ASAP Rocky’s Biggest Challenge: Making Under Armour Cool

ASAP Rocky has convinced the world that New York artists could sound like they’re from Houston, shown that rappers could dress like they stepped off a Paris runway, designed sneakers with Adidas and Jeremy Scott, and modeled for Dior.​ But now he's signed himself up for one of the biggest tasks of his career: making Under Armour relevant in the world that he's dominated for much of this decade.

By most mainstream measures, Under Armour already is “cool.” They've snatched up big names in sports like Steph Curry, Tom Brady, Jordan Spieth, Cam Newton, and Aaron Judge, and the brand’s on-field success has been nothing short of impeccable. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been quite enough to give the brand cultural impact that transcends beyond professional sports.

The brand is clearly hoping to change that. It was reported on July 8 that Rocky had signed a multi-year deal with the Maryland sportswear company to work on lifestyle product for its UAS range, which is directed by fashion designer Tim Coppens and focuses apparel and sneakers that don’t feature the Under Armour logo — something that's driven style-oriented people away from the brand in the past.

It’s been the butt of many Internet jokes in recent times, most notably its all-white Steph Curry sneakers, and its move to bring Rocky onboard is a clear sign that it’s trying to chase a different consumer; one that’s eschewed its shoes for Nike and Adidas. It’s already worn by suburban dads and young teens who actually play basketball, but convincing everyone else to buy into the sneakers is a different story.

The Rock Under Armour
Under Armour has previously used entertainers such as The Rock to try and grow its company. Image via The Rock on Instagram

It was once controversial to claim that artists and musicians are the new athletes in the footwear industry, but Kanye West and Adidas (followed by a whole host of other entertainers and companies) have proved that notion wrong. Yeezys are flying off shelves at a breakneck pace while LeBrons are collecting dust and going on sale. And Under Armour’s move of signing Rocky proves that even the most sports-focused company realizes that it needs to get younger and hipper to grab its stake in the shoe game. The company has already signed The Rock to a big deal, but it didn’t make an impact with the cool-guy demographic, an audience that it so desperately wants to resonate with. It won’t, however, be as seamless as attaching one of the biggest names in hip-hop to a sneaker brand and watching the money roll in. Rocky is going to have to work his ass off to make this partnership truly work.

If anyone thinks Rocky’s contribution, in terms of influence, is insignificant, consider this for a second: With 6.3 million instagram followers, he has nearly twice as many as Under Armour’s main account.

Let’s think of the possibilities for a second. If Rocky is able to create product that truly inspires his fan base, there’s no way that it’s not going to sell out, and it will only create a snowball effect for Under Armour. Don’t believe me? You’d be hard-pressed to find a high percentage of the Yeezy/Boost fanboys who owned a pair of sneakers with Three Stripes on them prior to Kanye and Adidas working together in 2015, but now the brand has, literally, boosted its sales and has overtaken Nike and Jordan Brand in terms of resonance with the millennial audience. 

It’s not going to be easy, though. This isn’t Under Armour’s first foray into lifestyle product. It’s made luxury, off-court sneakers for Steph Curry and even launched them at leading boutique Concepts. The brand made a huge push behind its Tim Coppens line, too, and it’s just fallen flat. It even has Migos promoting the label, but they haven’t consistently worn the product in the public eye and it’s failed to make a huge impact. Rocky could change all of that. His connection as a designer/signature artist is much greater than paying him to simply wear Under Armour. People have spouted on social media that they’re already going to buy their first pair of Under Armours, but all of that will be proven when his shoes finally are available at retail.

What makes Rocky’s partnership with the brand intriguing is that he’s notorious for being someone who won’t wear or co-sign anything that he’s not truly into. It’s likely that he sees this opportunity as a chance to boost his profile as someone who’s taken seriously as a designer in the style world, and who doesn’t want their name attached to a commercially successful sneaker? Imagine if Under Armour lets him design a sneaker for Steph Curry to wear during the All-Star Game? That’s visibility that even his music, likely, won’t achieve. But these are all what-ifs. It all starts with making a good pair of shoes, and the rest will follow.

