As ESPN took another media break in the first half of the Louisville-Notre Dame game Monday night, the press box let out a collective breath and unclenched, disengaging from Twitter and Statbroadcast for a brief moment of repose.
But outside of the press box, the 58,187 fans in Cardinal Stadium were doing the exact opposite. And as the strains of a familiar Dr. Dre song filtered in from the stands, the Notre Dame writer to my left turned to me with recognition registering in his eyes and asked: “Is that ‘Next Episode’?”
It was. And for a brief second in the Louisville press box, it felt like 2001 again as we mouthed the words to Nate Dogg’s infamous verse.
“I try to pick stuff that is eclectic – stuff that I think both the young and the old will know,” explained the man behind the music, D.J. K-Dogg. “And I never try to stick to just one genre, you just want to play that stuff that grabs everybody at the same time, at the right time.”
DJ K-Dogg has been a disc jockey and music producer for the past 22 years, having been in the industry since his teens, but he has been working with Louisville Athletics for the better part of the last decade.
“I’ve been working with Louisville Athletics since about 2013-14,” explained K-Dogg. “Charlie Strong, he was the coach at the time, he was a social butterfly, he used to go out to all the clubs. He came into one of the clubs I was dj-ing at one night and loved all the music. He actually told me he was going to get me at Louisville, but I thought he was joking. Then he actually came through and did that.”
Having an in-house DJ is a newer thing for college athletics – something professional sports have been doing for several years now. But it makes sense, with the intersection of sports and music being so relevant.
“Charlie Strong wanted to have a DJ at the games because when we played Rutgers back in 2013 he saw they had a stadium DJ,” remembers K-Dogg. “He thought the DJ had a very big impact on the game, the reason why the crowd was so loud and involved and ultimately why Rutgers won the game. He said we need that at Louisville.”
Strong may have been more dialed in than people realized. But that’s another story.
Roaming the sidelines before the Louisville-Notre Dame game, I noticed myself grooving to every song that came on. And I saw the majority of Cardinals players digging the vibe as well.
“The players usually email me a playlist of stuff they like, and of course I can’t play everything because not everything is appropriate,” joked K-Dogg. “So I extrapolate what I think we can use, and then as the game goes on, I have to weed through it and make my own decisions based upon what I think the fans and the players are going to like at the same time.”
It was evident from the first whistle that Louisville’s new head coach Scott Satterfield meant business, from the explosive, up-tempo offense to the physical, smothering defense – the Cardinals were making a statement to start the season that could be felt throughout the entire stadium.
“I thought, for it to be a new coach, a bunch of new players, I thought it was great,” said K-Dogg of the new-look Louisville. “I’ve never seen it as hyped as it was that night. And on a Monday night, no less. Plus the crowd was excellent, they responded to everything and were very supportive of the team. And even though we lost, people were still gracious. I thought that was actually a change because of the rough season we had last year. The loss Monday didn’t even feel like a loss, it just kind of felt like the beginning of something.”
The on-field play wasn’t the only cultural change at Louisville.
“You got to witness history because Monday night was the first time ever I was in control of the third-down music,” K-Dogg shared. “The last 10 years, before I even started, they had been using Van Halen ‘Right Now’ as the third-down music. People either absolutely loved it or absolutely hated it, but I didn’t control it at that time. This year I went with ‘Who Run It’ by Three 6 Mafia. And it did well, nobody complained. We also threw in a second one so it wouldn’t get repetitive – ‘Paradise’ by Big Sean.”
Music changes so quickly and you never quite know what is going to resonate and why.
“Couple of years ago the players wanted to hear ‘The Fox (What Does the Fox Say)‘ during the warmups and you know what, I play what they want and I actually think the song was pretty funny,” chuckled K-Dogg. “It kind of broke up the monotony and did well, the crowd go into it.”
So what college football bangers should you be adding to your game day playlist?
“I’m getting a lot of requests for ‘Money in the Grave’ by Drake ft. Rick Ross,” said K-Dogg. “It’s a good song, especially for football.
People also liked ‘Ballin’ by Mustard ft. Roddy Ricch. Also, ‘Grove St. Party’ by Waka Flocka Flame – that’s a big song. It came out a couple years ago but people love it. Monday was the first time I played it during a game, not just warmups and the crowd and my Twitter went crazy.”
And because I couldn’t let this musical mastermind go without a shout out to my hometown, I asked the Louisville legend if they show any love of the California variety.
“We will play ‘Tell Me When To Go’ by E-40 when we are really in a crunch, we will bust that out and see what happens,” admitted K-Dogg. “We definitely play songs from out West. Crowds love that stuff.”
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.