CAN I KICK IT? – ELLA MAI RELEASES SELF-ENTITLED DEBUT

Ella Mai first made a name for herself with the summer hit “Boo’d Up,” a song that few new artists could have sung with the same starry-eyed naiveté. Signed onto DJ Mustard’s 10 Summers label since 2016 and now receiving executive producing credits from the same, Ella Mai has released a likable 90’s commercial R&B homage replete with Mustard hip-pop signature sounds. The finger-snapping, perfectly fine debut contains plenty of Easter eggs for genre aficionados: a “no no no” reference here, a wink to “little secret” there, and a “writing’s on the wall” nod elsewhere.

Despite a few obvious references, Mai avoids pastiche, although a tightened tracklist would have provided focus to this over-long collection of 16 songs. The album’s bloating prevents her from ever leapfrogging the effectiveness of her singles like “Trip” or the aforementioned “Boo’d Up.” Ella Mai is a capable singer and even a fair songwriter. She has, on occasion, managed to write nuanced examinations of troubled relationships (“I hope the next girl you love ends up f***ing you over”) by juxtaposing glaring flaws in a partner with her own faults and weaknesses. At once point she criticizes a partner who is “chewing with [his] mouth wide open,” but the album closer “Naked,” is a challenge for her lover to accept her, “resting b**** face and all.” When she asks “Can you love me naked?,” she manages to distance nudity from the traditional context of R&B seduction and reframes it to align it more with body positivity and even mental health to a lesser degree.

Some threads, however, feel a little too dated. Like Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope, the album contains riffs on each letter of her name (‘E’ is for “emotion,” ‘L’ is for “lust,” etc.) that feel tired and even Hallmark-esque. The ending of what is perhaps the album’s strongest song “Shot Clock” is something of a groan-inducing whimper: “Love…full of chuckles and cuddles and sometimes eye puddles…” That lyric sounds like it should be the inside of a box of chocolates held by a teddy bear.

Many young artists have been using retro, soulful sounds as a canvas for painting their own pictures. Ella Mai’s talent and likability showcased by her Instagram covers got her discovered by DJ Mustard, after all. On her debut, however, her abilities aren’t always accompanied by assured or clear direction. She told Forbes that she didn’t want to rush the production and release of an album in the wake of the somewhat unexpected success of “Boo’d Up,” but on certain tracks, the albums sounds like that is exactly what happened. Ella Mai will score her a few more hits (“Sauce” is undeniable and “Cheap Shot” almost sounds like it could be a b-side on Rihanna’s ANTI), but the debut doesn’t quite bring the best out of her.

AN ODE TO THE BAGGY FOOTBALL SHIRT

Once upon a time, we used to see kits that weren’t like another layer of skin or made of weird materials. This was the time I loved kits the most. Why? Well, playing good football combined with looking cool created a fantastic balance and a baggy football shirt gave us the latter.

Maybe it is just a fashion preference, but for me, the baggy football shirt is a legend of the game and is being forced out of the game for some silly ‘performance’ reason. Kick skin-tight shirts out of the game because they’re ruining the aesthetic.

A skin-tight shirt does nothing. Nothing. For me, a football shirt is more about how it looks not how it performs. Yes, I understand, performance is a massive aspect of the game and we want our professionals to be able to perform to the highest possible standard but the legends of the game, see Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, wore baggy kits and are two of the best ever.

It’s a weird opinion to have, I hear what you’re saying but it’s a relevant one. I don’t think I have bought or worn a more recent kit in a while due to the material and fit. I mainly wear/buy vintage shirts for various reasons; 1. the designs back then were generally better and 2. the fit is more comfortable and the materials used were much better.

Not only is it about me wearing the shirts themselves but it’s the players.  The aesthetic of football has changed. It’s gone downhill. Gone of the days of the 1990’s where we’d see David Ginola in a lovely black and white adidas shirt looking slick or a Milan derby filled with beautiful kits and the gentlemen looking as cool as ever.

I’m not sure you’d agree. Maybe you like the tight shirt revolution, mainly headed by PUMA clubs, but I will not be joining you on this and will forever stand my ground and reminisce about the past shirts. We don’t even have to travel back that far, the early 2000s were a wonderful time for kits also. It’s just so happened, that in recent years everything has gone tight and everything has gone laceless. It’s a new movement and I, for one, am not hopping aboard. Enjoy the journey, au revior.

