Screw Rock 'n' Roll isn't a sports blog, and there's a good reason for that. Basically the only sport I watch is football, and I don't pretend to be any kind of expert on that. I cannot overstate the serverity of my lack of football knowledge. I am probably the least knowledgeable football fan of all time. My excuse for that is I only developed any interest at all when I was in the States back in '04-'05, and so most of my football watching life, I haven't lived in the one country that plays that sport.
But even though I don't know anything about football, I do know what I like. I'm a Seahawks fan, and I hold a grudge — you wouldn't believe the schadenfreude I got from Pittsburgh's woeful season this year — and for that reason I'm looking for the demolition of those Seahawk-defeating Bears to go down next Sunday. (Which is actually Monday here in Australia, whatever.) That's right, for one day only I'm going for Peyton to get his ring. Or Tony Dungy to get his, at least. Peyton... I basically figure that if he deserved a ring he would have got it by now.
So, I ain't some sports guy, but I do know music, and so when music gets involved with sports I can almost come up with an opinion worth having. Hip hop is especially good at getting involved in sports, partly because a lot of rappers are into sports, partly because rap and sports both have a strong competitive streak and emphasize the display of finely honed skill, and partly because rap is one of the few forms of music with a rapid enough response rate, in terms of both creation and distribution, to keep up with the week-to-week schedule of professional sports.
When the Houston Astros made the World Series in 2005, it was the same year Houston was blowing up as a rap city, and in a nice piee of synergy Paul Wall and (I think) Chamillionaire both put together Astros-cheering tracks to celebrate the team's forthcoming victory (a victory which didn't actually happen). Earlier in 2005, Mr. Lif, Akrobatik and Fakts One released a track called "The Razor" as a tribute to the Patriots team that would go on to win the Superbowl, and, for the Superbowl last year, I found a bunch of tracks by some Seattle rappers no one's ever heard of celebrating the Seahawks' Superbowl appearance. None of this was great music per se, but that didn't really matter, because it was music with a built-in expiry date, and it only needed to last until the big game was over.
And though the occasional non-rap artists will get in on the act, as the Dropkick Murphys did for the Red Sox with "Tessie" the year they won the World Series, most rock acts and the like just can't get the music written, recorded and out there quick enough. Incidentally, the Red Sox World Series victory is the only one I've ever really cared about, mostly because when it all happened I'd just arrived in America and I was experiencing the mystifying but exhilarating experience of writing for the Western Front and seeing half the staff crowded around a little TV in the editor's office and going absolutely crazy about something I could barely understand. It was a rather memorable introduction to the sport.
So my music-loving, sports-ignorant brain will inevitably make the musical talent of the city involved a factor when it comes to deciding which teams I want to see make the chamionship game of whichever sport is in question. It's only a small part, and true, Seattle teams always trump this consideration unquestionably (which is fortunate, because much as I love Seatown, a strong, thriving rap scene isn't uppermost on its list of attributes). So, with this in mind, let's have a look at the musical possibilities offered by the various cities with pro sports teams.
New Orleans Saints
Once the Seahawks had lost, I was with the Saints all the way, for about a million reasons. There was Reggie Bush, Drew Breez, their entertaining football, and yes, that coming back after Katrina thing. But the big downside to this Saints-less Superbowl is that if any city had the talent and drive to come up with a decent Superbowl anthem, it was NOLA. Mainly this is down to Lil' Wayne. Weezy would not only be capable of putting together a decent song for the Saints, but I think had they made it to the Superbowl, he quite likely would have done it. Weezy tells us on Dedication #2 that he's a sports fan, and that he has a favorite player and a favorite team in every sport, and he uses football references in his raps ("quarterback, well protected from the Warren Sapp"), so I'm pretty certain he's not disinterested in what's going on, unlike, say, GZA, who says he isn't a sports person, and doesn't follow football. I don't know if Wayne is a Saints dude, but he sure has that hometown pride. Not to mention Weezy's absurd prolificity. It'd be no problem for him to have stuck something together had the Saints gone to the Superbowl. We're missing out.
