Former Minneapolis Henry standout and Gophers guard Lawrence McKenzie could only persevere through basketball injuries for so long.
After making it through college and embarking on a pro career, he had an MRI while playing in the NBA's Development League. It revealed not one by two torn labrums — one on each hip — and signaled the end of his basketball career.
From that end came a beginning, however: a hip-hop music career. McKenzie, who still lives in Minnesota, turned a hobby into a profession and now performs under the stage name Mac Irv — an homage to the nickname everyone had for him growing up (Mac) and a shortened version of the Minneapolis street on which he grew up (Irving).
He's performed countless shows and appeared on MTV. Recently, though, he was able to combined his two loves of music and basketball by releasing the "Minnesota March" song as a send-off for the Gophers' first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013.
"I went to alumni day, I think they were playing Penn State and I had talked to guys in the office and they asked if I could do the song," McKenzie said by phone Thursday morning. "I had a producer friend and wanted to make something new and upbeat — something for the kids to turn up to and get excited about."
The lyrics reflect the turnaround the Gophers have embarked upon this season — from eight victories last year to 24 (and counting) this season going into Thursday's 3 p.m. game between fifth-seeded Minnesota and 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee. The theme of overcoming doubts remains relevant, as several pundits project Middle Tennessee will oust the higher-seeded Gophers. The song builds to a chorus of an updated "M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A" that fans will be familiar with from "The Minnesota Rouser."
"I looked at Instagram and saw all the guys being doubted and I really researched it and wrote the song that way," McKenzie said. I wanted to write it from the players' perspective. It turned out dope. I've been getting a lot of compliments from the players."
You can listen to the full song here, complete with video highlights from the Gophers in the Big Ten Tournament to accompany it.