There’s a popular belief—backed up by countless songs and YouTube videos—that all athletes want to be rappers and all rappers want to be athletes. It’s true: The worlds of sport and hip-hop often collide. And during the late ’90s and early ’00s, throwback football jerseys were the norm in urban fashion. You couldn’t turn on MTV or BET without seeing the biggest rap acts in the world smothering your television screen with classic Mitchell & Ness throwbacks or unis from the NFL’s most popular players of the era. With that in mind, TDdaily will break down one such video per week as part of our #ThrowbackJerseyThursday series.
Both T.I. and Nelly have had incredibly successful careers, topping the charts numerous times and creating club bangers and radio friendly hits that will live on for eternity.
T.I., who represents Atlanta, holds the title as “King of the South” (a title he claimed before it was really even true) thanks to a series of hits like “Whatever You Like“, “Live Your Life” and “What You Know“. The dirty south MC was able to flip his success in the music game into television shows and endoresements, creating his own brand while remaining relevant and one of the top MCs in the game.
The success didn’t happen overnight, though. T.I. initially dropped the album I’m Serious—which featured the above track “Dope Boyz” as well as strong production from the Neptunes. The project may have not caught on nationwide but it solidified his spot in Atlanta and he was deemed “up next” and the next “it” rapper to come from the South. After his 2003 release, Trap Muzik, spawned hits such as “24′s” and “Rubberband Man,” it was clear T.I. was here to stay.
Nelly, on the other hand, was on the fast-track to stardom when he decided to jump into the rap game. Unlike T.I., there was no early flop by the St. Louis native. After a failed minor league baseball career, Nelly dropped the infectious song and music video for “Country Grammar,” and once the song and coinciding vid started to make the rounds, Nelly was everywhere.
Not only was Country Grammar the album of ’00, it also holds a special place in every current 23-to-25 year old’s heart as the defining album of their teenage years. You couldn’t go to a middle school dance without hearing Country Grammar’s other smash single “Ride Wit Me” at least once during the night. Much like T.I., Nelly was able to succeed in other business ventures (hello, Applebottom Jeans) and get his own crew, the St. Lunatics, on the map.
T.I. — Joe Namath
T.I., who chose a classic and quite rare Joe Namath throwback Los Angeles Rams jersey, wears his with only one arm through the sleeve—a style that is thankfully is no longer trendy. Much like T.I.’s early career, Namath suffered through a flop of his own with the Rams—except this one was during the twilight of his career.
After being knocked out of the third game he played as a Ram due to injury, Namath never saw the field again and was forced to retire. It’s doubtful that TIP has any real allegiance to Namath or the Rams, but if you’re the King you gotta rock the rare ish. And no one could rock a Namath jersey with one arm through the sleeve like the King of the South.
Nelly — Orlando Pace
In the “Country Grammar” vid, the St. Louis native wears jersey’s from every professional team in the city (Cardinals, Blues, Rams). Nelly channels his inner Kris Kross and sports an Orlando Pace jersey while performing.
While it’s always questionable to rep your team with an offensive lineman’s jersey, the Pace decision is acceptable. Pace went No. 1 overall in the 2000 Draft—the first OT to be drafted with the top overall pick since ’68—being selected by a then-terrible St. Louis team.
Pace’s impact was immediately felt, as he started at tackle for the Rams for years and can be looked at as one of the players who helped turned the franchise around and lead them, eventually, to a 1999 Super Bowl ring. Coincidentally, Nelly started to bubble right around the same time the Rams started to tally victories, so perhaps Nelly was paying homage to a player who had been there since day one.
There you have it, a nice, short Throwback Jersey Thursday—hopefully, for Nelly, so is his impending jail term.
Peter Walsh is an Editorial Assistant for TD Magazine and SLAM Magazine and Throwback Jersey expert. Follow him @goinginsquad.