Former Minneapolis Henry and Gophers men’s basketball guard Lawrence McKenzie is now a hip-hop musician 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. He chatted recently about his music career and reminisced about his old teams with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q How did the song for the Gophers come about?
A I went to alumni day. I had talked to guys in the office and they asked if I could do the song. 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. … I wanted to write it from the players’ perspective. It turned out dope. I’ve been getting a lot of compliments from the players.
Q When did you turn your attention from basketball to music?
A During my whole college career, my doctors told me I had health problems. I know I’m a hard worker and the skill, and the skills I have were diminishing out of nowhere. I was playing professionally after college and got an MRI and I had two torn hip labrums. The more I was running, the more I was tearing it up. I stood around for a while wondering why it was happening to me — all the hard work I put in. I had to figure out how everything happens for a reason. That’s when I got into music — or at least got into it more. I’ve always been into writing poetry. Me and [former Gophers teammate] Damian Johnson recorded stuff and always loved it. But I never took it seriously. They minute I got injured I was writing and I had a lot of time. I was still getting paid and I started writing a lot. From there, something just told me to do it — no matter who doubted me or laughed at me. It’s been a leap of faith.
Q You were part of a Minneapolis Henry high school basketball dynasty that won four consecutive Class 3A state championship from 2000 to ’03. With the state tournament coming up this week, what are some of your favorite memories from those days?
A More than anything, I remember spending time with my teammates and being part of something bigger than me. I remember going under the lights, and there was always something about that with the state tournament. But really, just spending time with my teammates and forming that camaraderie. Those were some of the best times of my life.
Q When you look back on your college career — playing two years at Oklahoma before returning home to play two years for the Gophers — how do you reflect on that?
A I had a great time. I think about my teammates and the friends I made for life. I always look back and get a little disappointed, though. I wasn’t playing at 100 percent. I know being a competitor there were so many other things I could have done. Sometimes it’s hard to look back because I wasn’t able to do some of those things I could do before I got injured.