Did you spot all these times that football and rap collided?
By Sam Moore, 20 June 2018
With World Cup fever well and truly under way, it’s fair to say that people from all walks of life have been captivated by the daily drama of the tournament.
It’s been inspiring viewing – so much so that 1Xtra has enlisted a slew of MCs for a new World Cup-themed freestyle series, with the rappers each representing a country currently vying to end the tournament on top. Find them all on the 1Xtra Instagram over the course of the World Cup.
We enlisted the likes of G-Eazy for a similar feat in 2014 and it isn’t the first time that the worlds of football and rap/hip-hop have collided either. The two have gone hand-in-hand for some time, from Neymar releasing his own mixtape (sadly, he didn’t rap on it) to Tottenham MC Avelino soundtracking the launch of FIFA 18, via England and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard busting out various hip-hop inspired dance moves - from the dab to the Milly Rock.
If you thought the bond between football and rap only extended to John Barnes’ legendary verse on New Order’s footy classic World In Motion, then you’d be sorely mistaken. The glamour, fame and success enjoyed by both footballers and rappers in their respective careers has led to the forging of a certain kinship, with both sides actively interacting and subsequently influencing each other in recent years. Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of this very special relationship.
The rise of footy-chic
Countless artists have sported and repped football shirts in the past: Snoop Dogg wore the colours of Norwich City when the city hosted Radio 1’s Big Weekend in 2015, Loyle Carner traded tickets to his recent tour in exchange for rare football shirts, while M.I.A. got in a spot of trouble after she wore a doctored Paris Saint-Germain shirt in the politicised video for her song Borders. Drake's even been known to rep a baby-pink Juventus top on occasion.
It seems that the world of hip-hop has fully got on board with embracing the humble football shirt as not only the epitome of streetwear but as an item of high-end fashion too, with a very recent example coming in the form of Nigeria’s home shirt for this year’s World Cup. Demand was so high for the dazzling green, white and black number that it apparently sold out online in three minutes, while there were queues around the block at one central London shop which was stocking the shirt.
Promotion for the kit was spearheaded by Super Eagles star Alex Iwobi, radio host Julie Adenuga and rising east London singer-rapper Not3s, whose combined star quality no doubt accelerated the huge demand for the kit range. The likes of Skepta (who was made a chief in his parents’ home state in Nigeria back in April) and Wizkid subsequently rocking the Nigeria shirt hasn’t harmed its popularity, either.
Back in the summer of 2015, well-known Anglophile Drake further endeared himself to the UK by striking up a friendship with former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba (who has also inspired this year's biggest Afrobeats anthem). The bromance culminated with an excellent Instagram video of the Toronto rapper cooly slotting home a penalty past the Ivory Coast star in the back garden of his rented mansion - cue wild celebrations from Drizzy.
There have also been budding friendships between Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng and JAY-Z (who signed the Germany defender up to his sports management company), Daniel Sturridge and Tinie Tempah, and not forgetting Neymar buddying up with the rap world's favourite pop rebel Justin Bieber – those two have even shared glimpses of them having a kick-about on social media.
Swapping footy battles for battle raps
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However, things are not always so genial - and beefs are not only confined to the rap world. If you thought Drake's recent feud with Pusha T was fiery, then you obviously didn't hear the scorching-hot rap battle between Everton midfielder Yannick Bolasie and New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Philips.
Although the two players are actually good pals, the clash – which featured plenty of back-and-forth posturing between the pair - peaked in September 2014 when the two players each recorded a freestyle for the grime institution Lord Of The Mics. Bolasie arguably landed the killer blow in the contest when he told BWP in no uncertain terms that he'd "get left in the park like Ji-Sung".
While the DR Congo international’s clearly got a skill for bamboozling his opponents, whether it’s on the pitch or on the mic, but last year saw his rap battle crown taken by his most unlikely opponent - a 10-year-old schoolgirl.
The Stormzy/Pogba one-two
Another budding bromance we’ve seen over the past couple of years has been between Paul Pogba and Stormzy, a well-known Man United fan. Pogba’s love of hip-hop runs deep (there have been shout-outs to French rapper MHD, a God’s Plan-style clip shot at Disneyland Paris, and a starring cameo in Desiigner’s video for his track Outlet), so you can see why there’s mutual respect.
Back in 2016 Stormzy had the honour of being part of the official unveiling of Manchester United’s away shirt for the coming season – along with a certain someone by the name of David Beckham.
The Croydon MC’s involvement in launching his favourite team’s shirt alongside a legend of the sport heralded a major collision of worlds, and so he became an obvious choice when it came to securing a major music star to mark Pogba’s return to United for a then-British record fee two summers ago.
The #PogBack promotional campaign featured a launch video that included a starring role from – yup, you guessed it – Stormzy. The pair starred together in the viral clip which announced the transfer and saw Stormzy performing Nigo Duppy while Pogba dabbed and Milly Rocked for the camera.
A slickly-shot promo clip for an Adidas campaign followed in November 2016 - which placed Pogba front and centre - felt like an homage to the rap video, with the midfielder’s confidence and swagger very well-suited to that kind of spotlight.
Could a career in music follow when Pogba hangs up his boots? Watch this space...