Drake, Balotelli, and Football in America
By Alex Fairchild
Football is growing in America. The TV ratings are on the rise, and will do more so come NBC's takeover of the English Premier League, but there has been a more recent outburst by a certain Grammy-winning artist. It has boosted soccer's exposure to the eye of the American public.
Last year, the world watched as he struck up a relationship with Mario Balotelli, the troubled Italian youngster, who has since found form with AC Milan. The two seem a bright duo, both members of popular culture who have influence over their respective regions.
Aubrey Graham, otherwise known as 'Drake,' has took the hip-hop, rap, and R&B worlds by storm. His verse off of 'The Motto', a track from his second album 'Take Care' led to the use of the term YOLO (you only live once), which has permeated American society.
Meanwhile, Balotelli's swagger and antics, of which I have been incredibly critical, has brought him to the top of society's charts. One week ago, US-based Time Magazine listed Balotelli as one of the one-hundred most influential people in the wrold. Categorized by Time as an 'Icon,' Balotelli certainly fits that mold. His controversial acts, combined with his ability to, "shrug off things happening around him," that according to an excerpt from the brief feature on the Italian by Gianfranco Zola, make him the quintessential star of the modern popular environment. His listing here, mainly due to his confrontation of European racism, validates his status on one of the magazine's most prestigious lists of the year.
Having a footballer, outside of the populist Messi, Ronaldo, or Beckham on said list is certainly a step in the right direction for US football.
Transitioning to the man known as 'Drizzy', who does not appear on TIME's 100, though he most certainly will soon, his ability to drop #1 hits is sensational. In his recent music, he is either mentioning football or alluding to it.
Drake's latest hit, 'Started from the Bottom' has done extraordinarily well, as would be expected from the man who has put out some of the game's hottest records. While the song does not explicitly mention soccer, the music video certainly does. For reference, the video's official YouTube page has attracted about 46.5 million views. That does not include the other copies of the video floating about the web. The video sits at #19 on iTunes as well.
When one opens up the feature, they are subjected to our game. The opening scene depicts a young Graham driving down the pitch with a team of kids. It is worth noting that Drake's side sports a red uniform, a possible shout-out to Toronto FC, his hometown's team, as they play a team dressed in blue, who may or may not represent the Canadian team's rivals, Montreal Impact, though none of that has been confirmed. Their charge forward begins behind half, presumably representing the bottom, and ends with Drake striking the ball past the keeper, before being lifted by his fellow teammates.
Drizzy does not stop with soccer there, as he throws down a line in his unreleased track '5AM in Toronto,' which must reference Balotelli. After beating his chest for the majority of the freestyle, which he has every right to do, he pauses to ask, "Straight, Y pree? Why is it always me?" Presumably, Drake is speaking of his Italian friend's famous or infamous, depending on how you view it, celebration against Manchester United in that legendary 6-1 victory at Old Trafford.
This is not Drake's first Balotelli line, as he begins his guest verse in Aaliyah's 'Enough Said' with the words, "Went from my [boy] serving it by the tele/to venues in Manchester just swerving with Balotelli." Dropping the UK term, before referencing Balotelli's former city (the song was released before Mario's move home), Drizzy continues to show his love for the game, as he alludes not only to one of its top talents, but also to their personal connection. Drake and Balotelli's first known public appearance was made nearly one year ago. For football's sake, let us hope that artists like Drake continue to refer to the beautiful game in their top records. The popularity of such stars and their relationship with the sport can only aid soccer's status in the States.