Guest Post and Artwork by: Tyler Blankinship
A distinctive voice confidently exclaiming “Yup! In my white tee” over the bounce of a boisterous Southern hip-hop beat is a winning formula for one of the year’s hottest songs, whether it’s “White Tee” in 2004 or “FRANCHISE” in 2020. While the white t-shirt has been a cultural staple for decades, Dem Franchize Boyz turned the unassuming article of clothing into a statement piece and in doing so became a permanent part of the hip-hop lexicon. A rich history of references, from accomplished wordsmiths complaining about snap music dominating the radio to Soundcloud pioneers remembering the music of their childhoods, has carried the legacy of “White Tee” all the way to Travis Scott’s “FRANCHISE.” This history includes several distinct surges in relevancy following “White Tee’s” initial release and will likely continue to expand as time goes on.
In August of 2004, Dem Franchize Boyz released their breakout single “White Tee,” catapulting them into the mainstream and reaching 79 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The next month, the Atlanta hip-hop group released their eponymous debut album, which included the song “I Think They Like Me” using sampled lines from “White Tee” as its chorus. The success of these two songs brought enough attention to Dem Franchize Boyz that the next year Jermaine Dupri signed them to his So So Def label and remixed their single into “I Think They Like Me (So So Def Remix)” with verses from himself, Bow Wow, and Da Brat added. This version of the single found the most success, peaking at 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and laying the foundation for their sophomore album On Top of Our Game. This second album was bolstered by the success of this remix and their other hit single, “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It” (which also references “White Tee”), and served as the group’s commercial peak before gradually fading into obscurity.
Fast-forward roughly 15 years and Travis Scott hits number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his new single “FRANCHISE” featuring Young Thug & M.I.A., a single completely built around “White Tee.” A week later, Travis releases an official remix with an additional verse from Atlanta superstar Future. While it’s not strange for hip-hop songs to be built on interpolations of older hits, “FRANCHISE” was the culmination of a recent surge in references to Dem Franchize Boyz. In the year and a half preceding “FRANCHISE,” the following references were made:
- May 2019: On Injury Reserve’s song “GTFU,” Cakes Da Killa starts his verse with “Disenfranchised, screamin’ yup in my white tee,” playing off of the group’s name and their hit single.
- March 2020: Lil Uzi Vert raps “Stay so fresh, so clean, think they like me” on his song “Myron.” This reference initially may seem like a bit of a stretch, but it builds on a string of Uzi’s references to Dem Franchize Boyz in other songs.
- April 2020: IDK releases his single “In My White Tee,” which is completely based around an interpolation of “White Tee.”
- June 2020: Buddy raps “Yup, in my white tee (Yup)/Know you wanna be just like me, huh?” on his song “Black 2.”
- July 2020: On Logic’s “Celebration,” which heavily references Kanye West’s 2005 song “Celebration,” Silas mentions Dem Franchize Boyz’s 2005 hit with the line “Now we sitting courtside, still posted in my white tee.”
- July 2020: Lil Uzi Vert references “I Think They Like Me/White Tee” once again when he raps “I don’t think they like me/There’s blood on my white tee (Ayy)” on the remix to StaySolidRocky’s “Party Girl.”
While 2020 has felt especially full of references to Dem Franchize Boyz, this is far from the first time they have been prominent in hip hop. In the years immediately following “White Tee” and “I Think They Like Me,” mentions of white t-shirts and the phrase “I think they like me” featured prominently in several hits of the era, including Nelly’s “Grillz,” Rick Ross’ “Push It,” DJ Khaled’s “I’m So Hood,” Ludacris’ “Number One Spot”, and Yung Joc’s “It’s Goin Down.” Additionally, more direct nods to the song came when Lil Wayne rapped over the “I Think They Like Me” beat on his classic 2006 mixtape Dedication 2, Wale mentioned the single on his mixtape track “Breakdown,” and esteemed lyricists Nas and Jay Electronica denounced the simplicity of the single on their songs “Hip Hop Is Dead” and “Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge),” respectively.
As more time passed and Dem Franchize Boyz’s popularity faded away, so did references to their songs. However, in the early 2010’s a major resurgence of references to Dem Franchize Boyz came from the new Atlanta artists of the time. Most of these artists heard “I Think They Like Me” in adolescence and were now referencing the song as a signifier of their Atlanta upbringings.
- August 2011: Waka Flocka Flame raps “Dope man Nike’s, Levi’s with the white tee/I fucked my money up, now I think that they don’t like me” on his song “What the Hell” with Gucci Mane.
- July 2012: Childish Gambino releases “They Don’t Like Me” with Chance the Rapper, which interpolates the chorus of “I Think They Like Me” and directly samples the record near the end.
- December 2014: Quavo starts his verse with “Oh I, oh I think they like me (Like me)/But I don’t got on a white tee (No)” on Shy Glizzy’s song “She Like Me.”
- October 2015: Raury opens his song “Peace Prevail” with the lines “Been by myself since the white tees/Been by myself since Dem Franchize Boyz.”
- November 2015: Rich Homie Quan raps “White tee shirt, ooh I think they like me” on his song “Attempted Murder.”
Outside of Atlanta, one of the first major references to Dem Franchize Boyz as a piece of nostalgia came from iLoveMemphis’ 2015 viral single “Hit the Quan,” a dance track inspired by Atlanta’s Rich Homie Quan and the dance he does in his “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)” music video. Dem Franchize Boyz soon had another resurgence in popularity among the Soundcloud rap scene of the late 2010’s, which already had an affinity for other older southern rap groups like Three 6 Mafia.
- May 2016: Ski Mask the Slump God raps “I feel like I’m Miley, oh, I think they like me/Look at the gold same color as my white tee” on his song “Dr. Eggman” featuring Keith Ape.
- April 2017: Playboi Carti & Lil Uzi Vert drop “wokeuplikethis*” which samples “White Tee.” In a Genius annotation for the song, Playboi Carti refers to “White Tee” as an “Atlanta classic” and adds that he and Uzi “were really influenced by that while [they] were making that song, and [they] just went with it.”
- November 2017: Lil Uzi Vert, who is no stranger to Dem Franchize Boyz appreciation, raps “Oh I, oh I think they like me” on his Luv Is Rage 2 track “Skir Skirr.”
- December 2017: On Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” mega remix, French Montana boasts “French had the franchise/With a Franchize Boyz white tee, you ain’t like me”
While Dem Franchize Boyz have been broken up for years and founding member Buddie tragically died of cancer in 2019, their legacy has been immortalized in the hip-hop canon through numerous samples and references to their hits from a wide variety of artists across decades. With “FRANCHISE” becoming the biggest song in the country and one of 2020’s most successful singles, references to “White Tee” are likely to remain prominent for years to come. Fashion and hip-hop music both evolve rapidly, with trends cycling quickly and many being quickly forgotten, but in both worlds the white tee has stood the test of time.