Editor's note: In honor of hip-hop turning 50, ESPN tapped the culture's top voices to write about their favorite athlete name-drops in hip-hop history.
"Ric Flair drip, go 'woo' on a b---- / Fifty-seven ninety, spent a coupe on my wrist" -- Offset on "Ric Flair Drip" (2017)
In 2002, watching "WWE Smackdown!" became a secret routine of mine after school. I was 9 years old, watching alone, and since I was the only sibling left living in my mother's house in a quiet, Southern Jersey town, TV became an obsession as well as my support. I didn't let too many of my friends know about my deep fascination for professional wrestling because back then, I was worried that it was too much of a boys' sport and I'd be subjected to ridicule. But at this point in time, I had been watching for months.
I always sat too close to the television to watch wrestlers slam, punch and throw their opponents around and outside the ring. Sometimes I'd even practice a few of the moves in my bedroom before hitting my toe on the edge of the bed or falling the wrong way on my bed and missing the heap of pillows I'd created for the practice. Intuitively, I must've known that most of what I was watching was not real, per se, but that wasn't the point; I loved the aesthetic and the dramatic performances. I loved the acting involved, the way the crowd swelled and cheered with every move and how the wrestlers built anticipation yet satisfied the audience each and every time. I have my favorites -- The Rock, The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin. But on this quiet night in 2002, Stone Cold was facing off with Ric Flair.
Flair is so much different from Austin. He's draped in a royal blue outfit while Austin is in his signature black vest and jean shorts. Flair is also a bit cockier, teasing and playing to the crowd. I don't want to like him but I end up doing so before the match ends -- because his charisma is radiating through the television screen. He definitely lived up to his persona because his flair was undeniable. Ric Flair was a 16-time world champ and his fame somehow even exceeded Stone Cold Austin's, who was everyone's favorite wrestler back then. In fact, Flair's notoriety and particularly his style had diffused over into the world of hip-hop.
Back in 2017, when Offset's solo career was burgeoning, he released the song "Ric Flair Drip" as an ode to one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The song was so popular that Ric Flair himself walked down the aisle to his wedding with the song playing in the background. I wasn't shocked that someone like Offset made a song like this with the lines "Ric Flair drip, go 'woo' on a b---- (woo)/Fifty-seven ninety, spent a coupe on my wrist." If you've watched his red carpet appearances over the past several years, you'd instantly recognize how Offset studies fashion. He'll wear red satin or black military jackets on the red carpet in order to pay homage to Michael Jackson and wear Balenciaga during Paris Fashion Week. He even launched his own clothing line in 2020. In short, Offset knows how to curate his own sartorial style, his own "drip," and he blends the past with the present similarly to how he does in the aforementioned song.
So it's no surprise that he references Ric Flair in the song for his collaborative album, "Without Warning," with Metro Boomin and 21 Savage. Wrestling is beloved across generations no matter how wild and silly it can be. It's all a part of the fun. But it wasn't until I got older that I realized the performance itself starts long before wrestlers enter the ring. Ric Flair had a larger-than-life personality with an enviable collection of robes to match. Feathery, sequined and rhinestone-heavy, Ric Flair put on a show no matter where he was in the arena. And it's this decadence and excess that attracted hip-hop artists like Offset to make songs in his honor. Because that is hip-hop: the flamboyance, the flashiness, the braggadocio. It's the announcement that one is here and (re)claiming a title before anything has been proven yet, because there is nothing to prove. When Offset speaks of his "Ric Flair Drip," there is no room for humility. You let the people know that you intend to be ostentatious with your persona. After all, how does one intend to become great by playing small?
Morgan Jerkins is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning writer living in Harlem. Jerkins' work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vogue and The Atlantic, among others.