Almost one year since Stormzy broke the news about Paul Pogba's move to Manchester United in an adidas spot that turned football upside down, there's no sign of the cultural crossover between football and grime slowing down.
To tell the story of adidas' latest release, Nemeziz, Complex and the brand with three stripes brought together two of the UK's most agile lyrical acts to lay down a track inspired by the commonalities that sport and music share; performing, showboating, preparing for battle and winning.
We spoke to Abra Cadabra and Astroid Boys about their new collaboration 'Unlock', their work with adidas and why grime stars and Premier League players are more similar than we realise.
COMPLEX: How did it feel to get the call from adidas to work on a project like this?
Astroid Boys: We were on tour around the UK and when we were told adidas wanted to do this, we were excited. Working out the logistics to do something on this scale is difficult – especially because we were on tour – but all being together actually helped us on this because we were able to put our heads together and come up with the track pretty quickly. We were pumped to make the song and to get to work with Abz was amazing, we're all fans of his music. It’s actually great to collaborate with someone who isn’t exactly from the same genre as it made us think about music in different ways to usual.
COMPLEX: You mention you're in similar genres but don't have exactly the same sound. Was it challenging to find a track that worked for both of you?
Astroid Boys: It was never going to be awkward making a track together, we just needed to work to both our strengths. We all wanted to make an exciting grime tune that was aggressive and get people ready for battle, just like Nemeziz.
Abra Cadabra: Yeah, I really enjoyed meeting and working with them guys. I think the track we've made is a banger. They bring hip-hop and rock vibes but we ended up making a grime track that bangs. I like that we brought different energies to the table and I think we'll be working together again.
COMPLEX: This is a very lyrical song. What were the themes and experiences from your own life that you drew upon to write verses for this track?
Abra Cadabra: I just took the energy and aggression from the beat Dellux made and brought it out in my lyrics. I took that underdog mentality and flipped it. It's all about winning.
Astroid Boys: We wanted this track to feel competitive and obviously, as a rapper, I’ve been in battles and wanted to be the best – that’s the same for footballers. Just like rappers, footballers have to perform and they have to better than people in the same field.
COMPLEX: Do you think musicians and footballers actually have quite a similar mindset?
Abra Cadabra: Yeah I think the mindset is similar between us both. Some footballers seem to really get my music and music from this scene. We both come from humble beginnings and have created a way in to a better life for our families. I think we also both want to win at what we do.
COMPLEX: You took to the concrete pitches in London to shoot the video for 'Unlock'. It feels authentic.
Abra Cadabra: I've been playing football on concrete pitches all my life. Man played football while growing up but then I got injured and just carried on with music. I always like being around football because it's what I grew up with and I'll still always play when I can.
Astroid Boys: I think the lifestyle between Cardiff and London is very similar. In this specific case, I used to spend so much of my time hanging around the same sorts of football courts you’ll see in the video. These concrete pitches are part of communities in cities all over the UK.
COMPLEX: adidas have made quite a habit of linking sport with culture in the last 12 months. Why do you think it works so well?
Abra Cadabra: A lot of us footballers and musicians come from smoke areas growing up. They identify with our music because it's real and we identify with them. We're all from the hood.
Astroid Boys: For me, adidas is Britain. adidas Originals has been such a key brand for British music and sport for so long – none of us can say we’ve never bought adidas in the past and it’s amazing to have that type of connection with a brand when it comes to doing this sort of work.
Abra Cadabra: Man's always worn the three stripes - I wore Predators when I played so I've always been repping. It's mad now to be working with adidas Football from seeing all them players wearing the boots growing up. It's blessed and I'm always enjoying these projects.
COMPLEX: Nemeziz makes its on-pitch debut in the Champions League final in Cardiff. As Cardiff boys, how excited are you to see the final hit Wales this year, AB?
Astroid Boys: Anything significant like that happening in south Wales is always exciting. It’s nice to have eyes on us because a lot of the time, people look at other cities but Cardiff is on the come up…it helps everyone in the city to have this many eyes on us.
COMPLEX: If you could choose to give this track to one player to make them become a fan of yours, who would you choose?
Abra Cadabra: I guess man like Dele Alli.
Astroid Boys: Gareth Bale! He’s a Cardiff boy and I’d like to think he supports his own!