THE KFA TAKES A STYLED APPROACH TO THE WORLD CUP 2018

Although the on pitch play of the Korean National Football team has been lackluster at best, the team came correct off pitch for this years World Cup in Russia. Partnering up with design firm H9PITCH STUDIO, the KFA created a special collection of items that appeal to the world that lives outside of the game. From limited edition patches, skate decks, rings, air fresheners, bluetooth speakers, and bracelets the collection has something for everyone. Not until recent has repping your national team crest been looked at as stylish, but with the younger generation of fans emerging, the clubs and countries must keep up with the popular sense of style. The best part of this entire collection is the federation did it all private label. Avoiding the headache and red tape of the “big brand” the KFA was able to lean on a design group directly connected to the streets of Korea, in turn creating a collection that sends a message to the streets.

The inspiration behind the product stems from an ever growing need for “cool” in the soccer space. With so many small pop up brands entering the market, it seems only fitting that the big clubs and countries start to grasp the new wave of soccer. No longer is soccer tiro pants with the track jacket, or the mom in the mini van, as the key teams begin to take notice of the off pitch style, the growth of the sport will accelerate beyond anything can imagine. Tapping into the movement of the urban community will allow so many more people to be aware of how beautiful the game genuinely is. A gate way to the gam through the world of style.

When it comes to being first, Korea was not the first ones to do this, back in 2014 the USMNT teamed up with the likes of legendary artist Futura, Kayo skate, and Nike to create a players only collection and PSG created a full collection of product for its US Tours in both LA 2016 and Miami 2017,  but what Korea did do was break the mold for a federation and open this open to the masses. Allowing the fans of the national team to rep the country with pride and style is one thing, but when the fans of other countries are supporting, you know you have done something correct.

In my opinion, the collection is well rounded, creative and a step in the right direction. Hopefully sooner then later the powers that be inside the clubs and federations will take note. Until then you get one option. You can pick up the full KFA collection now at H9Pitch.

Peep the full collection below.

 

CAN I KICK IT? ROYCE GETS PERSONAL WITH BOOK OF RYAN

The last six years have been quite the journey for Royce Da 5’9″. Since getting sober around that time, the Detroit hip-hop veteran has taken fans on a personal quest from surface-level raps about his genitals and firearms to the deepest parts of his memory, psyche, and even his soul. It’s not the emo-rap you’d expect from some other hip-hop artists, but rather the musings of a grown man completely comfortable with himself and his career.

It would be a stretch to say that Royce was inspired by the likes of Phonte with this album, but it’s interesting to see different emcees taking their music in similar directions. Much like No News Is Good NewsBook of Ryan features a very mature rhyme writer that just as interested in what’s going on inside himself as what’s going on in the outside world. What makes Book of Ryan one of his (if not the) strongest albums is the fact that Royce is able to give both ample attention.

Royce Da 5’9″ has always been a skilled rapper, but the last few years have seen him rap about becoming more reclusive and anti-industry (see “Dumb,” where Royce raps, “Welcome to the Grammy’s where your likeness is used/For promos, hypeness and views, okay, I hope that you knowin’/That if you voted, you might as well not voted for no one/They knew when they made that category where that trophy was goin’”). As his songs travel further inward, his storytelling abilities have seen to grow in equal measure. Almost every track contains some kind of memory or anecdote, but never the same ones over multiple songs. The fan-favorite “Boblo Boat” is a reflection on good times during the coming-of-age periods in Royce and J. Cole’s lives. It’s the kind of song that seems tailor-made for Jermaine, but Royce outdoes him with lines like “I came across my identity on the Bob-Lo boat/That’s where I lost my virginity, no condom, though/That’s when paranoia hit me like when superstition does/Left my inhibitions I guess where my supervision was.” The same reminiscing can be seen on songs like “Life is Fair,” where Royce raps, “Summertime were the funnest times/Momma used to had to say come inside like a hunnid times/Flat booty, big titty b*****s just on they grind/My n***a Moody used to say they was built like the number nine.”

