By Chris Richards
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
"From the root to the fruit!" says Salih Williams, describing his lifelong devotion to the one of the most wretched teams in professional football today. "I'm a die-hard Redskins fanatic. . . . But the Redskins is like a girl I know I shouldn't mess with: I keep coming back."
It's Monday afternoon at Sound Spa Studios in Alexandria, where Williams is sporting an oversize white T-shirt emblazoned with his alias Bootsy Vegas.
As the newest addition to the Donnie Simpson morning show on WPGC 95.5, Bootsy appears every Wednesday to crack jokes and present his weekly anthem dedicated to Washington's once unconditionally loved football franchise.
But with the Redskins looking particularly inept this season, cheering them to victory becomes an increasingly tough gig. Over the course of seven weeks, Williams's tunes have transformed from puffy-chested boasts into droopy-shouldered laments.
Last week, after a humiliating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Williams rapped to a vintage Geto Boys beat: "At night I can't sleep, I turn and toss/Think about my 'Skins and the game we just lost."
Williams usually puts his songs to tape after watching (and often suffering through) Sunday's game, but this week he had his work cut out for him. With the Redskins facing the Philadelphia Eagles on "Monday Night Football," he needed to record a tune that would captivate fans through the Redskins' upcoming bye week, regardless of the game's outcome.
He settled on a go-go rendition of "Hail to the Redskins," the beloved fight song that has kept burgundy and gold blood pumping since the 1930s. Rechristening the song "Redskins Go-Go," he gave the lyrics a modern tweak and rounded them out with a rap verse. "It's still the same from back in the day," he rhymes, waxing nostalgic. "When the seats used to rock at the R-F-K!"
"Go-go is like the Redskins," Williams says. "It's in you. If you're from D.C., it's in you."
WPGC has been airing songs dedicated to the Washington Redskins since 1994, when Simpson's former co-host Chris Paul began rewriting the lyrics of popular rap and R&B hits into weekly pep anthems. They were wildly popular, but Paul left WPGC last summer to join the Tom Joyner morning show on Majic 102.3, where he now delivers his songs. He also posts them on chrispaulcomedy.com.
After Paul's departure, Simpson began searching for a replacement through an "America's Next Top Jock" contest. Williams entered, hoping to not only break into the business but to continue delivering Redskins songs to WPGC listeners.
And while Williams's résumé was light on radio, it was heavy on music. Known to many Washingtonians by his stage name, E, he is lead vocalist of go-go stalwarts Optimystic Tribe -- O.P. Tribe for short. The group performs every Friday at Haydee's on Georgia Avenue NW.
But Williams didn't want the decision makers at WPGC to confuse his old-school go-go rep with his new-school broadcasting dreams, so he chose yet another alias. "I knew I needed something loud to kind of reinvent myself," Williams says of the Bootsy Vegas moniker on the blazers and T-shirts he wore to his auditions. It was only enough to take second place, but Simpson asked Williams to stick around and help with the Redskins songs.
After the studio session, where Williams thinks he has recorded his best song yet, he hops into a white Chevy Tahoe and zips over to an Outback Steakhouse in time for the kickoff. "I think they can win it," he says, settling onto his bar stool.
But the Redskins quickly prove otherwise in a first half rife with turnovers and botched plays. When Antwaan Randle El bobbles a punt return, the ball bouncing off of his face mask, Williams's cellphone starts buzz-buzz-buzz-ing.
He reads the text message out loud, one of the dozen taunts he'll receive from his friends and bandmates during the game: "There's no one crazy enough to root for the Redskins other than you."
He smiles and nods. "That's probably true."
But as the third quarter winds down, Washington trails by 17 and there's no more smiling. Williams decides to call it a night. Tuesday morning, he'll wake up and put the finishing touches on the final mix of "Redskins Go-Go." His team has never needed a rally cry more than right now.