‘Huncho Nitty’ looks to change lives through music

Basketball guard balances sport, school, music, volunteer work

Written By Robert Berger, Co-News Editor

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While holding his little brother in his arms after the death of their brother, Rushan Roberts made the decision to pursue a degree, become a college athlete and take music seriously. 

“I’ve seen so many people get killed and I grew up with a dad that was into drugs and he got arrested for that,” Roberts said. “A lot of my friends went from playing sports all through school to street life and it made me want to change and go to college.”

A senior in the classroom, Roberts was born and raised and still lives in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Majoring in management and marketing, and a starting guard on the basketball team, he is also known as rap artist “Huncho Nitty,” a nickname meaning “leader” that he picked up while volunteering.

When he isn’t on the court, studying or making music, he’s in the community giving his time.

“Being around kids motivates myself to be better,” Roberts said. “I can’t get mad at them for bringing me Cs and Ds on their report card if I’m doing the same thing.” 

With three full length albums and one EP under his belt, Roberts’ main focus in his music is to stay positive. His second album, “23 Era,” is dedicated to his late brother who was shot and killed in a robbery on June 23 at 11:23 p.m. when he was 23 years old.

“It was an attempted robbery went wrong,” Roberts said. “He went to reach for the bag and they thought it was a gun and they shot him.”

Roberts was 20 years old at the time. He wears the number 23 on the court in his late brothers’ honor.

Drawing inspiration from rappers such as Tupac and Meek Mill, Roberts tells stories of growing up in the Hill District through many of his songs. To him, making music is a way to make it through the tough times as well as a way to keep focused.

“Music is an art and to deal with some stuff, you have to speak on it again”, Roberts said. “Sometimes in the studio I’ll start shaking or my voice will start cracking and I have to take a step back to get myself together. But it makes me feel better once I lay the song down.”

He was a freshman at Brashear High School when he started taking music seriously.  Shortly after he was cut from his high school’s basketball team, his grades began to slip. To focus on school, he quit rapping until his friend and fellow Pittsburgh rapper Willy B asked him to feature on a song.

“Once I walked back in the studio, I fell in love again,” Roberts said. “I still have the talent for it, I just had to get my life together.”

Roberts’ most recent video for his song “No Limit Soldier” was released in December and features his fellow Point Park basketball teammates and his family. Roberts says making videos is one of the most fun parts of making music.

His video for “After Party” also features teammates and has 13 thousand YouTube views.

“I had so much fun shooting the video for ‘After Party’, but I regretted it the next morning,” Roberts said. “We bought VIP at the club and I spent like five or six hundred dollars throughout the night. We were all talking about it at practice the next morning.”

One person who made an appearance is teammate Asim Pleas.

“We had a good time when we made that video. Everyone came out and we got a lot of attention the whole time,” Pleas said.

Also featured in some music videos are neighborhood children that he dedicates his time to.

“A lot of them are considered bad kids in the neighborhood but I’ll tell them if they show me good grades on report cards I’ll let them have time in my videos,” Roberts said.

Roberts enjoys his time in the community as he hopes to positively influence the lives of children, much like volunteers did for him when he was in their shoes. He spends his summers coaching all ages of recreational football and basketball.

“They relate to me more because they know I’ve been through the same thing,” Roberts said. “They all know the story about my brother so they connect with me more.”

Photo by Submitted Photo| Rushan Roberts
Roberts huddles the recreational basketball team he coaches together before a game.

At Point Park, Roberts is a dean’s list student and is looking forward to possibly helping head basketball coach Gabe Bubon after he graduates. 

“You can tell at times he didn’t play in high school by some decisions he makes on the court, but he is a great athlete and I know he is going to give his all every time he goes out there,” Bubon said.

Bubon was responsible for bringing Roberts to Point Park by recruiting him after playing one year for rival Carlow. Playing football his entire childhood, Roberts only played recreational-league basketball until going to college.

Saturday was senior day for the basketball team and Roberts was accompanied by his family whom he credits for being his biggest fans and critics. Roberts included a special thank you in his recognition to friend Darelle Porter, a former University of Pittsburgh basketball player who he credits with saving his life.

“I told him I wanted to get to college because I can’t keep hanging with the same crowd… he said give me five years,” Roberts said. “It all started with Dap Porter waking me up.”

Now two semesters away from walking in a cap and gown, Roberts hopes to start a business or a non-profit in the Hill District following graduation.

“There are really not too many summer basketball leagues going on in Pittsburgh and I really want to start that back up,” Roberts said. “That’s another way to keep them out of the street and it gives them something to look forward to for tomorrow.”

In music, Roberts is currently working on an album which will be his last for now, a project he is excited to release as he’s had adequate time to write and record.

“The first three albums I just had songs that people wanted to hear so I rushed to get them together,” Roberts said. “I’m finding myself as an artist and taking time on this one.”

Roberts has occasional performances in the city, and his previous releases can be found on iTunes and Spotify. He hopes to release his next album sometime this summer.

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