Track and Field fans know sprinter Carol Rodriguez for her dominant performances at USC, and for being a two-time Olympian but they probably aren’t aware of her other talent. As the 2008 University of Southern California graduate nears the tail end of her career, she is gearing up to introduce her supporters to her alter-ego, recording artist Carol Cake.
Music isn’t just a hobby for Rodriguez. Unlike many other athletes who try their hand at making music late in their careers, the 100, 200 and 400 meter Puerto Rico record holder has been doing music since she was a child. She played percussion and clarinet for several years, even joining jazz band and the marching band in high school. Although USC recruited Rodriguez for their band and track team, she chose track.
At USC, Rodriguez excelled in the 200 and 400 meter sprints—she currently holds the school record in both events—but the music bug would not go away. “I picked up piano while I was at USC. I’ve been kind of into music for a long time on the musician’s side. Learning how to read music, playing music, playing in different types of bands,” says Rodriguez.
Everyone around Rodriguez knew that she was a talented rapper and musician, but it wasn’t until 2011, when she uploaded a video of a cover of Lil Wayne’s hit single “6 Foot, 7 Foot” that the rest of the world knew of her other talent. She says the video got good feedback, but things went bad when she ended up working with a less than scrupulous producer. That encounter temporarily soured her on the music business. She subsequently refocused her efforts on track and made her second Olympic team.
After competing in several meets including the NACAC Championships and the Pan-American Games, Rodriguez started taking music seriously again in 2016. Since pivoting to the microphone on a somewhat full-time basis, Rodriguez says that her circle has supported her wholeheartedly. “A lot of the track and field community and other Olympians really supported just because when you do something for so long, when you’re an athlete for over 20 years, it takes a lot of courage,” They know once I start doing something, I put 100 percent in whatever it is I’m doing.”
Carol Cake—who Rodriguez describes as the same as her normal persona, just magnified—draws her musical inspiration from a truly unique upbringing. Growing up in Southern California with a Puerto Rican dad and an African-American mom from New Orleans, Rodriguez benefitted from being exposed to multiple rich cultures. “Growing up around the house, my mom and dad listened to two totally different types of music. My mom listened to Marvin Gaye, Anita Baker, Earth, Wind and Fire. And then my dad listened to Nicky Jam, Daddy Yankee, and a whole bunch of bachata and reggaeton artists. It definitely is a huge influence.”
Some of those influences can be heard on her first official single, “On the Rise,” which was released in March of last year. Even more of her personality shines through on the video for the single. The clip captures Carol’s chill, yet no-nonsense personality perfectly as she lets fans in on a day in the life of a boss leveling up.
The Cali-Rican track star turned rap star hasn’t quite decided to permanently hang up her spikes but music is her top priority for the moment. “I have to take it year-by-year and see because being an athlete at this level is really hard on your body. What I would like to do is take the 2018 season off, because we don’t have a World Championships and obviously there’s no Olympics Games,” says Rodriguez. “Right now, I’m focusing on the music. I’m excited about taking next year off because I’ve never taken longer than four months in the 20 years I’ve been running.”
To gear up the upcoming release of her debut EP Carol Cake 7 Candles, Rodriguez has been performing all over the country, including shows at the popular SXSW festival in Austin, TX and the House of Blues.
Of course, the multi-talented Rodriguez isn’t going to release her project like every other artist, CC7C will be packaged with a workout video. Rodriguez says that women approach her constantly asking how they can get a body like hers, so it is a no-brainer to cross market her athleticism with the music, giving fans the best of both worlds.
While fans wait for Rodriguez to drop her album, they can get a dose of her unforgettable personality weekly on her DASH Radio show, “Sports, Run, And Then Some.” The show airs on the iCraft Radio channel and features Rodriguez interviewing guests, talking sports, current issues and everything in between.
No matter what she does, Rodriguez brings the same focus and energy, so it won’t be too much of a surprise if Carol Rodriguez has to move some of her track trophies and medals out of the way to make room for Carol Cake’s music awards sometime in the near future.