How Mixtape 615 Is Connecting With The Heart of Nashville
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On the surface, Nashville is a pretty great city, with the twangy glamor of Broadway, the irresistible pull of its famous hot chicken, and the iconic history of the Ryman and Grand Ole Opry. But dig a little deeper, past the touristy glitz, and the payoff is even better. There’s rich history, culture, and true southern swagger.
It’s here where you’ll find Mixtape 615, a Nashville SC supporters group focused on bringing more of the beautiful game into the heart of Nashville.
“We’re trying to make sure that the African-American community, which, to some degree, feels disenfranchised with other sports teams in the Nashville area, are represented in soccer and in MLS,” said Breun Reed, Mixtape 615’s president. “We know that this is a tremendous growth opportunity for our community to have a say, not just in NSC, not just in MLS, but in our larger community.”
Mixtape 615, part of The Backline, an umbrella supporters collective for Nashville SC, was founded on Juneteenth of 2021, out of a desire to accurately reflect the demographics of the city.
“Nashville is 27% African American, and very few people know that,” said Reed. “We really felt the need to represent that 27%. So out of necessity, Mixtape 615 was built.”
Inspired partially by the Atlanta-based Black supporters group, Footie Mob, members of Mixtape saw the innovation and authenticity that the group was bringing to the Atlanta supporters scene and believed there was a similar opportunity in Nashville.
“They [Footie Mob] brought our culture to U.S. soccer and that was something that was very unique,” said Reed. “That was something our founders saw and we were like, ‘Wow, why can’t we do something like this in Nashville? Why can’t a city with John Lewis in its history, with multiple historically Black colleges and universities here in the city, why can’t we do that?’”
As a result, Mixtape 615 blends Nashville’s rich cultural history with easy entry points into a Nashville SC matchday experience, starting with the tailgate and continuing in the stadium.
A typical Mixtape tailgate starts with, of course, the music. A DJ is often there, spinning a mix of sounds that honor Nashville’s deep African American musical roots.
“We want to make sure that it’s reflective of local Nashville sounds from our community,” said Reed. “We have a tremendous African American music museum that’s here in Nashville. So there’s a lot of history throughout Tennessee, whether it’s hip-hop, blues, country music.”
Next is the food. Mixtape features food and drinks from minority-owned local businesses, in an attempt to introduce different flavors and faces to the tailgate.
“We might have some Caribbean food one week, we might have some barbecue another, or we might have other things that African Americans culturally identify with,” said Reed. “There are places that people in Nashville may not visit every day, but we can bring that from our communities, and then maybe they sample that food there, and they go into the restaurants. So we start bringing revenue into Black communities and Black businesses.”
Along with Footie Mob, Mixtape has connected with the many other Black-led or Black-focused supporters groups around the country.
“There are more African Americans in the south than any other place in the U.S. so it’s only natural that you’re going to have Black-led SGs pop up,” said Reed. “As more African American people gravitate to or become aware of MLS, and it kind of resonates with them, you’re going to see more and more SGs like us start to arrive on the scene at every tier of the U.S. Soccer Federation.”
“We really try to work together, network, see how we can build and maybe one day there can be a Black or African American supporters collective, where we can talk about our experiences and share a safe space to talk about these ideas within soccer itself.”
The groups have continued to support each other, while also building some real stakes into their rivalry. In recent seasons they launched the Southern Championship between the supporters groups in Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte and D.C., where the winner would keep a WWE-style championship belt, based on head-to-head on-field results. Thanks to Nashville’s stellar 2022 season, Mixtape is the current owner.
“We’re naturally going to have a healthy competition with Atlanta and Charlotte, but this belt really took it to another level,” Reed said. “You can see the banter that goes on amongst the groups. It’s even created additional connections with other groups in the Backline. It’s one of those things that has really transcended being at a grassroots level, and has made it to the players, the clubs. They have an awareness that it’s going on, so we’re only going to build it from here.”
At a community impact level, Mixtape is focused on what it does best, going one level deeper, into the heart of the city, to reach Nashville natives in the most need. In an American soccer landscape that already has a healthy amount of involvement in social issues and community work, Reed describes Mixtape’s mission as focusing on a niche within a niche. The group has plans to work with Black Pride later this year, and will support minority mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month.
“We want to make sure we focus on the micropopulations so that we can make sure that our donations and our contributions are really helping those communities,” he said.
Mixtape also has plans to support Back to School drives in key neighborhoods across the city.
“We want to make sure that our SG is really focused at the grassroots level of what we can do in our city,” he said. “Because there are a lot of things you can get behind at a national level that have these big corporate building and big infrastructure. But every day, you walk by a place that really needs your help locally, that’s not as big, that doesn’t have the corporate structure, so we really want to be supporting those organizations.”
Mixtape’s theme for 2021, its first full year as an SG, was ‘In The Mix’, a declaration of the SG’s involvement in every possible activity and opportunity as a way to spread its message and grow its base. This year, the motto is TurnNUp.
“We want to turn Nashville up, not just at Geodis Park, but in our public schools, in our community service engagements,” said Reed. “It’s about amplifying our voices, being a larger presence in our community. I want to give more kids in the inner city and kids of color the opportunity to play the game the same way they have the opportunity to play basketball or football in the city of Nashville. I want to make sure that when I go to the stadium, we have that 27% representation inside of Geodis Park. If we can reach that number, I would say our message is getting out, it’s reflective of what real Nashville is.”