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Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks Discuss Tyler, the Creator’s Lyrics on His Sexuality on ‘Everyday Struggle’

On today's Everyday Struggle, Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks, and Nadeska break down Tyler, the Creator's album leak and the lyrics where it sounds like the former Odd Future rapper may be discussing his sexuality. The conversation shifts to whether the hip-hop community is really accepting of openly gay rappers and if that has changed over the years and will adjust going forward. Later, the crew run through some timely news, including Meek Mill's new album, Jay Z and Kanye West's relationship, Blac Youngsta fuckery, Vic Mensa freestyling, Hov's tour, and more. 

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Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks Discuss Jay Z’s New Album and Shots at Kanye on ‘Everyday Struggle’

On today's Everyday Struggle, Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks, and Nadeska dive into everything going on with Jay Z's new album 4:44, from the lyrics to the overall messages that Hov shares throughout. The crew also get into the Kanye West shots on the album, and whether 'Ye deserved to be called out. Budden and Akademiks also debate about whether the money phone should be put away forever, and if Future should be mad about the perceived shots on 4:44. The crew also discuss OBJ's new Lil Wayne and Mike Tyson tattoo and Amber Rose and 21 Savage's new relationship

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New Report Shares Details on Jay Z Giving Kanye West $20 Million

New (alleged) details have emerged about the $20 million Jay Z referenced on his new album 4:44. According to the latest report from TMZ, the $20 million was actually part of Kanye West's deal with the Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder.

In 4:44 opener “Kill Jay Z,” however, Jay seemingly suggests the money was some sort of a gift:

I know people backstab you, I felt bad too
But this 'Fuck everybody!' attitude ain't natural
But you ain't a saint, this ain't kumbaye
But you got hurt because you did cool by 'Ye
You gave him 20 million without blinkin'
Fuck was he thinkin'?

TMZ cited “sources with direct knowledge” of the two's business dealings, reporting Tuesday that the $20 million in question was an advance intended to cover Saint Pablo Tour expenses ranging from general production costs to staff payments. Annoyingly, TMZ also included an extremely cringeworthy biblical reference in their report.

An anonymous source close to the situation denied the accuracy of the TMZ report, stating Roc Nation does not give out advances for artist tours.

In a separate report containing no such cringeworthy biblical references, TMZ claimed that Jay's supposed West criticism on “Kill Jay Z” was in response to comments West made during a Saint Pablo Tour stop last November. “Jay Z, call me bro,” West told the crowd during a performance in Sacramento. “You still ain't called me. Jay Z, call me. Jay Z, I know you got killers. Please don't send 'em at my head. Just call me. Talk to me like a man.” Days later, the remainder of the tour had been canceled and West was hospitalized.

As reported over the weekend, Tidal is also an alleged source of of tension between Jay Z and Kanye West. West has reportedly left the company over a $3 million dispute and is rumored to be done with streaming exclusives for good.

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Here’s When Jay Z’s ‘4:44’ Will Reportedly Come to Other Streaming Services

Jay Z's new album 4:44 is now available on all streaming services. Just kidding. The long-awaited Magna Carta Holy Grail follow-up is the first in a series of music-related exclusives from Tidal and Sprint, meaning Tidal is the only place to legally and in good conscience stream the 10-track event.

But according to a report from Variety, so-called Jay Z fans who are absolutely hell-bent on denying themselves a Tidal subscription may not have to wait very long to be rewarded for their stubbornness. A “source” said Thursday night that 4:44 will hit Apple Music after a week of exclusivity on Tidal. A separate source went a step further, claiming that the album would hit “all major services” in a week.

Depending on your views of time and existence and whatnot, a week is either a really long—or hilariously short—amount of time. Compared with the exclusivity window of other Tidal releases, however, a week is a breeze. 

