Matt Richey (left), Kenny Silkworth and Robert "McFreshington"… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
It was after the Cincinnati game, after Baltimore's Ravens clinched AFC North title, after those mind-blowing runs by Ray Rice, that the three buddies, who'd just about yelled themselves hoarse, went upstairs to hear some music.
That's when the purple lightning bolt struck, just as Kenny Silkworth was showing off one of his instrumental tracks, a piece that sounded inspiring to him — motivating, almost, like a battle hymn. Robert "McFreshington" Norton, who raps in town under the name Fresh Competition, heard it and then began to softly chant, "We are, we are, we are the Ravens nation."
An inspired glance, a jolt of adrenaline and a frenzied week of work later, the guys unveiled the song that's spread through Baltimore this week like The Wave.
"Ravens Nation," a chest-thumping paean to pigskin pride, drew thousands of hits in its first hours online — and then thousands more, along with its coordinating video. The rap's been played on a couple of local radio stations, its gobsmacked creators have been invited to perform it live at a few Purple Friday events and the song has even garnered online love from the likes of Michael Oher, Torrey Smith and Vonta Leach.
The guys, who had only hoped to have some fun and maybe fire up the fan base, are astounded one second, flushed with pride the next.
"It's amazing — we're averaging six views a minute right now," Norton says, a little breathlessly, hoping that if the Ravens win Sunday, his urban cheer might have contributed in at least the tiniest way. "I want people to feel pride. I want them to feel exhilaration. And we want the Ravens to go all the way and bring home a trophy."
The lyrics in the song were written and rapped by Norton, who lives in Arbutus and leads a touring rock band, and Matthew Richey, a Towson student who lives in Hamilton while working on a degree in electronic media. The background music and production work were all Silkworth, who styles hip-hop beats in his free time while holding down a full-time job as a software tester at Sylvan Learning.
If the three love music, they love their hometown football team at least as much.
Norton and Richey are longtime season ticket holders. Anyone walking through Section 146 has probably seen Norton pacing the stands, flapping his arms, trying to invigorate the crowd. Or people might have seen them tailgating, sipping their ritualistic pre-game toast that involves making a wish for the match — like, say, "Suggs for a sack" — then washing it down with a purple concoction of vodka and punch.
On the day of the Bengals game, after hearing Silkworth's background beat, Richey went home, still buzzing from the victory. Soon after he got in, he turned on ESPN, watched a few clips of Rice flying down the field for that 70-yard touchdown, and scribbled down the word "relentless."
"Smash mouth is the game, in the town that we claim, home crowd taking aim," he wrote next, filling in a phrase that would appear before that key word. "Baltimore's so relentless."
He quickly called Norton, read him the verse and said, "You gotta start writing now 'cause we're doing this."
And they did.
The two of them split the writing while Silkworth mixed the vocals and polished the track. Meanwhile, Richey made the video, piecing together rousing game clips — and even a little bit of historic footage featuring a pass by Baltimore football legend Johnny Unitas.
That bit is Norton's favorite — he says the grainy black-and-white shot of Unitas throwing a pass, which fades into another of Anquan Boldin catching one, gives him chills.
Bruce Raffel, who edits the Ravens-oriented blog Baltimore Beat Down, gave the video prime real estate on his site as soon as he saw it. He thinks the song is catchy, saying, "You can tell it's professionally done by people who are not just Ravens fans and not just musicians, but both."
He'd like Ravens management to incorporate the song into its game-day soundtrack.
That right there is the guys' dream.
When Silkworth first heard the song on the radio, he was driving home from work. When he realized his song was what was pumping through the speakers, he started yelling and punching the car's roof.
"If they played it at Ravens stadium, honestly, I have no idea what would happen," he says. "I'd probably try to grab onto something so I wouldn't fall over. I would probably jump out of my seat. Maybe I'd do laps around the stadium. Or maybe not that far so I wouldn't get kicked out. But that's how it would feel."
Alas, Ravens officials say, there's just about no chance that would happen.
"We've got amazingly creative and passionate fans," says Patrick M. Gleason, the team's public/media relations manager. But "due to matters of legality, we are unable to play unlicensed music or video that has been created by fans."
Fantasy aside, Norton, Richey and Silkworth are thrilled enough to hear their beats are firing up Ravens fans. That's why they're happily giving the song away.
In the comments section of their YouTube page, one listener gushed, "This gets me so pumped for the playoffs." Another wrote: "On point fellas! I wish it was Sunday already."
The guys can't wait for it either.
"We feel like we are part of the team," Norton says. "We are the 12th man and can do as much as anyone to help our team win."