OI! MUSIC & DAMAGE

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These are strange times. I’ve got love for Hov, but the bad start for Tidal is nothing compared to his adoption of the banter-brigade’s beloved Hype brand while ‘Ye is wearing Soloist — he’s gone from getting his grown man on to getting his sport science student on. The only thing odder is Hus Kingpin’s video entirely dedicated to being SuperDry down that shouts out the “orange label.” Even Canibus —who busted out some distinctly Warsaw nightclub garms a few years back — once proclaimed “With no fear like them clothes white boys be wearing,” back in 1998. And what are these brands if not a No Fear for a new generation?

I’m impressed with what my friend Thibault Choay has been creating for his fine CLASSIC imprint. With a company name like that, the pressure to create greatness comes pre-loaded, but the CHIAROSCURO book project is pretty damned good. To create a graffiti book that doesn’t slip into the trappings of earnest graf book formulas is an achievement, but the subject of this book, Parisian tattooist and former writer Cokney, is an interesting character. For starters, he’s a huge fan of Cockney Rejects and has a case over his head that comes complete with a 228,000 Euro fine. Two years after they started planning this project with writer and curator Hugo Vitrani, they’ve completed this two-volume set — the Scuro book is the light side, a collection of photos from the artist’s perspective taken from undeveloped film given back to Cokney by the police in a good cop moment. To my knowledge, at least until the publication and launch of the exhibition at Sang Bleu last week Cokney hadn’t seen the imagery yet — a deliberate action to homage the pre-digital days of waiting for imagery to develop, and the inevitable unfiltered flaws in the mix. That photography is accompanied by the artist’s own texts.

Light comes with a darkness and the black book is synonymous with graffiti, and, at fear of sounding like Nigel Tufnel, it’s really, really black, with a lot of ink used to give it the Chiaro section the requisite matter-of-fact look. As well as photos, Cokney has access to a lot of his police files, and case N° 1203264038’s evidence against the writer — in the form of images, cleaning quotes and complaints — opens up the age-old art/vandalism debate. but gives an unorthodox perspective — through legal eyes, the critics of the piece — to the work that contrasts and complements the white chapter. There’s some translations in the book too, and it completes a real labour-of-love. It’ll be online soon via the CLASSIC site, priced at 45 Euros and limited to 500 copies.

Thibault kindly invited me to take part in a CHIAROSCURO themed Know-Wave show last Thursday alongside Cokney and Hugo where we talked about topics loosely pertaining to the book, fumbled after a sudden decision to find a Goldie track and played a Booba record loudly.

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UPTOWNS

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I know that you might have seen the Air Force 1 documentary instalments from 2007 over and over again. All three parts clock in at around 19 minutes. But director and all round good guy Thibaut de Longeville was commissioned by Nike Sportswear to turn that work into something a lot longer in 2012. The resulting film, Air Force 1: Anatomy of an Urban Legend, was screened in NYC around the World Basketball Festival celebrations that summer and screened on OFIVE in France. It proved elusive since then online, but Fanagt on YouTube has uploaded it. At 75 minutes, there’s a lot more footage (and a couple of language barriers if you can’t speak French), plus a good narration from KRS-One. It’s more than just a repackage of the 2007 footage, though much of the footage seems to have been shot around 2006. Oddly, if you need more of the Baltimore story, there’s a bit more in the shorts (Cinderella Shoes’ owner has been excised here), but the animation on the 1984 releases — the daddy of the Quickstrike program — is a bit more specific in this production. Because this wasn’t handed out by Nike on promo DVDs, there’s an Azie Faison appearance and more explicit parallels drawn between drug dealer style and the popularity of the AF1. Sandy Bodecker (who has been heavily involved in numerous Nike projects that helped change the company’s direction — he was part of the AM1 project and was integral to making the brand a player in football and skateboarding) and the Up’s designer, Bruce Kilgore get in front of the camera too. Personally, I prefer the brevity of the original 2007 releases, because they remain some of the finest documentaries on the subject of shoes to date (unsurprising, because Thibaut and the 360 Creative team made Just For Kicks). I know there’s all kinds of shoe films in production right now, and many look unappealing, because they tread existing territory, film a few queues, single out some alleged influencers, then get a few dudes to open some boxes and bitch about resellers. Nobody’s telling stories, and W+K and Jordan Brand’s Sneakerheads and Just For Kicks are destined to be better until somebody actually makes an effort. There’s only a handful of trainers that justify a dedicated full-length film. This is 1 of them.


