Redfoo of LMFAO talks tennis, Azarenka
January, 31, 2013
By Charles Curtis | ESPN The Magazine
Lucas Dawson/Getty ImagesThe No.1-ranked women's player and the renowned party rocker make a superb couple.LMFAO’s Redfoo may be known best for shuffling every day and anthems about drinking shots, but now he's combining his music with another passion: tennis.
In fact, Redfoo literally started playing tennis from the womb -- read on for more details -- and went on to become a pretty competitive player in his teens. Having given the sport up for music, Redfoo recently made news when it was learned that he plans to release a song featuring Victoria Azarenka's grunt. Yeah, that's right -- her grunt.
After returning from the Australian Open, where he rooted on eventual winner Azarenka, the crazily coiffed singer spoke to ESPN Playbook about his love of the game -- and a certain No. 1 player.
Tell us about your experiences in Australia.
It was really amazing, literally a dream come true. It was the second Grand Slam that I have been to. My purpose going down there was to support [Azarenka], so just having that goal to win the whole thing and do whatever I could to influence that with her, her team, coach and trainers. So that was the most amazing part about it for me, was just being involved with that and having that dream and having it coming true at the end through all the trials and tribulations.
What did you do to provide support?
You always figure out what you can do and what your skill sets are and it definitely isn’t anything to do with actual tennis. When I root for stuff, I watch to see what she does and then I just do it louder. If she’s like, “Come on!” after a point, I’m like, “COME ON!” I try to match what she’s doing and just amplify that.
Off the court, it’s just being entertaining, being fun and playing the piano. I went out and bought a piano, she didn’t even know. I said, “Hey, I’ve got a surprise for you.” And she said, “What is this?” I said, “It’s a piano.” After practice, she’ll just be playing the piano and learning songs. Now she doesn’t talk to me anymore, she just plays the piano all day. She grew up playing and likes some current songs, like “Diamonds” by Rihanna. She’ll watch some YouTube [videos] and start playing that stuff. I taught her “Heart and Soul.” That was a great moment, we played that together. And then [we] just watched some movies, like “Rocky.”
It’s [also] knowing to stay out of the way. It’s just understanding when she’s focused and in her mode that she’s not going to be the same way. Once she puts her headphones on, you can forget it.
Where did this passion for tennis come from?
I grew up playing. I played juniors but it all started -- it’s all really deep – my father [Berry Gordy Jr.] had a tennis court and he still lives in Bel Air. My mother actually used to play. When she was pregnant with me, she was playing tennis. They make a joke -- I don’t know if it’s true -- her water broke on the tennis court. I have to ask again. You know how moms exaggerate. But there are pictures of her pregnant on the tennis court.
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images"I actually want to play some men's opens," says Redfoo.
When I was born, I lived with my dad for two years. I was always watching him on a tennis court as a kid, he was a fanatic. Boris Becker would come to the house and play chess. They’re still friends with Monica Seles. So tennis was a big deal, and I started playing seriously around ninth grade. I grew up playing with Lester Cook and his brother, Jason. Lester made it to 180 on the tour [Editor’s note: It was 191 in singles.] And I never lost to Lester, I just want that to be printed in bold. I played him last, I think he was 12 and I was 17, but that’s not the point. The point is, I made him change to a one-handed backhand after he saw mine. I played with Stella Sampras, Pete’s sister. She beat me 6-4. I was top-40 in Southern Cal in 16’s.
I got into music when I was around 16 or 17. Now I’m back and I play. Every time I tour, I find a pro -- I go to the local tennis center in that country, wherever it is and I play. I played with a Davis Cup player, he’s 19 but he’s on a Davis Cup team in Malaysia. I don’t even want to tell you the score.
Didn’t you leave tennis because you broke your wrist?
I was snowboarding and I snapped my wrist a little bit, the bone cracked. I got into music because I had nothing to do and I had to do something. I was in Sweden and I was losing a little bit and then I lost my rackets. I was like, “Maybe that’s a sign.” I started to get more attention for doing music. If you’re a rapper, you’re American and you live in Sweden, they don’t care if you play tennis.
I wanted to express myself to the world and I was writing songs. As a tennis player I felt like, “I’m just going to hit balls all day.” I think [music] is a better career for me so I can express my ideas about things. That was the mental thing that led me to quit tennis because I never wanted to quit anything -- I’m not quitting, I’m just replacing it with music. And that was a big deal.
Now you’re getting back into tennis with a clothing line, coaching and the Party Rock Open.
I started coaching a junior, which started over the phone a lot. I met Ayaka Okuno and played with her, she was playing the junior [tournaments]. We talked strategy and what to think about. I wanted to teach her all the stuff I had learned about success and winning. But then I started talking about strategy and attacking. We’d be watching the same matches online and analyzing stuff. She went and won the Japan Open [Junior Championships]. She’s going to Georgia now and still has her sights set on getting into the top 10 as a pro.
That was so fun for me because it was somebody that was listening to what I was saying. Every time I had a show, I was talking about how I would prepare and what I was thinking before and what I had to conquer on the stage. There were these things where you have to stay focused –- you see a fight in a crowd, so you have to keep rapping. So [in tennis] how do you do that with fans? Parents are yelling, maybe you feel cheated if the linesman calls a ball out, how do you get [ticked] off at first but then channel it into focusing?
Do you have any future plans in the tennis world?
I don’t know exactly. I just love playing. I actually want to play some men’s opens and get to a good level. I like the clothing aspect, because whatever I do, I want to make my own clothes, so that’s how that started. Doing a tennis line would be really fun. But my main focus is the music and entertaining. I was thinking of doing some exhibitions where I combine tennis and music. I might have a show at, say, the Staples Center, where I might play an exhibition against somebody who would be interesting, then take a break and go do a show. I’m making a lot of songs that are tennis-inspired. I have a song that actually features [Victoria’s] grunt. It’s in the perfect key.
Is she excited about that being in the song?
Well, hold on.
[Redfoo puts his phone on speaker.]
Victoria Azarenka: It’s a fun way to use [the grunt]. I didn’t realize he would actually do it, I thought it would be a joke.
How does it feel to be supported by Redfoo and to win it all with him cheering you on from the box?
Azarenka: It’s really different than any other people I’ve had in my box because he’s really into it, actually like he’s playing on the court himself. It was really fun, he really takes the whole experience so seriously and he was really supportive.
Are you going to bring him to other Grand Slam events as a good-luck charm?
Azarenka: I can’t bring him, he’s a big boy and takes care of himself. I’m sure he’ll come by for more events.
Can you confirm he’s as good a tennis player as he says he is?
Azarenka: He’s good. He’s trying to challenge me. That’s going to happen soon. We’re not supposed to talk about it, but we’ll see. Maybe [then] you’ll know how good of a tennis player [he is].
[Redfoo gets back on the phone.]
That was a pleasant surprise. So we’ll ask: You two are officially dating?
Yeah, I think so. It’s pretty out there. I hope so! We don’t talk about it that much, but if I saw her with another dude, I wouldn’t be happy about it. We just try to do our thing and have fun and laugh.