BANGING

The Palace crew went H.A.M.  with their ‘Gangbanging at Ground Zero’ promo. I love the skating, the third-generation mate-of-a-mate fuzz (anyone else remember the dark footage of someone getting hit with a skateboard on a Union video?) in an era of artful virals shot in hi-def video on a friend’s Canon and the soundtrack. The soundtrack was the highlight. Skate videos helped with my musical education over the years, but it was the soundtrack that really killed it. When you’re filming in New York City, you can’t help but echo classics like Zoo York’s first Mixtape (I’ll take a hundred region 1 DVD dilemmas over the NTSC tape traumas from back in the day).

I like being reminded of a time when I’d phone skate shops on a JR Hartley flex (and I’m not talking about the trancey dickhead redux) hunt the black Zoo York hoody with the white stitched lettering. That captures the Mixtape and Peep This era to me…back when that brand was at the Supreme level of necessary apparel. Then all of a sudden they were dropping their own Dunk-a-likes, featuring printed birds in their sweats and devoid of edge.

The Palace video pays tribute by using that Fat Joe and Keith Nut WKCR Stretch & Bobbito freestyle that felt quaint back when Zoo York used it for the Jeff Pang segment. At that point, when Joey was wearing mafia don suits, it felt antiquated, but for some reason that shock-value, no-budget sound seems a little more relevant. Where did Keith Nut go?

Nowadays, if a rapper mentions Satan or moves their hand unusually, they’re accused of devil worshipping. It’s good to see a new wave taking it back to a less conservative time, but even when there was an element of shock-tactics, Keith claiming that “I ain’t your ordinary nigga mister/I do shit like suck my own dick, and child molest my little sister” made Bushwick Bill seem like Drake.

I’ve never heard such a boast of equal deviance since, and while the rest of Terror Squad made some noise – even Prospect is traceable, making some good records – I haven’t heard from Keith since Terror Squad’s ‘The Album’ in 1999, but I recall demos on Stretch and Bob’s show, freestyles on Doo Wop tapes and a fine verse on ‘Jealous One’s Envy’. Now he’s M.I.A. I blame that noncey lyric.

That just stretches back to a lineage of audio gulliness on tape — the Mobb on 411VMs (shouts to Rodney Torres) and best of all, Mike Carroll in Plan B’s ‘Virtual Reality’ skating to ‘Story (Pinky in the Twat)’ by The Beatnuts with the “Sucked her tits then I pounded her clitso” lyric. Most rappers aren’t quite as nihilistic as they used to be, but it’s good to know that Waka Flocka and Lex Luger are bringing that same spirit from the south. Their inclusion on the Palace tape, for Chewy Cannon’s section makes a certain sense. It’s interesting to hear contemporary gnarliness over a lo-fi look. G-check, G-check, G-check…

Another skate mainstay is the constant battle between the skate rats and the artsy types. I love watching it develop in 39 page threads on the Sidewalk forums over the cost of Palace sweatshirts…yep, 39 pages. Even Josh Kalis and Jason Dill are still engaging in upriver/downriver debate. It wouldn’t be the skate industry without heated debate over utter trivialities with an anti-hipster undertone.

Those Palace critics must be typing their fingerprints away over the latest developments for the brand, with a GQ Style magazine feature with Lev and company stood with naked ladies. The impending button-down shirts and Palace x Lavenham jacket should make them even madder, but they get it right every time and the skating’s excellent, which is the important part, right? That, plus the hundreds of thousands of views directed at threads about the price of printed cotton. All promo is good promo, but Palace’s promotional game is fucking good when it comes to films and photos. Brits in New York being very trill indeed, with snuff movie production values is a winning formula.


(Taken from Slam’s Facebook because I’m too lazy to scan)

THE FUCKING GLOWING SCREEN OF NONSENSE



KENNETH CAPPELLO: What do you think of blog culture?

JASON DILL: That ain’t for me. To each his own. I still don’t like the fucking glowing screen of nonsense.
(From ‘SNEEZE’ #11)

Very little’s been impressive this week. From a personal point-of-view, videos of dogs doing the conga (led by a hound on a bike), Perec’s ‘Species of Spaces,’ whoever left the comment, “The Passion of the Davro” on YouTube in relation to the Bobby Davro faceplant, English Frank on SBTV, livestock auction chants, the prospect of a Caligula comic book, Grace and WAH! raising some substantial charity cash, the relative ease which which one could obtain an iPad2 online, the impending London Supreme store, Chris Law and Lisa having a a son, Andy Milonakis’s “Swag”: tattoo, Randy Shilts’s ‘And the Band Played On’ and Juicy J’s works have been the only things to liven up the last 168 hours. Oh, and that Jason Dill quote, because Jason is still the man.

