I’m such a company man. Actually, I’ve got love for Mo’Wax, Matt Sleep and Jack Purcells, plus I wrote the press release for this project. So the anti copy-paste law is OVERRULED. I got a good Q&A out of this too, which may or may not end up on this blog. I’ve been after those stingray mids since I saw a pair on Acyde’s Instagram. As friend and family projects go, the detail on this one is crazy.
“From its debut in 1992, the London-based Mo’Wax organisation was the pioneering meeting point for an array of subcultures to merge organically – multiple musical styles met art, with painstaking attention-to-detail when it came to design. Founder James Lavelle brought his obsessions behind the sonic side to the forefront with photography, sleeve art, toys, books, exhibitions, sought-after streetwear and a connection to the collectible all celebrating the hunt for the next thing.
Coinciding with this summer’s London-based Urban Archaeology exhibition and tie-in book, Lavelle and Converse created these appropriately limited edition sneakers based on the notion of taking a collage of influences and re-appropriating them like music samples. The Jack Purcell made sense as the base model, because it’s Lavelle’s personal choice, “The sneakers that I wear the most are Jack Purcells. So I was keen to be able to work with Converse in a contemporary way, representing me as a person right now.“
“The detail was really, really important. Just new ways and new technologies and things that hadn’t necessarily been done before – the idea was to create something that had the Mo’Wax feel. I really wanted to create a sneaker that would stand out in its own right but wasn’t gimmicky, or over the top and garish. It would fit in with where I am now and not necessarily where I was 15 years ago.”
The Converse Jack Purcell Mo’Wax Ox has a unique white debossed leather upper, while the mid-top version is embellished with premium stingray effect leather. Both re-workings of this staple masterpiece bring an appropriately obsessive level of detail to this silhouette, despite its apparent simplicity. Custom “Build & Destroy” logos on the familiar moulded rubber toecaps and classic Ben Drury/James Lavelle Mo’Wax camo screen-print graphics on a cotton base, with metallic gold logos, are used for the sockliners and heel stay.
For Lavelle, the end goal was subtlety, “How can we get the Mo’Wax design aesthetic into something really subtle? It was about keeping certain themes going, like having Mo’Wax on the sole of the feet or on the tips of the laces or on the insole or on the little heel strip on the back — there’s this sort of Mo’Wax touch. But the stingray was just to try and apply something that would hopefully look pretty cool.“
A semi-transparent, ice blue version of the familiar smile and heel license plate, a semi-transparent ice blue outsole with the Mo’Wax logo cut between the left and right foot, and branding that even extends to the ice blue lace aglets all capture the spirit of the label. Naturally, packaging is paramount and the box design also channels that emphasis.
That boundary-blurring vision that brought skateboarding, artists, DJs, fashion and filmmakers into the same space is echoed in the Converse Jack Purcell’s ability to resonate with any style. Strictly for a chosen handful of Mo’Wax affiliates, this commemorative project adds to the mythology of the company that help define the way culture is curated and presented.”
(Speaking to James, I got to clear up the mystery of the Mo’Wax x Nike CD — with music by Richard File — from early 1997 too: given the nature of that project, no samples were allowed, which made it difficult — he conceded that it was a strange project and explained that it was one facilitated via an external agency).
I may have gone on record here telling those who won’t stop talking about 1993 as the cut off point for great rap to shut up — and I stand by that sentiment — because I loathe the “this is the real hip-hop, not commercial pop bullshit like Drake and Lil Wayne” repetition in the comments of every great rap video as well as cheap promos for the anonymous throwback crap that seems to believe it’s keeping some torch aflame for those who want things to sound like they’re on Grooveattack circa 2001. But I learnt a lot from staring at the fold out covers encased in transparent tape-shaped plastic just over 20 years ago and I’m a fiend when it comes to rap gossip — in fact, gossip far supersedes beatboxing and breakdancing as one of the scene’s key elements. It’s pivotal to skateboarding too, where knowing who dicked over who is some serious message board currency. I’m ravenous for trivia and Brian Coleman’s Check the Technique Volume 2 has a lot of information in it — revelations regarding the real producers of records, beat jacking and beatings abound when it comes to more talkative subjects. I’d never even pondered the genesis of the Beatnuts name, but now I know (though I’d like to have seen them discuss their first album too), that DJ Polo once had 15 prostitutes employed compared to Freddie Foxx’s six and who the girl who enquired as to who the governor of Campania during the Herculonious period was on that Gravediggaz skit. Even in this era of increasingly popular podcasts proving that there a significant market for back in the day tales from cult characters, there’s room for a 500-page book to present it without the small talk — just the facts. Track by track notes are addictive and Coleman’s project seems significantly more likeable than Rap Genius.
