FOOTBALL IS FEMALE | THE WOMEN OF WORLD CUP 2018

If you’re familiar with what we do at Kicks to the Pitch, you’ll know of our feature series titled Chicks in Kits, a channel where we highlight female enthusiasts of the beautiful game, from ex-pro soccer players to creatives to fitness trainers, all of which share the same passion for the sport. As of today, we’ve decided to get with the times and rename the series to Football is Female in a bid to open our platform up to a more gender-balanced approach. Kicking off the revised series is a look at some of the stand out female fans that have trekked the globe to support our favorite global sporting event: the World Cup.

Taken while we were out there in Russia covering the games for our own purposes, we’ve managed to grab the emotion, intensity, highs, lows, and everything in-between from some of the many faces captured within the crowds. Stay tuned for more from our #footballisfemale series to come.


EXPLORING THE MOST CAPTIVATING CREST ORIGIN STORIES

Three lions, four birds, and a cross of the knights templar walk into a World Cup… The origins of global soccer crests is a tangled mess of lions, tigers, eagles and rosaries — as complex and intertwined as the beautiful game itself. Now that we’ve passed the knockout stages, here are a few of the best origin stories behind the sigils of our World Cup favorites.


JAPAN (The three-legged crow)
Japanese design culture has always a boasted a beauty rooted in being painstakingly well-considered. The nation’s soccer kits for their beloved “Samurai Blue” are no different. The JFA crest prominently depicts the Yatagarasu – the three-legged crow – who in Asian myth serves as a kind of avatar for divine intervention or a messenger from the gods. Under the crow’s front-most talon is, of course, the rising sun, emblematic of modern Japan. To this day, the winners of the “Emperor’s cup,” Japan’s oldest domestic trophy, are awarded a Yatagarasu emblem on their kit as a reward, further conflating Japanese monarchy with the divine.


MEXICO (El Tri)
El Tri’s current crest has been in rotation since ‘94 and shares the same eagle as the Mexican flag. But instead of the eagle perched on a cactus, it is instead rocking atop The Aztec calendar. That nod to the ancient Aztecs weaves a rich tapestry of Mexico’s indigenous iconography into the Passion and Orgullo (pride) of their soccer history.


FRANCE (Rooster)
Sometimes a simple pun, perhaps even a homonym, can stir up a symbol to last over 100 years. For many scholars, the fact that the Latin root for the region of Gaul (Gallus) was identical to the Latin word for the rooster (Gallus) served as a genuine LOL moment for the people of the Middle Ages. Oh, how these people would laugh at the pleasant coincidence while associating the Gauls with the attributes of a rooster: stubbornness and brazenness. Joke’s on them, the French would run with it and since 1909 Fédération Française de Football would march out onto the field of play with the proud rooster emblazoned over their heart. From Zizou and Thuram to Pogba and Griezmann, Les Bleus unleash the rooster’s crow of French culture and sport in 90-minute intervals.


BRAZIL (Seleção)
The iconic yellow and green adorned with its five World Cup victory stars are as iconic a brand as any in sporting culture. Yet, because of how vibrant and decadent the crest is, the cross anchoring it all often hides in plain sight. A second look will begin to avail the similarities of the crest shape and cross to that of Portugal, as the cross in the middle is a nod to the Portuguese Templar Knights in the Order of Christ’s Cross who uncovered a large portion of South America for Europe. The crest as a whole serves as a reminder that while the language of the nation may be rooted in Europe, the flair and joy is something uniquely made up of Brazil.


ENGLAND (Three Lions)
Ahhh, the originators of heraldry. Masters of lore and Knighthood, the English FA and the three lions have receipts going back as far as anyone when it comes to the genesis of the crest in culture. While the Three Lions are a living homage to the different iterations of King Richard the 1st’s coat of arms, the 10 Tudor roses scattered symmetrically across the shield represent the 10 regional branches of the FA. On a stage crowded by large felines, the English may just have the most iconic rendition.