SNAPSHOTS

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LAW magazine’s visual direction and approach to the oft-undocumented everyday makes it one of my favourite magazines. The confident design and vision of Britain beyond the target areas delivers something that’s probably going to hold some cultural value in years to come; an antidote to any delusions of life in 2015 perpetrated by glossy aspiration bi-annuals. The new issue covers a few topics, from toilet attendants to Leicester streetwear and Scott King to tape-pack don Slipmatt. The magazine has also undergone a drastic price decrease of late—from around 12 quid to being completely free. Issue #6 is in a few of the city’s best stores, with Goodhood and Foyles carrying copies last time I looked. Nina Manandhar’s shot of a rabbit and Lacoste combination alone beats any look book concept I’ve seen this year. You don’t need to hear me rambling about it again, so I recommend just going on a hunt for it. If it wasn’t for LAW, I wouldn’t know about this Instagram project documenting corner shops either. On the topic of documenting shops, it’s worth dipping into 2 Berwick Street before Monday evening to check out the History of Vinyl in Soho exhibition that charts the 120 or so record stores that have opened and closed in that area—anyone who made the pilgrimage to Central London to be scowled at when asking for hip-hop twelves or reggae sevens, or those who recall that Berwick Street seemed to be home to a healthy amount of music stores until as little as a decade ago, will want to check it out. And yes, it coincides with national buy your one record of the year for eBay day, but if you’re tactical about it, you can avoid the foolishness, and anyway, Gang of Four are playing outside on Saturday, which should make any ordeal worthwhile anyway. The Price Buster Records bag is a personal favourite, but there’s plenty of other great designs on the wall there too. In times of change it’s essential that documentation from the likes of LAW and British Record Shop Archive exist to create a credible snapshot of the ephemeral.

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RAEKWON HAS FOLDING SKILLS

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Streetwear loves Wu-Tang. Over the last decade there have been tributes of varying quality that rarely come close to what Oli “Power” Grant and the crew did do help redefine rap merch with Wu Wear—complete with no less than four physical stores—as much as they did the hip-hop record deal. Wu Wear was pretty much played by the time it hit Virgin Megastores to coincide with Wu-Tang Forever, but that I hold it in similar status to a slew of pioneering black-owned brands of the era rather than mere tie-in is a testament to the Wu brand’s clout. These are hyper referential times and every cultish nook and cranny of rap culture has been cleared out and beamed into a broader spectrum. C.R.E.A.M. branded dairy products or a Liquid Swords washing up liquid complete with the ‘W’ logo wouldn’t surprise me right now, and that 1992 snowboarding pullover that Rae rocked is being rinsed. It’s the reappropriation of memories of one of the greatest reappropriated style moments ever. It might be considered quite meta in one way or another. It’s well documented—and I’ve probably upped at least 10 Wu-centric posts here before—that, in their day, the Wu-Tang were style kings who rolled en masse before the dissent kicked in. They were innately fly. In a world where collaborations are an increasingly tiresome currency and many rappers dress in various levels of shitty (awkward in leather, Karmaloop gift voucher, or 1998 called—it wants its denim back), it’s something of a lost art.

King collector DJ Greg Street is a man who seems to own everything, and a week or so ago, he made the video above where he showed Raekwon an array of merchandise from over the years. It’s entertaining stuff, but two things stand out—Rae seems completely unaware that most of this gear ever existed, and the man can fold a tee like a pro. Does he have a retail background*, an obsessive compulsive approach to his gear, or is this a habit borne of constant touring? The man could be working in Supreme with this commitment to keeping a shirt in order.



*Big up Ross Turner for noting that it’s a packing fold rather than a retail fold.

WORDS ARE VERY UNNECESSARY

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I’m guessing that I’m not alone in buying stacks of Japanese language publications. They’re rarely cheap (unless you actually visit Japan, postage or the markup in UK stores can be brutal) and can, unless you stick to your favourite titles and their myriad spinoffs and specials, be a let down once they arrive. But generally, with a mood of all-pervading geekery and a single niche taking up the first chunk of pages, these men’s clothing bibles are a triumph of obsession, covering territory that few western editors would ever dare tread, unless they were looking to bruise their already sensitive circulation. Fortunately, the language of unfiltered nerdery is global and singular. I wait for my Amazon Japan delivery in the knowledge that I’m not going to be able to sit and absorb every word. In fact, I’m probably not going to find a single sentence in there that I can decipher. But I’ll get flawless photography, detail shots, a sense of history—because origin years of a garment will be included— and, as a bonus, there’ll be some excitable captions in English.

