“Saucelord Rich and I were watching Luka Dončić highlights at the studio one day,” said emerging musician EX·L (who can also be found by searching Exel on streaming sites). “During the course of a week, we just remained stuck on Luka. Then we watched a clip where he hits a buzzer-beater.”
That was when the beat dropped.
The pair came across a specific line shouted by Mavs play-by-play announcer Mark Followill.
The date is Dec. 23, 2018, and the Mavericks face Portland on the road. Dallas is trailing by three points with 0.6 left on the clock. Jalen Brunson throws the ball in from underneath and finds Dončić in the corner. Then-rookie Dončić catches the ball, and with incredible theatrics, shoots a high-arching three as he falls out of bounds. The shot connects.
The eye-popping dramatics woke up the basketball world as the young Slovenian dazzled the crowd at just age 19. It was an incredible shot and sent the game in overtime.
EX·L said it was Followill’s call that sparked excitement in the studio. The Mavs’ legendary announcer shouts: “How did he do it? How did he do it? That. Is. Luka. Magic!”
The idea for the song then spawned from there, EX·L said.
Saucelord Rich is an award-winning New York-born, Atlanta-based producer who spent years behind-the-scenes helping artists like 2 Chainz, Post Malone and Young Thud reach their potential. Now he was ready to see EX·L get that same chance.
“Rich had this melody in his head, and the melody name – ironically – is called bouncing ball melody,” EX·L explained. “Everything about this song is pure love for the game and respect for Luka, who is just this young guy like me, making a name for himself.”
The journey to this point was years in the making for the Texas-raised musician, songwriter and singer that goes by the name EX·L. His mom was a young waitress when she got pregnant and noticed something peculiar about the baby growing inside her womb. Anytime she walked near a speaker or music, the baby boy would leap, move and, seemingly, dance.
The future boy was clearly destined to make music.
After birth, triumph and tragedy would come next as EX·L found his footing in life. He was bullied in school, raised by a single mother who struggled to pay bills and he later lost his father.
But the future singer-songwriter pressed on toward his vision to create music. He felt like something more powerful was at work. Nothing was going to stop him.
“I was able to make a promise to my dad that I would be successful at music, and I intend on keeping my word,” EX·L said. “I just want to give my mom and brother a good life because they did their best for me.”
EX·L later found himself working 80 hours a week at a potato chip factory, but that was only his training ground. He was fortified there, tucked away from the crowds, given plenty of time to create music to the rhythm of the conveyer belts that hummed.
How much did he want this dream?
By chance, one day EX·L recorded a cover of a Post Malone song. It instantly resonated with fans and quickly went viral. The song later got in the hands of a well-known producer and musician named Saucelord Rich who liked what he heard.
It marked a turning point in EX·L’s life.
“Rich is a great and talented man,” EX·L explains to me one afternoon in January as we talk about the song. I tell him we would love to share the story, but I sense that we must wait a few weeks. Something tells me to hold off until the song is released.
Soon I understand why.
Starting on Feb. 8, right before Dončić’s 23rd birthday in a couple of weeks, the Slovenian sensation goes berserk with a historic stretch of basketball. His averages are legendary and very Luka-Esque of the prior seasons, as Dončić pours in 43 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists for the Mavericks in three outings.
He also dropped a career-best 51 points and 45 points in back-to-back matchups against the Clippers and picked up Western Conference Player of the Week honors.
Ah, yes. Luka Magic has returned. The time is now. The prodigy is back.
Lyrics to the Luka Magic song come back to my mind.
That bird is the baddest, that Luka Magic, knock you off balance (no MMA)
What’s interesting is EX·L had already circled the song release date well in advance and it just so happened to match up with Dončić’s legendary performances.
EX·L dreams of paving a similar path towards purpose.
Working with Saucelord Rich was special for him and just the start as they created Luka Magic. EX·L understands this is just the beginning of what he hopes will be a promising future. He realizes that life is all about timing and teaming up with Rich was a crucial moment in his own journey.
“Rich has worked with Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, Mac Miller, and the list continues. I sent him the cover, and he liked it a lot. I’ll never forget when he told me, ‘I’m sitting here, and I have six platinum plaques. I want you to get one too.’ He offered to meet with me, and that’s when the work began.”
