TORONTO — When Toronto Raptors fans gather to watch the NBA champions’ parade on Monday, echoes of the “Raptor Foot” won’t be far behind.
The infectious, reggae-infused sensation that started on the streets of downtown Toronto exploded in popularity this month, becoming an unofficial NBA Finals anthem for a country swept up in basketball fever.
Bob Turner, known by his stage name General Genius, is still revelling in his song’s sudden popularity. It’s been remixed, reimagined by a popular YouTuber, mimicked on morning shows and embraced wholeheartedly by Raptors fans.
“I’m just trying to be humble about the whole thing,” said the Scarborough, Ont. musician.
Turner, a longtime Raptors fan, wouldn’t mind a bit of a spotlight, however — in particular, a spot in Monday’s victory parade, if the Raptors would have him.
“That would be really nice, because I think the whole city’s Raptor-footing right now,” he said.
Turner came up with “Raptor Foot” during the second round of this year’s NBA playoffs as the Raptors squared off against the Philadelphia 76ers. The score was close, but the Raptors were lagging by a few points. Motivated by the suspense, Turner was caught in the moment.
“You’re watching the game and you know your guys are down, and you stomp your foot and squeeze your fist, like, ‘Come on guys!'” he said.
“And one day I’m there and I’m like, ‘Raptor Foot!'”
After the Raptors qualified for the NBA Finals, Turner considered showing the city his new moves. With a little encouragement from his friends at a local barbershop, he staged his performance on a sidewalk near Scotiabank Area for Game 1 of the finals.
That’s where CTV News reporter Sean Leathong saw Turner doing his dance — a foot-heavy lurching movement that looks kind of like a dinosaur lumbering forward, paired with the “Raptor Foot” chant. Impressed by the performance, Leathong recorded a video and tweeted it out.
“Obviously anyone who’s heard the song, it gets stuck in your head pretty quick,” he said.
“This is the right kind of earworm for social media, it hit the right note at the right time.”
The 17-second clip sparked a passionate reaction, collecting thousands of views and inspiring others to create their own versions, including Toronto’s DJ Kevin, who threw a sample of Turner’s voice into a remix.
But it was YouTube comedian Tresor Gray who gave the prehistoric rallying cry an extra push. The 23-year-old Toronto creator posted a video on Instagram and Twitter set to a dancehall beat, with new freestyle lyrics about Raptors players and Drake, the team’s ambassador.
“I wasn’t expecting it to get any traction,” Gray said, but as of Saturday, the video had amassed more than 100,000 views on Twitter alone, exposing the anthem to an entirely new audience.
Gray believes the song’s resonance with Toronto Raptors fans is unique.
“I don’t think it could’ve worked in any other city,” he said.
“It just personifies Toronto culture… Even if you’re not West Indian, you kind of still have a bit of that in you.”
As the “Raptor Foot” spread online, Turner quickly recorded his own full-length version inspired by the chant he created and posted it on Soundcloud. His take embraces a harder reggae edge inspired by his Jamaican roots.
Both versions soared in popularity as the Raptors pushed through the finals, helping “Raptor Foot” secure a spot in the Toronto basketball zeitgeist.
Turner said watching his idea become part of a cultural moment is simply a bonus.
“We were just having fun,” he said. “It’s something for the city.”
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Watch General Genius perform the original “Raptor Foot”: https://twitter.com/CTVSean/status/1134223055004286977
Watch comedian Tresor Gray’s version of the song: https://twitter.com/iamTresor/status/1136365366999957504
David Friend, The Canadian Press