If you’re really into the same kind of things as many Japanese consumers—good coats, vintage clobber and things you didn’t know you needed, but are so aesthetically pleasing that they’re necessary—then you’ll always be happy with Lightning, 2nd (Lightning’s younger brother, geared at a younger crowd), Free & Easy, and the tens of other titles that appear each month. ibought magazine takes consumerism to its compelling conclusion with page after page of stuff people bought recently, while GO OUT is the place to see unexpectedly awesome things like big branded GORE-TEX New Eras and costly rucksacks. Sometimes, a cartel of magazine editors unite to create a Whole Earth Catalog style paean to expendable income book stuff called, appropriately, Stuff, with sequels like Stuff Returns. The notion of being able to wander to a 7-11 style store near your house and find a 200 plus page tribute to Americana that examines the minutiae of denim rivets seems otherworldly, yet in many Japanese cities, it’s a norm. Minimal advertising, vast distribution and king-like levels of content means that, to quote Dave Gahan, words are very unnecessary. Every now and again you get stung for 15 quid by buying something completely uninspiring, but you would have blown that on something grass-fed in a bun that didn’t deliver anyway.

The Japanese approach to over analysing and cataloguing sports footwear appeals to me, because it’s a lane of its own that isn’t a youthful preoccupation with six or so silhouettes, nor old man griping over the shape/price/materials/availability, or whatever this month’s moan is. Boon Extra editions from the mid to late 1990s are still my favourite books on the topic, even if the copy could be calling me a bellend for all I know. Japan’s age-old fanaticism for shoes is something that resonates with me. They were up into the high 990s and four digit masterpieces from New Balance before the inevitable slow crawl of hype made the alternative to the bullshit—shoes that are still masterpieces—into another item caught in the bot and queue crossfire. I still feel that some shoes, like the reissue of 1996’s 999 that you only ever seemed to see in Asia, and the MT580, should never have had a release in the western world. We’re not built to appreciate them like we should. We should be observing from afar and making the pilgrimage to bring them back for ourselves and friends with flattened boxes and a not-guilty walk when it comes to NOTHING TO DECLARE.

2nd’s New Balance Book is the third solid NB mook I’ve seen over the years, and while the text is Japanese again, there’s enough imagery of grey suede and nubuck running shoes, factory imagery and history (the 1995 M585 and original M580 from 1992 are useful to see) to make it a worthy pickup. Many will find something new in there and the know-it-all will pick it up anyway because they’re too far gone with this collector thing, and bask in the knowledge that they have the knowledge when it comes to this sprawling, occasionally illogical secret society of numbers on tongues. You’ll probably pay some extra loot to get it, but this is comprehensive enough, despite not trawling some of the rarer releases or delving deep beyond running — like all the other good Japanese publications, it’s best used in tandem with other far eastern records of archive excavation. You could use Google, but it’s so awash with crappy content for content’s sake, and depressingly devoid of all those great little Geocities fan pages, that pricey paper is still your best bet.

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THUNDERS

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In a world where the younger generations are coming through with the kind of things that seasoned TV talking heads would find themselves stuttering themselves into a seizure in a bid to pigeonhole there’s still a place for the veterans to make their mark. London has long been a hub where ideas and attitude have been exported to become movements of their own in new territories — the city’s relationship with Tokyo being a good example — or at least the spot where its own imports, like punk after its NYC birth, were given a packable, sellable shape. There’s an entire roll call of folks who built up that reputation (and Alex Turnbull’s impending Rise of the Streets film project should make some things a little clearer) including Michael Kopelman, who has been extremely gracious in providing opportunities for young creatives throughout the years too (he even also made a cameo in episode #1 of Gamesmaster back in 1992) and Barnzley. A northerner who relocated to London, Barnzley seems to be connected to every zeitgeist — he worked with Worlds End, BOY, i-D and Stüssy, helped build a market for bootleg designer logos on tees, pushed deadstock shoes through Acupuncture, popularised the smiley face on tees in the acid house era, sold enviable amounts of Seditionaries gear to Hiroshi and Jun, has the rag trade knowledge and an excellent record collection, and was key to the superb House Industries House33 line and store in Soho, the Terrorist brand and A Child of the Jago. For all punk’s celebration of chaos, he gets shit done, is big in Japan and doesn’t rest on his history.

