For legendary hip hop artist Too $hort, the Raiders are about far more than football. To him, a lifelong devotee to the franchise through all of their relocations and incarnations, they represent a lifestyle, a culture, a fashion statement, an ethos.
Raider Nation encompasses a unique love affair with a renegade football team and a way of life; one that has long been intertwined with rap music and acts from both the East and West Coast (New York’s own Chuck D rocking a Raiders hat in music videos, for instance). So a year ago, in a pandemic, with the Raiders embarking on their first season in Las Vegas – and one that would be played entirely without fans – Too $hort wanted to commemorate this latest (and final, one assume) move, celebrate the bond shared by Raiders fans in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Vegas and around the world, and share what being a Raider fan meant to him.
He would end up recruiting fellow hip hop icon Ice Cube (representing South Central LA) to join the track, and then also Vegas-born entertainer Ne-Yo to sign on it as well, linking all eras of Raider Nation. Too $hort is an uber-fan, who is planning his performing schedule around his ability to get to as many big Raiders game as possible. This project helps connect and explain the complicated lineage of this franchise, and it was only fitting that he and Cube shared the halftime stage together Monday night in what turned out to be an improbable and memorable Raiders comeback, upset victory that ended in overtime.
“I always believe in Raider Nation, and that’s like two different things – football and Raider Nation is two different entities,” he explained to me. “Raider Nation includes a lot of fans from LA and Oakland — a lot of fans from way back in the day, the original fans, and fans from all over the West Coast that didn’t have a team, or places that adjust to that Raider Nation vibe, and fans scattered all over the country.
I decided to make a song not about football or the team or not about any city. We are all silver and black, we wear Raider colors everyday. If I’m not wearing silver and black, I’m wearing black. One of the go-to’s for Raider games growing up was blue jeans, a black shirt, black shoes and a black Raider hat. And I still dress like that a lot — blue jeans, black shirt, black shoes, black hat. And in my mind every day that I put that on I look like a Raider … I don’t have to have Raider patch on or a hat on nothing. Just the colors.”
Too $hort wanted to save his love letter to the team and its fans until it would be properly enjoyed. Which meant waiting out the Los Angeles Raiders Starter T-shirt pandemic season and savoring the day fans could pack the beautiful new stadium in Vegas. He hit up Ice Cube, seeing if he would like to collaborate, and got a quick response. “I was like man, I got this song, check it out,” Too $hort said. “And he heard it and I said, ‘I like this, I like this.’ And he put a verse on it.” The idea to put someone from Vegas on it led them to Ne-Yo, and a new anthem was born.
It may seem odd to many to champion a franchise that just left $hort’s hometown of Oakland for a second time, but Raider love is about more than that it seems, with the team and brand Al Davis created enduring long after his passing.
“Being a Raider fan, if you can endure your team not having a winning season for 15 years, that has to give you some idea of love there, some unconditional love in there from a lot of people. And that new stadium Monday night, with 65,000 people was nothing but love. Those people, I don’t know what percent of them endured those 15 years, but the 15 years before that were spectacular.
“Raider fans, and Raider Nation sticks together. The glue is also stuck together by the people who hate us. You’ve got people out there who hate the Raiders, and people in recent years who just say the Raiders suck. And there’s also people that hate the old Raiders from when we were good, and there’s other people who only hate Raider fans and don’t even have an opinion on the team. And we love it. We love it. We love all of that.”
In Too $hort’s opinion, hardcore Raiders fans have always been willing to travel to see their team, so making Vegas the Mecca now makes sense. It’s close enough to Oakland and LA, and there are a ton of transplants from both cities who already made the fulltime move to Vegas before the franchise eventually did.