So, the pair go to work in the studio back in early January. By coincidence, a Dallas Mavericks game was playing in the background, and the duo vibe to the game’s beat.
Step back, cross-over, fadeaway. What will it take?
I’m driving Euro-stepping through the lane
No flagrant foul, don’t hit me in the face
EX·L let’s it flow. Once Rich got the melody in place, the song was created in a few minutes. It just came with ease. But the real magic unfolded in the chorus of the song.
That bird is the baddest, that Luka Magic, knock you off balance (no MMA)
“The song is really meant for everyone,” EX·L said. “At the core, it’s a basketball song about Luka, but if you read deeper into it, it’s also about holding a long-distance relationship together and how difficult that can be. I pulled from Luka’s winning mentality for the Luka side of the inspiration. It’s amazing. Down by two with two seconds left? He’ll hit the three. That’s Luka Magic.”
The Dallas Mavericks have always been EX·L’s team. His fandom started as a young boy, but the love ignited when the Mavs drafted Dončić. Although their journeys to the big stage were vastly different, something about Dončić’s drive and determination resonated with EX·L.
Still, he never planned for a song about basketball to be his big debut release.
Life has a funny way of doing that, though. He just went with it, and out came Luka Magic.
Dallas Mavericks fans will love the song. The rhythm of Luka Magic is catchy and smooth, with an edgy and upbeat style that will resonate with fans of all ages and musical backgrounds.
Recently I had the chance to chat with EX·L about the song and — more importantly — the story behind the music. His wisdom is a great reminder about the power of patience, purpose and having a bold vision.
Mavs.com: Can you share with our fanbase more about you? Where are you from and where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
EX·L: I’m from just about everywhere, honestly. We traveled a lot, but the Lone Star State is the only state that felt like home. I was born in Pennsylvania and then later moved to Texas. I was raised by a strong single mother and older brother. My childhood was tough at times. We were poor and I was bullied a lot at school. Then I started lifting weights, getting into wrestling, and making music to use as a type of therapy.
Mavs.com: When did you first realize that you had a gift for music? Where did that love come from?
EX·L: Funny you asked. My mother was a waitress while pregnant with me and she said I used to kick all the time whenever she was near the speakers at her job. Also, I’m part of the Guitar Hero generation. I remember playing ZZ Top, Nirvana, and Alice In Chains on that game and wanting to get a real guitar. Then I started singing and won a few contests around 13 and 14 years old and here we are today!
Mavs.com: Tell us about your passion for the Dallas Mavericks. Were you a Mavs fan first or did you become one because of Luka?
EX·L: I’ve loved the Mavericks since I was a kid. My older brother was a big influence and he had cool basketball cards and jerseys. I remember watching a Mavs game and seeing Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki and recognized them from my brother’s card collection. That was my true introduction to the Mavs, and I’ve been a fan ever since. As far as Luka……Let’s just say I’m a fanatic now and would love to see him bring us a championship just like Dirk and Jason did!
Mavs.com: Luka has obviously transformed the game and even culture. Many people who might not even be basketball fans love to watch because of him. Can you share what you like about Luka the most?
EX·L: There’s so much to like about Luka. From his competitiveness to his skill and swagger, and of course, his clutch-ness. If I had to pick one trait about him that I like most, though, I would say his uniqueness. We’ve never seen anything like Luka in the NBA before and it’s been a pleasant surprise. At this rate, he’ll go down as one of the greats. As far as basketball culture with Luka, he’s magical! That’s why even the modest basketball fan watches him and that’s exactly why I felt he needed a song. It seems like every great player has one or is referenced. It’s Luka’s turn now.
Mavs.com: I completely agree! Speaking of, when it comes to the song, how did you get introduced to Saucelord Rich? What’s the story here?
EX·L: Well, my band broke up and I was torn apart thinking my music career was over. My friend Chris Castillo told me to do a cover of a song and upload it on YouTube and Facebook. I asked him “Who should I cover?” He said: “try a Post Malone cover.” So, I did, and it went viral! One day, I saw Rich had followed me on Instagram and I was extremely excited. Rich is a great and talented man. He’s worked with Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, Mac Miller, and the list continues. I sent him the cover and he liked it a lot. I’ll never forget when he told me “I’m sitting here, and I have six platinum plaques. I want you to get one too.” He offered to meet with me and that’s when the work began. He’s a big mentor of mine and I owe a lot to Rich Belief Studios and Rich himself to help me create the best music I’ve ever made.
