When Anthony “Spice” Adams put on A Tribe Called Quest's “We the People” in his car, he caught the Holy Ghost, or rather, he caught something. He nodded his head so hard his hat flew off, then, in a move that defies gravity for a 300-pound former NFL lineman, he catapulted himself clear out of the sunroof. It’s something that must be seen to be believed. This reaction to the music was caught on camera for the amusement of the millions of people who have watched the video on Spice Adams’s Facebook fan page, as well as the millions of others who have watched it on the various other Facebook pages it’s been re-uploaded to.
Adams’s antics have earned him a social media following and pseudo-celebrity status that’s surpassed the public recognition he received during his nine-season NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears. His internet persona went into motion in 2012, as his playing career was on the way out, when he uploaded a video to YouTube titled “Stuff NFL Free Agents Say.” In it, Adams repeatedly checks his phone for calls from his agent, assures himself that he likes the time away from football and promises to start a diet the following week as he wolfs down half of the food in his pantry.
“I’m silly by nature so I had put together this video and had showed one of my teammates. I said, ‘Man you think I should put this up on YouTube?’” Adams recalls. “He was like, ‘Yeah, man. We see that every day in the locker room. Just put it out there so everybody could see what we see every day.’”
ESPN quickly contacted Adams asking to show the video on TV and, less than a half-hour after giving them the green light, he saw his first ever viral video on SportsCenter. Sports fans were finally getting a chance to experience the personality usually hidden under Adams’s helmet during games or reserved for teammates in the locker room.
“I like people around me to not be uptight and have a good time and to laugh,” said Adams, who played for the 49ers from 2003-06 and the Bears from 2007-2011. “Coming to the Bears was right up my alley because it was just like a bunch of kids there already, so I fit right in.”
Adams, who has an 8-year-old son and three daughters (ages 6, 5 and 3) started using music in his 6-second videos on the soon-to-be-extinct Vine with a series of shorts titled “The Drop Off,” where he’d listen to old school music in the car with his kids while taking them to school. While few people get to be a professional athlete, millions around the world can relate to having a favorite song or being a parent. His popularity is a testament to that.
Revealing his personality online has led Adams to a career on-camera as a host for the Chicago Bears-themed Inside the Bears TV show for the past four seasons and, starting this season, as a host on the Big Ten Network Tailgate Show covering college football. Despite a career as a professional athlete and two gigs in front of a TV audience, there’s no denying most of his fame still comes from his presence on social media.
“It’s not weird at all because those videos are the reasons why I’m on Inside the Bears and on Big Ten Network, because people see these videos and they’re like, ‘Hey we like this guy’s personality, maybe we should put him on our show.’ Through the relationships I’ve made through football, people are able to make the connection and say, ‘Let’s get in contact with him and see if he can bring some of that same personality that he has on these videos to our show.’”
Adams found a formula for success more than two years ago with a Facebook video of him alone in his car captioned “How oldheads react when their jam comes on.” Adams is so hyped to hear the first few notes of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Show Me the Way” that he drops his drink, throws up both hands and lets out a comical, “Hey!”
In October, he represented R&B fans everywhere with a video of his reaction to Solange Knowles’s “Cranes in the Sky” coming on on the car radio. His face twisted up, his neck jerked to the rhythm of the beat and he adamantly pretended to orchestrate the music with his hands. Adams once again opened up the sunroof, but this time only his hand escaped as he hit an off-key high note.
Combined, the two videos have been shared more than 250,000 times and serve as the blueprint for many of his most popular videos. The Lox, Outkast and Public Enemy have all gotten the Spice Adams car ride treatment, a privilege Adams doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s gotta have a smooth intro or a distinct intro where it’s like, as soon as you hear the beat, you’re like, 'Alright, this right here is about to be fire.' It has to have some type of smooth melody or something, or it can just come right out the gate with fire. An artist who does that for me is of course J Dilla, who I think is probably one of the greatest producers of all-time, 9th Wonder, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Biggie, Pac, J. Cole, Kendrick [Lamar].”
Since shooting the videos, Adams has even earned a friend and fan in one of his favorite artists, Grammy Award-winning producer 9th Wonder. When Adams realized through Instagram that 9th Wonder is a die-hard Chicago Bears fan, he reached out and invited him to hang out on the sidelines at a Bears game last year. 9th was familiar with Adams as a player on his favorite team, but their friendship and Adams’s videos have revealed another side of him.
“He’s funny as hell,” said 9th. “There’s a new phenomenon about online comedians. Some of their stuff is very scripted, but for him, a lot of his stuff is real down to earth stuff that I personally can relate to, like the uncle at the cookout or the dude that just got his haircut. I don’t think he’s trying to be a ‘comedian,’ he’s just being funny, just being himself. So when it comes to his videos, it comes from an honest place.”
One of the first videos 9th saw of Adams showed an elated Adams dropping his kids off for the first day of the school year with a level of enthusiasm dwarfing that of his children. For 9th, a parent himself, it was not only humorous and relatable, but refreshing.
“If you’re a parent, you understand the idea of summer’s over, school has started, get these kids out the house. It’s just an honest feeling. But the biggest thing about Spice is that he shows the world [of] ‘I am a father. I do this all the time. This is normal everyday stuff for me.' I’m a Black father, but we’re not a phenomenon, we’re not an endangered species. We exist.”
His favorite series of Spice Adams videos doesn’t have any deeper message behind it though — he just finds them flat out comical. For “Ray Lewis-ing Rap Lyrics,” Adams puts on his best impersonation of former NFL player Ray Lewis giving a motivational speech, a capella, as he talks through the lyrics of rap songs such as “Elevators” by Outkast. Complete with Lewis’s trademark intensity and dramatic pauses that altogether sound like some blend between a life coach, preacher and hardened ex-con, Adams’s parody is accurate enough to make a football fan like 9th Wonder almost fall out from laughter.
“Listen bruh, when I first saw that, I couldn’t do nothing with it,” remembers 9th. “That’s the one where I was like, 'This dude is crazy.”
Adams is always good to provide a good laugh, but his brand of comedy, which he touts as being “safe for work” and people of all ages because of its lack of profanity, also comes with an implicit message.
“Be yourself. You have to have thick skin because there’s always somebody out there who’s not going to like what you do. I don’t care if you try to find a cure for cancer, there’s always going to be somebody out there hating you, all the time. But as long as you’re yourself and you’re comfortable in your skin, that type of stuff shouldn’t even faze you.”
(Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP/REX/Shutterstock)
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