Safety SMU Ra’Sun Kazadi is a unique talent among college football players.
You might see that he’s appeared in 10 games over the past two seasons and recorded two tackles and say that’s a stretch, but it’s not. Ra – as his teammates, friends and family often call him – has talents that go beyond the football field.
He’s a gifted artist, and on July 1 – with the easing of restrictions on college athletes who earn money from their name, image and likeness – Kazadi’s world as an artist s is considerably open.
“I’m able to do more work than I want to do thanks to NIL,” he said. “I can sell my parts for more, so I don’t have to make like 100 parts a month.
“It’s funny because it’s less about money now. It’s more about working and growing, and trying things.”
Kazadi sold his work before NIL restrictions were lifted, but was unable to put his name on it, hold exhibitions, or promote his art on his Instagram or website.
“It was just about relying on people to know I was an artist and then doing things for very cheap,” Kazadi said. Because of these limitations, he said he was unable to sell pieces for much – $30 for a sketch, and maybe around $100 for a painting if he was lucky.
“It wasn’t to scale, even close to what it is now,” he said.
Kazadi said he is able to get higher prices for his work now because people know it is his and he is able to promote it. The greater financial freedom gave him more time to experiment with his craft and continue to improve.
“I’m able to grow as an artist and then explore other things,” he said. “If I’m like, ‘Oh, that would be cool to paint on pants, or that would be cool to paint on a t-shirt,’ I can explore different executions. I can do a mural because now I’m not like, ‘Oh, wow, I only have $300 for food and gas and everything for this month. Let me try and get a painting [done for money] really fast.’ So it’s good.”
Kazadi can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in art. He started drawing superheroes when he was in kindergarten (Wolverine was his first), and his passion continued to grow from there.
“My art has become a little more complicated, and [my art] got sophisticated,” Kazadi said. “It started to be like, ‘OK, what do I mean? What am I trying to say? What do I want people to see? Instead of just copying stuff, which was good for things like anatomy and stuff like that. But as I matured, my art grew.”
For those who know Kazadi best, his work ethic and passion are his defining traits. They appear in everything he does, from football to art to his work for the non-profit of which he is a founding member, The Detente Collective, which aims to meet the needs of the community. “to promote economic, educational, social and personal growth”. “
“It would be easy for a guy not to do that job when he’s not necessarily playing 70 snaps on Saturday,” former SMU safety coach Trey Haverty said. “But he does, and he’s improved more than anyone since the day we got here four years ago to where we are now.”
Mustangs defensive back Brandon Crossley said, “His football work ethic is like — what you all see in the art is literally what we see on the field. From the offseason to the end There was no day when Ra didn’t give 110%.
“This is just the beginning,” Crossley added. “When people say, ‘This is just the start’ and all the quotes and stuff, no, that’s literally the definition of ‘this is the start’ for Ra. That’s exceptional, man.”
Here are some examples of Kazadi’s work, with descriptions in his own words.
“IT WAS 2020, and I think that’s when I started painting a lot. I’ve always been very interested in Hellenistic statues, like Greek statues, Alexander the Great. Anyway, I was just a little interested in that era.
“And I’ve always been very interested in colors. So when I saw [Boxer at Rest], I was a bit interested, because they didn’t really know who did it. It was one of the things I saw where it was kind of like a muddled story. So because the story is confusing, I like purple because to me it almost represents a confusion between like, a red or a blue or just like finding yourself.
“I really liked the fact that I couldn’t tell if he was defeated or if he was excited to have won and just step back. And I kind of bonded with that because you don’t you never really know if you’re winning. Because I feel like sometimes things are harder than you imagined and you connect that to COVID. It’s like, OK, you don’t get COVID, but you’re stuck in the house. Or you have COVID, you’re still stuck in the house. So that kind of reflected my confusion over time.
something to paint
“THIS WAS just a little more fun. I love hanging out in Dallas and just hanging out trying to — just hanging out with friends and messing around. But I wanted to be a bit lighter with this piece because I feel like sometimes my pieces are a bit serious and they have so much meaning to them.
