Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman wore a wrestling mask. Miss Universe 2015
Pia Wurtzbach learned how to dab. Deion Sanders gifted Cam Newton with an even more atrocious-looking pair of Versace pants than the $849 pair the star quarterback arrived in for this weekend’s Super Bowl 50.
On Monday alone, all those spectacles took place during Super Bowl media day. But where in the hell was North Carolina “Raise Up” rapper Petey Pablo, whose new Panthers anthem “Carolina Colors” has become synonymous with the team’s #KeepPounding mantra? And where’s Petey Pablo’s Super Bowl ticket? Who’s to blame?
Maybe the slew of random North and South Carolina rappers releasing their own half-cooked, Panthers-inspired anthems has diverted attention away from North Carolina’s anthem king. In November, Durham rapper Danny Blaze released his own high-fueled anthem, “Cam Newton.” Two months later, when Petey Pablo dropped “Carolina Colors,” Blaze tweeted, “I’MA LET YALL FINISH BUT I BEEN HAD A PANTHERS ANTHEM AND ITS BETTER. SHOUT OUT TO PETEY DOE.” A subsequent, upgraded “Cam Newton” remix—featuring Raleigh’s Drique London and Charlotte’s Will Wildfire—arrived four days later.
At nearly half-a-million YouTube views and pounding, “Carolina Colors” is certainly the most popular of any Panthers anthem. While traveling to California to work on some final mixes for new music, Petey Pablo spoke by phone with the INDY about the success of “Carolina Colors”—and a whole lot more.
INDY: When did you decide you wanted to make a new Carolina anthem?
PETEY PABLO: People on my Twitter feed kept saying it. Radio stations kept calling me and sending texts. Some of the programming directors have the number to my phone. They were like, “Hey, did you see that I posted some stuff online about doing a song for the Panthers?” I was like, “OK, if that’s what you want, then that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Have the Carolina Panthers adopted it as its official song?
I heard they played it at the pregame. I’m just as surprised and shocked at everything that is going on with this record as everyone else is.
Do you know if any of the players have heard the song?
I have no idea. I literally put the song out eight days ago. I’m so surprised at the movement and traction that the record has. Like I said, as I was looking at Twitter and people were calling me to do a song, I said, “OK.” But I didn’t really know about doing a song [only] about the Panthers. Why would you label a song “only for the Panthers?” What, you don’t want anyone else to like the song? I just make good music. “Raise Up” wasn’t a basketball song or a football or a soccer song. It was just an inspirational record that teams just so happened to gravitate to. If you make music, don’t just make a record for this or for this. Just make a great record.
Is that why there aren’t very many direct football or Panthers references?
Right. There’s people that don’t like the Carolina Panthers. There’s people that don’t like sports period. I make music for people to love, not just to like it for a minute. It’s just like the Puff Daddy “I’ll Be Missing You” song for Biggie. The Police did the original song, and it ain’t about Biggie Smalls. The original song is about … it is what it is. But if you narrow a song down to where it’s only loved by a random few people, you’re losing the people you could have. I make music for the world to love.
Right, but the song still has a Carolina theme. Are you ever scared of being pigeonholed as a rapper who’s only known for making these kind of anthems?
No. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m so much more than that. I have tons of records. “Freek-a-Leek” wasn’t about North Carolina. It was about freaking with a leek. “Show Me the Money” was on the Step Up soundtrack. It didn’t get the exposure that it should have, but if you talk to people who know Petey Pablo, that record spoke to them. I have inspirational records on my album that are incredible. I’m just a great anthem writer. And I’m gonna always represent where I come from.
Do people say that Jay Z talks about New York too much? No. That’s where he’s from. I’m never worried about that. At the beginning and the end of the day, my main concern was representing where I came from. North and South Carolina get overlooked but we’ve existed just as long as any other state. [ ] Editor’s note: North Carolina was the twelfth state admitted to the Union.
Are you surprised that no one other than yourself and J. Cole has managed to bring as much attention to the Carolinas’ hip-hop scene?
No, I’m not surprised. I understand the demographics. It’s not about unity here. It’s a divide-and-conquer mentality. There’s people from North Carolina who don’t like people from South Carolina and vice versa. Sure, we can look good in videos, but you can’t get people to come and support you at shows. You don’t get the love from the people who you’re actually doing it for. However, I don’t say that because I know that haters have a job to do. There are people who are supposed to hate you. I use haters as accolades. But we, as the Carolinas, need to stick together no matter what. Just like with your favorite football team—whether they win or lose, you still stick with them.
I’m sure your fans appreciated seeing your cameo on Empire . What was the overall feedback from that experience?
Again, you got people that see you doing magnificent stuff, but they still find the most insignificant thing to hate on. “Oh, they must have felt sorry for him.” C’mon man, can’t you just be proud that someone where you’re from has made it?
It’s like with the “Carolina Colors” video, we got over four million views. There’s 2,000 thumbs up and something like 38 dislikes. I try not to pay any attention to it, but I’m so meticulous that I had to. If there’s 38 people that don’t like me, I can address 38 people. I can go to the 38 people’s homes and talk to them if I wanted to. It’s not about people not liking me, it’s about people not liking me for no apparent reason other than they thought I was an asshole, or arrogant, or that I wouldn’t help my people from Carolina.
The Empire situation was God’s way of showing me that everything that I’m doing has a purpose. I remained humble. I remained in the studio, working and grinding. When Terrence Howard called me and told me what he needed, had I not been in the studio working like I work, had I gotten lazy and been watching Netflix with women and been eating Cheetos, ordering out, and not training, I wouldn’t have been able to deliver four songs in the same night, from the production to the lyrics. In a few hours, I sent that man four songs. He was like, “This is incredible.”
Did Empire use all of the songs that you sent?
They used the song “Snitch Bitch,” and they’re going to used two more. But Fox was like, “There’s no way that this guy did this,” because I did those songs before the shows had even came out. I didn’t have a talking, working relationship with anyone on the show except Terrence, and up until that night, I hadn’t even talked to Terrence Howard in over 13 years. But by me watching the show, doing my homework, and not just watching it to see what I can hate on or what I don’t like about the show, I was able to form my own idea of what was going to happen in the show. I almost got into the mind of the directors.
I’m also trying to get my film company off the ground.
What does “Silver Back Life” mean?
It’s my company. I watched a documentary about a silverback gorilla named Titus. He was one of the oldest silverbacks ever documented. He lived to be 35 years old. He had one of the biggest clans of all time. Before he died, he made a sacrifice. It was so similar to my life. Everyone who tried to overthrow him was his own offspring, no outside gorillas. So Titus took his whole family to the top of a mountain. It was ridiculously cold up there. It was dangerous for the babies to go up there. He didn’t allow there to be food.
Once he had everyone up there, he just sat there and waited. He wanted to see how many people would stay. The ones who weren’t really there for the ride turned around and walked away and left him. But there were some who stayed with him. Eventually, once he saw what it was, he came back down. It’s kinda like me with this music industry. I took a break for a while. I moved outta the way. I’m not one to put music out if I don’t have a following. Then I got into some foolishness and had to take a real break. But then I come home and I get this new thing called Instagram. I’m trying to run my Twitter, not letting record companies run it. Silver Back Life represents the gorilla mentality. It’s all about the strength of your inner gorilla.
Same philosophy as “Keep Pounding,” right?
Exactly. It’s so ironic how similar it is.
Are you doing anything fun for the Super Bowl?
I’m trying to be at the Super Bowl. Even if I have to climb a fence or climb up under one, I’m trying to get there.