Andy Mineo's upbeat rap single, "You Can't Stop Me," was crowned the best walk-up song in baseball after a week-long vote and win's ESPN.com's inaugural Whammy award.
The song upset Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" in the first round, beat out Big Sean's "Blessings" in the Sweet 16, Jim Johnston's "WWE Entrance Music" in the Elite Eight, Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon" in the Final Four and then crushed Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" (winning a whopping 93% of the vote) in the championship round.
ESPN.com's Aimee Crawford talked with the up-and-coming hip-hop artist about how sports inspired him, why it's good to have pros like Andrew McCutchen and Steph Curry in his corner, what his walk-up song would be and why he wants to take the Lambeau Leap.
In addition to being a popular walk-up song, "You Can't Stop Me" has also been featured on Madden 15 and in the promos for a Showtime boxing show. Did you have any sense it would become a sports soundtrack of sorts?
Mineo: I actually did. I was on tour, so I recorded it on a little USB microphone in a hotel room because I didn't have access to a studio. I flipped a mattress up on its side and put a blanket over my head and sat there underneath it with my laptop. I remember screaming "YOU CAN'T STOP ME" into the microphone in my hotel room. And as I was recording it, I was thinking of highlight reels. I was thinking of hits or tackles punctuating the end of each verse. That was the original vision.
What motivated you to write the song?
Mineo: A lot of people say "you can't stop me" to their haters. But I think the thing that stops us more than anything is not other people, it's ourselves. So the approach I took when I was writing the song was to tell myself, "I can't stop me." And to take on the challenge of not just the external influences but the more difficult ones, which are the internal ones. It's just kind of an anthem that everyone can relate to -- facing self-doubt, fear, and working through that and saying, "The only thing that can stop us is ourselves."
Andrew McCutchen is a fan of your music, and he and his wife, Maria, both voted for "You Can't Stop Me." Have you heard from other athletes?
Mineo: Our music has been a resource for a lot of athletes. Hip-hop and athletics have been tied together pretty tightly. We're friends with lots of people in sports. Boxer Andre Ward is a supporter. Stephen Curry is a huge supporter too. When we played in California recently, we brought [Curry] out on stage. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen has a 116 tattoo -- a reference to the Christian hip-hop collective 116 Clique and to Romans 1.16 -- on his forearm. There's a strong community of Christians in athletics who like to have music in their locker rooms that isn't loaded with expletives. Really, that's what our music is. It's positive music, but it isn't religious or pushy. It's open to everybody, which is kind of our core belief as individuals.
How much did playing sports influence you and your music?
Mineo: I played basketball, lacrosse, baseball and football growing up. I was a varsity athlete in all of those in high school (at Henninger High School in Syracuse, New York). I didn't have my dad around, so I was a troubled kid who had a lot of energy and aggression and got expelled from school. Sports were a place where I could work that aggression out. They really helped teach me discipline. Athletics and my faith helped me get back on track. I played lacrosse in college at City College of New York. I still skateboard and play basketball and some football with my buddies.
What teams do you root for?
Mineo: Yellow is my favorite color, and so I liked the Pittsburgh Pirates as my baseball team growing up. I thought they had the coolest logo with the skull and crossbones. Living in New York, I also liked the Yankees and their really cool hats. I got to meet Joe Girardi when I was a kid. For football, I'm a huge a Green Bay Packers fan. Growing up, I was watching a Packers game and saw one of the players jump into the crowd. And I was like, "What did he just do?!?" My sister said, "It's called the Lambeau Leap." And I thought it was the coolest thing ever because they were interacting with the crowd. So now I stage dive and jump into the crowd all the time. And that's why. It's my own version of the Lambeau Leap. I wish some of my fans were Packers so they could invite me to games.
What would your walk-up song be if you were a professional athlete?
Mineo: My walk-up song would be the drum solo to "I Can Feel It In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. I would start the song right there and then walk up to that. But it would probably rotate songs pretty often because I get inspired regularly.
When does your next album drop, and will it include any potential walk-up songs?
Mineo: Sept. 18. The lead single is "Uncomfortable" (Spotify). And "Hear My Heart" (Spotify) is the second song. It's dedicated to my sister, Grace, who is deaf. The song is about me never learning sign language growing up, and I apologize to her in the song. "Hear My Heart" is a very personal song. "Uncomfortable" is more like hard hip-hop. It would be a good walk-up song.