PHOTOS BY VITOR MANDUCHI

“My name is Ricardo Almeida, I’m a young Portuguese on my way out of my youth (laughs), I’m a rapper on hold, ex-Marketing student – I have a degree and a Masters in Marketing. I’m working in Barcelona at the moment with Branding and communication projects, especially with musicians, parties, and projects involving music in general. I like sneakers and clothes, there’s not much more to it (laughs).”

Tell us about your way into the world of music.

I started doing music at a very young age almost the same age as I learned how to write, I think it was like 12? I had my first opportunity to record some stuff in 2007 when, I got together with two other rappers and a DJ that was a good friend of mine and together we founded AVC, at that time I was going by the name Sarcasmo.

Meanwhile, as I was studying Marketing I had that one goal – I wanted to create a lever to launch me and other artists that I liked, and above all, not have to rely on anybody else to help or make me grow, I wanted to create my mechanisms so I go wherever I want to go. That’s why I started studying Marketing, so I could create a label and develop music projects. What came out from all that was Karma, that officially launched in 2011 but was already built in 2010, it already had its artists and its tools. For 3 or 4 years things were going good, we dropped a lot of records – good records that in my opinion where good cult records in Portugal.

You have to remember that I was only 20 years old at that time, I did it with being only 20 years old, I had no experience, nor the contacts, or the network – the mechanisms to make it work. Because of the lack of experience, maturity, knowledge, things didn’t have the repercussion they could have had. If it was today things would have gone very differently. And besides the movement in Portugal wasn’t yet developed enough, they still had that “no one lives of music” mindset, we are a country of 10 million people, it’s impossible to live of music here, it’s impossible to make money of Rap”- just the opposite of what was happening in Brazil or in Spain, since they had Rap since the 90s.

But I believed it was possible, overall because Rap is so heterogeneous, every rapper represents something different. For example in Brazil Rap is a representation of the streets, it’s about that social struggle but here in Europe, in general Rap is quite heterogeneous, there’s rap from many different social classes, there are records about video games, soccer, about everything! So it’s highly unlikely that someone won’t like everything that’s out there, there always will be something out there that gets to you. So I really believed that I could make money of Rap. But that’s it, this is stuff from the past, and it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, but anyway. Thankfully nowadays the mechanism to make it work already exists in Portugal.

I dropped my first album in 2011, Sarcasmo – Noites Calmas, Dias Felizes, my first solo album, I had a lot of work. Even today, knowing all my flows as an artist or the immaturity and the mistakes I made, I still think it’s a good album, and could still work today. It lays within a niche of a more alternative and intimate rap; and it got around just fine, got good reviews, a lot of blog publications they even highlighted it as one of the references of the genre. it was all great, but it was during the same time I left Portugal and didn’t get the chance to present the album live – we only had 3 concerts, I only did concerts in Lisbon 3 years after the album released. It’s curious because I did more concerts from my album outside Portugal, I got invited to play more in Galicia than in Portugal! But now I can see that I should have done more, should have gone after it, should have fought more for my album, but the truth is that I quite broke down by it.

In 2013 I released the group album, AVC – Bagaço, Ovos-Moles & Diplexil, it also didn’t go really far, I should have fought more for it, and things ended up getting stuck. So, since 2013 I’m thinking of making a comeback, but now I have in fact started to work on returning still this year with something completely new. It will be the same theme but with another approach. I’ll use all the experience I got from Karma.

Here in Spain, I worked as a freelancer for artists and also for an agency that is a reference in the business and they were responsible for boom and major investment of Rap in Spain. I’m very proud to have been a part of this story, I can say that I’ve been a part of the history of rap in Portugal and Spain. I could say my part is done, but it isn’t, no it’s not (laughs).

How do you relate dressing well and being into whats trending, with the world of music?

Even though the streetwear movement came from skateboard and basketball, who made it popular, developed, who fought and praised for it was rappers. In this aspect, I think it’s impossible not to associate with music with fashion. A t-shirt its self is just a t-shirt – you need something else to give it context, a meaning, some symbolism – if you don’t know anything about the brand, the designer behind it, it means nothing. I think rapper created this context for clothes and basketball sneakers to come out of there natural environment and go to the streets.

For example in France in the early 2000s, all the big brands were from rappers! The purchasing power of the French rapper was very different from the Portuguese rapper’s and that made a big difference and ended up limiting the growth of street fashion and sneakers in Portugal because no one was buying this stuff here, even if you wanted to, you couldn’t be what a Portuguese rapper was. Up until the early 2000s, nobody had the money to produce a music video.

Something that was a big influence on me and helped me a lot in fashion was that, since you couldn’t find it in Portugal, I had to look for references in the US and above all in France – in the early 2000s in France, rappers where the ones that had all the brands, and there was a lot of work behind it. And this was at a time when we would buy clothes by catalog and always had great discounts on clothes that no one wanted; it was what we had, and if it wasn’t that, it was skate shops. I remember that before the discount season, I would say “mom, I want to buy some clothes” and she would answer: No Ricardo, wait for the 40% discount season (laughs). This was how I bought most of my Rap clothes, my first Timberlands, and other brands.

