Meet The College Freshman Who’s A Champion On The Court & On The Mic
At 19, Flau’jae Johnson has her balancing act all figured out.
In Elite Daily’s series Big Name On Campus, thought-leading and accomplished college students share their passion projects, how they get it all done, and what’s next after graduation. Here, Flau’jae Johnson tells Elite Daily about what led her to Louisiana State University and the recent accolades in her basketball and rap careers.
Flau’jae Johnson had one hell of a freshman year. Over the last year, the 19-year-old received a full-ride scholarship to play basketball at Louisiana State University; ushered her team, the LSU Tigers, to win the NCAA Championship in 2022; and was named the 2023 SEC Freshman of the Year — all the while being signed as an artist with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. These budding moments in her career (or, in this case, careers) still amaze Johnson, especially since she never imagined enrolling in college.
Before her prolific move to Louisiana, the Georgia native always had her eye on both professions. At age 4, Johnson flexed her dribbling skills at her hometown’s Frank Callen Boys & Girls Club, a local youth program that would later become her biggest cheerleader. Nearly three years later, she learned her interests scaled beyond the court, and she began rapping. Her father Jason Johnson, known as “Camoflauge,” was a popular rapper in Georgia. He passed away before Johnson was born, and now, she’s carrying the sonic torch.
Johnson caught her big music break in 2017, when she debuted on Jermaine Dupri’s competition series The Rap Game. The following year, she flaunted her lyrical chops on Season 13 of America’s Got Talent and became the first rapper to receive a golden buzzer on the show. Then, in 2020, she scored a record deal with Roc Nation. Now, as both an interdisciplinary studies major (with a minor in sports administration) and LSU’s “Big 4” starting point guard, Johnson is more than relieved she took a chance at the college life.
Below, Johnson relives her National Championship win and tells Elite Daily how she’s juggling two competitive careers while in school.
Elite Daily: You’re a freshman at Louisiana State University. What led you there?
Flau’jae Johnson: Louisiana State didn’t try to minimize me and my dreams. A lot of universities only wanted to know my interest in basketball, but [LSU] really cared about my music career as well. On my first visit, they took me to the studio and said, “This is where you’re going to record your music.” That amazed me, you know? They entertained the idea of me wanting to do both careers. That moment really stood out to me.
ED: You’ve mentioned before that you never envisioned yourself going to college. But now, you’ve finished a full semester. How has university life been so far?
FJ: It’s been so much fun. I think just being around your peers makes it so exciting. You get to be a regular person with a bunch of people that can become your second family. It’s just the coolest thing in the world.
ED: What has been your favorite part of freshman year?
FJ: Winning the National Championship, of course. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. That was amazing, and doing it with my teammates in my first year? Crazy.
ED: Speaking of that, this was LSU’s first time winning the National Championship. What was that moment like?
FJ: That win was incredible. The city embraced the team and really cared about us — it was so beautiful. [Baton Rouge] has always showed their appreciation for all our hard work, though. Throughout the whole season, all of our games were packed out. So we knew what we had at stake, but they really believed in us, and they gave us that energy to know we could do it.
ED: When you walk into major situations like that, it’s almost second nature to be intuitive and think “Whoa, this could be a huge moment for me.” Did you have that feeling before the game?
FJ: I didn’t know it was going to be as big as it was. I mean, I knew it would hold some weight because we were playing in the National Championship. Even if we lost, it still would’ve been huge for me to play a game of this magnitude in my first year. But against all odds, we ended up winning.
ED: Shortly after the championship, you were also named the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Year, making you the fourth LSU student to achieve that title. How did it feel to receive that honor?
FJ: At the beginning of the season, becoming SEC’s Freshman of the Year was something I put on my vision board. So the fact that it happened? I cried. I put in so much work — all those early morning practices and grinding. It finally paid off.
ED: You’ve become a major advocate for women’s basketball — in a recent segment for Complex Sports, you reminded people that it’s just as necessary and entertaining as the men’s version of the sport. Tell me more about that opportunity.
FJ: Oh, man. This was a fun moment. Complex reached out and asked if I wanted to do something special in New York surrounding women’s basketball, and I was down for it. The video went viral [on Twitter] and started a conversation about women in basketball, which is cool to me. I think that’s the best thing you can do for a topic you want to bring more attention to — have people talk about it. Being that women’s basketball is special to me, I wanted to help out and use my platform to do something huge.
ED: As a college student who’s juggling different passions, have you learned anything surprising about yourself?
FJ: I’ve learned that I can do anything I put my mind to. When I sit back and see all the highs I’ve had in my career, I wonder: “Dang, what can’t I do? What’s next for me?” You can do anything, but you just have to want to do it.
ED: Becoming a successful musician is challenging, especially when you’re up against other talents who are just as hungry to make it. Did you ever have any hesitations about pursuing a rap career?
FJ: Yeah, I definitely had feelings like “Is my music good enough?” or “Are people going to understand my message?” at the beginning. But you’ve really got to have confidence in yourself. Once you have a support system, it makes everything a lot easier. Because now you know, “Oh, yeah. I can do this, and I’ve got people around me who genuinely support me.” It is hard, but I love rapping and would never give up this passion.
ED: You’ve stated that your dad’s rap career inspired you. Do you remember the first song you heard from him that jumpstarted your passion for rap?
FJ: For sure. He has a song called “No Love” that changed everything for me. The way he rapped his verses — I could really feel his emotions. Even though I was young when I first heard it, I understood [the message] because I was living in [Savannah, Georgia] at the time seeing the poverty and other things he rapped about. It just resonated with me.
ED: After people began recognizing your rap skills, you appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2018. What was it like to start sharing your music with a wider audience?
FJ: It was amazing because I got to figure out who I was as an artist, how I was going to sound, and what my message would be about. Also, it was a confidence builder. Simon Cowell told me, “Flau’jae, you’re a superstar.” Those words meant a lot to me because Simon doesn’t say that to a lot of people. [Laughs.] So when he told me, I was like, “All right. Bet.” It just gave me that confidence.
ED: You returned to the show earlier this year, now a signed artist with Roc Nation. How did that full-circle moment feel?
FJ: I was super excited to do that because I actually wasn’t supposed to be there. I originally couldn’t make it because I had practice. But I was able to leave right after practice, fly to Los Angeles, tape that moment, and then come back home. And it was a great opportunity to see how my career has come together so far.
ED: Where do you see yourself after you graduate?
FJ: Oh, man. Having my own music label, trying to help different athletes and artists, going on tour, getting a Grammy, and playing in the WNBA if I’m blessed to have that opportunity. I just want to live my best life in both my careers.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.