Marlana VanHoose is loud and proud

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24

ESPN's "E:60" has this feature on Marlana VanHoose, a truly remarkable 18-year-old girl from Denver, Ky., who has sung "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Kentucky women's games.

VanHoose has been blind since birth and has cerebral palsy. But none of that matters when she picks up the microphone and starts to sing. When you hear her, you'll understand. (And keep this in mind: "The Star-Spangled Banner" has made singers with Grammy awards and gold records look like fools. It's not easy.)

What's more, the Wildcats are 4-0 when VanHoose sings the national anthem.

Action Bronson talks 'Blue Chips' mixtape

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
Action BronsonJoseph Okpako/Redferns/Getty ImagesAction Bronson is a "die-hard" Knicks fan.
The year is 1994. The MLB Players Association begins its season-long strike; O.J. Simpson takes a long ride in his buddy’s white Ford Bronco; and "Blue Chips," the film about college basketball and its broken recruitment system starring Nick Nolte and Shaquille O’Neal, hits theaters and leaves an indelible mark on one 11-year-old boy in Queens, N.Y.

Twenty years later, that boy is known to rap fans as Action Bronson, who over the course of the last two years has put out two mixtapes -- "Blue Chips" and "Blue Chips 2" -- inspired by the film. While recording his new album in Santa Monica (slated for a late summer release), Bronson talked about the impact basketball has had on his music.

“I love 'Blue Chips,'" says Bronson. "It was one of my favorite movies growing up, and it’s just one of my favorite movies period. It definitely influenced the projects, for sure -- nothing direct, just the whole feel. Nile Rodgers did the score, the guy from "The Exorcist" directed it -- I knew that "Chips" was going to be ahead of its time.”

Bronson’s mixtapes, produced by Party Supplies, have the crunchy swagger of "Blue Chips"-era New York rap, replete with vinyl pops, guitar tremors and shimmering ride cymbals. For Bronson, other similarities come to mind.

“I just feel like it’s similar to the rap game. They give you the bag of money and you go out there and you do what you do. I don’t know if there’s any point-shaving going on, but I’m all about making a quick buck on gambling -- dice games, horse racing, cockroach racing, chicken fights. That could sum up my entire being.”

A self-described die-hard Knicks fan with the word “Knickerbocker” tattooed on the back of his leg, Bronson hasn’t been taking the team’s recent woes well. “They disappoint me a lot. I don’t think we’ll win anything with Melo on that team. The man has never dunked the ball hard in his life! He doesn’t have the killer instinct.”

But even a true die-hard must be thrilled on the recent hiring of Phil Jackson. “The Knicks have made a lot of moves lately that are too little, too late," he says. "Why did we get Baron Davis at the end of his career? B-Diddy is one of my favorite players of all time. If we’d had him at a younger age, what could’ve been? It’s upsetting.”

Despite the emotional ringer the organization has put Bronson through, he still goes to games whenever he can. “Last time I went to a Knicks game was when Kevin Love hit me up and got me his tickets. So I sat right behind Spike Lee.” Love is apparently a fan of Bronson's music and, in the words of Bronson, “a great dude.” As any great fan would, Bronson has attempted to recruit Love to the Knicks in 2015. “You already know I did! I pretty much begged.” The result? “I can’t disclose that.”

You can catch Bronson at the home of one of his other favorite teams, the N.Y. Jets, when he hits MetLife Stadium for Hot 97’s Summer Jam on June 1.

Asher Roth on finding a way to win

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Asher RothAmanda Edwards/WireImageAsher Roth grew up near Philly, but he's a San Francisco Giants and 49ers fan, thanks to his dad.
Rap artist Asher Roth still remembers clearly what it was like to stand on the pitchers' mound in a win-or-go-home Little League tournament game and find a way to retire batters without an overpowering fastball.

In a similar way, Roth made the sophomore album he wanted to make -- "RetroHash," which dropped on Tuesday -- without playing the record industry game by the old rules. He's releasing the album independently, having cut ties with his former label.

He calls the new album "very similar to getting traded to a new team that fits your skill sets a little better." That fits with how he characterized the record in an interview with CBS -- "genuine to who I am and a very real expression of self."

Roth is a fan of sports of all kinds, especially the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers -- allegiances he inherited from his dad. "I was born with a Jerry Rice jersey and a Willie Mays rookie card," he says. But when it comes down to it, baseball is his game. And what he likes about the game is that success doesn't automatically fall to the strongest or fastest person on the field.

