The intersection of sports and hip hop is well documented and everyone from Deion Sanders to Shaq to Allen Iverson have at one point stepped up to the mic and even if some may have seen their musical endeavors as mere gimmicks they are very much connected to the culture due to their whole athletic aesthetic and journey to stardom.
But for Olympic triple jumper and artist Omar Craddock, he can be best described as the Tupac or J Cole of the landing pit.
Not only a man with a collegiate and international pedigree in the triple jump including a gold medal in the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru but is also establishing himself as a serious rapper who got something to say.
Over the course of the past year as the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, and other black lives catapulted into the largest protest movement for racial justice in history, Omar did his part and then some.
He has attended Black Lives Matter rallies, criticized the regressive anti-free speech policies of the International Olympic Committee, and has collaborated with some of his fellow athlete activists including longer jumper Will Claye on producing a cutting edge mixtape called Red Light Special, a name he came up with after stopping at a red light and randomly freestyling on snapchat.
His first project in over a decade was released in November 2020 and it is true blue hip hop.
It contains some highly charged and highly personal tracks that speak to the heart of the urgency to dismantle systemic racism.
Each song is unapologetic and uncompromising and carries us through a journey where the song’s title isn’t summed up until the end.
The introductory track “Revolutionize” centers on the need for empathy for those on the margins.
“Unity” is a blunt call to action and much like Tupac’s “I Don’t Give a F” or Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us” doesn’t hold back in it’s critique of the status quo.
“8:46” featuring Will Claye and Ken T in reference to the time it took Derek Chauvan to murder George Floyd in cold blood expresses the deep anger and frusrtation at the continuous cycle of racist violence and police bruality and how not much has changed.
The title track “Red Light Special” explains the appreciation of one’s journey through life and how dreams are a security blanket to hold onto in the face of adversity.
Omar’s goal for this project was simple and much like Marvin Gaye 50 years ago with What’s Going On, the quintessential socially conscious album.
“It is to open the eyes to what is happening and make the music the connection to what is happening” he said.
“In the music, we have to come together. We can’t keep doing the same thing.”
He also doesn’t hold back in his going after the IOC for their ban on political protest and expression under Rule 50 and them singingling out any displays of open support for Black Lives Matter and has a principled obligation to utilize his various skills for the greater good.
“It amplifies my passion” he said.
“I am committed to utilizing my talents and I believe it all goes hand in hand.”
His need to perform on the track and on the mic stems from his background growing up in Killeen, Texas where his experience with racism, violence, and police harassment has led him wanting to do more and say more or what Dr. Cornel West calls “the telling of truth to allow suffering to speak”.
“This is the stuff that kids are experiencing that I have experienced” he said.
“It is time to step up and let me get my thoughts together.”
The future for Omar Craddock is unlimited.
He has the humbleness of Kendrick Lamar, a strong spiritual center, and an unwavering commitment to his people that will carry him through, characteristics that can be defined by what Dr. Regina Bradley calls “hip hop sensibilities”.
Whether going for a gold medal or a gold record, it’s all about can’t stop won’t stop.
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