It’s been 20 years since Tom G graduated from Howard W. Blake High School, and right now, his alma mater feels like the center of the sports universe. Across the Hillsborough River, broadcast booths are set up at Armature Works. Commentators and NFL analysts will talk incessantly about some other Tom, but beyond their shoulders will be the skyline of Jook City, broadcast by CBS into millions of homes across the country and the world.
Tom G's Kushbowl LA the Goat w/Roboy/Ron Dolla/Swavor/Ba4m Oso/C Bane/D Slugga/Mike Twice/more
Sunday, Feb. 7, 1 p.m.
Club 1828, 5110 N 40th St., Tampa
In 2004, Tom G, whose real name is Thomas Godbolt, put Jook City on the map with a hit single that was in every respectable DJs rotation. “City Boy Wit It” reached well beyond Hillsborough County and could be heard from Miami-Dade to Duval and Escambia counties and everywhere in between. The song even sparked a dance craze that would’ve garnered millions of streams on TikTok had it been released 16 years later.
In 2019, Godbolt, now 36 years old and two decades removed from his days playing football at Stillman College, performed a remix of “City Boy” onstage at the BET Awards, and while he’s come a long way in life and in the hip-hop game, Tom G is just as caught up in the Super Bowl hype as the next fan.
“It's like pandemonium right now in the city,” Tom G, in his signature rasp, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay last weekend. The unprecedented nature of Sunday’s home game has Godbolt feeling like he’s living through a history. “I’m ecstatic to be able to say, when I'm an old man, ‘Hey, man, I was in the thick of things when that happened.’"
You can practically see Tom G’s cheeky smile through the phone, but you’ll also hear his voice from a loudspeaker a lot this week. On Monday, DJ Ekin—who’s been Tampa Bay’s official team DJ for three years—released a new Bucs anthem, “Rollin’ in the Bay.” The rallying cry borrows a melody from the late-’80s hit “Rollin’ With Kid N’ Play,” and as the “ola ola ay” fades off, Tom G drops a verse where he shouts out Buccaneer favorites like Antoine Winfield Jr., Devin White, Jason Pierre-Paul, Carlton Davis, Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David and more. Godbolt even sends a jab out to the Tampa Bay haters out there. Ekin told CL he’s been toying with the idea for the song—one of dozens of Tampa Bay hype songs—for a while and saw it as a chance to get some of his favorite Tampa artists on a track that could bring national attention. Tom G, naturally, shares Ekin’s innate need to shine a light on locals before anyone else.
On Super Bowl Sunday—just a couple days after he stages a Feb. 5 “grown folks” sneaker ball and birthday bash—Tom G will be at Jackson Heights’ Club 1828 throwing a block and watch party. The bill for Kushbowl is a hometown showcase featuring natives like LA the Goat who just signed to So So Def/Def Jam and released a video prominently featuring Tampa’s since-shuttered Tampa Park Apartments. Roboy, a recent signee to Gucci Mane’s 1017 label, is also on the lineup along with nearly a dozen artists including Mike Twice. “Buccaneers,” an October video from Twice—replete with sound bites of commentators praising the Bucs’ performance—now plays like a prophecy of the team’s postseason success.
Godbolt—who has a new book, “Process and Purpose,” and movie, “Poison,” both tentatively set for release around spring break—means no disrespect to promoters bringing the Lil Babys and Migos of the rap world to town, but he has other plans.
“That’s cool, but I said ‘I'm gonna do it for my people’ because we still have to live here when this is all said and done,” Godbolt—who has five kids ranging from 13 to eight years old—explained. “Us as a whole city, we deserve as a whole to be celebrated, throughout the season and this time, right now.”
When asked about admission prices to share with local readers, Godbolt simply said, “you’re good, just pull up.”
I have a feeling Tom G would’ve had the same motivation to highlight his neighbors back in 2003 when the Bucs played for their first and only Lombardi Trophy, but he sounds even more assured now that a never-ending grind has turned him into the a seasoned guerilla-style, big dog-mentality businessman whose goal is to keep growing and bring others in the city along with him. And that assuredness will follow Tom G into game day.
In 2003, he and his friends celebrated on Seventh Avenue after the Bucs beat the Raiders to win the franchise’s only championship. Godbolt predicts a win on Sunday, and when it happens he already has a plan.
“We're at home for the Super Bowl, and we're gonna take it all the way. This has never happened. I don't think it will happen again,” he said. “I'm going to pop about three or four bottles of champagne, and I'm about to be out in front of the stadium. I might end up camping out.”
And when asked about any advice he had for that other Tom, who, like Godbolt, wants to leave a lasting impact on Tampa Bay, Tom G said no. 12 would be a legend even if he walked away from football after this season.
“He'll forever be a made man in Tampa just because of the simple fact that he came and made a great contribution towards turning our program around. He's already the G.O.A.T. regardless,” Tom G explained. “Even if he walked away from the game today, Tom Brady would forever have a home in Tampa. He'll always be a hero here.”
But there’s gotta be something else that other Tom could do to cement that status, right?
“All I would say to him is, ‘Let that Tampa come out.’ He's been out here on the beach, on the jet skis, on the four-wheelers. He's getting that Florida life out,” Godbolt said. “He needs to let it all hang out.”
In other words, just city boy wit it. And defend jook city forever.
UPDATED: 02/04/21 2 p.m. Updated Tom G's age.
See a list of Tampa Bay’s “Safe & Sound” live music venues here.
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