It’s been featured here before, but the none-more-early-1990s Funkee Phlavaz cable show that transmitted in the Beverly Hills area has now uploaded been uploaded in its 17-episode entirety. As high school projects go, this one was particularly accomplished and because we’re unlikely to see personal favourites like Y’all So Stupid’s Van Full of Pakistans (also discussed here before) or Illegal’s The Untold Truth explored in a Check the Technique book, both acts on Dallas Austin’s Rowdy label acted as presenters on a 1993 episode of this under seen show — you even get the obscure 85 South promo. Of course, both acts undersold commercially, because there wasn’t room for hyperactive goofs in Vans or murderous kids like there is now. Still, 1993’s idea of poor sales on an album was the kind of numbers that would have an act running to the car showroom in 2014. Ya’ll So Stupid rocked Real tees and dressed in skate gear decades before that seemed to be a thing to do if you weren’t the Beastie Boys or, to some extent, the Pharcyde. The connection between Austin and Andy Howell during their time in Atlanta is documented in the superb Art, Skateboarding and Life, and with Ya’ll So Stupid hailing from that city too and group member H20 working as a designer, the skate connection isn’t too unlikely. Some things are still too geeked-out to get their own chapter in a book.
“I’ve collected Air Jordan sneakers since 1984; there are 23 different pairs in plastic display cases in the living room. I’ve also got cereal boxes and movie posters: good design, you see.“
Ron Mael, ‘It’s the season for art-buying, but who would you buy if you could afford it?‘ The Sunday Times, June 03, 2008
Seeding programmes mean that all but the most keenest and corniest of bloggers and the most undiscerning audiences should care about whether an actor or musician under the age of 35 is wearing Air Jordans. The Hulk Hogan connection is one bad, nostalgic joke, but Ron Mael of Sparks, one of Morrissey’s personal favourites, being a Jordan collector is intriguing, unlikely and brilliant — something that seemed to crop up in interviews since the 1990s. Ron in Concord XIs and Chicago Is is something to behold — you might see hilarious dudes in Instagram trousers with the metre-long ankle cuff wearing these classic designs, and cool guys (especially the ones that use hashtags) just aren’t cool any more. That’s why the uncool guys have become the greatest brand ambassadors — you don’t see a Tinker creation and a toothbrush or pencil moustache in tandem too often. This is why Jerry Seinfeld’s epic stash became so mythical too — the less likely the connoisseur, the more credible the endorsement, and it gets no whiter than Mael. I want to see more pictorial evidence of this fabled horde of original shoes. (Both images jacked from Getty.)
It took me a while to finally tune in, but I’ve been enjoying KNOW-WAVE’s transmissions with increasing regularity over the last year and their new site makes navigating their world a little easier. Aaron Bondaroff gets things done when it comes to creating outlets for movements and the addition of a KNOW-WAVE UK transmitting from the Gimme 5 offices makes it extra relevant — some shows are pleasantly shambolic and discussion led (it definitely doesn’t step on the toes of the excellent NTS when it comes to soundtracking my work day), meaning there’s some defiantly British output during the afternoon here. Dependant on the day and time you tune in, you can hear Downtown gossip, rockabilly favourites, some dusty dub rarity, mumbled skate chatter, conversations between legends, Young Thug, obscure house re-edits from personal collections or just a friend of a friend playing whatever iTunes holds. There’s a lot of head scratching regarding ways of engaging communities and where things are meant to go, but there ain’t nothing to it but to do it. Now they’ve put out a magazine to bring a sense of permanence and edit to that mass of one-and-a-bit hour world views. Published by OHWOW, issue 01 provides new material and art, plus an interview transcription for some of the best guest spots so far — Piper Marshall with Julian Schnabel back in April, a colossal conversation between Jason Jules and Jazzie B as part of Michael Kopelman’s output from June and Kembra Pfahler with Lydia Lunch in July. Even if you’ve heard it all before, there’s plenty of extra bits too.
