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NYTimes
New York Times
11 Feb 2023


NextImg:Lil Uzi Vert Gave the Eagles the Soundtrack to Their Season

PHOENIX — Like all N.F.L. teams, the Eagles employ many exceptionally large men. But as they left their locker room ahead of the N.F.C. championship game against the San Francisco 49ers, they were led by a musician who stands just 5-foot-4.

The artist, clad in a midnight-green No. 16 Eagles jersey and diamond chains, was the rapper Lil Uzi Vert, who ran out with the group as “Just Wanna Rock” blared through the stadium. Uzi’s song, which has a viral hip-shaking dance to go with it, has become the soundtrack for the Eagles’ season.

“That song got the city and the world buzzing,” Eagles linebacker Kyzir White said. “That feel like our anthem right now.”

Uzi, who uses they/them pronouns, said in a recent interview that the response to the track “was like a dream come true.”

The rapper, a native of Philadelphia, noted that it was gratifying to discover their fan base is “actually bigger than what I think,” adding, “I didn’t think that they really listened to me.”

The up-tempo “Just Wanna Rock,” inspired by Jersey club music, doesn’t feature many lyrics. But its dance exploded on TikTok, and has evolved to include different variations. At its core, dancers shake their hips and move their arms while looking at a camera with a stoic facial expression.

When running back Miles Sanders scored the Eagles’ first touchdown in the N.F.C. championship game, he celebrated with the dance; he was joined by center Jason Kelce, who looked more like he was trying to shake an insect off his back. “They still got some learning to do,” Uzi said, laughing.

“That was the first time releasing that,” Kelce said with a smile. “I just felt it in the moment.”

The song plays regularly in the Eagles’ locker room, White said. Often at the center of the dance circle is defensive lineman Jordan Davis, who stands at an imposing 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds. His moves always surprise his teammates because of his size.

“He wants to dance all day,” White said. “Weight room, locker room, it don’t matter, he always hitting that.”

Even Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, known for his love for old-school R&B tunes, has gotten behind “Just Wanna Rock.” When Uzi met Hurts in the locker room ahead of the N.F.C. championship game, the rapper remembers Hurts saying that the song was “crazy” — in a good way. Uzi said Hurts’s stamp of approval meant that much more because the song is so different from the player’s standard playlist. (After the Eagles ran out with Uzi before their game against the 49ers, Hurts’s favorite artist, Anita Baker, sang the national anthem.)

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Lil Uzi Vert performing last month in New York.Credit...Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images For SiriusXM

During the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl-winning season, the team leaned on the song “Dreams and Nightmares” by the rapper Meek Mill. Eagles players danced and rapped the song word for word before blowing out the Vikings in the N.F.C. championship game. Players said that track is still in heavy rotation, and Mill performed it ahead of the Eagles’ game against the Cowboys in Week 6.

“Dreams and Nightmares” has long been considered something of a city anthem, but the popularity of “Just Wanna Rock” has sparked a debate within the Eagles’ locker room.

“I like the ‘Just Wanna Rock’ dance, but I like ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ more,” Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said. “I like both of ’em, but the new generation now moved from jumping around. Now they want to dance.”

Uzi is hoping the Eagles can help the song lead to change in their city, which has dealt with a recent increase in violent crime. While the dancing is all for fun, Uzi suggested that perhaps people in Philadelphia watching popular Eagles players busting out moves will inspire them to seek positive outlets for their energy.

“We from a rough area, and the only thing that gets praised is negative things, and this is a positive thing,” Uzi said, adding: “You would rather be in the house perfecting the dance and doing videos instead of going outside doing something that’s not positive. Why not just keep doing it to make sure that everyone’s safe?”

The Eagles haven’t yet asked Uzi to run out with them on Sunday, the musician said. But the rapper will be at the game, and it’s almost certain that players will be shaking their hips in celebrations.