Missing the Herzog talk in London was a personal failure though.

I’m sure I saw a picture of some dude with shorts, a side-parting and a toggled jacket staring wistfully at a lake as part of a new lookbook from somebody. It epitomized the mediocrity I’ve exposed myself to this week — everything seemed to lack crystal clarity and retread the same old shit. I hope the next generation doesn’t look to older generations for answers — I speak to younger, creative characters and feel significantly more motivated than I do ambling back from a grim, meandering “everything’s shit” session over a flat white. Age is no automatic conferrer of greater knowledge. You can be old as fuck and still be a toy. I hope young ‘uns ignore us burn-outs who get possessive because new generations haven’t studied some imaginary curriculum of sacred cows that suffered a bovine dementia outbreak years ago and ceased to be relevant.

But then there’s the Werner Herzogs (at 68 years old) and Yohji Yamamotos (at 67 years old) who are Teflon Dons in their respective fields through sheer creativity that defies solitary sentence definition.

As well as the Yohji exhibition at the V & A, the designer’s precision and thought process look like they’re being explored in the forthcoming documentary, ‘This Is My Dream.’ I like Yamamoto’s lack of pretense in Wim Wenders’s ‘Notebook on Cities and Clothes’ where there’s much discussion surrounding notions of individuality in a world laden with postmodernism – he simply creates. I liked the hookups with Wenders, Michael Nyman and Takeshi Kitano — while I never took note of his work in the underrated ‘Brother’ or ‘Zatoichi,’ he helps make ‘Dolls’ even more visually appealing. I didn’t care too much for the slimline adidas stuff or the Jean-Michel Jarre 1989 suits. Clothing to accompany bendy keyboards and laser harps was too much like Poindexter on the electric violin in the leopard waistcoat, but everyone could learn a lot from those the 1980s Yamamoto catalogues with the Nick Knight and Peter Lindbergh photoshoots. They’re still works of art and fortunately, they weren’t laden with images of wankers by water.

The Nick Knight/Peter Saville/Marc Ascoli chat that went online last week is worth your energy, but the stern, stark feel of it made me feel a little fidgity. Still, some excellent points are made regarding photography and art direction. I really liked the anecdote than ends with, “We source black staples.” I guess that’s the attitude that pushes you into bankruptcy — but what a beautiful attitude it is.







EVENT RAP

Motherfuckers are impatient. Really, really impatient. A couple of days ago, Pusha-T’s ‘Fear of God’ mixtape made its official online appearance and pretty much shut down select Twitter timelines for an afternoon. Reactions were online within least than quarter of an hour after a Mediafire link appeared. That’s crazy. We knew the moment it would drop (despite a rogue streaming site) and Pusha even hosted a listening party for the tape…MP3, whatever. It was event rap, and that’s the rapid route to a fast-tracked backlash.

On Googling the name, fiending (I’m sure the Thornton brothers would use that as a jump off for yayo-wordplay) for a download, I chanced across a mediocre review made by a forum user that had been made at 4:30pm (half an hour before the release). It deemed the project unsatisfactory with track-by-track commentary. I respect that kid’s journalistic turnaround, but this decision to elevate the mixtape into a social media flooding, forced moment of ground breaking, epoch-defining magnificence, rather than your favourite rapper enjoying royalty freedom with promo-only status is a harmful one.

Nobody expects good any more. They don’t want acceptable, or a slow-burner. They want their music free, fast and immediate. ‘Fear of God’ doesn’t match any of the ‘We Got it 4 Cheap,’ trilogy (thankfully they dropped before the Tweet-rap era, otherwise the excitement may have broken the internet), but any Pusha-T material is worthy, given us that cold-blooded coke talk, with the quirkier touches that he seems to unconsciously apply to a verse, with pleasantly dated cultural references (as I’ve said before, Ric Flair analogies will always earn points with me) as well as Based God nods. One day, references to Lil B cooking and Twitter will be as archaic as 2Pac’s tales of mobile phone envy, but we can get a kick out of them in the short term.