RUSSIA (Double-headed Eagle)
From our lovely tournament host comes some of the most brazenly gangster symbols in World Cup history. Taken straight from the Russian coat of arms. the two (well, three when counting the two heads of the eagles) are the double-headed eagle of Ivan III and a sigil of St. George trampling a dragon. With both Byzantine and Hittite origins (that one’s for you AP Euro nerds) the hosts showcase an equally rich tradition of heraldry as that of Western footballing nations. Their bold crest serves as a reminder that no two eagles are alike.

OG GRAFFITI LEGEND SABER TALKS ART AND SOCCER

Art and soccer go hand-in-hand – that’s obvious. We see the marriage displayed on our favorite soccer jerseys, we see it on posters, campaigns, and art projects from a novice fan to a recognized artist… there’s art even found in how the beautiful game is even played – many argue that soccer itself is a form of artistic dance. Does it lie in the beauty of art though? Or in the beauty of the game? Perhaps both! Either way, it’s a marriage we always enjoy, no matter the genre, so when we heard OG graffiti legend Saber was involved in adidas Football’s recent Energy Mode X18 event here in Los Angeles, we jumped at the chance to speak with the man to get his thoughts on the relationship between art and soccer, as well as how and why he’s particularly involved, where he would like to see the shared cultures going in the future, and much more.


So, to start, what’s your relationship with soccer?
The first thing I can say is that I played soccer when I was about five… I don’t know shit. I know nothing. World Cup? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? I don’t know what it is. Football… Futbol? Okay… I’ve always appreciated the sport, but then I get sucked into this gig and I’m like okay cool, let’s go! So then I start researching – I didn’t really know much about ‘street league,’ I don’t know about a Tango League – I didn’t know anything about this… But I start seeing videos, I start seeing what these kids are doing and the energy, the technical aspects of how talented these kids are, and I thought it was really cool, man. There’s a lot of energy behind it and I thought that was really moving. When I saw the momentum and saw the energy, I thought that was really cool. It seems like something that’s very positive. I like that it’s aggressive. I also like that it can get aggressive, that it’s pretty hardcore. It can get pretty intense. With street soccer and graffiti, we’re all kind part of being born out of concrete to a certain degree, and I think the competitive spirit might be similar. I don’t do graffiti much anymore – I’m too old and have kids and shit like that, but back in the day we were always are unstoppable.

That’s how people are describing soccer players now: as being “unstoppable.”
Yeah, I was unstoppable back then!. Nothing could stop me, nothing!

So back then, did you see any sort of marriage between the street art/graffiti world and soccer? Do you see it happening now?
Well honestly, for me those worlds didn’t even combine. They didn’t even exist together. So I think adidas, with their efforts and the Tango league and street soccer aspect, it’s nice to see adidas sponsoring these things and making these things happen. It’s only going to grow, and these kids are very competitive! So yeah, clearly they’re going to grow the sport and grow it into something bigger and maybe America will embrace “football” as opposed to [American] “football.” I don’t even watch it. I like violence, so I like watching jujitsu and people killing each other. Other than that, I don’t follow sports and I don’t have time… I’m too caught up with other stuff. But still, I think the energy is very similar and I think what translates that energy is when you have the fashion, you have the momentum of it. You have that action, and I think there are similarities between soccer and art with that.

You can look at other countries where it’s easier to see both cultures of street soccer and graffiti side-by-side – both born from the streets. I mean, you go to a place like Brazil and you’ll have a pickup game on the streets amidst a whole bunch of graffiti, some kids partaking in both. Is that something you’d like to see more of in America?
Absolutely. I would love to see that. That seems to be a more healthy environment. We were born out of the gang mentality. So we didn’t really want to open up to anybody, you know? We kept to ourselves. I think this could be a good bridge – a cultural bridge – between the two worlds and more: music, skateboarding, streetwear… anything really!

THE IMPORTANCE OF NIKE’S SHORT FILM ‘THIS IS NAIJA’

“As an African kid, you don’t learn to play football on the synthetic turf or learn football with well-planned grass, you learn it the hard way… on the street corners.”

