(January 4, 2022). And we thought a Kanye West new project rollout was about as crazy-hyped as one could get.
Ye’s months-long, pre-release promotion of his album Donda in 2021–complete with three NFL stadium listening parties—couldn’t hold a jockstrap to what transpired in the span of about eight hours Sunday (January 2) with Antonio Brown’s dramatic stadium exit from an NFL stadium just hours before releasing his latest single, “Pit Not The Palace.”
The immediate timing and strategy of the song’s release—while Brown was being blasted by the sports world and social media for what was easily his most bizarre meltdown in an NFL career full of them—is a promotional move not even the most savvy of record company marketing executives could’ve whipped up.
Brown’s decision to leave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and likely the NFL) in the third quarter of a game in which his team was suffering through a 14-point deficit (they later came back to beat the Jets under Tom Brady’s unflinching leadership) has been the talk of social media since it happened; the second-most trending topic is likely “Pit Not The Palace.”
And now, whether or not it had the benefit of forethought, people are questioning whether AB—the initialism he records under—timed his ill-conceived move at MetLife Stadium to hype the song’s release; and, even more importantly for him, people are actually talking about the song itself—a fate that the music from his last album, 2020’s Himmothy, didn’t experience (how many reading this even knew he had an album in 2020?).
Yet while Brown has been blasted for quitting on his team—and, in the process, making his head coach Bruce Arians look stupid for giving him multiple chances after initially saying that AB would be on a short leash when the Bucs first signed him—few in the media have delved into his new song’s meaning…other than to conveniently report that it’s a rap tune about the NFL wide receiver’s lavish lifestyle.
Indeed it may be just that shallow, but “Pit Not The Palace,” which clocks in at just under two minutes, actually could have been inspired by something that goes a bit deeper than its casual material references (like Brown’s ability to “jump into a Coupé with no mileage”) or what its short one minute and 53 seconds might suggest.
First, let’s clear up any notion or fantasy that the “Pit” in the song’s title is a reference to Brown’s first NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers—also the first franchise (of now four) from which he was unceremoniously cut, back in 2018. The “Pit” here instead refers to the depths of despair or, even worse, hell from which Brown purportedly came.
In the song’s lone verse, AB raps, “came from the struggle, I had to hussle…” before making unclear references to muzzles and pavement (and making the “B” bubble). In the tune’s two choruses, he begins each one with the titular line, “I’m from the pit not the palace…” before going on about his stylishness and his lavish ways.
But the song’s title is one that could also have been inspired by the recent book by Abigail Neilson called “From the Pit to the Palace – A Story of Redemption.” Published in 2016, just a couple years before AB began his trek across the country while bouncing from the Steelers to the (then-Oakland) Raiders and the Patriots before landing in Tampa, Neilson’s book describes how the protagonist was driven by rejection and fueled by rage and bitterness while being on a collision course with hell. Her story begins from the womb, where she says attempts by Satan to destroy her (through her parents’ decision to abort) were unsuccessful.
Later she talks of being sexually abused during her teenage years and ultimately being thrust into a dysfunctional adulthood, where she suffered through substance abuse and bad relationships. According to the book, it wasn’t until God spoke to her that she was pulled from the “slimy pit of despair” and into His “palace.”
I’m not saying necessarily that AB read Nielson’s book to get inspiration for his “Pit Not The Palace” or that his early life parallels hers, but his troubles are well documented and the story he crafts in the song—albeit a short one—does seem to suggest some sort of enlightenment is taking place.
At the beginning and end of the tune, a male narrator speaks to AB about overcoming adversity (or “coming through the fire”) and being an inspiration for his four young sons. “AB, man I’ve been waiting for the moment to see you run down the field again…I told you from day one this was gonna be a tough move. You made it, you came through the fire…Be ready to see the light,” the voice says in the intro.
As the song ends, the narrator offers even more sage advice: “AB, you having three little boys…and God just gave you another son, man. You’ve been out the game for over a year. You put up big numbers, but you know the greatest number? It’s loving them four young boys that look up to you more than anything else. Keep balling, keep working, but keep being loved. And love the ones that love you,” the voice says as ominous music plays behind him.
It’s interesting that the narrator is given more lines on the song than the rapper himself. It’s also worth noting that both the intro and outro suggest that the song was recorded while AB was on his involuntary hiatus from the NFL between 2019 and 2020 before the Bucs signed him.
It’s all the more puzzling that the talented wide receiver would release a song that appears to be speaking to him with advice he apparently didn’t follow. He certainly is aware that he has four boys (and a daughter who isn’t mentioned) that look up to him, and that walking off the field on Sunday isn’t something that a true role model would want his kids to emulate.
Indeed, AB—who has been given multiple chances by the league he has repeatedly shown the middle finger—should still be “balling” and “working,” as the song’s unnamed narrator suggests.
Perhaps unlike Abigail Nielson in her book, the “pit” in which Antonio Brown dwells is one from which he cannot easily escape.
One thing is almost certain: he likely donned his last NFL jersey on Sunday. The only question now is, instead of scoreboards, will AB be lighting up the Billboard charts next?
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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