Beyoncé's Lemonade, released last April, is still not available for streaming anywhere else but Tidal. As Billboard noted, Lemonade performed on par with other massive albums (Drake's Views, for example) when looking at sales and downloads. When digging into the streaming data, however, the Tidal exclusivity starts to be noticeable. Views pulled more than 2 million in streaming equivalent album units that year, while Lemonade topped out at 214,000.

Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, which recently became the first streaming-only album to achieve platinum status, was also initially released as a Tidal exclusive. In fact, West once vowed that it would permanently remain an exclusive, before making it widely available on streaming services months after its release.

Jay Z has not officially announced any plans to bring 4:44 to other streaming services.

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Kanye West Reportedly Planning to Tour in Early 2018

Live Nation is reportedly waiting on the green light from Kanye West's team about taking his unmatched discography back on the road. At least, that's the word from (the recently and very frustratingly Trump-friendlyTMZ. A report from Harvey Levin Inc. Thursday claimed the pieces are “now in place” for West to resume touring as soon as early next year.

Sources told TMZ that fans should not expect West to simply resume his blockbuster Saint Pablo Tour, which ran from August to November 2016 before being canceled. West was subsequently hospitalized. According to the latest report, West is now feeling much better and is overcoming the issues that ultimately landed him in the hospital.

For the rumored outing, West will reportedly be improving upon or completely replacing the much-discussed floating stage seen in the Saint Pablo production. Additionally, West will reportedly be switching up the set list. Though TMZ's sources said the goal is to kick things off in early 2018, they also noted that West is “aggressively avoiding” laying out strict deadlines. This includes deadlines for new music, which West is said to have been working on in recent months.

West was recently spotted at the Blind Dragon lounge in Hollywood Sunday, joining family and friends to ring in Khloé Kardashian's 33rd birthday.

West has also made a string of guest appearances on various artists' tracks in the first half of 2017, including cuts from Drake and Tyga.

West's Twitter and Instagram accounts, both of which disappeared back in May, remain offline.

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Producer Claims Future Filed Copyright Claim Over Desiigner’s “Panda” (UPDATE)

UPDATED 6/20/17 10:30 a.m. ET: Mike Dean has sent in the following statement to XXL:

“The kid lost the stems to the beat. It had some samples in the original from a film. I recreated some of the stems enough to patch up the beat and remove the samples. I was gonna recreate the whole beat then I found a way to keep it. Major labels don’t play with samples not being cleared The song would never have come out or cleared legal at Def Jam. If that’s nothing, then he’s right.

“He should have better file management skills if he works at an electronics repair shop.

“He should get facts straight before he speaks on my name. I let the claim go because I have better shit to do than fight with people over BS. Hope he enjoys the bread and appreciates what I did to help him make $$. That’s about it. Menace, put some respek on my name.

“And thank god Mike Dean removed your samples, youngin. Should throw me a few points from his pocket my way, but I am doing ok with or without the “Panda” bread.

“P.S. He should also thank Plain Pat (the best A&R in the world and my favorite co-producer) who made us (G.O.O.D. Music) all aware of “Panda” in the first place.”

Original story is below.

Desiigner’s 2015 debut single “Panda” catapulted the rapper into hip-hop stardom. The track dominated the airwaves, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance, topped the Billboard charts, and was sampled by Kanye West. It was the kind of introduction many rappers dream of; however, the mastermind behind the “Panda” beat hasn’t received the same success. In fact, he claims he’s still waiting on payment.

In a recent interview with DJBooth, 23-year-old Menace said he hasn’t been fully compensated for producing “Panda” due to a legal claim filed by Future.

“There was a situation with Future putting [an infringement] claim in because apparently, he said that ‘Panda’ sounded like ‘Fuck Up Some Commas.’ So we were just about to see the checks but there’s been a lot of delays so we won’t see anything until next year anyway,” Menace said. “Not only [Future], Mike Dean, Kanye West’s producer, he put a claim in as well saying that he did something to the beat and he never did. I don’t think we’ll see a check until probably next year. Right now, it’s just going through negotiations. The problem is that once someone puts a claim in, it just stops everything.”  A representative for Future denied Menace's claims, saying that they are “not true.”