The night is alit — the roaring of trumpets, the banging of drums, the cheering of thousands, hopeful — as the Nigerian National Football team prepares for the biggest moments of their lives. For a country of 186 million, 60 percent of which is under the age of 20, this is a new Nigeria. One to which represents a new direction, a new spirit, channeled across a country of over 500 different tribes in what is known collectively as Naija.

In conjunction with Nike, Nigerian photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu captures this vibrant optimism in a new short-film titled, This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story. At the forefront is the new Nigeria home kit, a devilishly beautiful shirt highlighted with neon green accents and an iconic zig-zag pattern which shattered the kit record, by selling out three million units in mere minutes. However, this is a story that runs far deeper than a flashy kit; this is the tale of a country, who’s relatively recent independence, is now revealing its deeply rooted creative history. A history of song and dance, of food and culture, of mythology and folklore — all of which permeates with every pulsating kick of the ball.

“When I think of Naija swag — swag is edgy, edgy is rugged, it’s authentic. Its the way we dress, its the way we carry ourselves, its the way we speak. its the way we move,” says Nigerian musician Nneka. This movement is ever-present in the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and captain John Obi Mikel, but also in rising musical and creative talents such as photographer Yagazie Emezi, filmmaker Grace Ladoja and Wizkid, to name a few.

As the most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria oozes this creativity, as it ranks second worldwide in terms of films produced and one that has birthed musical giants such as Fela Kuti and the Afrobeat movement. Footballing wise, Nigeria continues to grace the world with maestros — from the legendary Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha of the Olympic Gold winning team of 1996 to Premier League stars Alexander Iwobi and Victor Moses.

“Hosting the World Cup in Nigeria would take Nigeria from where it is now amongst some of the poorest countries in the world, to where it can be, one of the most advanced civilizations in the world”, says Nigerian Football legend, Segun Odegbami. The resources are there, the talents is there, the passion and energy is there… it is now up to this new Naija to use football as a catalyst in spearheading both Nigeria and the continent of Africa in what could be a domino effect of infrastructural development for the years to come. Enjoy the full This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story below.

CAN I KICK IT? TEYANA TAYLOR KEEPS THAT SAME ENERGY

It’s finally over. The G.O.O.D. Music wave of projects executively produced by Kanye West has passed. While it will be interesting to see if any of these projects last, it is already apparent that Keep That Same Energy, the newest album from Teyana Talor, is the most fun and least-pressurized of the lot. DAYTONAyeKIDS SEE GHOSTS, and NASIR were all statement pieces about the place of each prospective artist’s place in the game or their own lives currently. Taylor’s album feels the least like a statement piece out of the group.

It’s interesting to see how Taylor thrives. She was introduced to the world on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen, launched her music career with the lackluster “Google Me,” then reinvented herself with 90s nostalgia on her debut VII, which was released four years ago. The benefit of sporadically releasing music, it might be concluded, is that Teyana hasn’t been labeled with a certain identifiable sound. No expectations mean no restraints and K.T.S.E. contains songs entitled “3Way” and closes with “WTP” (an acronym that stands for “Work This P***y”). The music and samples feature a wide range of sounds, from classic soul ballad samples of the Delfonics and Billy Stewart to the kind of up-tempo, electric R&B that could be found at fashion shows. Indeed, it is the least trendy of any of the recent G.O.O.D. Music projects.

Taylor excels in the setting that Kanye creates for her. Her husky singing over the handsome funkiness of “Gonna Love Me” and “Issues/Hold On” show an artist that has grown exceedingly since the days of her 2014 hit “Maybe.” For the most part, she isn’t trying to find a perfect mix between R&B and rap here, but rather express a certain level of joy that is all too frequently missing from her contemporaries. You can hear it in her falsettos on “Gonna Love Me” and in the rhythm of her vocals on “Hurry.” Her confidence on “Rose In Harlem” comes as a surge of electricity to some of her earlier coolness that sounds like the kind of energy from which many of the younger generation of hip-hop artists are making a name for themselves.

