In his youth, Fort Totten rapper Ardamus excelled at a number of competitive sports. “If I didn’t get into music and anything else more, I would’ve gotten into soccer professionally,” he boasts.
The experience was rife with racial tensions, however. “It wasn’t anything like I got spat on,” he explains. “At the same time, I think the coaches and the environments I would be in didn’t set right with me.”
So he was particularly moved when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem earlier this year. The NFL player said he wanted to call attention to the systemic mistreatment of minority groups in the U.S.
“I always wondered what was up with racist sports fans who may cheer for a player of color, but will not respect their rights as human beings once the game is over.”
“I think what he did definitely made people reflect and it exposed so many differing viewpoints for people to have this conversation,” says Ardamus (real name: Artemis Thompson). “We don’t give people with fame credit when they stand for something positive and meaningful.”
Thompson’s new song, “The Athlete,” pays tribute to sports heroes past and present who were unafraid to speak up about racial disparities in America. A confident, sauntering beat produced by Ardamus himself buttresses two segments of storytelling: In the first verse, the MC recalls the patient determination of baseball player Jackie Robinson, who first broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. In the second, he praises Kaepernick for using his status to call attention to social issues.
“The Athlete” appears on Thompson’s After I Replace You EP, which came out last week on the Delegation Music label. Thompson had written the bulk of the song a year ago, but Kaepernick’s protest inspired him to return and finish it.
“I always wondered what was up with racist sports fans who may cheer for a player of color, but will not respect their rights as human beings once the game is over,” he says. “Someone like Kaepernick takes a stand then all hell breaks loose. All these critics come out and show their true colors.”
It’s no surprise that Thompson is also a voracious sports fan, rooting for baseball’s San Francisco Giants, hockey’s Nashville Predators, both sides of basketball’s rivalry between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors, and of course, D.C. United soccer. He sees a deep connection between hip-hop culture and professional sports.
“So many rappers want to say they’re a version of this player and that player in the hip-hop industry. Then you have so many players getting involved in hip-hop music” he says. “I think they will continue to influence each other as time goes on.”