Annakin Slayd – One & Only Sports Rapper
By Alyssa De Rosa – Montreal Times
“When I first started doing music, I didn’t think I would be a sports rapper,” Annakin Slayd confessed while we were sipping coffee at a Starbucks in downtown Montreal. Most of you may know Annakin as the “Rock the Sweater” or “Feels like 93” rapper. His face and music is usually associated with the former Montreal Expos or our beloved Habs, but this is not the life he thought he would lead when he started making music 10 years ago.
Born and raised in Montreal, Annakin first released an album 10 years ago – there were no sports songs in sight. When the Montreal Canadiens won the conference in 2008, Annakin released his first version of “Feels like 93.” YouTube had just gained popularity and was on everyone’s radar so Annakin thought to himself “how do I make use of this tool?” Within hours of the “Feels like 93’” release, someone had already taken the radio audio and made a video montage on YouTube. It was an instant hit and Habs fans across the country were singing that tune in hopes of another Stanley Cup.
“I never thought I’d be associated with sports. I don’t know how many rappers are in the world. I guess I have my own genre,” he jokes.
Before creating Expos and Habs songs, Annakin lived in New York City as a trained actor and did some off broadway gigs. He opened up his own theatre company in Montreal but realized after some time that it wasn’t what he loved to do. “It wasn’t my world,” he explains.
In New York, he auditioned for a rap label that instantly approved of his skills and talent. “I’ve always been a fan of rap – I’m a huge Wu Tang and Public Enemy fan. I recorded my music with the label and learned that I loved creating music,” he says.
“I used to write plays, so I’m a fan of words and flipping words so rap is kind of like the ultimate of that. It’s like a puzzle. I’m all in, and I would never want to do anything else.”
Being known as a sports rapper has its limitations. “It’s already not enough. There was a point in my life, and it was very recent where I told myself I need to switch it up.” In light of this, Annakin has been spending a lot of time in Los Angeles trying to market himself out there. He has a new record coming out “Leave it Us” which is radio-friendly and doesn’t contain any Montreal sports songs. “I have a social conscience that I work with. All my lyrics are about social issues,” Annakin says.
That being said, he’s had an amazing three months. Things happened that were unexpected – both of his songs were played at the Olympic Stadium on both nights where the baseball games were held. His tribute to the 94’ Expos and the Gary Carter tribute were both displayed on the big screen in front of thousands of people.
“I was like wow. I never imagined Gary Carter’s family would be there watching as well as the 94’ Expos. Grown men were approaching me and thanking me for making these videos.”
Annakin explains that having his songs played at the Big O was a “really emotional experience.” “It’s different from “Rock The Sweater.” Every time the Habs win its more of an investment for m,e” he explains.
The longer the Habs were in the playoffs the longer Annakin’s song survived and more opportunities arose. He was asked to perform at the Bell Centre during game 6 against the New York Rangers. If the Habs were eliminated, that would have never happened. “It was a whole new level for me. I didn’t think that would ever happen,” he explains.
“Rock The Sweater” existed last year but Annakin didn’t release it after the season the Canadiens had. “It’s one thing to make it and there’s another thing releasing it,” he describes.
When “Rock the Sweater” was released, fans noticed many familiar faces in the video including comedian Sugar Sammy, Justin Trudeau, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters and Jay Baruchel. Unlike “Feels like 93’”, “Rock The Sweater” isn’t specific to the playoffs so the franchise was open to letting it be played on a regular basis.
Actor Jay Baruchel and Annakin are good friends and he wanted to be a part of the latest Habs video, giving it a valid feel. You can see Jay’s love for the Habs through his Twitter page, constantly showing support for the team and the city.
Now that the playoffs for the Montreal Canadiens are unfortunately over, there is much more in store for Annakin Slayd. His plans for the upcoming months are to drop an album this Fall with no sports songs.
“I’ll always be relevant here,” he explains. “Now that the Expos thing is heating up, I feel like I may have another Expos song in me. I also never want it to come off as fake and rehearsed,” he says while explaining his involvement with the Expos and Habs.
The Expos is a passion project for Annakin and he creates music for them solely for the love of the team. “I would do anything for the Expos. I would sell my body if the Expos came back,” he jokes.
“If artists can make a living doing what they love, they will do it however they can. As long as it’s real. It may be absurd in a way the kind of career I have, but it’s real. I wake up every morning paying attention to what the Habs are doing.”
“Sports and music. That’s my life.”