Chicago Bears/Indianapolis Colts
I haven't heard any tracks out supporting either team, which doesn't surprise me much. Indianapolis, if it does have a rap scene, is hardly renowned for it's surfeit of talent. Rhymefest has a connection to the city, but he seems to rep Chicago these days, so I'm not sure where his allegiance lies. He actually could probably come out with something half-decent, since he's that sort of hard scrabble rapper who would put together something sufficiently anthemic to get the fans going, and also with enough OK lines that it's not completely forgettable. I couldn't see Kanye or Common doing anything though. Common's too busy hawking Gap sweatshirts these days, and it doesn't seem his style. And much as I love Kanye, I couldn't see him coming up with anything this quick. Dude has good songs and some good lines, but his success seems to come from dedication and plenty of time spent fine-tuning his lyrics. If Kanye tosses something off, you know it's not going to be any good. West is an albums dude, not a mixtapes and freestyles dude. As for Lupe Fiasco, he'd rather be off rapping about robots or something. Doesn't strike me as a football fan.
The main hope for Chicago is R. Kelly. He strikes me as the kind of guy who could be into sports, he's not shy about repping the 312, and the more off the wall his subject matter, the better the song (see "Trapped in the Closet"). Of course, were Kells to do this, he'd find some way to turn football into a metaphor for fucking, but, please, is there anything wrong with that? Come on Robert. You've still got a couple days before the game starts. Get to the studio, and do more for the Bears than Rex Grossman's done for them all season.
(Of course, the Bears still have that Superbowl Shuffle thing that they did whenever they were in the Superbowl last, so maybe the creative urge in Chi-town isn't that strong given they already have a de facto anthem.) But, if anyone out there has heard any fan-tracks, send them along to me, I'd like to hear them.
UPDATE: So Kanye and Common got together to do Southside Superbowl (MP3 courtesy of Spine Magazine), and it's actually pretty good. I don't mind being proven wrong by artists who exceed my expectations. Kudos to Messrs West and Lynn. And someone get R. Kelly moving. There's still time. Don't disappoint me, Kells.
New York Giants/Jets
Despite New York's strong rap credentials, I can't really think of any current guys who could come up with anything decent for these teams were they to make a championship. Dipset don't mind telling you how awesome New York is, but in their mind, it's more awesome for being the hometown of the Diplomats than for any other reason. To write a good team song, you need to be able to think something other than yourself deserves kudos, and I don't think any of the Diplomats are capable of doing that. Cam'ron is the most talented rapper, but he's at his least interesting when he has to make an actually point about something. He's best when he's careening all over the place flinging his onomatapaeia and wild syllables, and occasionally returning to coke dealing as a reference point to stop the whole thing flying off the face of the earth. Killa Cam could never write a decent football rap just like he never comes up with dis tracks half as good as they should be: make him focus and you lose everything enjoyable about his flow. And while you may point out that the Dips already have contributed "We Fly High" to the Giants, but, it's telling that the song wasn't a football track until the Giants made it so. That the Giants had to get their football anthem from a track in which the main sports reference is to basketball shows the paucity of potential here.
Elsewhere, G-Unit wouldn't drag themselves out of the gloom long enough to record anything that light-hearted, and most of the rest of the young New York guys have too much of a sense of entitlement. Where Paul Wall loves Texas enough to write a song about a hometown team, he's diffident enough to shine the spotlight on some other guys. I can't see Papoose or Saigon doing that.
The older dudes probably wouldn't come up with much either. Nas is too crotchety and introverted these days, and Jay-Z would only do something for the Nets. Or NASCAR. Besides, he said on Monday Night Football that he's a Cowboys supporter. Ghostface probably could come up with something, but no one would pay any attention to it. There are probably a million unknowns around who would give it a go, but if the Giants or the Jets make it to the Superbowl next year, I'm predicting a poor silence from the city's big name rappers. Weirdly enough, I'd have to think Fat Joe would make the best effort, given the opportunity. Especially if he had Taking Back Sunday giving him a hand. Edit: after further contemplation, I could see Nas doing a fair job of this sort of thing, and spending the entire track time shouting out players from the '80s and '90s. Sort of a "Where Are They Now? (NFL remix)" type thing.
