- Vincent Thomas
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You can pretty much predict what's on 88 percent of NFL players' iPods. It'll be the same zeitgeist hip-hop that their teammates are listening to. But grab Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant's headphones and you might catch the 26-year-old rocking out to some Sade. No joke.
He doesn't just dig J Cole's new album -- "Cole World: Sideline Story" -- he wrote a review about it on his new music blog for Detroit Metro Times.
A lot of people and players say they love music, and most probably do. Durant, however, is a true music head, and learned to DJ last summer.
We got with the Phil Collins fan recently in a phone interview to kick it about music before his undefeated Lions make a triumphant appearance on "Monday Night Football" against the Chicago Bears.
The Life: So you're a music critic now, huh? How did that pop off?
Durant: My publicist kind of put it out there based on my love of music. So we got on the phone with the paper and set up a little section for me to talk music. Talk about everything, from reviewing albums to any random stuff that I'm listening to. It's like my space to sound off.
The Life: So what are you listening to at the moment? What's in heavy rotation?
Durant: I really, really like the J. Cole. I've been listening to a lot of Nirvana. The Kendrick Lamar, "Section.80." I don't know if you've heard of this act The Weeknd, but he's got a new mixtape out called "Thursday." I play that a lot. What else … oh, Anita Baker's "Greatest Hits." I'm all over the place, man. I'm digging "The Best of Sade."
The Life: Anita Baker? How old are you, man?
Durant: [Laughs.] I'm 26.
The Life: So how'd you get into that '80s adult R&B?
Durant: Well, growing up with my mom, she had the radio playing all the time. So we'd hear Freddie Jackson, Barry White, stuff like that. So when I got older, that stuff was still in my head. It gives me a little feeling of nostalgia. I miss that music of the '80s and '90s. I mean, today, there's still quality music here and there, but not as much as when I was growing up.
The Life: What's your pregame selection like?
Durant: Well, I'm from [Florence] South Carolina, so it's a lot of crunk era music. Pastor Troy. Three 6 Mafia. I'll pump some of T.I.'s older albums. But then again, I still listen to some Jay-Z, because he's got a lot of meaning to his lyrics -- like "Say Hello" off the "American Gangster" album. I'll play Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." And the whole DMX album -- "It's Dark and Hell Is Hot." That album is just so energetic and hype. You can feel how hungry he is. I try to be like that dog on the field and make things happen.
The Life: So do your pregame selections fall in line with what your teammates are bumping?
Durant: [Laughs.] Nah, man, mine is a little different. I'm young, but a lot of guys are 21 or 22 and they pretty much play the same thing. So it'll be a lot of Gucci [Mane], Waka Flocka. I personally don't get into those guys. And they really love Drake. I hear Drake all day. I mean, he's a good artist, but I prefer a young rapper like J. Cole. Drake seems like he raps about the same subject matter on every song. It's like the same song, different beat. Cole is more like a '90s rapper to me. He has that vibe. I really dig him. I actually went out and bought his album.
The Life: What's the first album you copped?
Durant: "The Coming." Yep. Busta Rhymes' "The Coming," 1996. Aw, man. I remember that album so vividly. He's a legend to me. I'm a big fan of his. Biggie, too. Tupac, of course. I'm a big fan of the '90s. That's why I've been listening to so much Nirvana.
The Life: So how did you get hip to Nirvana?
Durant: I'm one of those listeners that does research. I'll like Google the top 100 albums and then go to iTunes and download them and listen, even if it's not in a genre that I grew up on. I really look for stuff that I haven't heard. That's how I come up on groups like Nirvana or Radiohead.
The Life: Are you musically inclined? Can you play any instruments?
Durant: Man, that's probably why I'm such a fan -- because I'm jealous. I can't do it. Musicians and artists are so extra talented. I mean, I might try to freestyle rap a little bit, but I can't do it like the pros.
The Life: If you're making a playlist on your iPod, right now, what would be the first five songs you picked?
Durant: Ooooh, that's tough. Hmmm. OK. "Cherish the Day," by Sade. "Nobody's Perfect," off the new J. Cole. This song off Kendrick Lamar's "Section.80" called "Keisha's Song (Her Pain)." Hmmm. I'd pick Frank Ocean's "Dust." And "The Zone," from The Weeknd.
The Life: Speaking of Frank Ocean -- he's down with OFWGKTA and Tyler the Creator and seems to be a leader of the new school, so to speak. What's your take on him?
Durant: Tyler? I just can't get into it, man. I liked Eminem back in the day. I was like 14 when he came out. Tyler is sort of like Em when he first came out, in terms of shock-value material. I like his crew, I guess. Their beats are throwback, so I dig that. But the subject matter? I can't really vibe with it. It's just a little too out there for me.
The Life: OK. Here's another tough one. You can bring one album to a deserted island -- which one's it going to be?
Durant: OutKast's "ATLiens." It's the first album I really feel in love with in my life. August of '96. Super creative.
The Life: Well, you and your boys make your Monday night debut. You're undefeated, surprising everyone. What song typifies the 2011 Detroit Lions? What's your theme song?
Durant: [Note: After stalling for about 90 seconds, Durant asks if he can think about it and hit me back. He texts me the following two songs.] "Stop Being Greedy" -- DMX and "I'm On One" -- DJ Khaled, featuring Drake, Rick Ross and Lil' Wayne.
Vincent Thomas is a SLAM magazine columnist and a frequent contributing columnist and commentator for ESPN. He can be reached at email@example.com or @vincecathomas on Twitter.
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