A Comprehensive History of Skepta’s Relationship with Football
From Aaron Lennon bars to featuring Victor Enyeama on his artwork, Skepta's love affair with the game runs deep.
As one of the UK's foremost creative geniuses, there aren't too many areas of "the culture" left untouched by Skepta.
The latest history-making move from SK saw him apply his creative vision to the world of football for the first time, becoming the first music artist to collaborate with Nike on a signature football boot.
Naturally, the news rattled enemies of progress on social media, claiming that they're "tired of these collabs" and Skepta "didn't really care about football". Ignorance must be bliss for them – because Big Smoke's love affair with the beautiful game goes far beyond just throwing on a Super Eagles or England jersey down the years.
The Phantom SK is the culmination of a few things; the strength and sell-out success of Skepta's Sk Air range, a ceiling-breaking moment of synergy between the worlds of sport and music, but most importantly, a celebration of Skepta's decade-spanning football fandom. Whether it's been heard in his bars, seen in his album artwork, or actually kicking ball himself, Skepta's relationship with the beautiful game runs deep.
Speaking about the game and the culture around it, Skepta said: “I love the culture around football as much as the game; I’m really into the culture of football jerseys for what they represent. They represent ‘team.’ Going to matches is sick too. When you go to a match, you experience live people, live audio, all the things that the TV might miss...you really feel it more than see it or hear it when you’re there.”
Don't believe the quotes from the man himself? We've delved into the archives to timeline some of Skepta's most memorable moments prior to the release of the Phantom SK.
1. Skepta drops Aaron Lennon and David Beckham bars on “Over The Top 2”
Before we got baller-inspired bars on a weekly basis from the new generation of lyricists, Skepta was setting the precedent as far back as 2009. One of the most memorable heaters off highly anticipated album, ‘Been There Done That’ Skepta rapped: “I’m on the Tottenham team like Lennon / Meridian Walk, N-1-7” and “Pablo, pass me the ting / I’ll shoot from anywhere like David Beckham”.
2. Skepta plays in GRM Daily Football tournament with the scene’s biggest artists
If you ever wanted to know if Skepta was really about it when it comes to kicking ball, look no further than this video. Skip to 9:46 to see “passionate words from a passionate man”, with Skepta doing his best Roy Keane impression when talking about backing his team.
3. Skepta drops Thierry Henry and Ryan Giggs bars on “English Breakfast (Been There Done That)”
“My man are United like Giggs, but I will never leave my Gunners like Thierry / Wow that metaphors scary”. One of the best baller-inspired bars of all time? You better believe it. Skepta definitely thought so at the time, too, reloading the bar immediately for you listeners to catch the metaphor, which references Thierry Henry’s move to Barca alongside Ryan Giggs loyalty to Manchester United.
If Greyhound Racing has Photo Finishes why after ALL the Money & Technology in Football are they STILL disputing blatant Goals?
— Big Smoke – (@Skepta) June 27, 2010
4. Skepta laments Lampard’s infamously disallowed goal against Germany
Ever ahead of the curve, Skepta was advocating for goal-line technology long before it’s introduction. In 2010, Skepta – like the rest of the nation – was swept up in World Cup fever. Like every other football fan, watching on, he was fuming about Lamps’ goal against Germany being disallowed, despite the ball clearly crossing the line.
5. Skepta Commits Himself to Spurs and pars John Terry
While Skepta hasn’t really confirmed he supports a certain team in writing, this is as good a commitment as it gets from Big Smoke, who lowkey owns up to being a Spurs fan in the clip, despite “Arsenal also being a good North London team”.
6. Skepta drops “That’s Not Me” artwork featuring Victor Enyeama
Skepta and Jme returned to the game with the now-iconic track that set in motion Skepta’s creative rebirth and rediscovery of his grime roots. The legendary moment for UK rap also featured legendary artwork which played on the track’s namesake, with Nigerian ‘keeper – and Big Smoke lookalike – Victor Enyeama featuring on the cover.
7. Skepta performs at Lovebox wearing an England shirt
Back in 2015, Skepta basically set the tone for what would become the “standard lad at festival” look for the next five years by donning England’s 2015 away jersey on stage at London’s Lovebox.
8. Skepta hosts the BBK O2 Takeover with Nike Football
Boy Better Know Takeover at London’s O2 back in 2017 saw the grime collective put on a show of headline material on and off the pitch. From the stage to the cage, football and music crossed over in a real, authentic way – with custom Nike x BBK kits and the likes of Drake, Giggs, J Hus, Goldie and Lethal Bizzle all rolling through for the event.
9. Skepta links up with Virgil Abloh to play 7-a-Side Football at Art Basel Miami
The worlds of football and fashion converged ever-closer at Art Basel Miami back in 2017, where Skepta took to the court and donned his astros once again to get stuck into a game of football with some of fashion’s biggest names at an event which set the stage for Off-White’s infamous collab with Nike Football months later.
10. Skepta dons a Nigeria jersey and creates a kit ahead of the 2018 World Cup
Skepta was at the forefront of celebrating one of the last decade’s cultural tour de forces – the release of Nike’s Nigeria World Cup jersey. Donning the kit alongside the likes of ALexander Iwobi and Wizkid, Skepta was a key part in further establishing the relationship between football and style. He also got stuck in by customising his own kits with patches, lettering, and special-made Nike logos.
11. Skepta gifts a pair of SK Airs to Kylian Mbappé
Skepta’s own range of Sk Air drops have been one of the most exciting Air Max developments in recent times, and one pro baller has always had a pair before anyone else. The PSG hitman was one of the very first people to step out in Skepta’s second Sk Air release when arriving for training with the France national team, and he was personally gifted the third drop – the Air Max Deluxe SK – just four months later when Skepta visited Paris to watch PSG at the Parc Des Princes.
12. Skepta drops the Phantom SK for Mason Greenwood
Skepta’s love for the beautiful game crossed over in the most ambitious way yet with the release of the Phantom SK, a boot that dropped alongside his latest Nike Air Max Tailwind V. Big Smoke became the first ever music artist to collab with the Swoosh on a boot drop, and cemented his testament to pushing culture forward by linking up with one of the game’s brightest new faces to debut the boot on-pitch in Mason Greenwood. True to form, Money Mase scored in his first game with the new boots. Shutdown.
The Nike Phantom x Skepta and “Bloody Chrome” Nike Tailwind V x Skepta release on June 12 via Nike.