K.T.S.E. is not a dramatic departure from VII, but it does suggest Taylor is capable of taking her career and music in multiple directions. Kanye does her voice and tastes justice with his production, and she does him favors by closing out the G.O.O.D. strongly.

RICH THE KID, SABER & MORE AT ADIDAS’ X18+ WC EVENT IN LA

While the world is aware that brands like to put in money and effort into their campaign events, it’s safe to say that as of late adidas has risen the bar, especially with what they’ve done out here in Los Angeles – their 747 event for basketball back in February being a prime example. Last week the sportswear giant went at it again for its soccer division to celebrate its latest innovation for the sport, coinciding of course with the 2018 World Cup. If you’ve been following us – and any other soccer-orientated platform for that matter – you’ll already be well aware of adidas Soccer’s X18+ silhouette, a slim and sleek, laceless offering that focuses on the power of speed. It’s been dubbed “the fastest and lightest laceless boot available.”

Highlighting its release, the X18+ Energy Mode event brought in crowds to experience a live customization of adidas soccer kits, enjoy the open bars and food courtesy of Sweet Chick, and to witness a live Tango League with an MVP to be chosen to win a trip to Russia to compete in the global Tango League final. Rolling up to the event, which took place at adidas’ The Base location in Los Angeles – yup, the same as where we hold our The Association game nights – we were set loose to enjoy all the aforementioned happenings and then some.

While soccer was very much the main focus of the day, adidas managed to mix in music and art with the beautiful game by inviting OG Graffiti legend Saber, who conducted a live art installment that saw him spray painting over a wall of soccer balls, each being handed out to the public along with a Saber signature. The main event, however, was when adidas brought out Queens-native Rich the Kid who got the crowd into a frenzy. To cap the night off, a squad of motorbike riders tore up the cement outside – from wheelies to donuts – all in a bid to create some near-deafening noise to celebrate the Tango League MVP winner: Melvyn Owen Perez Cortez – congrats, kid!

While we managed to enjoy ourselves at the event, if there’s a work opportunity, you know we’ll take it, so we asked adidas if they could sit us down with its soccer division’s merchandising manager Joseph Sleven to talk all things X18+, as well as his thoughts on the current landscape of soccer culture. Check out the interview below, as well as our official visual recap of the event throughout.


To start, can you summarize adidas’ new X18 Energy Mode pack for those that are still unfamiliar with the innovation?
Put it frankly, the thought process behind the design of the shoe was to build something for the fastest player possible, down to the look, down to the field, down to the weight. Everything about it is supposed to enable our most explosive – our fastest players – to perform at their top level.

So there’s obviously a lot of aspects when it comes to playing soccer in terms of product design. Why focus on speed for this release?
When we create the range, and when we look at our footwear, there’s any number of players that take part or participate in the game. So for us, the predator is that person who controls the game, they dictate the tempo, their touch, their field or class… everything they do can kind of permeate throughout the team. X players are extremely explosive with getting to the end of the pitch and putting the ball in the back of the net. Nemesis is for those agility players who are really unpredictable – they don’t really fit into a box. Maybe they’re floating around the field but they have these moments of magic that you can’t recreate. And then the Copa is the boot. It’s the soccer player… It’s almost your favorite player’s favorite boot. So everything within that portfolio speaks to different players of the game recognizing that no two players are the same.

