The Original Chu raps for Vikings

Album artwork for "Vikings" performed by The Original Chu, produced by Chu the Producer for the Augustana Men's Basketball team.
Album artwork for "Vikings" performed by The Original Chu, produced by Chu the Producer for the Augustana Men's Basketball team.

If you happened to be at the home opening game of the University of Alberta Augustana Campus Vikings men's basketball on Friday, Oct. 25, you may have heard something new, something exciting, something unique to this team–their very own original full lyrical song written and performed by Edmonton-based rapper The Original Chu, produced by Chu the Producer.

Augustana Viking men's basketball coach Dave Drabiuk was excited to share the news and how it came about that the Vikings "scored" such an amazing distinction.

"Every year, we go over what we want to do for warm up," said Drabiuk. "What playlists we want to use. Last year, at an away game, we had the host team ask if we have a song we play during our player introduction."

It was that inquiry that had Dave's wheels spinning. The team hadn't really settled on a particular song, so Dave thought it would be especially amazing if the team could have their very own song.

"Because I have known Chu (The Original Chu) for quite a while in many walks of his life, I decided to contact him. I knew he is an award-winning producer and artist and he is local to Edmonton and has a connection to our basketball league. I listen to his music and think he is a good artist."

The fit seemed perfect, all Dave had to do was initiate the conversation and see if Chu would be interested in putting together a song, specific to the team, for their introduction during games.

"He (Chu) is actually a big basketball fan. He coached in our league. I contacted him and asked him if this would be a project he would be interested in and how much it would cost. I was completely naive."

Chu took only a day to think about the proposition, contacting Dave the next day saying he was not only interested in doing the project, but already had a few ideas brewing adding a very agreeable cost.

Dave sent Chu some of the team propaganda including some thoughts on the team's mission, goal and strategies as such.

"Chu started putting things together and it evolved very quickly."

"The campus was on board right from the beginning," noted Dave, adding that after receiving approval from the University of Alberta, the song, in part or in its entirety, can be used however the Augustana Viking men's basketball deems fit for their propaganda, while remaining the property of Chu.

Chu, the artist, goes by the name The Original Chu and Chu The Producer for songs that he writes and produces for other people. The Vikings song is performed under the name The Original Chu.

Chu's love for music and basketball began when he was a child. "I pursued both throughout high school and was in a hip-hop/R&B group until one day, I was forced to make a decision," explained Chu. "The group was slated for an opening spot for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (starring Will Smith) and I had a basketball tournament that weekend.

"I was the team captain of the basketball team and took that responsibility very serious, but I also loved music. In that decision, I thought about the longterm ramifications and knew that I wanted to go to college and also play college basketball."

Chu made the difficult decision to leave the group. "Since leaving the group, the members all moved to Vancouver and then to Los Angeles and have had successful careers in acting and music working with and alongside the likes of Pink, Babyface, Jamie Foxx, Jason Derulo and Jay Pharoah."

The decision to remain with the basketball team may have been difficult, but it paid off for Chu in other ways as his life progressed. "I went to school, received my bachelor of physical education, played four years of college basketball, and coached in the ACAC for nine years with MacEwan and NAIT and one year as an assistant with the Golden Bears of Alberta, winning gold, silver and bronze medals at the national championships to go along with several provincial medals."

After an over 20-year hiatus, Chu returned to music, pouring everything he had into his newfound success. "I perform as a solo artist, but my main joy comes from producing and writing for other singers and rappers. I won the People's Choice Award at the Edmonton Music Awards in 2017 for my single, titled "Crystal Ball" which tackles the subject of mental health. I later teamed with the Canadian Mental Health Association to create an awareness video."

Happy to work in collaboration with Dave Drabiuk on a team song, Chu combined his knowledge of basketball and his gift for music to come up with the Vikings song.

"When coach Drabiuk approached me with the idea, I was humbled. We used to battle each other on the court as coaching rivals during my time at NAIT, and since transitioning to music, he has become a huge supporter of my goals and passion," said Chu.

"I was honoured to be asked and felt that with my background in ACAC basketball, I could give a good effort in capturing the passion and sacrifice that is required to be successful in this league."

And capturing that passion, the will to give it their all and come out the victors was exactly what the song and lyrics do.

Anybody walk in the valley of the Vikings. Ready for a fight, kid–you gonna get it. Under these lights–coming out like lighting. It's our night we gonna win forget it. (Reproduced in part with permission from The Original Chu.)

"Coach Drabiuk and I communicated back and forth a fair bit and I was essentially interviewing him to get a feel for the team, the team's history and the culture of the program," said Chu, on how he chose the lyrics. "He was also helpful in providing the team's mantra and philosophy, so I tried to build the lyrics around those discussions while infusing bits of my coaching experience into the mix."

This isn't the first time Chu has written a song directly related to sport.

"I wrote a song called 'Havoc' (Edmonton Oilers playoff rally song 2017). It was a similar concept, but a little less intimate as I was writing from a more outside perspective without the ability to interview the head of the program."

Combining the two genres (music and sport) is something Chu feels can have great impact on community. "One of my college professors always used to say that sport is a microcosm of society and I truly believe that. Sport teaches so many lessons that you can carry through life. The good, the bad, the ugly. They are all present in sport. Victory. Defeat. Joy. Pain. Teamwork. Selflessness. Sacrifice. Love. Hate. It's important to learn to experience all of those (good or bad) and navigate through them as young people to help us as we mature through our lives."

As for the impact the song has on the team and the community as a whole for that matter, both Dave and Chu agree that it is all part in parcel in building morale and creating a greater sense of belonging.

"I remember as a player and coach, the teams typically gravitated to certain songs each year and those songs had nothing specifically to do with them. To have a song written for and about you is special," Chu said.

Dave said it definitely puts a spike in the team morale. "The team is very excited about it. They didn't want to hear it until home game opening night so they could share in the excitement with the fans and rest of the community.

"It's one more piece of the feeling of belonging, something we have that other schools don't. In fact, I had one father who told me (more or less in jest) it is a great recruiting tool."

All songs released by The Original Chu/Chu The Producer are available on all platforms such as Spotify and iTunes/Apple Music, including 'Havoc', the award-winning Crystal Ball and Vikings (set for global release on Nov. 8).

The song will ring loud and clear during the ACAC Men's Basketball Championships being hosted by Augustana in Camrose in March 2020. Take some time out to come out and cheer on the home team and sing a few bars of their very own song.

By Lori Larsen, Camrose Booster. November 5, 2019