Olympic Snowboarder Louie Vito can get a bit obsessive when it comes to the music he listens to during a competition. “I actually do stress about the playlist,” said Vito, the 25-year-old Ohio native, Olympian and ESPN X-Games host, during a trip to XXL headquarters recently. ”I’ll go to the middle of the song, hear the beat, and if it’s heavy enough I’ll put it on and go snowboarding, and edit the playlist from there.”
At this point, Vito knows what it takes to win a competition. Since turning pro in 2005, he’s racked up two X Games Gold medals, five victories at the Grand Prix tournament, a slew of medals at every conceivable level of the pro circuit, and a fifth overall finish at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver at the age of 21. But outside of snowboarding—which has gotten him endorsement deals with Red Bull, G-Shock and Nike, among others—his biggest passion is hip-hop. And the two dovetail perfectly when Vito is out in the snow.
Growing up with a father who owned a radio station, he was first introduced to artists like Sublime and Nirvana, only for them to give way to the Beastie Boys and Rage Against The Machine, which eventually led to A Tribe Called Quest and a lifelong passion for hip-hop, particularly Pusha T and Meek Mill. “I had every Beastie Boys album; that was literally all I would listen to, and I could recite every line from all of them,” he said. “And now people are like, ‘Oh, rap’s horrible.’ But for me, snowboarding is about the energy level it gets me to, or if it gets stuck in your head.”
With almost a decade of professional snowboarding under his belt and a love of rap music that is as encyclopedic as his tricks are practiced, Louie Vito told XXL about some of his favorite hip-hop stories, from choosing his “contest” and “on-deck” songs to his Olympic playlist to his experiences bringing Jim Jones and Yelawolf snowboarding. Forever winning. —Dan Rys (@danrys)