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On the last Friday night of April, a little after the sunset turned the City of Angels golden, a historic season was just getting started in downtown Los Angeles.
Surrounded by the L.A. Marching Band, five-time Grammy winner Brittany Howard and rapper/singer/producer Tia P. stepped onto the pitch to perform “Running With the Angels,” the official anthem of the Angel City Football Club who would take the pitch themselves shortly after for their inaugural home game at the Banc of California Stadium.
With the rush hour’s bumper-to-bumper traffic now behind the fans who made their way inside for the pre-game performance, the energy seemed like it couldn’t get any higher, and not just because of the fireworks before the kickoff.
First released in March, and supported by a Johnnie Walker campaign, the stars’ anthem for L.A.’s new majority women-owned-and-operated professional soccer team took the crowd to new heights. Fans sang and shouted the chorus word-for-word, swaying to the horns and the beat of the band — a triumphant “We Will Rock You” moment that was only fitting to kick off the team’s big night (which saw 22,000 fans in attendance and, eventually, a 2-1 win over the North Carolina Courage.)
After the nearly two-and-half-minute anthem ended, a fan couldn’t help wishing every sports team could play the song before kickoff too. The anthem, created specifically for Angel City, was inspired by “all the great women that came before us trying to pave a way, trying to break through, trying to create a world in sports where women have equal pay,” Howard tells Rolling Stone, as perfectly-timed cheers erupt from the crowd outside.
“When someone said, ‘You can’t do this,’ we do this. We create it. We go far beyond. And each generation is inspiring the next generation,” Howard continues. “So when we came up with ‘Running With the Angels,’ it really had everything to do with, we’re lifting each other up off the ground.”
“Ourselves included,” adds Tia P.
“Ourselves included,” Howard says. “We’re in this together. One person closes a door, we’re going to create a whole house.”
“That’s right, build a house,” Tia P. says. “They keep shutting doors? Build your own house.
As Howard and Tia P. tell it, writing and recording the track, produced by Mike Elizondo, happened fast. The two wrote from separate locations — Tia writing from her home in L.A., and Howard writing while “sitting at [her] kitchen table” in Nashville, Tennessee. A behind-the-scenes video released by Johnnie Walker and Angel City, above, shows the two in the studio working on the anthem.
Howard first sent Tia P. part of the chorus: “She wrote those brass parts… she wanted marching band,” Tia says. “I went to Howard University, which is one of the No. 1 HBCUs, so it just made sense. I felt what she was giving.”
After that, she sent her part back to Howard at home in Nashville a day later. Howard’s response? A celebratory GIF text message, Tia says.
“I was blown away,” Howard says. “I’ve never worked with an artist who came back the next day and had everything — I’m talking about ad-libs, everything. Group vocals. It was done. It was easy, and it was joyful to make this.”
“Running With the Angels” marks the latest release for both Howard and Tia, but the two artists say they have new projects in the works.
Howard, who released a remixed version of her solo album with 2021’s Jaime (Reimagined), revealed to Rolling Stone that she’s working on the follow-up to her debut. “With my work, it comes mysteriously, you know; I really do put it that way,” she says. “I didn’t know I was working on a record, but I have been working on a record.”
Still, there’s no release date planned just yet. “I’m letting it come as organically as possible. I’m really in no rush,” she says. “When I think about my work, I just think about how do I be so authentically myself without worrying about what anybody thinks, and really dig in there, and just be as weird as I want to be. So I’m just letting that process take hold.”
Along with her most recent single “Fortune,” the theme song for the third season of A Black Lady Sketch Show, now streaming on HBO Max, Tia’s planning to release a new EP called Three, as well as a project with DJ Battlecat and Lady of Rage — “two West Coast legends.” Also: “[I’m] working on a couple songs for the upcoming Barbie film,” Tia reveals, spilling details about a collaboration with the upcoming Warner Bros. flick starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and Issa Rae.
As far as what they want people to take away from their new anthem — and performance — Howard says, “I just feel like it’s about time we don’t let any patriarchy pit us against each other.”
“Look what we can do when we work together,” she continues. “Look what we can do when we use each others’ talents. We may be different. We may look different. We may believe different things. But at the end of the day, we’re women. And it’s our time. It is our time. Like we said earlier, if you’re not going to give it to us, we’re going to make it ourselves. And that to me is really, really inspiring.”
“Running With the Angels” is now on streaming services everywhere, and you can also hear it in real life at an upcoming Angel City match. Soccer fans can also watch the team’s next match online on Paramount+.