I still remember that yellow Sony Discman. Ever since I was 10 years old, my BMX bike has been my most prized possession. But that Discman kept me sane.
The thrill of riding and the emotion of music fuel each other. I didn’t grow up — like a lot of BMX riders — with ramps or dirt jumps in my backyard. The whole city is my playground. There’s no assigned space, like improvised music. Every handrail or park bench or sidewalk is my stage and I need a soundtrack.
As a kid from Queens, I was heavily influenced by New York hip-hop because that’s what I knew. Jay Z, G-Unit, Lauryn Hill, Nas — they were all getting major rotation on my Discman. This was still pre-iPod and pre-Napster, so I would play the same albums over and over. People would say, How can you listen to the same track 20, 30 times in a row? Because the music set my tone. If I was feeling good, I was in the zone. That was the best place for me to create.
I guess you could say I was surrounded by music long before I got on a bike. My mom likes to tell the story of my dad, who was a DJ, being late to my birth because he was setting up for show. We were somewhat of a musical household. My dad had turntables downstairs, with crates and crates of old records. I spent hours watching and re-watching VHS tapes of live soca concerts. There was always some kind of music bouncing from our house and my mom would attempt to teach me how to dance.
For my first piece in The Players’ Tribune, I wanted to toss out a playlist of some tracks I’ve been riding to lately. What’s super cool about this list is that I’ve actually become cool with a few guys on here. One of them is A$AP Ferg, a New York kid around my same age. We rode together back in the day and now we’re working on a few projects together. He likes to ride and I dig his music. It’s one of those natural connections that comes through sports and art. There’s mutual respect between us — two people grinding at our crafts.
Hope these tracks inspire you, make you happier, keep you sane, or fuel you to create in some way.
Here are the top 10 songs I’m riding to right now: