It feels like an eternity since chants of ‘football’s coming home’ last echoed in unison from beside the hallowed turf of Wembley stadium. After all, 2020 was a year that saw football stands fall silent because of the pandemic — no fans, no cheers, no choruses.
Many television networks replaced the crowd swell, noise and fervour surrounding the beautiful game with pre-recorded sound-effects that could be turned on or off at the click of a button. And yet, something remained amiss.
With the lack of fan support contributing to more than a handful of surprising results across the Premier League this season, if lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that the collective power of a chant — and its ability to transform a score line — cannot be underestimated.
Now, as the delayed UEFA Euro 2020 competition prepares to kick off on June 11, the search is on to find England’s latest football anthem capable of uniting a nation. Enter South London hip-hop duo Krept Konan, who have spent recent months travelling the length and breadth of the nation, in search of inspiration for a new, diverse sporting chart-topper.
“We’re gonna take it to the end, we’re gonna win,” says Konan, full name Karl “Konan” Wilson, of England’s chances of victory on the pitch. “We’re gonna bring it home man, it’s coming home. You get me? It’s the law of attraction!”
Whether consciously or not, the 31-year-old has just quoted the chorus of Baddiel, Skinner Lightning Seeds’ Euro ‘96 anthem Three Lions. A track that remains a fan favourite a quarter of a century on, to date the single has racked up over 28 million streams on Spotify alone, despite being released prior to the invention of online music streaming.
But what is it that secures a football track’s cult status while retaining the ability to unite a nation? “I feel like there were a lot of comedic aspects to it,” continues Casyo “Krept” Johnson of the celebrated song. “It won everybody over, do you know what I mean? Obviously, it’s about winning, and it’s coming home, and it’s bigging up everyone.”
Recalling New Order’s 1990 track World In Motion as “the one with John Barnes rapping”, Krept says the beauty of both tracks lies in the fact they aren’t “too serious”. “I feel like that stuck with the people, so we have to find a way to make it light-hearted, to not take it too seriously.”
A journey recorded as part of new 60-minute BBC Three documentary, Krept and Konan: We Are England, the duo venture beyond the superficial hooks of footballing anthems, to discover what it means to be English in 2021.
Joined by England football manager Gareth Southgate, the pair spend time with the national side, talking candidly with players, including Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings and West Ham’s Declan Rice.
“Our first thoughts were, ‘it’s a big job’,” laughs Krept, earnestly. Best known for tracks including hit single Freak Of The Week ft. Jeremiah, which to-date has amassed over 80 million streams on Spotify, both Krept and Konan are quick to note that nerves still play their part, despite regularly playing to sell-out crowds.
“Meeting the players and stuff, a lot of them are our peers,” continues Konan. “But like Krept was saying, it’s a big job. It’s very daunting and you’ve got to think about it like, ‘Wow. OK, how do we approach this? How do you attack this?’”
Just as music formats evolve, so too do demographics, both on and off the pitch. And with the face of the nation becoming ever-more diverse, the pair believe the time has come to create an anthem that’s inclusive, both in terms of language and representation.
“Things have changed a lot, man. In the documentary, we asked people ‘What’s your definition of England?’ and everybody had different answers,” says Krept. “Some people are brought up on council estates, some people thought ‘Oh, fish and chips’. Everybody’s version of England is different, especially now, considering it’s 2021, everything’s a lot more diverse.”
It’s a shifting landscape that extends to the national side, as Krept explains: “Being a football fan back in the day, you’d see one or two black players on the pitch, maybe. Now our England team has a lot of black players, young black players, and they’re coming from areas that we’re coming from, you know what I mean?”
Growing up in South London, Krept describes their local club, Crystal Palace, as a “local support network”. “You can’t even say you’re a fan of it, it’s just a part of your life,” he continues. “As soon as I could walk, I was kicking a football. I had a Man United shirt as a kid. My idols were like [David] Beckham and [Thierry] Henry growing up as a kid, Ronaldo — these are all my superheroes.
“But [Jadon] Sancho’s from Kennington, you know? He’s from down the road from where we’re from. It’s literally one road from Thornton Heath, London Road, all the way to Kennington. So I feel like a lot has changed since back in the day, from the fans, to the players. Everything. It’s a lot more diverse.”
As for England’s prospects? “It doesn’t make sense if the final is at Wembley and there’s no English fans in the stadium, it doesn’t make sense,” enthuses Krept with a smile.
“I feel like this year, we’ve got the best team we’ve ever had. So we actually stand a strong chance this time.” Krept and Konan: We Are England will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer from Wednesday, June 9.