Having exited the Jago, Barnzley’s latest project is Thunders, a store located on Commercial Street in east London, that stocks his own Crossed Swords line which has been a couple of years in the making. Part Seditionaries, part Engineered Garments, part unclassifiable, much of it’s made up north like the man himself, and it’s punk without the silly safety pins or unnecessary postcard rebel embellishments. Coats are made from natural fabrics, with the occasional vaguely kinky synthetic lining, a red corduroy pair of bondage pants are stripped down but softcore, with RIRI hardware at the crotch, while mohair makes an appearance as the knitwear fabric of choice and neons aren’t overbearing. The tees are good too — Tank Girl artist Rufus Dayglo has created a reinterpretation of the Jim French cowboys image from the oft-reproduced 1975 SEX tee with a well endowed Booga, Tokyo new wave and hip-hop legend Toshio Nakanishi aka. Tycoon To$h has supplied some artwork for shirts, and there’s Let It Rock style Chuck Berry designs too. It’s a lot of things, but at its core, it’s streetwear rooted in the original London streetwear lines, with Crossed Swords’ House Industries designed logo echoing the swashbuckling new romanticism of Worlds End’s branding.

Thunders’ lack of webstore (they’ll walk you through on Skype though and there’s a private Instagram account @T_h_u_n_d_e_r_s, so it’s not because of technophobia) is down to a weariness with excessive promotion that erodes any sense of encountering something underground and distills all mystique, but the Tokyo co-signs are already drifting across social media and Thunders looks to be expanding into music and much more in coming seasons. There’s two distinct tribes whenever I get into conversations regarding future plans — the ones constantly talking about what they’re thinking about doing and the ones who know that there ain’t nothing to it but to do it. Big up Barnzley.

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DREADY

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There’s an entire strain of British streetwear history that nobody talks about at length — the Donnelly Brothers’ fine memoir Still Breathing documents the Gio Gio era brilliant, but I find myself occasionally wondering what the provenance of some lines that were popular on my playground were. Many seemed to be knockoffs — names like Eclipse (I’ll never forget that Fila on E branding — the Bernard Matthews version of Nice And Safe Attitude) on black denim and luridly embroidered coach jackets that seemed to bear a resemblance to more expensive gear, if you never had a bloody clue what that stuff actually looked like in the flesh. i-D magazine always ran the ads in the classifieds, where a distributor would fling up all kinds of logos — Nervous Records,Technics and mysterious lines like Dosse Posse (which really seemed to have a moment around 1992). Daniel Poole always seemed a little more prestigious, even though Poole ultimately called it a day and went into interior decoration instead. Record bags were as important to a licensing deal as the tee.

Then there was Dready. If you were a teenager back then, the idea of having a weed leaf on an item of apparel seemed like the ultimate statement of rebellion. Of course, in retrospect, it’s embarrassing — it makes you look like a wandering stash tin, and the THC equivalent of the beer boy bores who’d regale me with fictional tales of how many jars they sank over the weekend back when I worked in a call centre. I wanted garments with a leaf on more than anything, but I never sank as low as getting garments with the mysterious Spliffy character on — which I assumed was a Stüssy/Dready bite. Sometimes it got rocked with the Naf Naf imitating NAFFCO54 line. Indeed, at a point when rave’s bagginess and ragga’s click suit audacity collided in many a provincial town, people broke out some appalling head-to-toe combinations. Big clothes, six-tape sets with distorted bass and fifth-gen Stone Love clashes on a TDK brings back some vivid memories. There’s a documentary idea in there somewhere.

For years, I’ve assumed that Dready was another Stüssy copy (never to the extent of Massimo though), but news of its recent relaunch revealed that, unlike some of the faceless, cash-in curiosities that hit the markets at the same time (bootlegs of bootlegs of bootlegs of copies) when this guy was on store shelves, there’s a name attached to this one — an artist by the name of Robert Sidlauskas, who passed away in 2012. Dready came with a philosophy of truth and rights, unlike his evil Spliffy clone, who looked like he leapt from a mag cover-mounted Spectrum game about car thieves. The new Dready website has some background details, plus some interesting original imagery from Sidlauskas (like the stuff above) — I’m interested in seeing what they do with the brand going forward. It’s not for me nowadays, but it’s an entity that embodies a moment when a rack of clothes in your local streetwear spot might have a scattering of rave and UK-centric gear alongside the Droors and occasional X-Large.

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