Music and sports go together. Walk into any locker room in America, any pregame huddle, any team bus ride, any team breakfast…really anything to do with sports and you’ll find headphones. You’ll likely hear music. You’ll find players amping themselves up.
In the past, I’ve been surprised by how much musical diversity you find in the NBA. Steve Nash once told me he knew plenty of players in the league who had eclectic tastes in music. Then a year later, I found out for myself, getting answers from 90 different NBA players. You know what? Nash was right. Kyle Korver listened to Alert312. Pero Antic liked the Black Eyed Peas. The most interesting answer might’ve come from former All-Star Andrew Bynum–are you surprised?–who said he was into Disturbed‘s “Down with the Sickness.”
Still, if we’re talking basketball and football, there will always be a few essentials. Like Drake. And Kanye West. And Eminem. And Jay Z. I’m not sure how music came to represent such a vital part of every athlete’s pregame ritual. But I do know that nothing ever felt so legit as when my high school basketball team would come out of the locker room to Diddy and Biggie on “Victory.” I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
This year, if you didn’t have a little Future, a little Drake, a little Travis Scott in your rotation, you weren’t doing it right. Honestly, it felt like the same artists kept popping up on every playlist, so much so that we had to get up with a few NFL players to see if they saw what we saw…or more appropriately, heard what we heard.
For Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney and Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs, their playlists boast the usual suspects; names like Wale, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, and Meek Mill show up, as well as a lot of Future. Cordarrelle Patterson, however, keeps things more simple, saying, “I just set my iPod to random. I just like to listen to music, and if you made my player it will do.”
The Minnesota return specialist acknowledged that J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive is his favorite recent album, though that one did technically release near the end of last year. And it’s somewhat of an interesting choice, considering most “conscious” rap doesn’t always make it onto these lists, especially when you hear other generally accepted albums–Charles lists If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late by Drake as his go-to this year while Clowney rolls with Wale’s The Album About Nothing.
Clowney’s warmup song of choice makes sense. Aloe Blacc‘s “The Man” hits every note he needs to dominate. Meanwhile, Charles loves listening to Future, the man who might’ve replaced Meek Mill this year as the unofficial “hypeman” among athletes. The one song he can’t go without before a big game is much more interesting: Omarion‘s “Post to Be.”
Each year, style trends change. So do teams, arenas, fanbases, and sneaker releases. Everything changes. Though one year might find Rae Sremmurd atop the game just months after being homeless, music might be the only constant, and a dope pregame playlist is always essential.