Khalifa’s hometown pride not a novelty in popular music

By Patrick Wagner

Local pride and music are inextricably linked. Particularly in Pittsburgh, where Wiz Khalifa’s… Local pride and music are inextricably linked. Particularly in Pittsburgh, where Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” currently rings as a sort of victory anthem for the ’Burgh after the Steelers’ latest win.

The Taylor Allderdice High School alumnus is blowing up as big as the team with a song that champions his city at a moment of achievement.

That pride is something that runs deep through every variety of musician who, as an ambassador to the wider world, attempts to represent his home. This isn’t a new idea — bands have been making music celebrating their hometowns for a long time. There’s more than just “Black and Yellow” out there when it comes to hometown anthems, but that’s a good place to start.

Khalifa’s civic pride has long been established, and to many he’s the “hometown hero” of hip-hop. But after “Black and Yellow” came out, even the most secluded yinzers came to know his name. Heck, my own Facebook newsfeed started to blow up with people from all over going crazy over Khalifa. That’s not to say that the song isn’t without its critics.

I’ve heard that people complain because the Steelers’ actual colors are black and gold rather than black and yellow, but the song’s not just about the Steelers. The city is not defined by, but rather enhanced by its teams which all wear some variation of the colors.

And that’s a loose interpretation. I hate to say “it’s just a song” — that’s not my point — but if you listen, Khalifa’s touching on more than just Pittsburgh sports.

Khalifa has even non-Steelers fans singing the song for his city (I won’t mention any names…) — isn’t that some sort of victory in itself?

For anyone interested in black and gold, there’s an anthem by Boston punk-rock band Dropkick Murphys that embraces the same kind of banner-waving spirit — but it won’t make any Penguins fans particularly happy. The song is about the Boston Bruins hockey team and, after an opening accordion riff, it launches into an auditory barrage of rock ’n’ roll that literally yells “GO GO BLACK AND GOLD.”

“Time to Go” is just one of the Murphys’ songs dedicated to Boston, and few contemporary groups have been as vocal about their city.

Through its live covers of “Nut Rocker” (the Bruins’ intro music) and “Dirty Water” (a garage rock classic about Boston) or its charity EP “Tessie” featuring an updated version of the Red Sox anthem, the Murphys are a reason that many know the city, outside and inside of “The Departed.”

The Dropkick Murphys come from a long tradition of representing one’s home — a sentiment which was central to the group’s heroes in the English “Oi!” movement. During the late 1970s, the bloodshed and violence of England’s rooted soccer hooliganism met the newly burgeoning punk-rock scene and the country’s working-class youth took notice to create this new form.

Groups like Cockney Rejects performed songs that, similar to “Black and Yellow,” expressed love for and dedication to their team. The Rejects just happened to be fans of West Ham United, and when they chose to cover the West Ham anthem “Bubbles,” fights among soccer hooligans ignited during their tours throughout England.

The group only lasted a few years — partly because everywhere it went, the sports culture demanded the West Ham anthem be opposed. Rather than a song that united people, “Bubbles” proved to make early British fans of the genre hostile even while they enjoyed the music itself.

Every city has its own songs — and I’m obviously omitting some big ones — but even with just these three examples, it’s easy to see the depth and passion that municipal and athletic anthems hold with people.