I’m glad that Clipse have maintained their buzz after the Jive fiasco and bullshit Re-Up LP. Hopefully Pusha won’t have a problem with former Jive nemesis Barry Weiss being the new man in charge at Def Jam. Unless you’re Jada, 50, Kanye or Shawn, rap’s in the hands of 21 and below, and at 33, Pusha’s pensionable…Malice is 38. The affiliations with Kanye and that constant Pharrell helping hand, plus a constant lyrical elevation just keeps the duo relevant.

When Pusha spits over Soulja Boy’s ‘Speakers Going Hammer’ he isn’t like dad at the party drunk — he actually sounds at home on it. That’s a rare thing. With some of their early years pilfered by the goons at East West who confined them to bonus CDs with Nicole’s ‘Make it Hot’ CD in 1998 and buried the brilliance of ‘The Funeral’ in 1999. Anyone else remember Pusha being called Terrar and appearing on a Kelis track? Philly’s Most Wanted caught a brick (insert powder reference here) and Fam-Lay ended up in limbo, Rosco P Goldchain has his own legal issues and Lee Harvey vanished as quickly as he appeared…somehow, Clipse beat that Neptunes-affiliated curse. ‘Grindin’ could have gone ‘Tipsy’, even though ‘Lord Willin’ was hard as hell.

The Timberlake hookup had Pusha and Malice spitting some corny lines — you could tell they were itching to talk homicides right there. I met them briefly in early 2004 and they were nice guys, but I assumed that their moment was over as they performed ‘Grindin’ and some appalling commissioned track for London’s ‘World B-Boy Championships’ at Wembley stadium. I was surprised to see how BAPED-out they were, after early press shots had them in FUBU.

The fact their manager went to prison for trafficking, gave Clipse that edge like BMF and Jeezy (though Jeezy’s refusal to to Tweet due to his belief it’s a form of snitching) may have edged him out the conversation lately) to indicate that they weren’t mere studio fantasies in those wild tales of county lines and lavish car seating. Using mixtapes to fill the label-limbo between albums was a shred move. People still haven’t realised how good ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ actually is — these things need digestion time which 2011 rap refuses to allow — but it was ‘Freedom’ from ‘Til the Casket Drops’ that sold the new Pusha-T to me, living up to the promise of “Hip-hop on steroids” with that verse. And he hasn’t looked back since.

I was more of a Malice fan once (still am, but Pusha took pole position) once with his gloriously monotone, “The boy’s such an author, I should smoke a pipe” line, ‘Kojak’ references and elegantly tasteless Amistad references, but Pusha-T is my current favourite MC. This tape confers that.

Watching Tyler and company shut down talk of Nas in a recent interview was fun to watch. Why should young ‘uns be in thrall of those who’ve peddled tin-eared mediocrity for so long is no real mystery, yet they’re still expected to revere old guarders who’ve squandered their legacy. They spoke of Jay-Z and 50 Cent as their choice of listening growing up (let that be the final word in who one that battle) and there’s a respect for Pusha as a favourite MC too. Ignore the hype. Let that mixtape slow-burn, log out of Twitter and stop expecting freebies to be classic LPs. Just kick back and enjoy deadpan nihilism done well and (illegal) substance that those Rapidshare rappers have yet to develop, despite the singular subject matter..

RIP to Michael L. Abramson — the skinny whiteboy who shot Chicago clubs like Perv’s Lounge and The Patio Lounge in the 1970s, resulting in his portraits of 1970s South Side blues club goers that filled the ‘Light: On the South Side’ book.

The Grey Skateboard Magazine ‘Grey Nights’ video is online and despite its short running time, there’s some offcuts available on the Slam City Grey blog. It’s a great video.

TYSON 2.0

My Tyson preoccupation is something that crops up time and time again here. That’s unlikely to subside as Mike’s career takes some curious turns. Bear in mind that I once turned down the opportunity to party with Christian Hosoi to attend a preview screening on ‘Tyson’ just in case the big man attended (my very own pop-cultural ‘Sophie’s Choice’). His Oscar season viral videos indicated that he’s got an innate aptitude for comedy, but I’m hooked on the Animal Planet ‘Taking on Tyson’ show too.