It’s not just the past with that Royce is concerned, however. On “Outside,” he raps about the present–about the concerns and fears he has now. The song features a verse dedicated to his oldest son, who recently dropped out of college to pursue a career in music. “You just ain’t the n***a you friends is, it’s scientific/Not my opinion so you know you genetically predisposed/To more than just eating soul food, so I’m afraid of you to try to risk it/You in a gene pool with a lot of sick fish/And I’m the sickest of them all, alcoholics die when they stop from the symptoms of withdrawal.” Book of Ryan is honest not so much in the way a Catholic confession is, but, as hinted at in the skit “Who Are You,” in the way a biographical novel is.

That novel, of course, needs a setting, and Royce not only vividly paints the picture of Detroit over the last 30 years, but also the plight of the average black man and hip-hop artist. “So many men shopping the women’s section, it ain’t no ladies left/These n****s crazy? Yes/They playin’ crazy like the Chappelle sketch, Wayne Brady ep/I’m what you get when Freeway Rick and Cocaine 80’s met.” The first full track on the album is titled “Woke,” and Royce starts the song off by rapping, “This one’s for those of you just ain’t woke yet, hotep/You rich but you broke n***a just don’t know yet, hotep/These rappers ain’t woke yet, security back ’em, hotep/Hotep, come to Detroit with that, oh yes, that’s a toe tag” (“hotep” is an Egyptian phrase that means “to be at peace”).

In case any old Royce fans might get concerned with the album’s content or style, the veteran manages to pack in plenty of hard-hitting punchlines, such as on “Caterpillar,” which includes a classic Eminem feature, or on “Summer On Lock,” featuring solid verses from Jadakiss and Pusha T. He is still just as comfortable staring the genre in the face and saying “Outrap Me,” as he is looking lookin at his children in the back seat of his car and asking them how they feel.

Even for listeners that don’t consider themselves Royce Da 5’9″ fans, Book of Ryan is worth multiple listens. The complexity, storytelling, and skill of a sober and mature Royce means that not only do audiences get a glimpse into his mind, but makes it seem as though he’s gotten a glimpse into theirs.

PUMA DROPS “FUTURE NEXT” FOR RISING YOUNG BALLERS

PUMA honored their next generation of young football talent this week with a special edition “FUTURE NEXT” boot release. The base is the FUTURE NEXT 18.1 wrapped in a graphic inspired by the journey young players take from the streets to the largest stages in football.

To coincide with the release, PUMA gifted the boot to each of the world’s most talented young stars who recently broke into the soccer scene. Those six fresh faces include, Allan Saint-Maximin from France, Mahmoud Dahoud for Germany, Giovanni Lo Celso of Argentina, Joel Latibeaudiere from England, Simon Edera from Italy, and Koya Kitagawa for Japan.

The FUTURE NEXT boasts PUMA’s signature adaptable fit technology with a lacing system that is entirely customizable to fit every foot and preferred lacing style. Wide and narrow footed players are both taken care of as PUMA ensures every player can lace their boot accordingly for the most comfortable fit.

The evoKNIT sock rests much higher on the ankle but is designed for support and not restriction. PUMA also introduces a new technology in the boot with a RAPIDAGILITY outsole made of lightweight reactive PEBAX and a blend of conical and bladed studs for the quickest changes in direction and pace.

The “FUTURE NEXT” released yesterday and was limited to only 350 pairs globally.

SCOUTING REPORT: FOKOHAELA’S DEUTSCHLAND VERMISCHT KIT

Fokohaela, the brand based out of Germany led by designer Jason Lee, is known to push boundaries when it comes to soccer jerseys. I’ve been following this brand for a while now and they first caught my attention when they released the La Vie En Bleu Zizou” piece followed by the “O Fenomeno”, which is truly an attention grabber whether you’re a fan of it or not. Their latest release, the “Deutschland Vermischt,” which translates to “German mix,” mixes various brand logos and elements to “remix” the national kit of the German team.



Overall Design: I am a huge fan of white jerseys and shirts, especially on soccer jerseys just because of the cleanliness of the look. Because of that, I was always a fan of jerseys like Germany’s home kit, PSG’s away from last season, 2016 Nike FC Vitoria long sleeve, Guerrilla FC’s Umbro 2018 home kit, 2018 Korea away kit, the list goes on… This latest piece by Fokohaela is no exception and I was instantly a fan of it. Not to mention all the details that went into this kit – rest assured, we’ll go over all these points later in the article. Overall, the logo placements, the unique twists of other brands, and the clean aesthetic of the shirt has me as their ultimate fan.