"What baseball allows is for the David Freeses of the world to be MVPs," he said. "These guys who are relatively no-names, the Marco Scutaros of the world, they're the ones that drive in the winning runs to win the World Series."

Roth had his own Marco Scutaro moment in Little League, when he was called out of center field as an emergency starting pitcher to start a tournament elimination game for his hometown team from Morrisville, Penn. It might as well have been yesterday, given the details he recalls about the experience.

"They brought me in because our pitcher's elbow was hurt," Roth recalled. "I'm kind of like a fifth starter, a sixth starter. And I was a little guy, man, I was 4-foot-7, 90-something pounds -- and I got called on in a game against Franklin (Penn.) and threw five and two-thirds innings."

How does a kid without imposing size or a blazing fastball pitch his team to victory? In this case, he empties the kitchen sink and throws breaking balls. Probably, too many breaking balls.

"I was just throwing junk," he said. "I threw a lot of curveballs -- and that's why I don't play baseball anymore, I was way too early throwing curveballs. I highly suggest young kids do not get into throwing junk."

Looking back on Little League, Roth calls it "easily the best time in my life. Easily. Not only that, it was the best relationships of my life. I was carefree, traveling around, playing the game with my friends."

Little League was a long time ago. But Roth says the lessons he learned playing the game -- confidence and focus chief among them -- have helped him forge his way in his chosen field.

"That's how I go about my business in the entertainment world. It's a lot of stuff coming at you at all times and it really is all about honing in and focusing and handling one thing at a time," he said.

In this case, it's taking control of his work and making the Internet a key aspect of the strategy, rather than something to fear. "(The major labels) are trying to find their place in the whole thing because obviously the freedom and the power is more with the artists and the musicians than it's ever been," Roth said.

"The first time I launched a song was on MySpace," he said. "I was a freshman in college when Facebook was introduced ... it's kind of cool to be cognizant with all these advances in technology ... that allow us to make a record and put it out that same day instead of putting out recordings that are two years old.

"If I have an idea, I can act on that idea and release that idea right away. Not only that, we don't have to commit millions of dollars just to do one idea at a time. You can do it like 'Hey, check this out, what do you guys think?' You get immediate feedback from your fans and that, to me, is a real luxury."

Lorde finally meets George Brett

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16

Lorde has finally met George Brett, the inspiration for her hit song “Royals.”

A story that started with the click of a shutter before a baseball game in 1976 came full circle in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, when Lorde met Brett, the baseball Hall of Famer whose photo in an old magazine helped launch her singing career.

In case you don't know the story: A teenage girl in New Zealand, aspiring to a music career, comes across Ted Spiegel's photo of George Brett in a 1976 issue of National Geographic. The photo of a young, smiling Brett in his home Royals jersey, surrounded by autograph seekers holding brand-new baseballs, inspires the girl's song about missing out on the lifestyles of the rich and famous. The song becomes a worldwide hit, wins multiple Grammy awards, and turns the 17-year-old girl from Auckland into a star.

When a hoped-for meeting in March didn't materialize, the Royals sent Lorde an autographed Brett jersey. This time, she got to meet her inspiration in person -- and tied a bow on a story that took 38 years and two continents to complete.

San Antonio Spurs reserve player Matt Bonner recently found himself in Austin, TX with tacos and no one to share them with after being stood up by rapper Riff Raff. No worries. Bushwick Bill to the rescue! The Geto Boys MC joined the 3-point ringer and amateur beatboxing Bonner in the first edition of the web series "Wrappin' With The Red Mamba."

Drake to host ESPYS

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
Circle July 16, 2014 on your calendar: That's when multi-platinum rap artist Drake will host the ESPY Awards.

The Grammy-winning rapper will be front and center at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater, entertaining guests, introducing presenters and doing other award show host things that award show hosts do as top athletes and entertainers celebrate the year's best moments in sports and raise money for the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Drake is a natural pick for the job, given his interest in sports:

He's a global ambassador for the NBA's Toronto Raptors, his home-town team.

Drake Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty ImagesBeing the Raptors' global ambassador comes with perks, like hanging out with coworkers at games.

He performed at the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa in 2012.

Drake Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesAs a native Canadian, Drake is in tune with the national sport.

He befriended and hung out with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel last summer.

AP Photo/David J. PhillipDrake mentored Johnny Football when controversy was swirling around the Heisman winner.

And who was that in Kentucky's locker room at the Final Four after the Wildcats beat Wisconsin? If you said "Drake," you're catching on.

DrakeAP Photo/David J. PhillipBig Blue Nation appreciated Drake's support at the Final Four.