A pigeon-based reality show simply frameworks some introspective moments that complement Toback’s documentary perfectly. It’s also been hugely educational in explaining the appeal of racing these feathered athletes. Last week’s remark from Mike that people thought, “This guy is a dreadful, offensive cad!” on seeing his ‘90s antics matched the talk of stomping out Don in front of decrepit old white ladies. You enter Tyson 2.0’s entertainment outings with a smirk, expecting a freakshow, but you come out enlightened. I’m pleased to see a happier individual on my screen.

The Nintendo ‘Punch-Out’ game represents a fair amount of my late childhood, and I was amazed to see that a group of fanboys purchased the ROM of the mysterious and unreleased ‘Mike Tyson’s Intergalactic Power Punch’ a couple of years back. The rape trial and quality issues meant that this game never came out as it was meant to. Dropping in 1992 as the flop ‘Power Punch II’ without Don King and his hair and with Mike replaced with “Mark Tyler” (around the same time, Mike Tyson-alike M. Bison in ‘Street Fighter II’ would be renamed Balrog due to legal concerns), it just wasn’t the same. While it’s available as a free download, the $30 cartridge is what you need in your life. Tyson punching aliens is high concept stuff indeed.

 

Tyson’s ad-libs on Canibus are the sole highlight of ‘Bis’s career. Canibus is beloved of the kind of people who think a raspy-voiced rapper babbling about UFOs is Nobel-calibre. They belong to the same group who purport to have submitted essays on Ras Kass’s made-up history of mankind ‘Nature of the Threat’ as degree projects. Jesus Christ. Now he’s back, claiming Premier worked with Christina Aguilera circa 1998 and ethering himself with a bizarre attack on Mr. Christopher Martin. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I believe an ill-fated 2004 photoshoot truly destroyed Canibus’s career.

The Dismasters ‘Black & Proud’ cover, the Dre Wreckin’ Cru era images that Eazy used to wield, Weezy looking like he was being bummed by a cop in a condom ad and that pauseworthy XXL Soulja Boy/Boo-Boo cover seem downright sensible compared to these images.

Did he demand some “Bollywood ’97 steez” attire from his stylist? “Kraków nightspot ‘07 styles”? That belt, the jacket, the savage levels of boot cut…and that buckle. Did he refer to himself as “The black Richard Hammond” back then on a record? These pictures still perplex me. What the heck was going through his mind when he broke out these garments? For a notoriously tin-eared MC like Canibus to pop shots at Premier after these shots seems doubly ridiculous. I’ll take that same old scratched Nas line and plodding piano over some bloke rasping about supermathematical illuminati armies (I just made that up) or whatever he talks about any day.

I don’t care much for UK rap. I try, but it’s either some old shite sampling hit records from 1990 with a baffling level of immunity (this is because most people are pricks) or a slightly squalid clone of the southern rap in my iTunes library that — as UK rap has always done — wants my coin just because I’m meant to support my own. Fuck that. Where did I put those Waka Flocka MP3s again? It wasn’t particularly good during the last 18 years or so either — just lots of people with group names like Elevated Mindz (apologies if that’s a real group name) talking about how bloody British they are and how they devastate mics. That Skepta video with the tagged in but from a Ben Dover looking production is excruciating. It makes the post-watershed ‘How Do You Want It’ promo look like ‘Caligula’ by comparison.

The ragga crossover stuff gets a pass though — it still sounds hard. Shouts to Scary Éire’s DJ Mek for his ‘UK Ragga Hiphop Mix.’ For some reason West Indian culture permeated UK rap with a greater success rate (RIP SMILEY CULTURE) than those terrible ragamuffin moments that sullied decent US LPs and mixtapes (word to Mad Lion, Lil’ Vicious and Red Fox). This mix is a lot of flashback fun and a fair amount of it holds up better than what came next. Break out the suede Champions and have a listen:

www.djmek.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/remedy-for-the-black-ash-blues

The excellent Grey Skateboard Magazine (not to be mistaken for Grey fashion magazine) has reached issue #4, with a launch party happening right now, plus a screening of some nighttime skate movies, including ‘Minuit’ and Grey’s own ‘Grey Nights’ film. The teaser alone indicates why Lucien Clarke is a badman. I’m also liking Mr. Sam Ashley’s Palace Skateboards in NYC pictures a lot too.

