It made so much sense. That 8 a.m. Resurrection Sunday flight en route to Atlanta was damn near scripted. Being home seemed unmissable. The day had finally arrived.
The location was Berkmar High School, the alma mater of Quavious “Quavo” Marshall, one-third of Earth’s greatest man band, Migos, returning to the field on which he was the starting quarterback of the school’s team. The event: a celebrity touch football game, comprised of stars from hip-hop and the NFL. I went, expecting a zoo. Migos would be there, but so would Julio Jones, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, Alvin Kamara, Rich the Kid, Ezekiel Elliott, Josh Norman, and more. And while the stadium was filled with fans, many of whom were losing their minds being so close to so many of their heroes and crushes, the vibe was less All-Star Weekend than Fourth of July cookout. It was more intriguing than the Pro Bowl and more star-studded than the Slam Dunk competition. The only true comparison: This is the closest we’ve gotten to MTV Rock N’ Jock in years. You know what this was? This was Rap N’ Trap.
Surrounded by luxury cars in the parking lot of the Berkmar High School football stadium, the birthday boy walked out of the locker room and was immediately swarmed. Dressed from head to toe in Under Armour, a cosponsor of the event, Quavo wore a shirt that read “Huncho Day on the NAWF.” (The A, of course, was written in the shape of the Atlanta Braves “A.”) It was the same shirt that hundreds of kids were wearing, kids present for the Easter egg hunt and football drills that took place earlier in the afternoon. But on Quavo’s shirt, something special—a nameplate, pinned to his shirt. “Principal Huncho.”
Three minutes later, Ric Flair arrived.
Ric came with a crew, as did Quavo, and they met in the middle of the parking lot, to embrace.
Ric wore his Sunday best, white-yellow hair pairing exquisitely with his tan suit. While the sound of pictures snapping provided a backdrop for the meeting, a voice interrupted Ric, asking him, “You know he played quarterback?”
“Yeah, I know the whole story, man,” Ric replied, as if confused by the basic nature of the question, and then started talking about Offset attending military school.
For the next 15 minutes, the true star of the day was Flair. He took a picture with anyone who wanted one, and if you wanted him to go “Woo,” well dammit, he would “Woo.”
While the impromptu Nature Boy meet and greet happened, very famous football players began making their way into the parking lot. Alvin Kamara was casually posted up. So was Todd Gurley. And then Josh Norman drove up in something resembling a black monster truck.
Offset arrived, dressed like Sid Vicious, and made his way to Flair.
At 3:20 p.m., the referees appeared and at 3:30, Quavo led both teams onto the field. Von Miller wore an old-timey football helmet. 21 Savage held a Styrofoam double cup. And every time a fan asked a security guard where they could and could not stand, the security guard pointed and said “dat way.”
The stadium, filled with Berkmar high school students, continuously lost its collective mind at the sight of all these rappers and singers. Offset went directly to midfield and began stretching. When he stood up, I noticed his jersey number: “3-way.” The end zones read “HUNCHO” and on the sidelines, “Dat Way” was inscribed in the Subway font. Julio Jones walked around the field, looking strong, looking ready to lead his team to victory. Unbiasedly, I couldn’t stop looking at him, because he’s the most perfect football player of all time.
The announcer, the Migos’s DJ, DJ Durel, announced that the game was about to begin and that the national anthem would commence. Julio did a fake-out kneel, to laughter from his teammates. On the other side, 21 Savage took a knee and put his fist in the air. 21, 21. When the rosters were announced, the screams were significantly louder for the artists than the NFL players. Outside of Huncho and Offset, however, the loudest went to Atlanta singer Jacquees. When 21 went to the sideline to grab a Powerade, the front row of high school girls screamed for him to turn around. The cheerleaders were trying to keep it cool, but eventually one was peer pressured to approach him. She did, everyone screamed, and then she ran back into her formation, with the biggest smile humanly possible, while every girl around her jumped up and down. The game began and, due to dropped passes, shockingly athletic coverage, and a flurry of interceptions, it looked like no one would ever score. What is clear, however, is that both teams were taking the game seriously, as evident by the hustle and the playbooks in the hands of both coaches. Quavo, in particular, wanted to win this game. At one point, he shouted at Offset, putting the Migo in motion. Five minutes later, with Team Huncho on defense, 21 Savage blitzed Julio Jones. In worlds-colliding events like this, the end result is sometimes entertaining or competitive, often neither. This was both.
