Though Tyrann Mathieu now suits up for the Arizona Cardinals, the star safety still considers New Orleans, La., home. It’s no wonder, then, that the 22-year-old former LSU standout and Heisman Trophy finalist calls Lil Wayne his favorite rapper. Even outside of Wayne, Mathieu is a hardcore hip-hop fan. So much so, in fact, that he credits music for helping him recover from a knee injury that he suffered late last season.

“[Music] got me through the day,” says Mathieu, who recently told reporters he was feeling 90 percent healthy, “and provided me with inspiration at times when I needed it.”

Earlier this fall, XXL got up with the man they call the Honey Badger to discuss his love for Wayne, respect for Boosie and thoughts on Young Thug, among others. —Tzvi Twersky

XXL: What did you grow up listening to?
Tyrann Mathieu: I grew up listening to the Hot Boys, with Lil Wayne and all those guys.

Was Wayne your favorite member of the group?
Yeah, Weezy was always my favorite. I liked “Neighborhood Superstar” and “I Need A Hot Girl.” Those are like my favorite tracks.

Weezy sounds a little different these days. Are you still down as much as you used to be?
I still listen to Weezy. He was always my favorite, so I’ve stuck with him throughout his career.

What do you listen to nowadays to get yourself hyped before a game?
It varies for me. Last year, I listened to a lot of Rick Ross. This year, I’m listening to Young Jeezy. I was hoping Wayne would drop the Carter V before the season, but he didn’t.

You up on Jeezy's new album or you listening to older stuff?
Actually, I’m on his new album. I’m into “Holy Ghost” and the track with Boosie ["Beez Like"]. Those are my two favorites right now.

Being from Louisiana and all, are you into Boosie?
Absolutely. I spent two years in Baton Rouge, at LSU, but I had never listened to Boosie before that. He grew on me. He’s probably one of my top five rappers right now.

Who else is on that list?
I like Jeezy, Wayne, Rick Ross. I like Kanye and Kendrick Lamar. I listen to Boosie.

Are you into any other fresh artists, like Young Thug?
I’m not a huge Thug fan. I think he has a few tracks. The same goes for Kevin Gates. I obviously listen to their music, but I’m not a huge fan. I actually like the new guy Young Money signed, Euro. I think his flow is pretty tight and original.

When you were growing up, did you try your hand at rapping?
Yeah. Coming from New Orleans, you only want to be two things: you want to play ball, or you want to be a rapper. I guess I did go through my phase where I wanted to be a rapper. I made music, but I was never really good at it. I never really got nice. I had a few tracks I thought were tight, but nothing up to the real level.

As you’ve grown older and traveled the country as a football player, has your musical taste expanded at all?
I would say my tastes have always been wide. I grew up a hip-hop fan, but older members of my family were listening to R&B and reggae and whatnot. I guess you could say, as far as the artists I’ve listened to, that’s definitely expanded as I’ve went other places.

If you listen to Jeezy to get amped before games, what do you listen to when you want to get into a mellow mood?
Like a J. Cole or Drake. They usually get me calm. Jeezy and Ross get me turnt up.

A lot rappers have said they mess with you as a player. That must be pretty cool, like when a guy like Wale tweets at you.
Yeah, Wale’s reached out to me a couple times on Twitter. He seems like a cool dude.

When you were rehabbing your knee earlier this year, did music play a large role in putting in all the work you did to come back?
Definitely. Just about every day I ran through every playlist I had. It got me through the day and provided me with inspiration at times when I needed it.

Do you have any favorite shows that you’ve been to?
The best show I went to was probably Curren$y. I went to see him when I was at LSU. He’s a mellow rapper, but he has a way with crowds and his fans follow him wherever he goes.