creative partners. "We're discovering so much by these two worlds colliding," says Bolden.

Bolden says he and Leonard "kind of wanted to see" how fans would respond to his exploration into music. "We didn't want to put the whole card out there. We wanted to see how people respond, because we want to give people things that they want. And a lot of people didn't know that they wanted a Kawhi Leonard Culture Jam project."

Culture Jam's most recent release, the energetic music video "OK," featuring Bramsito and Frenna, stars The Ghetto Kids, a youth dance group out of Uganda founded in 2014 by Daouda Kavuma.

"It's such an incredible foundation," says Bolden, who reached out to Daouda himself after seeing the group featured in a 2017 French Montana music video. "We wanted the Ghetto Kids to be a part of this and we wanted to make a donation. We want to give back, but we also want to spotlight how crazy talented these young kids are," says Bolden.

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According to Culture Jam's official Instagram account, "Culture Jam is making a financial contribution to the Inspire Ghetto Kids Foundation to help build a community center that will support the children that reside in the village of Kalaani zone in Kampala, Uganda, along with school supplies to enhance their studies."

Youth empowerment is important to Leonard, who grew up about 90 minutes outside of Los Angeles, near Moreno Valley. "Community is a really big part of what we are doing or trying to do," Bolden tells PEOPLE. "We want to give back to the areas that we've grown up in, which is the inner city youth, and to be able to provide experiences, just give them things that they need and just be an inspiration for the kids that kind of come out of our area to say, 'Hey, you can really make it as an athlete or make it as an artist at a high level if you put the work in.' "

Raptors, NBA
Raptors, NBA

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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Working with Leonard, a three-time NBA all-star and Finals MVP winner, is "an honor" says Bolden. "I can see why Kawhi's the best because it's all about everything being at a high level. 'Let's do it right. Let's win.' He gives me the rope to do what I need to do, and he's all about just the results."

Bolden hopes that basketball and music will continue to intertwine, and influence a new generation of fans. "I hope just to inspire the youth with Culture Jam, just to create moments that will kind of live in perpetuity in the content space with these athletes and these artists, kind of bring that relationship closer together. Because when the two are in the room, they respect each other because they come from the same place. And there's a mutual love for them. So I just wanted to provide a platform that allows them to get closer together and do things together."