This SHOWstudio conversation with i-D founder Terry Jones is 52 minutes well spent. It’s good to hear Jones discuss his approach to art direction back in his early days at Vogue and any print head out there will get something out of it. This man’s publication taught me a ton when I stood and used WH Smiths as a reading room after school and his regulation pair of Chucks was a colossal inspiration on the shoes I choose to wear at least every other day as my age advances. Not a lot of time to talk about much else on here today, but time with Jones is better spent than anything I can muster. On the topic of magazines, this Daily Beast piece on The Source and its inexplicable survival while XXL was almost booted into digital form is a necessary read.
The recent talk of Drake appropriating London slang seems to be wilfully leaving out the fact that he hails from a city which, like this nation’s capital, has a substantial Caribbean community that passed on the dialect to subsequent generations. The whole Stone Island connection is still a mystery to me*, but I asked that question a couple of years ago. Another YouTube miracle occurred recently when Genie Madahar uploaded Fab Five Freddy’s visit to Sting 92 — something that became almost mythological in conversations with a friend for an interview with Supercat as well as a rare chat with the oft-discussed man like Dominick. As a white Londoner, Dominic Kenny was a curious case in outsider acceptance, a close friend of Paul Simenon, taking his love of dancehall to Jamaica as a journalist and becoming a DJ under the Dominick name. There’s a great piece on him here from 2007 here where he tell his story — another case study in this country’s connection to the culture — and the importance of black music, as well as its pillaging and dilution at the hands of white industry folks.
Dominick put out a few memorable records — Cockney & Yardie with Peter Metro in 1987 that follows a similar path to Smiley Culture’s (RIP) seminal Cockney Translation (the Ebonics of its time), complete with live performances where he looks like a taxi driver who seems to have stumbled onstage. Dominick would also record an un-PC track where he’d strenuously deny favouring Boy George over the Fresh Riddim (plus another track called No Shirt Lifter) as part of his self-titled, Sly and Robbie produced debut album — to end up getting produced by both them King Jammy was no mean feat. A second album, Ready for Dominick, followed in 1988 (the same year that he took to the stage with BDP in NYC on Christmas day), before this occasionally Troop-clad whiteboy with skills seemed to vanish. A testament to the power of putting in work and heading right to the centre of the action rather than merely covering it from the distance of a MacBook screen, it’s a shame that the book he promised years ago hasn’t manifested and it’s equally sad that the Junior Reid produced third LP mentioned in the Yo! MTV Raps piece that was set for a 1993 release never dropped either. Respect to Dominick for becoming part of the thing he loved**.
*Glenn just answered the Drake SI mystery by explaining the whole unpaid stylist scandal/Nepenthes/SI connection to me.
**Kish reminded me that there’s a follow-up to this story. Here’s Dominick on a 1994 Underdog remix of a Sabres of Paradise track. In 1999, Apeman Records and Apeman magazine were launched by Dominic Kenny, who’d already got connections to Mo’Wax and Major Force. Those who hoarded cut and paste records or were fans of Spine Magazine back in the day will be aware of some of the label’s output from the likes of DJ Bombjack.
I hoard books on certain subjects. Inevitably, I’ve amassed an amount of sportswear-related publications that’s a little embarrassing. Being a nerd when it comes to that subject I’d found myself discussing the lack of a solid tome on the subject of Reebok. After all, the brand that Joseph William Foster created was one that led during a lion’s share of the 1980s, and its cross trainers and basketball shoes circa 1987 were expensive status symbols that pushed me into the industry I’m in right now. Having missed out on the recent London Reebok exhibition, I assumed I missed out on something decent, but the brand book they put together with Tangent Design is excellent. Discussing everything that makes the brand interesting, I haven’t seen a lot of coverage on this part of the project, so I expected it to be underwhelming, but at 206 pages, it’s a good accompaniment to the vast 2012 adidas book (a serious precedent, that like this one, seemed to be strictly promo-only) and necessary if you geek out over old stuff and obscure logos. I’m jealous that I never wrote the ‘FOR THE MOTIONALLY UNSTABLE…‘ ad too. I’ve never necessarily associated Reebok with blue suede, but it makes for a nice cover fabric too. I’m guessing that, as is the case with several similar projects, image rights, names and all the other stuff that can slow a project down, means that this one is destined to be strictly promo. That means that there’s a decent book for all the key brands out there now, though I’d happily pay for a 300+ page history of Troop’s rise and rumour-led fall.