Atlanta should be capable of putting out a good pro-Falcons track. Atlanta rappers love Atlanta, they're always mentioning the Falcons, and if Michael Vick ever gets it together, we should be in for quite the banging Superbowl. Let's not let ourselves get too excited, though. Young "Dirty birds, nigga, we play with them Falcons" Jeezy likes dropping Vick's name, but let's face it, if Jeezy tried to write a song about football, it'd just end up being about drugs. Though with the hidden-compartment-in-the-water-bottle thing, that could not be too bad an idea. T.I.'s given me the impression lately that he can do anything, so I'd have to at least give him a chance in this department. But the best guy from the A to do this would have to be Ludacris. He's got punchlines all over the place, he's playful enough to want to do it, and he'd just half-ass it, which is fantastic, because Luda is at his worst when he's using his whole ass. Of course, I could also see Lil' Jon doing something, too, and it would turn out to be brilliant and ridiculous in approximately equal amounts.
Philly has enough good rappers for one of them to do a good football track, and maybe one of them did back in '05. Since it was my first American Superbowl and I wasn't really big on the game at the time anyway, whether anyone from Philly had put a "Go Team" track together was the last thing on my mind. But I couldn't have imagined Black Thought could come up with anything; he's not that interesting a rapper, and he'd have to wait too long for ?uestlove to OK the project. (I assume ?uestlove keeps tight control over the rest of the Roots, kind of like the Wicked Witch of the West with her flying monkeys.) Peedi Crakk or Freeway would put up a good show, but the real winner here would be Beanie Sigel. Hard scrabble enough to come up with a good football rap and sufficiently used to playing second-fiddle that he wouldn't mind making a bunch of other guys the star of his song.
As I said before, H-Town rappers have proved they can do good sports songs. But the Texans in the Superbowl?
You just know Rick Ross would want to do this, and you also know it would suck, because Ross is barely competent when writing about his favorite topic, let alone something out of his comfort zone. Trick Daddy or Pitbull could do something decent, but the real Miami potential is if DJ Khaled got as many hometown rappers as he could find together in the studio and let them go from there. I once read a Trick Daddy interview where he promised to kill anyone who comes round Miami talking the Dolphins down, so there's the beginning, just fill in the gaps.
Best shot is if the Raiders or the '9ers ever get some strength (let's hope it's not the 49ers). The bay has a thriving scene with huge regional pride and a thing for jumping on memes. If the Raiders looked good, expect players going dumb, E-40 coining about a million new football terms and hyphy adding football to ghostriding, turf dancing, thizz and sydeshows as local cultural reference points.
Farther south, I bet the lack of an L.A. team to rep is killing the Game. You can be pretty confident that if there was a Los Angeles team and it made the Superbowl, he'd do something like 690 bars in their honor. Doesn't Snoop have a Lakers connection, though? Maybe L.A. can get some sports rap that way. And the only band I can think of from San Diego is Blink-182. I'm not seeing a reunion-to-do-a-Chargers track scenario, I'm afraid.
This is the kind of inconsequential shit Nelly would be great at, but I'm not looking for any ascent of the Rams any time soon. Anyway, didn't Nelly already have his football moment with that "Get your eagle on" ish? Or am I imagining a Philly connection there?
Three 6 Mafia could do a football track, but it would just be on some straight up violence shit, i.e. fantastic. I don't know how big the Titans are in Memphis though, considering they play out of Nashville. And I wouldn't put it past Baltimore to do something if the Ravens make it, but I still don't really have a handle on the Bmore Club/rap thing, so my speculation on this point is pretty useless. And the Vikings? I don't need to hear Atmosphere rapping about football.
And my tip? Well, remember that I'm the last person you should listen to on this subject, but:
I need to give a score, too? OK, uh... 24-17. Take it to the bank.