Score: 5/5


Functionality: This piece looks to be made out of 100% cotton, and not of polyester like you would expect from a soccer kit designed to function on the pitch. It’s probably best to wear these off the pitch, perhaps to attend a Germany match from the stands. But Fokohaela is not here to design dope kits to be worn on the pitch anyways, you certainly can if you want to, but that doesn’t strike me as their ultimate goal.

Score: 4/5



Uniqueness: This is a new category for this week, replacing the former Wearability category. What attracts me towards one streetwear brand over another is how different they are from what’s being saturated in the market these days. I like streetwear when I’m wearing something that not everyone else is, not because it’s something that everyone is rocking to ride the hype. That being said, this piece stands out from a lot of what’s out right now with attention to details and history, and gets a high rating for its uniqueness like a lot of Fokohaela’s pieces.

Score: 5/5


Details: There are a lot of details in this kit, starting with the different logos and German sponsors that’s being mixed into the traditional German jersey design. Logos remixed to the shirt includes Swoosh football, Swoosh footwear label, Mercurial, Air Max 360, Tuned, ACG, Benzo, Fritz-Kola Bitburger, and AMG. The shirt also includes Fe and C from the periodic table to resemble the German nerves of steel that they so often display with their dominance on the field during clutch moments.

Score: 5/5



The “Deutschland Vermischt” shirt is yet to be released to the public, but make sure you follow @fokohaela for updates as well as their online shop.

OP ED: MLS & ADIDAS TEAM UP W/ PARLEY FOR THE OCEANS

Google “ocean plastic” and you’ll be taken down a disturbing wormhole of images of whales that starved and died from plastic ingestion, trash-riddled waves, and something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. You don’t have to be an internet sleuth to figure out that plastic pollution in the oceans is a serious problem. Parley for the Oceans is looking for ways to combat the problems facing our oceans. From their website, “Parley is the space where creators, thinkers, and leaders come together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of our oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction.”

Parley for the Oceans is looking for ways to combat the problems facing our oceans. From their website, “Parley is the space where creators, thinkers, and leaders come together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of our oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction.”

Parley has already partnered with adidas on a number of sneakers made from repurposed ocean plastic and even collaborated with MLS last year creating kits for four clubs made from technical yarns using Parley Ocean Plastic.

This year MLS and adidas link up with Parley once again just in time for Earth Day with an even more expansive collab. This year’s partnership, in conjunction with MLS WORKS Greener Goals, is part of the League-wide efforts on and off the field to highlight MLS’ commitment to environmental sustainability. All 23 teams will feature the adidas’ MLS Parley kits during Earth Day weekend, Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 22. The 2018 edition comes in two colorways, non-dye and carbon, differentiating the two teams in each game.

This year’s kits maintain the classy, muted color palette employed in last year’s models. The subtle colorways devoid of major design embellishments that will be seen on all of the kits worn by MLS squads this weekend bring a sense of unity. For this weekend the attention will be shifted from individual design elements putting the focus on Parley and the great work they are doing. An added bonus of the understated kits is their accessibility and extreme wearability. It is easy to rock a gray or white shirt with pretty much any fit. Picking up the Parley kit of your favorite club is a way to keep it clean, both in terms of style and your impact on the ocean.

We applaud the work adidas has done with Parley and continues to do. Hopefully, as technology advances, we will see Parley Ocean Plastic used in more and more products. There seems to be no shortage of supply of plastic in our waters that can be repurposed for something positive. Make sure to catch an MLS match this weekend and see your favorite players rocking their environmentally conscious threads. Head over to mlsstore.com to get a Parley x MLS kit.

FLOWERS & FOOTBALL – A MATCH MADE IN ARTISTIC HEAVEN

To commemorate adidas Football’s release of the international away kits in March, Kicks to the Pitch mixed foreign with familiar.