At some point, Trippie Redd walked into the stadium. He walked over to the concession stand, which sat next to the Rap Snacks van, and had an impromptu meet and greet, which resulted in a very loud selfie video, which later ended up on his Instagram Story. A few minutes later, a young man walked by in a Tiger Woods Masters Pen & Pixel shirt. A friend walked up to him and asked him where he got it from. “I stole it from Yachty,” he said, without breaking stride. An hour into the game, Takeoff showed up. He was in street clothes. He looked thrilled to not be playing football on this Easter Sunday. There was a man in an orange vest, active on the sidelines. He was flying a drone. The game went to half, zero-zero, and the man flying the drone was the most consistently focused athlete on the field. At the half, the Clark Atlanta University marching band stepped onto the field. The band performed a wide repertoire of songs, including a few Migos tracks, but its rendition of “Prototype” by Outkast followed by Migos’s “Stir Fry” caught everyone off guard, in the best way possible. I stood on the field behind Jermaine Dupri and Quality Control cofounder Kevin “Coach K” Lee, who couldn’t help but acknowledge how fire this was, with both their attention and their head nods. Before it was all over, Quavo stood in front of the band and started dancing.
To my left were Trouble, YFN Lucci, and OG Parker. To my right, Ezekiel Elliott and Julio Jones. It was alarming, to watch them so comfortable, so close. And they were truly having a good time, the overlap of hip-hop and the NFL and Atlanta abundantly clear.
Huncho Day was the epicenter, the literal intersection of Atlanta’s most interesting cultural figures. If you wanted a glimpse into “the culture,” it wasn’t online, it was here, in this stadium. It’s no coincidence that the Migos named their albums Culture and Culture II—all roads go through them.
In the second half, at 5:06 p.m., a Quavo pass to Alvin Kamara gave the game its first score. Quavo had been showing off his cannon all first half—seriously, his arm is insane—but with this short, simple pass, he let the 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year do his magic, shaking every single human being on Team Julio.
Team Huncho was feeling themselves, with Von Miller doing his best BlocBoy JB impression between every dead ball. At one point he went over and chatted with three police officers. One of them took a selfie with him dancing in the background, as she rapped along to “Rake It Up.”
It looked as if Team Huncho was going to win, but then with only minutes left, Team Julio tied it up with a Josh Norman pick-six. And with only seconds left, a controversial call led to a 10-minute delay in the game, with both teams arguing. No one wanted to lose this game. No one. Eventually, it didn’t matter—because the clock ran out.
The first annual Huncho Day on the NAWF was going to overtime.
At 5:47 p.m., only minutes into bonus football, it seemed like it was all over, with a Julio Jones quick strike to Josh Norman. But right as he crossed the threshold, he celebrated by dropping the ball. Team Julio screamed touchdown, while Team Huncho was having none of that. The refs, again, met with a decision to make, ultimately going with Team Huncho.
It didn’t really matter, however, because on the next play, Julio threw it to Ezekiel Elliott, who ran it in, and then dunked it over the bar of the goal post. The football portion of Huncho Day was complete. All of the players shook hands. A.J. Green gave his gloves to a kid in a Julio Jones jersey, who smiled as he turned around and looked up, standing right in front of Mohamed Sanu. Quavo repeatedly claimed that the refs cheated, but said that this was still his day, so it was fine.
Julio was presented with a trophy and named MVP. But the awards portion was not over. The Berkmar High School football coach made his way into the middle of this sea of rappers and NFL players to present Quavo with a framed jersey. On that field, Berkmar High School retired Quavo’s football number. Quavo held the gift up, for everyone to see. He looked genuinely surprised. And then Quavo brought his own surprise. Apparently, as he told the crowd, he never returned his helmet to the equipment office, so he had it put in a glass case and presented it back to Berkmar. And then someone from a church in the area came out of nowhere and presented Quavo with a Community Achievement trophy. No one seemed to really know what was happening at this point, so I backpedaled out of the crowd and left the stadium.
I was picked up by a Lyft driver 10 minutes later. When I opened the door, I saw a woman—the driver’s girlfriend—in the passenger seat. And as if nothing was odd about this, she asked me how to pronounce my name. Five minutes later they got into a whisper argument that was louder than their normal voices.
Huncho Day was perfectly Atlanta, from beginning to end. Next year, I’m sure there will be hundreds of outlets present, with the event likely streamed on multiple platforms, with each player mic’d up, a fantasy component, a sideline Fortnite station, and Genius annotations for each song played during the game. But the first one, at its most stripped-down and unmanaged, was a vision of the city’s ever-overlapping scenes and characters. For Quavo, who has established himself as something more than a rapper, this wasn’t just a birthday party. It was a coronation.