Who says hip-hop is dead? Nas might think so, but it’s alive and well in Cal Poly athletics. From the baseball fields to the wrestling room, the upbeat sound of hip-hop dominates athletes’ playlists.
Cal Poly’s No. 1 singles tennis player Andre Dome credited Lupe Fiasco as his motivation before matches, mirroring the women’s team which also prefers hip-hop.
But Dome might be alone in his taste if women’s senior tennis player Shannon Brady’s assumption is correct in that “The guy’s team likes listening to techno.”
Nonetheless, it seems every great athlete has a certain genre or artist they prefer before competition.
Twelve-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps had Lil’ Wayne rhyming in his ear during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Michael Jordan found motivation in Anita Baker’s slow R&B tunes before taking to the court.
On campus, it isn’t hard to figure out what athletes are listening to; a walk through the hallways of Mott Gym gives a good hint. Stirred in with the clinks and clamors of the weight room are jams from the local hip-hop station.
Across campus where the baseball team practices, Lil’ Wayne has come to rule the diamond.
“A lot (of) guys like his flow, he comes out with good stuff,” said senior catcher Justin Hensley.
“It’s something to relax and get pumped up to at the same time,” Hensley added.
Teammate senior outfielder Phil Ortez agreed that the team is a hip-hop bunch, but said he personally enjoys reggae because of what it does for him prior to a game.
His personal favorite is “Runnin’ with a gun” by Slightly Stoopid.
“It’s reggae with a little upbeat, helps me feel good about myself,” Ortez said. “When that happens, good things happen.”
In fact, he likes the song so much that it’s his walk-up song during at-bats this season.
“The lyrics, the melody, it has it all. It gets me pumped up and calm at the same time, good balance,” Ortez explained.
There certainly is no balance on what athletes listen to, but perhaps the most genre diverse bunch has to be the track and field team.
Sophomore middle distance runner Blake McDowall falls in with the majority when he listens to “Stuff like Andre Nickatina because it gets my blood flowing and smooth rock afterwards to calm me down.”
Hip-hop is the most popular for its upbeat rhythm, but not every athlete takes pleasure in the lyrics of emcees and sampled beats. There are exceptions on every team.
Sophomore hurdler Jerae Byrd prefers her music soft and slow to get hyped up.
“I warm up two hours before,” she said. “As I do that I’m listening to R&B: John Legend, Anthony Hamilton, R. Kelly or something like that.”
The tempo in their music preferences seems to pick up with the speed the athletes run.
Junior sprinter Shane Cunningham favors bands like AC/DC.
“It gets my heart pumping,” Cunningham said. “After, I like a little Bob Marley and Coldplay, just to throw some names out there, to help me sleep.”
It gets faster; sophomore long sprinter Tony Hodges likes his pre-game music a bit more “screamy.”
“A little ‘As I Lay Dying,’ it helps me get into my zone and focus and not think about things going on around me,” he said.
However, a trip back to Mott Gym reveals hip-hop as the crown of Cal Poly athletics.
Men’s basketball senior guard Chaz Thomas said it’s mostly rap he enjoys listening to before a game, especially T.I. because of the motivational lyrics he relates to.
And the pattern continues with the wrestling team. Andy Wagner walks out to “Ooh ahh” by the Grits. On the other hand, the team’s top wrestler, Chase Pami, enjoys the melody of Christian worship music.
“I like Jason Upton for spiritual reasons,” Pami said. “My faith in God is important to me and I think the music I listen to influences my thought process and my positive thinking. So I like listening to Christian worship to keep positive things coming through my mind.”
Pami chose “Meant to live” by Switchfoot as his walkout song for duals “because it’s a bit more upbeat, it gets my adrenaline going. It’s also soothing and enjoyable for the crowd to hear something that they know.”
Another hip-hop fan and someone who most Mustangs sports fans know well is former football standout Ramses Barden, who especially likes Royce Da 5’9″, AZ and Nas.
So Nas, if hip-hop is dead, then the Mustangs are in hip-hop heaven.