8 of the Best Football References in British Rap This Year (So Far)

With plenty of new projects to parse through from established vets and up-and-comers alike, we take a look at some of the best football bars from British rap this year. 

The presence of British rap in the American music scene is growing larger and larger as the internet continues to shorten the distance between artists and fans, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke made a major impact bridging the drill scene before his tragic death last year, and grime is still relevant as artists like Stormzy continue their international dominance. Free-spirited artists are making statements that continue to break boundaries of politics, race, and culture — and that of course includes plenty of football references.

Sport is a reflection of society’s values, and as the British rap scene continues its crossover into mainstream and international culture, it carries the excellence and grittiness of football players and teams. Through the first quarter of 2021, the world has been emerging from #Quarantine2020 and we have gotten plenty of good football references.

The United States men’s national team failed to make the Olympics for the third time in a row, so there’s reason to not be hyped around the sport, but tapping into the global culture of football through British rap might help American fans remember why they love the beautiful game in the first place.

Here are eight of the best football references in British rap so far this year:

Stormzy — “Sore Remix”

“Real revolution starter/And I ball like the youths in Barça”

Stormzy put his co-sign on the mega hit “Sore” (pronounced soar-aye) from rising star Yaw Tog, the fresh face of Ghana’s Asakaa drill scene. At 27, Stormzy has become somewhat of an OG in the British rap scene, but he’s still got energy strong enough to hang with the youngins. On his fiery verse, he brags about going double platinum with “Vossi Bop” and his social impact. His greatness is equivalent to FC Barcelona’s, whose trophy case is far from sparse.

Ghetts — “Mozambique”

“You can put me in the World Cup final/And I’ll throw headbutts like Zidane”

On this lush track, Ghetts enlists South African artist Moonchild Sanelly for an enticing hook and fellow British rapper Jaykae to spit. On his 16, Jaykae puts out a warning not to mess with him, especially on the big stage. He’s liable to channel his inner Zizou at the 2006 World Cup, and inflict a painfully effective head-butt. Just ask Marco Materazzi how that feels.

“Bad boys from the UK/We don’t drive no Chevys/Can’t call a foreign a foreign/Unless it’s a ‘Rari like Balotelli’s”

On his closing verse of “Mozambique,” Ghetts flexes a little bit by saying he and his crew live that life of luxury. They drive foreign cars, but not just any car from outside of Great Britain. Their cars of choice are of the Italian variety, perhaps a Ferrari F12 like that of Italian superstar Mario Balotelli.

slowthai — “45 SMOKE”

“I never walk alone like Merseyside”

Rising punk rapper slowthai opens his thought-provoking Tyron album with the booming “45 SMOKE.” The song sets the scene of slowthai’s come-up, from stealing cars with a screwdriver to getting rap money and rocking Nike tracksuits. He pays tribute to his favorite club, Liverpool FC by referencing their song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” slowthai got his Red fandom from his father, who has family in the city. He grew up idolizing Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard, but said in a 2019 interview with the club that Senagalese star forward Sadio Mané is his modern day favorite.

Fredo — “Money Talks” feat. Dave

“Spooky bando/This T-eerie, no Henry”

Fredo uses his Money Can’t Buy Happiness album to reflect on his life in the streets. He relies on clear storytelling and luxury lines to pen his verses, but one of our favorite rappers, Dave, helps add some seasoning with lines like this serious bar with some major wordplay. He takes Premier League legend-turned-MLS-manager Thierry Henry’s name and turns it into “too eerie” to describe the haunted nature of the streets that he runs.

slowthai — “CANCELLED”

“I shot caffeine like I’m Costa”

On the fiery “CANCELLED,” slowthai enlists superstar Skepta for a thrashing revelry of rebellion. On his verse, slowthai shouts out British coffee shop Costa Coffee, but it could also serve as a double entendre shoutout to out fiery striker Diego Costa, who recently left Atlético Madrid after a stint with Chelsea. His most recent offer is to join Benfica, but it’s uncertain whether the Spanish star will take his talents to Portugal.

Ghetts — “Crud”

“Can’t tell man about boom and scatter/Can’t tell man about shoot like Kaká”

On this dark, mechanical track with Giggs, Ghetts flexes about his prowess as a rapper and street legend. He says that there’s nothing else you can teach him about the art of shooting, much like prolific scorer Kaká. The Brazilian legend was among the brightest of stars during his jam-packed era, before making the journey Stateside to close out his storied career with Orlando City.

slowthai — “i tried”

“Stuck in Sunday League but I’m on levels with Ronaldo”

“i tried” marks the transition of Tyron to the more introspective side of the rapper. It opens with a line where he compares himself to a soccer legend. While he might feel like he’s a recreational player who only plays on Sundays, he knows in his gut that he’s meant to be a great like, well, either Ronaldo. The rapper still has a ways to go to compete with the combined seven Ballons d’Or of Cristiano and OG Ronaldo, but slowthai did score his first No. 1 album with Tyron. As slowthai wrestles with life’s temptations and the consequences of his actions, this album has given him quite a landmark.

slowthai — “PLAY WITH FIRE”

“Some people can’t see straight, need to find direction/If I clock an interception, Cruyff turn, watch your knees break”

“PLAY WITH FIRE” is the last song of the first half of Tyron and reflects on the weight of manhood as well as the effects of drugs. At the end of his second verse, slowthai says that he moves like Dutch star Johan Cruyff, whose signature move tripped up many a defender in his heyday.

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