You may not know hip-hop duo Santiago x The Natural by name, but you've probably heard their anthem, "Warriors," if you've been watching football closely this season.
The song, which combines the vocal talents of Lawrence Santiago and the hard rhymes of Chicago-based rapper Jeff "The Natural" Stephens, was released last year on iTunes. Since then "Warriors" has played numerous times this season during NFL games and has become the de facto fight song for the No. 1 Fighting Irish in their undefeated season en route to the BCS title game on Monday against No. 2 Alabama.
The lyrics within call back to Notre Dame’s days, even long before Lou Holtz:
Now total request live now you've got me / The flow is one of a kind, not too sloppy
Wanna have my memory high like Knute Rockne's / Throw them hands up in the sky if you copy
Stephens and Lawrence met as students at a Notre Dame dining hall almost a decade ago as underclassmen during the Tyrone Willingham era, when there was a renewed feeling of excitement about Fighting Irish football -- but when Notre Dame wins were tougher to come by.
Still, it isn't all about football. Both Santiago and Stephens mention that from the moment they stepped on campus as high school students and prospective Domers, and since graduation, that Notre Dame inspiration has flowed from within to every aspect of life, including music.
"When Jeff and I set out to work together we weren't thinking about a football fight song so much, but we did think about how much our roots and friendship had an impact. What came of it was something that was surreal because Notre Dame for us comes from the heart," Santiago said.
His partner in rhyme also weighed in.
"When we were writing the song, the mission wasn't to pump up the fans," Stephens added.
"We're glad fans have taken so well to it," Santiago said, "But the song as we wrote it was for the players, and how they and the community inspire us."
Santiago and Stephens started their respective music careers in South Bend. Since graduation, Santiago and The Natural have had separately pursued their own music endeavors and non-musical careers, while keeping connected over the years.
"I used to be in a rock band working on my own music," said Santiago, who also spent much of the past several years as an architect in Los Angeles. "I brought Jeff in on a couple of tracks I did, and every time, his voice and style added a different dimension." After that there was an urge to collaborate and combine their genres, in rap and rocksteady, respectively, to create a new sound.
Making it official last year in early 2011 as "Santiago x The Natural" (which, like a mathematical expression, is pronounced "Santiago times The Natural"), the two have performed live with big-name musical acts, including Akon, Wyclef Jean, Cake and Mya.
Since then, Santiago picked up and moved from his career in L.A. to Chicago, where Stephens is an attorney, to focus on their forthcoming album and music for their latest single and video, "Got A Hold Of Me."
"One of the biggest things we love about Notre Dame is the overwhelming sense of community. Notre Dame opened up a lot of doors for us to better our lives. We love Notre Dame football," Natural said, "but more importantly Notre Dame, to us, is home."
Both halves of Santiago x The Natural think the Irish will come to play and best Alabama to win their first national championship since 1988.
“I don’t think we’ll come out cocky but we’ll come out strong,” Stephens said. “It will be a tight, close game of two good teams, but I think we can come out on top.”