Can you speak about the thoughts behind the X18+’s colorway and the overall aesthetics of the shoe?
Well, first and foremost it needed to look fast and speak specifically to that speed player. So you look at its sleek minimalistic design and all these elements which are kind of pulling back and giving it that almost movement visual – even when it’s stagnant it looks like it’s moving. That’s what we want for the speed silo. When we talk about the flash you have these iridescent parts at the branding, as well as on the sole of the shoe. When we talk about colorway, again when you’re on the field you want it to pop. You want something that really jumps out. So this blue is really shocking, it kind of jumps out at you and it really speaks to this silo because it’s like nothing else within the footwear family right now. When we talk about being fashion-forward, with bringing it on to the street or into the cage, the fact that it’s laceless for us is our top technology. We wanted that to be something that also lent itself to being worn with shorts or as you can see in the cage. It doesn’t just necessarily have performance tooling only. There’s a lot of, I would say, fashionable detailing in there, whether it be raises where there would be lasing, or for that speed look, we’ve given it that see-through aesthetic on the upper, or even the flash on the bottom. So a lot of things come from just thinking through the 365 of what our players’ day looks like.

Moving on from the X18+, with you coming from adidas, how aware are you with the way that soccer is going on a cultural standpoint, or what it looks like when it comes to say fashion, music, or art? Is that something that adidas is very much up to date with?
Absolutely. I think that’s really what they look at when they’re putting everything together. So even beyond cleats, take for instance jerseys, we look at that and recognize that these aren’t just specific to playing on the pitch. We’re looking at the hem line, looking at shoulder drop lines, the technology, and those tech details, or even call outs for that country specifically, those are things that we feel lives on the pitch as well as off the pitch. So it’s recognizing that again, soccer is 365 for people who live, breathe, eat, and sleep the sport. And beyond that, when you look at what we’re offering, it’s not just cleats, it’s not just performance jerseys. We have seasonal specialty product that is bespoke to Argentina or Mexico, but it’s really for the street specifically. Maybe not for an avid consumer, but somebody who recognizes that they are a casual fan of this club and that they can wear that shirt, they can wear the pants or the woven shorts, creating a whole offering across every federation, across every club that allows you to rep no matter the circumstances – after, before, or during a game. We’re looking at product holistically now through that lens of the entire year and day.

Last question: speaking of repping, with the World Cup underway, do you have a country that you’re rooting for?
For me specifically, I mean I would love to see Messi get one, right! But honestly, as a fan of the sport, I just want good games. I want to see just incredible moments, the ones that give you chills and that keep you wanting more, and I think when you put the best countries in the world together, you’re going to get those moments inevitably. So I’m just really looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

Images by Ben Higginbotham.

SOCCER IS A CREATIVE TOOL, LET’S USE IT

The 2026 FIFA World Cup vote declared a join hosting effort between the US, Mexico and Canada. This has provided a major opportunity for the North American soccer scene to cultivate not only future national team stars, but a bustling creative scene offering a special dimension to the World’s biggest game.

adidas has revealed a content piece aiming to inspire a young and creative generation to embrace the opportunity that has risen with North America getting the 2026 World Cup. The film was created in Los Angeles and highlights that adidas look to collaborate with local artists and storytellers.

But what does the mean for the game itself? Soccer is much more than just what occurs on the pitch, it’s a culture and a lifestyle that many live through on a daily basis. And this is what adidas is looking to capture during this film, showing that is a tool that can be used to enhance the lives of young talented creators who want to find a route into the game they love.

The new campaign focused on the North America World Cup is a brand extension of adidas’ Creativity is the Answer, which calls filmmakers, photographers, artists and more from major cities around the world to co-create and shape the brand narrative.

Giovanni Reyna told adidas, “being creative on the field helps the rest of the country want to play the game and want to enjoy the game.” A resonating statement from the young NYCFC player because adidas is calling to embrace the creativity and if you do, it inspires others to create themselves.

“I think creativity is a way to connect to other people, it allows people to connect to each other and how can we push each other to be creative, says local artist Geoff Gouveia and this seems to be what adidas’ are tapping in to, to show that a wave of creativity in various sectors can develop the effort on the pitch for the national sides.

Soccer is synonymous with art. It’s a beautiful form of self-expression and creativity allowing you to provide an image that represents yourself, a brand or a cause. And this needs to be capitalised on more from global brands. There is a major opportunity for young creators to provide something special for the World Cup, showcasing what North America has to offer creatively and using this flow can really draw on the emotions of the nations’ soccer teams to really enhance belief and performance.