Mavs.com: What were you doing previously before you were discovered? What pushed you to continue to seek your dreams even during tough times?
EX·L: I used to work 80 hours a week in a potato chip factory and then I got into construction and some warehouse jobs. I have so much respect for hard labor workers, but I realized it’s not for me. My mom is an artist who can draw amazing art pieces. When she was 19, she won an art contest and was offered a job at a Hallmark art department. She had to turn it down because she had no one to babysit my older brother and started working low paying hard labor jobs. She always told me “Whatever you have to do, no matter how far you have to go for it, never give up on your dreams.” Unfortunately, my father passed away before we had the chance to be close. I was able to make a promise to him that I would be successful at music, and I intend on keeping my word. I just want to give my mom and brother a good life because they did their best for me.
Mavs.com: What a beautiful story. We can see the making of a musician right before our eyes. Your mom’s words are extremely wise and profound. When it comes to the song Luka Magic, what are some of the lyrics and verses that make you proudest?
EX·L: Luka Magic is my favorite song that I’ve made, and it’s always stuck in my head. Saucelord Rich and I were watching Luka Doncic highlights at the studio one day. Over the course of a week or so. We were stuck on Luka. One of the clips was when Luka hit the buzzer beater and you hear “IT’S IN! HOW DID HE DO IT? THAT IS LUKA MAGIC!” Then the idea spawned from there. Rich had this melody in his head and the melody name, ironically enough, is called a bouncing ball melody. Everything about this song is pure love for the game and respect for Luka who is this young guy like me making a name for himself. He has all these huge shadows of greats before him that he wants to make proud, but he also wants to make a name for himself and make himself proud.
We put a lot of Luka’s trademarks in the lyrics as well. In the pre-chorus, I say “Step back, cross over, fadeaway. What will it take? I’m driving Euro-Stepping through the lane. No flagrant foul, don’t hit me in the face.”
When I think of Luka, I think of his half court step back fadeaways. Of course, the real Luka magic is in the chorus of the song when I say “That bird the baddest, that Luka magic, knock you off balance (no MMA). She the maddest, she from Boston and I’m from Dallas, but that’s okay.”
Sorry, Boston fans. The song is really meant for everyone. At the core, it’s a basketball song about Luka, but if you read deeper into it, it’s also about holding a long-distance relationship together and how difficult that can be. For the Luka side of the inspiration – Luka’s winning mentality is amazing. Down by two with 2 seconds left? He’ll hit the three. That’s Luka Magic.
Mavs.com: What’s your message to others about following their own dreams? What are some of the lessons you have learned along the way that you want others to take and learn from your own journey?
EX·L: Manifest your thoughts, dreams and set goals. When I was working 80 hours a week in a factory, I always saw the finished product of what I was going to do. I saw success and wins no matter how bad or tired I felt. Having faith within yourself is so powerful. We only have one life, so every day we get a chance at pursuing our dreams! Also, a huge lesson I learned is to make sure you pick wisely who to tell your goals to. Find people who believe in you and keep them close. For the people who don’t believe in you – tell them nothing, but still encourage everyone even if they don’t encourage you.
Mavs.com: What’s next for you and what else do you want people to know?
EX·L: Hopefully next is singing ‘Luka Magic’ on the Mavericks court (Hey, Mark Cuban)! It would be a dream to hear the song at games and meet everyone. I’d really like to meet Luka and talk a bit and hopefully he likes the song! Besides that, I plan on continuing working harder and improving my craft. I always want to improve and give fans of mine something that they can really enjoy. We’re all working on new music now and I’m so excited over it. Others can definitely expect more music soon from me! I really have to thank you Tamara, (my home) the great state of Texas, the Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Saucelord Rich and Rich Belief Studios for making this song what it is. I’m honored to fly this flag of a song for such a great team. Let’s Go Mavs!