“This one, I kind of wanted it to look playful. And like the boots, I thought it was a cool way to show that – they’re almost like walking away. And, I don’t know, just like ‘What is this about?’ Honestly I was really trying to do something aesthetically pleasing it was kinda interesting where you want to know more about that pretty girl you want to know more about them so that’s kinda what I was trying to represent with the piece.
“And also, I was really listening to ‘Something to Rap About’ by Freddie Gibbs and that influenced the track, so ‘Something to Paint About’.”
The greatest of all time
” SOMEONE CAME me and they were like, ‘Hey, I want a piece of Muhammad Ali.’ I found a few photos to choose from. But the color palette was entirely up to me and everything. For the blue, I wanted something that looked old, but still felt like a vibrant, contemporary type color. And I wanted the background to reflect that. I wanted the background to reflect a moment and instead of a moment in time, like a moment of feeling.
“I think it was right after he beat… Sonny Liston. So obviously a moment of victory, he’s excited. I just really tried to say, ‘Hey, that’s something old but timeless. It is what it is. He is the greatest of all time. And he will always be called the greatest of all time. You can’t get rid of this title. It is therefore an old and timeless title. And I feel like a painting should definitely reflect that.
Donald ‘Duck’ Clay II
“I HAD THAT idea a while ago to just try to tell people’s stories, because I feel like people know these guys, but they don’t know them. They see them on the field, they see them doing anything. They don’t know where they come from, they don’t know what they did to get here. They don’t know where they come from.
“So Duck [Donald Clay], he is from Louisiana. He lives and breathes Louisiana. He always talks about Mardi Gras. He always talks about Bourbon [Street]. He’s like, ‘Yo, you gotta get to town’, whatever. So just talk to him and just understand exactly where he’s from, the places he’s been, and the significance of certain events. So for him, we talked a little more about Mardi Gras, so I put a mask on that left corner. Downstairs is Bourbon Street because that’s where he’s from.
“And his trials and tribulations of winning moments with SMU football – he struggled for a second, but he’s really finding his own way of doing things. And I just kind of want to give him a chance to say that without saying this.”
“RASHEE RICE HE IS from Dallas. So again, chronologically explaining its history starting from the bottom left. So it’s from Dallas and Philly, so you have the Dallas skyline on the right, and you have the Philly skyline on the left. And just what he did to get to SMU football, and Rashee is a pretty smiley guy. So I really wanted to capture something that shows all of his emotion and who he is in addition to this type of intense athlete, because that’s how most people know him. But he’s a fun guy. He likes to have fun. So I wanted to portray that and give him a chance, talk a little bit more about him and his story.”
“IT’S A lots of people’s favorites – also one of my favorites. So, it’s a little cutesy, but it’s kind of like getting into my first serious relationship in college. It kind of shook me up, I wasn’t really ready for it, whatever. The reason it’s called “Caught on Fire” is because I was reading this quote and it says, “Love is friendship that caught fire”. We were very close friends, honestly, in the beginning, so, you know, we ended up like that.
“But I wanted to tell the story of someone getting ready for a date, and then as the date goes on, things happen to ‘Caught on Fire’ if you watch it in the right corner in black and white. And at the top, “In My Room” [by] Frank Ocean, I was listening to some of that. And he was just talking, and I liked the vibe. So I tried to solve the visual problem of putting what he was trying to do in a sonic way with the layers and a bit of what he was doing on a canvas and with a paper.
“It was a fun type project to try and do. But just picking a color palette, trying to stay color consistent, trying to say like, vibrant, almost like you know when you get that nervous feeling but you’re excited at the same time. It’s really in your face. So that’s what I wanted the room to look like. And I love vintage comics, so I got straight inspired by that. And it was one of my first comics. So honestly, that was – and I hate to say this – the first time I’ve ever done something, this is the best time I can ever do it reproduce. be cool if I put this here. Let’s go play with this. And then you play with it so much that you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I like this.’ It’s like when you’re playing, like you’re just in a state of flux. You come to those times when you just can’t not make a mistake.