LOS ANGELES — In a dimly lit studio in East Hollywood, Melvin Ingram bobs his head to a melodic beat on loop while writing lyrics on his smart phone.
He shortens up one final verse and rehearses a few lines with fellow independent artist Lazaro Camejo, aka Bizzy Crook. Ingram then walks over to the soundproof booth, ready to record.
The final product is “Letter to My Pops,” a song paying respect to Ingram’s late father, George Melvin Ingram Jr., who died of a heart attack in 1998.
Ingram closes with two poignant lines:
This is a letter to my pops.
I know you’re always looking down.
“I don’t tell no lies in my music,” Ingram said. “All of my music comes from my heart, and it’s my life, really. So that’s just me talking to him in my own little way. It’s like me venting.
“It means a lot writing music like that. You never know, somebody might be going through the same thing I’m going through. And when they hear what I’ve got going on, they might change what they have going on, or how they view a certain situation.”
Ingram’s father certainly would be proud of his son’s accomplishments on the field. Some NFL observers were surprised when Ingram, 28, signed a four-year, $64 million deal this offseason. Ingram totaled just six sacks in his first three NFL seasons because of injuries and uneven play.
Since 2015, however, Ingram has 27 sacks, which ranks fifth in the NFL. The North Carolina product continues to prove his worth, with 8.5 sacks so far this season, emerging as one of the best sack artists in the game.
However, while Ingram has gained recognition for sacking quarterbacks, his true love remains writing and producing his own music.
While Ingram is represented by Roc Nation, he controls his music and is not signed by Jay-Z’s company as a musical talent. But the connection allows Ingram to network with industry types who are part of the label and to learn the tricks of the trade. Some in the building believe Ingram has a future in the music industry.
Taking a break from the sound booth at Melrose Sound Studios for a few minutes, Ingram said he developed a passion for music as a 10-year-old growing up in the small town of Hamlet, North Carolina; writing music and sports always went hand in hand.
“I’ll never forget that football is what puts food on my table, but I’m just as passionate about music,” Ingram said. “And I know I’m good at what I do. I put my heart into everything I do, really. So they serve each other equally.”
Ingram has released two full-length mixtapes: “From Nothing to Something” and “Franchise Tag.” His music plays regularly during practice on game days at the StubHub Center, and he spends about $15,000 annually on the pursuit of his music career.
“He’s passionate about it,” said Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, a good friend of Ingram’s. “He’s got his own style. You can’t really compare him to anyone. I think every rapper has got his own sound. And I think everything he talks about is real. Sometimes rappers talk about stuff that probably has never happened, [or] what they will have but don’t have at the moment. But everything he says is real. Those are his cars he’s rapping about.”
Added right tackle Joe Barksdale, who plays guitar and also writes his own music: “He’s got his own style. It’s not like you cut him on and it sounds like somebody else. And I think the production value is pretty good, too.”
Pop culture website Complex.com named Ingram one of the best rappers in sports, along with Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, Lou Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers and others. But Ingram believes he’s tops on the list.
“I’m the best,” Ingram said. “Damian’s nice. Damian really can rap, but there’s a lot of people that try to do it that really can’t rap. Another one I like Is Lou Will [Lou Williams]. But me, I feel like I’m in a different lane, really.”
Ingram listed Jay-Z, Outkast and N.O.R.E. as his musical influences growing up. Rappers whom he’s feeling now include Meek Mill, Drake and Future.
“I try to touch into every genre of music because there’s a lot of music going on these days,” Ingram said. “But some of it I don’t touch, though, because some of it is just crazy.”