Tell us about your portal Contracoutura..

It’s a project that I thought about making a few years ago – the goal was to create a fashion hub in Portugal or something that bridged the between music and fashion from there. I created this Instagram, but I really intend on becoming something bigger than just that, it’s a personal project that at the moment does a little more than spreading the news. It’s curated, and it shows the main highlights of what is happening and every Sunday we have a feature by a voting system in which people vote for the best photo in 3 different categories with the goal of involving the community. I even aim at getting closer to Brazil.

What’s your relationship with sneakers in general?

It’s that same old story that you probably heard a thousand times: I wanted to buy sneakers but I didn’t have the money and now I do, wow! And1s were the cheapest ones, but from time to time you would get mad when you would see someone on your team with some different joints and I would say “How did that sun of a bitch get those? How much did he pay on them? I want one of those!” (laughs). And how I met my first love, the And1s Tai Chi, the famous Vince Carter’s red and whites ones, my favorite player! I didn’t watch NBA because we didn’t have cable and the games would show only at 3 in the morning, but I would see pictures of Vince Carter and I thought he was brutal!

After And1 came the Air Force 1s as a great icon in my life, and at this moment rap had a big role since there were like 300 thousand different references of AF1 in rap. And it was that same story, there were no Air Force 1s in my town, I had to go to Porto. I would go and visit Footlocker just to look at the sneakers because I couldn’t buy them. It’s curious because I didn’t buy my first Air force, they were a gift from my girlfriend at the time. It was a triple black Air Force Mid, I wanted the white ones, but those were my life at the time.

Then there was the time we would go to outlets a lot, an outlet on Vila do Conde and later on in Porto. We would go there at the end of the season, and I was lucky because my size was 44.5/45 (Europe size), which is a big foot for Portugal. They would get some insane Air Force 1s in my size that I had never seen before, and I didn’t know how and where those came from. I really don’t know where they came from, because I’ve never seen them in Portugal you know? There were models I really didn’t know what they were, I bought one that I used until they got torn apart – a Puma high tops, with no strap, military green, made with straw!! Until today I don’t know what those are, but they were beautiful!

Something curious was that I went to Paris as an exchange student and I used half the money from my Erasmus scholarship in a pair of sneakers (laughs). If it was today it would be completely different, and I wore those sneakers until they worn out until the soles were gone, today I would be more careful. It was a Dunk, which lasts a lifetime, but I would go with them everywhere.

Today I appreciate them way more because I have to fight for them. Having to sleep on the street just to buy some sneakers gave it a whole nother weight to it, I spend a shit load on a pair of sneakers and they also cost me my health, my sleep and my time. I have this friend that does whatever he feels like doing with his shoes, he bought some Saucony for 150 euros, a sneaker that was a grail to a lot of people, and he trashed it in the first night he wore them! I asked him “why do you do this to your sneakers?” and he said “Ah, sneakers are made to be worn” and yes they are made to be worn you know, but you don’t need to that to them like that! You don’t sleep on the street for a sneaker and them trash it on the first night.

Do you consider yourself a sneakerhead?

I think it’s a strange question, you know? (laughs). What is a sneakerhead? Is it someone who likes sneakers? Someone who collects? Someone who works? Someone who knows a lot? To start answering your question we have to define what a sneakerhead is. I will not say that I collect many pairs, I have 50, there are people with 300, there are people with 1,000! I am nobody close to them.

The matter of collecting started here in Barcelona for me, ​​because for the first time I met people with the same interest and taste, or maybe with more interest and with another kind of knowledge. They taught and showed me things, from that moment on I started looking at things differently. I started to get to know and appreciate, to know other types of models – I come from basketball and a Gel-Lyte III is a long way from a guy like me. I used to think that Asics were just dumb and ugly running shoes, out of ignorance I did not know Asics for what it really was. When I got to know more about them and learned about the concepts behind the collabs, strong concepts and atypical colorways, interesting material variety and truly limited editions – there are only 2,000 pairs of these sneakers around the world! They make runs of 300, 500 pairs around the world, that indeed are limited sneakers.

It was here in Barcelona also that I found out that resellers are essential in the culture because it generates movement of exclusive sneakers and for me, allowed me to buy shoes that I could not get otherwise, except with them. That somehow helped fund my collection, I wouldn’t have been able to buy most of what I have if I hadn’t sold others sneakers, or have done some kind of trade. It’s a bit of a taboo subject that until a long time ago people were afraid to admit they did. I don’t agree when it’s like a drop on Yeezys for example and there’s a Chinese man sitting at the door of the store offering big bucks for the people that come out, or something like that, it’s a bit sketchy, ​​even for the stores. I’m talking about a sneaker trade movement between people.

Why did you choose this Asics Gel-Lyte III x Afew “Koi” for this photoshoot?

This shoe, from an emotional point of view, represents a phase in which my life basically changed. Before I was in a bad phase of my life, with financial problems and things were not happening as I wanted. But by the time I got these sneaker things changed, suddenly my life took a turn.

Asics Gel-Lyte III x Afew “Koi”
Owner: @rickgotkicks
Bought: 2015
📸  @vmanduchi