What’s The Philly Anthem Heading Into Super Bowl LVII? We Asked Locals
Last month, Philly rapper Lil Uzi Vert led their Philadelphia Eagles onto the field during their NFC conference championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. The team trotted onfield to their December hit, “Just Wanna Rock,” a Jersey Club-fueled banger that’s taken the mid-Atlantic sound global and become the unofficial song of the NFL postseason.
It’s not just the Eagles who have embraced their native son; a viral video emerged of Kansas City Chiefs player Isiah Pacheco giddily dancing to the song in the locker room after they defeated the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship game. Like so many viral crazes, the track (and dance) caught fire on TikTok, where Uzi previewed it last fall. Now, with the Eagles and Chiefs Super Bowl-bound, players on both teams have adopted the song’s irresistible dance for their victory celebrations. The buzz around “Just Wanna Rock” has been so immense that DJ Drama, Uzi’s Generation Now boss, declared last week that it surpassed Meek Mills’ “Dreams and Nightmares” as the city’s SuperBowl anthem.
Drama’s statement has been polarizing. Meek seemingly pushed back against the idea, tweeting, “Intro been lighting the world for ten years! Like shaking rooms for years!” Even Uzi deferred to their “big homie” Meek, telling The Shade Room, “I don’t think so, [Meek’s intro] been around for a very long time, and that song is still hitting exactly the same way. I’m just gonna have to see, you know, in a couple of years or a decade or whatever.”
DJ Diamond Kuts, the Eagles’ official DJ (and a DJ for Philly’s Power 99), feels like the songs are too different to weigh against each other.
“Anybody with ears knows it’s two totally different vibes and two totally different sounds. The only relation they have is two artists from the city,” she says. “I don’t think one is over the other, and I don’t think one of them surpasses the other. ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ has been around for a very long time. It’s one of those verses that’s never going to go anywhere.” She adds that the notion of a Philly anthem is relative; some Philadelphians could dismiss both Meek and Uzi for Freeway’s “What We Do” or Survivor’s “Eye of The Tiger.”
Philly DJ Lowbeezy, who made a viral mashup of Uzi and Meek, says it’s “pretty clear” to him that “Just Wanna Rock” is Philly’s current anthem, though he understands why some people have pushed back against the assertion. ”I think there’s some people that are so attached to the original ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ that they find it sacrilegious to disrespect in any way,” he says, “But when you’re a DJ, you’re always trying to update shit because you’re hearing this shit more than anybody else. I think it’s unnatural to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for something after you’ve heard it 1000 times. ‘I Just Wanna Rock’ is clearly the younger generation, which as a DJ, I’m always looking towards that because that’s who the future of the club is.”
“Just Wanna Rock” represents the rare moment when a song resonates with an artist’s hometown team and their Super Bowl opponent. A YouTuber posted a compilation of players from across the NFL dancing to the song this season. The trend is poised to overtake football player Allen “Griddy” Davis’ Griddy, another TikTok sensation, as the NFL’s go-to touchdown celebration of the moment. The dance craze is likely helping the song’s sales, as it’s become Uzi’s first Billboard Top 10 single since 2020 (the same year his previous dance craze, “The Futsal Shuffle,” peaked at five on the Billboard Hot 100).
Lowbeezy and Diamond Kuts marvel that “Just Wanna Rock” has taken the Club sound, prevalent in mid-Atlantic hubs like Philly, Baltimore, and Jersey, to the world. “It doesn’t happen often,” Diamond Kuts says of the track’s frenetic kicks becoming a hit. “I’ve been heavy on club music since the beginning of my career. I was one of the DJs playing club music when it wasn’t popular. I was always an advocate for the sound, and now that it’s grown to tremendous heights. That’s why I was happy that Uzi did it because I knew it was going to take a super huge mega start to kind of put this sound where I feel like it should have been.”
Similarly, Lowbeezy lauds “Dreams and Nightmares” as a club standard all over the country, even if its structure isn’t tailored for a 1 AM DJ set. “Lyrically, it’s a success story which everyone loves,” Lowbeezy says. “And the arrangement of the song…it’s just long, no drums for over a minute. And then it changes. It goes to the ‘Nightmares’ part. It’s hard. And I think that epicness is… It takes a lot to play it. It’s not really made for the club. It’s more a mixtape-type thing. And I think that’s what’s cool about it. It’s something that people in the city were like, ‘yo, we’re going to make this a club song.’ And now from what I talk about with other DJs, it has that same reaction in all cities.”
Then-Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp played “Dreams and Nightmares” during a film session before their 2018 NFC Championship game. The track’s resilient lyrics became their war cry from that moment forward, as they played the song before, during, and after the game. They then walked out to the track during Super Bowl LII, rapping it again after defeating the Patriots 41-33. Several Eagles players had been attending rallies in advocacy for Meek, who was in prison for a probation violation that criminal justice reform advocates (and even his then-foe Drake) decried as unjust. So their adoption of “Dreams and Nightmares” was as much about the song’s fiery spirit as an homage to the native Philadelphian, who watched their most recent NFC Championship victory from a star-studded stadium box with Lil Baby, James Harden, Joel Embiid, and others. The song has become so synonymous with the Eagles that Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes recently told reporters that he wouldn’t be playing it during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
There have been other memorable moments where NFL players adopted rap as their theme song. Several New York Giants players used Jim Jones’s “Ballin” dance throughout their 2007 Super Bowl run, with Jones later admitting that they were integral to the success of “We Fly High.” Wiz Khalifa’s “Black & Yellow” was the rallying cry for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early 2010s. In 2019, The recently retired Tom Brady posted a video of himself working out to 50 Cent’s “Many Men” before the 2019 AFC Championship game. He used the song again on his Instagram account to celebrate his 2021 Super Bowl win.
Perhaps we’re primed for “Just Wanna Rock’s” defining NFL moment this Sunday. Meek and Uzi are good friends (Meek’s son recently hopped onstage to dance to “Just Wanna Rock” with Uzi), and they’ve been good sports about the debate. But, as Lowbeezy and Diamond Kuts acknowledge, there’s room for fans to love both. “For people that were upset about Drama’s opinion on the situation, everybody has their own opinion on what is a Philly anthem,” Diamond Kuts says. “Let’s all just continue to listen to their music and not make this such a big thing. Everybody has their own opinion on what they think is going to be anthem next, and there are so many different groups and races and genders…people just like different things.“ After all, if the Eagles win, they might be so happy that they rap and dance to both of the songs on camera.