People have been comparing Desiigner to Future for some time now, pointing to similarities in their rap styles. During a 2016 interview with Complex, Desiigner shared his thoughts about the comparisons, insisting he had no beef with Atlanta rapper.  

“God gave him a blessing, but he gave me a blessing too. I ain't gonna doubt the man's music. He make beautiful music too. Music is made every day,” he said. “Big ups to him, big ups to Future. I actually like Future’s music. I like his music, you feel me. I’m not a hater or a critic on him, you know, I do me. God bless him, God bless me.”

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Young Thug Proclaims Himself ‘The New ‘Pac’

Young Thug dropped his Beautiful Thugger Girls album over the weekend, with the release seemingly coming out of nowhere. Late Saturday, Thugger gave a brief explanation for the timing of his release via Twitter.

“I dropped E.B.B.T.G on 2PAC'S bday because I'm the #newPAC,” Young Thug wrote. “I feel like I am the thug he didn't get to become #SoImGoinFinishWhatHeStarted.”

From Max B calling himself “Biggaveli” to Kodak Black releasing Lil B.I.G. Pac, and Troy Ave naming an album NuPac, there are several examples of artists invoking the name of the late Tupac Shakur to promote their projects. 

June 16 marked not only the late Shakur’s birthday but an official Tupac Shakur Day recognized by Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf. One can point to a rather direct correlation between Shakur’s frequent practice of calling himself a thug and using the acronym T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. and Young Thug’s rap moniker. 

However, many took issue with the statement. Shakur fans and Young Thug supporters found themselves clashing in Thugger’s mentions after he posted the tweet.

This wouldn't be the first time Thugger has name checked one of his influences. Jeffery was peppered with the rapper's inspirations, with artists like Swizz Beatz, Wyclef Jean and Kanye West working their way into song titles. Young Thug’s Beautiful Thugger Girls is available for purchase and streaming now.

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Former Officer Who Fatally Shot Philando Castile Found Not Guilty of All Counts

On Friday afternoon Jeronimo Yanez, the former police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile last summer during an otherwise routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, was found not guilty of all counts:

Jury deliberations spanned 27 hours over five days. And, when the verdict was real aloud in court, Castile's family angrily stormed out of the courtroom.

Yanez had been charged with second-degree manslaughter, as well as two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm. Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car with Castile (and her four-year-old daughter) at the time, and who had livestreamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook, released a statement about the verdict where she said that she was “incredibly disappointed” with the outcome:

Additionally, the St. Anthony Police force for which Yanez had worked for announced he would not return to his former position.

That statement read:

“The City of St. Anthony has concluded that the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city. The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer.”

Castile's mother, Valerie, also addressed the press after the judgment was rendered. “There has always been a systemic problem in the state of Minnesota, and me thinking, common sense that we would get justice,” she said. “But nevertheless the system continues to fail black people. I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota. My son loved Minnesota. He had one tattoo on his body and it was of the Twin Cities. My son loved this city, and the city killed my son and the murderer gets away.”

Prosecutors, who are set to speak around 5 p.m. CT today, had argued that Yanez had racially profiled Castile when he pulled him over for a busted brake light. Yanez counters that he believed Castile was a suspect in a convenience store robbery that had occurred four days earlier. Castile was never connected to that crime.

Yanez's defense attorneys had argued that Castile was at fault because the officer had seen him reach for a gun despite his demands to not reach for his weapon. Castile had previously informed Yanez that he had a firearm and was licensed to carry it. That was according to Reynolds, who said on her Facebook stream, “He let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm.”

The footage then goes on to show Yanez yelling, “I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand off it!” To that Reynolds replied, “You told him to get his ID, sir. He was just getting his license and registration.” Dash cam footage recorded audio of Castile saying he wasn't going for his gun.

The shooting had been one of several that had ignited nationwide protests amidst charges that it was yet another instance of police brutality against the black community.

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