As the Los Angeles flower market is a staple to locals, fashionable kits are a statement in soccer. To honor the tradition of each, the jerseys were paired with flowers to highlight the unique colors and designs featured from each country. Arguably the best designs in the entire drop are featured below, including Argentina, Colombia, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Russia and Spain. The colors are vibrant and bold, fresh and unexpected from adidas, with eye-catching designs that complement the traditional three stripes from the brand. The subtle details and patterns on each jersey blossomed into something beautiful with each as unique and tasteful as the last. The integrity of the kits remains the same – the country’s crest on one side and adidas’ distinguished logo on the other. The jerseys will make their appearance at the World Cup this year, which kicks off June 14th in Russia.

Check out the photos by Emily Acosta below:

CAN I KICK IT? CZARFACE MEETS MEETS METAL FACE

Czarface has never been shy, apologetic, or cryptic about their mission as a hip-hop group: saving the genre they love most. At least, that’s what Inspectah Deck told HipHopDX in 2013. Along with his compatriots 7L and Esoteric, Deck’s unwavering nostalgia for the good-old-days of this kind of music has led them to become Czarface, a collective superhero avatar. His mission is one that seems to be found among an increasing number of old school rap enthusiasts and hip-hop heads that bemoan the current state of the culture they hold near and dear to their hearts. Whether or not most people agree with that sentiment, they can’t accuse Czarface of not trying: they’ve released three full-length albums in the last five years. While these projects have in no wise been groundbreaking, they have provided a steady diet of fun for listeners seeking for low-stakes fun hip-hop full of dusty samples, silly skits, and densely-packed rhymes. But as one of the skits on Czarface Meets Metal Face reminds us, every hero needs a villain. And wouldn’t you know it, they enlisted the talents of the most famous hip-hop villain of them all.

No one is more qualified than MF DOOM (the ‘MF’ is apparently back) to fill a collaborative role on a Czarface project. It’s been a while since this much output has been heard by the doctor, a man who was once the living embodiment of the synergy of hip-hop and comic book culture, but that’s understandable considering how the last decade of his life has treated him (he lived in London after being denied entrance into the U.S.A. and his teenage son passed away last year). Perhaps it is due to these factors that he has often sounded bored or lethargic on his guest appearances, even slurring his words at times. His work with artists like Ghostface, Flying Lotus, Earl Sweatshirt, Cannibal Ox, and even PRhyme signify a certain level of prolificacy, but it’s almost as if he was searching for someone or something to completely draw out his inner villain.

While Czarface does manage to coax out a significant amount of energy from DOOM, it doesn’t seem to be quite the group to fully engage him. There are tracks like “Nautical Depth,” which see a sprightly DOOM delivering lyrics that show flashes of his once razor-sharpness (“No friendly warfare, this ain’t wrestling/There’s nothing staged over here, you’re trippin’, mescaline”). Even tracks like “Captain Crunch” sound quintessentially DOOM-ish, maybe from his Danger Doom days. Unfortunately, the majority of the album doesn’t see him laying down top-tier stanzas. “Forever People” is clearly meant to be a skills showcase, but none of its verses are outstanding: DOOM is solid but not stupendous, Esoteric lays down more references than solid punchlines, and Inspectah Deck’s verse, while dynamic, feels too basic (“I stay woke like seven cups of coffee”). On “Don’t Spoil It,” Deck stuffs his bars with references to classic rap albums, but the track feels more like a gimmick than clever or original. And Esoteric often sounds like he is attempting a JAY-Z impersonation, though a passable one to be sure. Lines like “My interest, fly Benzes,” certainly don’t help.

The album’s highlight comes on the most modern on all of the tracks “Phantoms,” where DOOM begins with a competent verse, Esoteric shows up with a bundle of energy, and Deck spits as furiously as he can. The real star of the song, and maybe the entire album, however, is Open Mic Eagle, who effortlessly raps circles around his hosts.

But it’s hard to knock this album as sounding too much like a period piece because that is so clearly the intention. The Czarface fanbase is select and specific, and the emcees have always spoken directly to that audience. It’s clear that they value familiarity more than progression. If someone was looking for a hip-hop album that sounded like it could have been released 10-15 years ago, Czarface Meets Metal Face might fit the bill. However, if that same person was looking for a reminder of Inspectah Deck or MF DOOM’s greatness, he or she would be better off sticking with the classics.