Drake, ESPYS

Pitbull unveils 2014 World Cup anthem

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9

The official song of the 2014 World Cup Brazil, "We Are One (Ole, Ola)," has been released and it features Cuban-American rapper/entertainer Pitbull as well as megastar Jennifer Lopez and Brazilian singer Caludia Leitte. The song is one of 17 that will appear on the official FIFA 2014 World Cup Brazil album to be released May 12, exactly one month out from the start of the tournament. Ricky Martin, The Isley Brothers and Sergio Mendes are just a few of the additional artists involved in the project.

Is "We Are One" as catchy as Shakira's 2010 anthem "Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)" which has amassed 640 million views and counting on YouTube? Watch both videos and judge for yourself. The World Cup will air on ESPN June 12 through July 13.

Courrier, Chromeo featured on ESPN

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
Here's a list of songs from performers featured this month on ESPN, along with links to the artists' websites and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:

Courrier: "Your Eyes Shine In The Darkness" and "The City At Night" from the “Cathedrals of Color” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Chromeo: "Come Alive (Feat. Toro Y Moi)" and "Somethingood" from the “White Women” album. (iTunes

Fito Blanko: "Meneo" single. (iTunes | Amazon)

Wisin: "Que Viva La Vida" from the “El Regreso del Sobreviviente” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Diafrix, INTL on ESPN's 'First Take'

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
Here's a list of songs from performers featured on ESPN’s "First Take," along with links to the artists' websites and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:

Leagues: "Mind Games" from the “You Belong Here” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

INTL: "Ruckus" from the “The Young International” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Diafrix: "Running It" from the “Pocket Full of Dreams” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Chic, Kid Ink on 'Numbers Never Lie'

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
Here's a list of songs from performers featured on ESPN’s "Numbers Never Lie," along with links to the artists websites and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:

Chic: "Good Times" from the "Risque" album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Kid Ink: "The Movement" from the "My Own Lane" album. (iTunes | Amazon)

chic, kid ink

Alice Cooper classic on Gruden's QQ Camp

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
"No More Mr. Nice Guy" was a hit for Alice Cooper in 1973 and remains a staple of classic rock radio playlists.

It's also the music you'll hear introducing ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden's QB Camp segments ahead of the NFL draft. You can sample and download the song here from his Greatest Hits album: (iTunes | Amazon)

Music featured on MLB coverage

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
Here's a list of songs from performers featured on ESPN’s MLB programming, along with links to the artists' websites and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:

Kevin Rudolf: Here's To Us single. (iTunes | Amazon)

American Authors: "Best Day of My Life" from the "Oh, What A Life" album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Bastille: "Pompeii" from the "Bad Blood" album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Young The Giant: "It’s About Time" from the “Mind Over Matter” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Music featured in ESPN promos

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
Here's a list of songs used on ESPN's promotional segments this month, along with links to the artists' websites and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:


Sam & Dave: "Hold On I’m Coming" from the “Best of Sam & Dave” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Roger and Zapp: "California Love" from the “Greatest Hits” album (iTunes | Amazon)

Etta James: "Steal Away" from the “Tell Mama” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

2014 FIFA World Cup

Os Mutantes: "Bat Macumba" from the “Os Mutantes” album. (iTunes | Amazon)


Pitbull: "Timber" from the “Global Warming: Meltdown” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Women's NCAA Tournament

Jason Aldean: "The Only Way I Know" from the “Night Train” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

College Lacrosse

We Came As Romans: "Hope" from the “Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Music featured on IRL programming

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
Here's a list of songs from performers featured on ESPN’s IRL programming, along with links to the artists' websites and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:

The Winery Dogs: "Elevate" from the “The Winery Dogs” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Imagine Dragons: "On Top Of The World" from the “Night Vision” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Los Lonely Boys: "Can't Slow Down" from the “Revelation” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

One Republic: "Counting Stars" from the "Native" album. (iTunes | Amazon)

American Authors: "Best Day of My Life" from the "Oh, What A Life" album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Bastille: "Pompeii" from the "Bad Blood" album. (iTunes | Amazon)

Fall Out Boy: "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark" from the “Save Rock and Roll” album. (iTunes | Amazon)

SleeperStar: "Restart" not available for sale.

Chase Rice on ESPN NASCAR coverage

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
The title track from country artist Chase Rice's album "Ready Steady Roll" is being featured this month on ESPN's NASCAR programming.

To hear a sample or purchase the song and/or album, click here: (iTunes | Amazon)