This creative movement that adidas’ is looking to kick-start is something that can inspire a younger generation of soccer players themselves. Not only are they calling for artists, filmmakers and other creative professions, but for the player themselves to get creative. Play with freedom. Play with belief. Play with creativity. And using a creative revolution like they are, a forceful effort can be employed to inspire the players and improve the talent generated.

For more information visit http://www.adidas.com/us/soccer and join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram with #HereToCreate.

CAN I KICK IT? NAS DROPS NASIR

After the longest dormant period of his career, Queens native and hip-hop hall-of-famer Nas released Nasir, his slimmest, lowest-concept album to date. It’s the fourth of five records produced by Kanye West, all seven songs long, all to be released before the end of June. It also arrived amid scandal with which both men have been involved. West started the promotion for all of these G.O.O.D. Music releases by returning to Twitter® and proclaiming his support for Donald Trump, while Kelis recently released statements claiming that Nas was physically abusive during their marriage (Nas was also previously accused of assaulting Carmen Bryan, the mother of his daughter, in 2006).

While West poked fun of the drama surrounding him on his album ye, Nas hasn’t addressed the allegations publically, and he doesn’t approach the subject on Nasir. Indeed, lyrically speaking, Nas brings precious little that could be considered fresh or poignant. The closest he gets is on “Simple Things” when he raps “Was loving women you’ll never see me/All you know’s my kids’ mothers, some celebrities/Damn, look at the jealousy.” Sure, the album’s length could be a contributing factor, but the project contains precious little of thematic design or narrative, two elements that have always been his strengths. It’s among his most diffused and ill-defined albums. His last album Life Is Good saw him trying to come to grips with middle age and explore new ground, but he often sounds clumsy and subdued here, even in his cadence.

When writing linear narratives or exploring his own biography, Nas has few peers. He’s often at his most potent when he explores abstractions or lofty theories, but within the running time of Nasir, most of those end up sounding like foil-hat conspiracy theories. The opener, “Not For Radio,” contains a cameo from Sean Combs talking trash and statements like “Fox News was started by a black dude.” It almost works in much the same way that a campy villain theme song from a low-budget movie works, but Nas’ verses are too pedestrian, both in writing and enforcement. On more than one occasion here, he plods along, almost sounding bored, as if he knows that half of his audience might not even believe half of the things he says.

Amid all of the G.O.O.D. Music releases, Kanye West has served as both a distraction and a sort of lightning rod for listens and reviews. That being said, Nasir is fairly consistent musically. At times, the music contains focus and energy that reflect a sort of deference that Kanye has for Nas that he has for few other living artists. Many of the samples used here are perfectly germane, the most notable (or perhaps just popular) of which comes on “Cops Shot The Kid,” which contains one of the most refreshing reworkings of a Slick Rick “Children’s Story” sample in quite some time.

There are flashes when Nas sounds like Nas, such as on the end of “Everything,” when he raps about buying back the land on which white men enslaved his ancestors, but then there are moments when he describes himself as a “chin-grabber, neck-choker, in-her-mouth-spitter, blouse-ripper, a**-grabber.” It’s hard to imagine any rapper being that stupid under the circumstances, but intentional or not, that makes for some uneasy listening. Like many other artists, of course, he has had similar failures in the past (“Oochie Wally”), but most of those were spectacular botches. With Nasir, however, Nas is something he’s rarely ever been: humdrum.

BEATS BY DRE PRESENTS MADE DEFIANT: THE MIXTAPE

As World Cup fever heats up, Beats by Dre has produced another short film entitled Made Defiant: The Mixtape. Renowned director Guy Ritchie brings his signature style, including a rugged narration (by Paul Anderson) and stylish jump cuts, to the world of football.

