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.

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
I am a viol­ence pre­ven­tion edu­cat­or, act­iv­ist, journ­al­ist, aspir­ing film­maker, adjunct pro­fess­or of social justice and civic engage­ment at Domin­ic­an Uni­ver­sity in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chica­go, Illinois.

About Zachary Draves

I am a violence prevention educator, activist, journalist, aspiring filmmaker, adjunct professor of social justice and civic engagement at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chicago, Illinois.