5:04am

Tue February 11, 2014
Sports

Olympic Snowboarders Groove To DJ Naka G

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 1:29 pm

It's hard to tell on TV, but in person, the Olympics are loud.

Every competition has its own DJ, and for the snowboarding, Russia has brought in a little help from the USA: Mike Nakagawa, better known as DJ Naka G.

The men's snowboarding team is hitting the halfpipe Tuesday in Sochi, and it's Naka G's job to pick the song for each rider.

"We're really providing the soundtrack for a story," he says. "We're making it dramatic. We're making it exciting. We're making it just pure fun."

Naka G used to play the clubs in Aspen, Colo., and then he got tapped for the X Games. He discovered a network of producers, directors and DJs who travel the world working these extreme skiing events.

"Since the Olympics has kinda taken on action sports like skier/boarder cross, ski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle and pipe, I've kind of come along with it as well," he says.

The Olympics are strict, though. Naka G was given a hard drive with 5,000 Olympic-approved songs, most of them without lyrics so the music feels international.

Before each competitor's event, Naka G talks with the athletes to see what they want. To halfpipe skier Maddie Bowman, that makes a difference.

"I love when it plays in the background," she says. "Keeps the vibe light. Keeps the crowd excited, which keeps you excited."

So what's Bowman's soundtrack? "Night Crawler" by Judas Priest, "G-Code" by the Geto Boys and "Run to the Hills" by Iron Maiden.

Like any DJ, no matter your venue, you have to read the crowd, Naka G says. When it's cold and miserable, pump it up. When there's a crash, keep it mellow. And sometimes, you can send a message to the crowd.

This is where snowboarder Shaun White comes in.

DJ Naka G was planning to go with some harder rock, such as a little AC/DC for White's early runs today on halfpipe. Later, when White hits the big air way up high, the DJ will kick in with The Black Keys' "Lonely Boy."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Snowboarder Shaun White takes to the air today in Sochi at the Olympics. He's competing in the half-pipe event, going for his third gold medal. We do not know what tricks he has planned. Maybe another double McTwist or a triple cork. But we do know what music he'll be throwing down to.

NPR's Robert Smith tracked down a DJ for the Sochi Olympics.

ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: It's a little hard to tell on TV. But, in person, the Olympics are loud.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND MUSIC)

SMITH: Every competition has its own DJ. And for the snowboarding, Russia brought in a little help from the USA.

MIKE NAKAGAWA: Hi. My name is Mike Nakagawa, probably better known as DJ Naka G.

SMITH: DJ Naka G. When the men hit the half-pipe tonight, Naka G's job is to pick the song for each rider.

NAKAGAWA: We're really providing the soundtrack for a story. We're telling a story with the music. We're making it dramatic. We're making it exciting. We're making it just pure fun.

SMITH: Now, Naka G used to play the clubs in Aspen. Then he got tapped for the X Games. And then he discovered there was a network of producers and directors and DJs that travel the world doing all these extreme skiing events.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NAKAGAWA: Since the Olympics has kind of taken on action sports like ski or boardercross, ski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle pipe, I've kind of come along with them, as well.

SMITH: The Olympics are strict, though. He's given a hard drive with 5,000 Olympic-approved songs, most of them without lyrics, so, you know, it feels international.

NAKAGAWA: (unintelligible) playing Razzle Dazzle. Here's come Razzle Dazzle down...

SMITH: Naka G tries to talk with all the athletes before their event to see what they want. And halfpipe Skier Maddie Bowman says it does make a difference.

MADDIE BOWMAN: I love it when it plays in the background. And...

SMITH: Can you actually hear it when you're coming down?

BOWMAN: Yeah.

SMITH: You actually can?

BOWMAN: I can hear it. Yeah. And, cool, it keeps the vibe light. It keeps the crowd excited, which keeps you excited, and...

SMITH: Which keeps us warm.

BOWMAN: Yeah. Exactly.

SMITH: Maddie Bowman's usual soundtrack...

BOWMAN: "Night Crawler" by Judas Priest and "G-Code" by the Ghetto Boys and "Run to the Hills" by Iron Maiden.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "RUN TO THE HILLS")

NAKAGAWA: It's funny, because a lot of guys, even though they like the new music, you see their birthdates and they're, like, you know, 18 years old, and they want something from the '70s or the '80s.

SMITH: Naka G says like any DJ, you've got to read the crowd. You got to pump them up when they're cold and miserable, keep it mellow when there's a crash. And sometimes you can send a message, which brings us to snowboarder Shaun White. Tonight on the halfpipe, DJ Naka G is planning to go with some harder rock, a little AC-DC for Shaun White's early runs. And later, when Shaun White hits the big air up in the sky, when Shaun White has made it to the top...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONELY BOY")

SMITH: ...the DJ will kick in with the Black Keyes, "Lonely Boy."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONELY BOY")

SMITH: Robert Smith, NPR News, Sochi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.