The film brings together contemporary original and remixed music and some of the sport’s most famous athletes to highlight the influence of the game on the humblest of world citizens. In this case, a young Russian named Andre is inspired to turn obstacle into opportunity. The music is from artists like Anderson .Paak, Enya, Jonah Christian, King Mez, and Ring The Alarm. Some of the footballers featured in the film are Harry Kane, Mesut Özil, Thierry Henry, Patrice Evra, Benjamin Mendy, Fyodor Smolov, Neymar, Eden Hazard, David DeGea. Even Serena Williams stops by for a cameo.

The Beats products that can be seen in the film are part of the brand’s Decade Collection, which includes Beats Studio3 Wireless over-ear headphones, Beats Solo3 on-ear headphones, BeatsX wireless earphones, Powerbeats3 Wireless earphones, and urBeats3 earphones.

Check out the film below.

CAN I KICK IT? G.O.O.D. JUNE PT. 3 – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

June of 2018 might see Kanye West’s music endeavors becoming as polarizing as the man himself. As he continues to executively (and sometimes directly) produce various G.O.O.D. Music projects, he has the internet lamenting aspects of each, all the while Pusha T made Drake look questionable for the first time in his career and saw ye become his 8th number one album on the Billboard charts. The third project to be produced and released by Kanye West is the long-awaited collaboration with Kid Cudi, a man that’s been viewed both as West’s protégé and contemporary (sometimes even antagonist). KIDS SEE GHOSTS a more fleshed-out, cathartic version of ye that finds Cudi playing something of an angel to some of Kanye West’s inner demons.

That seems like an odd notion on the surface, especially considering the history of mental health both men have experienced in the last few years. Much will be made of such things in most other reviews of this album, but suffice it to say, both artists seem to have arrived at a more resolved and peaceful place in both of their life journeys. “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2),” starts with Kanye West saying “I don’t feel pain anymore/Guess what baby? I feel free.” On “Fire,” West raps, “I done proved to myself, back on that rulin’ myself.” On “4th Dimension,” Cudi raps, “The put the beams on, get your, get your dream on/But you don’t hear me though, drama: we let it go.” This isn’t necessarily the typical “f*** the world” attitude that can be seen on many hip-hop records, but rather a pair of men that influenced a generation of artists to bare their minds, souls, and troubles to the world arriving at a better place after all of the turmoil.

Indeed, KIDS SEE GHOSTS sonically finds Kanye and Cudi catching up and passing a wave of artists who were profoundly influenced by West’s 808’s & Heartbreak. The music sometimes feels disjointed and often intense, but the constant sampling and prayers offered up by Kanye on songs like “Cudi Montage” signify a sense of resolution that both men have found after all this time. And while neither has ever been the type to hold feelings or ideas in reserve, the album length seems to benefit both here more so than Kanye’s solo project. It’s true that a few aspects are a little distracting, like when both yell gunshot sound effects on “Feel The Love,” or when Kanye raps about accidental anal sex, but they also signify Kanye being himself again, basking in that grey area between creative power and absurdity. Indeed, he’s always seemed most comfortable standing atop the musical Grand Canyon at night, looking down into the abyss.

Lyrically, most of the catharsis comes from Cudi talking about leaving behind his scars, having heaven lift him up. “Pain in my eyes, in the time I find, I’m stronger than I ever was/Here we go again, God, shine your love on me, save me, please.” While it’s true that Life of Pablo was heavily influenced by gospel music, it’s also true that Kanye has not quite displayed any sense of justification in the eyes of his creator. It is interesting, and at times refreshing, to see Kid Cudi of all artists sing on a song called “Reborn” that talks about moving forward and having no stress. Add that to the ethereal title track featuring vocals from Yasiin Bey and Anthony Hamilton, and the project is, at the very least, an achievement for Cudi in that regard.

KIDS SEE GHOSTS is a stronger outing than ye, one that is sure to receive more critical acclaim. Whether it can supplant its predecessor atop the charts remains to be seen. Many thought that ye was a sign that this month of music wasn’t going to be as noteworthy as Kanye was making it out to be, but this album goes a long way to proving him correct. This might have upped the stakes and pressure on a Nas album higher than any other besides Illmatic.