 

 

ALEX COX: EDUCATOR

I like using holiday time to catch up on the pile of DVDs that I never mustered the inclination to watch since they were impulse purchased. It’s not that I never had time — rather that I knew I’d be disappointed on a repeat viewing of each film. 1987’s ‘Straight to Hell’ is a perfect example of a film I want to like. I really, really, really want to like it. I remember the murmurings around it on its release and I recall the critical savaging it got. For every extremely negative critical reaction there’s a cult following in the making.

Surely a western that boasts a cast that includes Joe Strummer, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones and Shane MacGowan and Jim Jarmusch must be an under-appreciated gem? There’s certain seafood I try to will myself to enjoy. It’s not quite disgusting, but they make for a joyless anti-feast. I feel I should like it. Other people enjoy it, so why don’t I?

I don’t want to spit it out, much as I didn’t hit eject when I put the new ‘Straight to Hell’ redux, ‘Straight to Hell Returns’ in the player. Just as I find myself chewing the fishy offering into a joyless mush that dries out and won’t disappear, this remastered edition’s 90 minute duration feels at least 300% longer than other films. That episodic, willingly madcap narrative is oddly paced enough to evoke one of director Alex Cox’s old favourites, ‘Django, Kill,’ and just as all the king’s horses can’t put that film into an entirely comprehensible cut, the extra CGI blood, wandering skeletons and frugal handful of extra running time still leaves me cold.

The acting can occasionally resemble some kind of enforced young offender’s amateur performance (though Sy Richardson is amazing), but I still respect Mr. Cox’s decision to make it over the ‘Three Amigos.’ He even turned down ‘The Running Man’ to make ‘Walker.’

It’s the backstory, from Cox’s passion for the spaghetti western that makes him an authority on the subject to the aborted Nicaragua benefit that led to the excess of musicians in the cast that draws me back to ‘Straight to Hell.’ The documentary — ‘Back to Hell’ and the DVD’s commentary tell that story enough to make it worth picking up. When Alex is talking over it, this is a far, far better film.

It’s also worth noting that Alex Cox is my guru when it comes to films. He (alongside Kim Newman’s ‘Nightmare Movies’ and Danny Peary’s ‘Cult Movies’ trilogy) put me onto a number of under appreciated films as part of his run on BBC2’s ‘Moviedrome’ spot for several summers between 1988 and 1994. Cox presented double bills, dragged moaning from the BBC library, frequently themed, with comprehensive introductions and a genuine passion for the topic.

Post-Tarantino, everything’s a fucking “cult” film, but for weeks on end, sunday nights from 10am, which would now be filled with a ‘Gavin & Stacey’ re-run, or something equally shit, we got ‘Alligator,’ ‘The Great Silence,’ ‘Dead of Night,’ Two-Lane Blacktop,’ ‘The Hill,’ ‘Assault on Precinct 13,’ ‘One From the Heart,’ ‘Rabid,’ ‘The Parallax View,’ ‘Trancers,’ ‘Q – The Winged Serpent,’ ‘Lenny,’ ‘Grim Prairie Tales,’ ‘Day of the Locust,’ ‘Mishima’ and much more.

Each film made a substantial impact on me, supplementing a prolific diet of the era’s costlier productions. What could be perceived as trash cinema was lovingly contextualized to the point where its scheduling in the same slot as more cerebral, established masterpieces made utter sense. America got the Z Channel from 1974 to 1989 (as documented in the terrific ‘Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession’) and Jerry Harvey’s careful curation. We got Alex Cox — and for that reason I was happy to blindly shell out the coins to grab a DVD I knew I probably couldn’t make myself love.

Moviedrome came back in 1997 with Mark Cousins on presentation duties. The selection seemed to be significantly less obscure (though he gets props for screening ‘The Devil Thumbs a Ride’ and ‘Target), and while I enjoy Mark’s writing and critique, his eerie presentation style made me put my hand over my drink, in case he reached out the screen and slipped something into it. Alex was more of an infectiously enthusiastic oddball. I sent my £4 and got one of the lovingly made Moviedrome guides, which I promptly lost. I respected Mr. Cox’s humility in reprinting a particularly scathing ‘Walker’ review.

The fact Alex has upped guides 1 & 2 as PDFs on his site quells the gloom caused by my mislaid pamphlet and still holds up as a strong collection of must-see cinema. There might be some established favourites in the lounge TV festival’s lineups, but ‘To Sleep with Anger’ and ‘Tracks’ remain depressingly obscure and well worthy of revival. These are mediocre times televisually, and Film4 cannot and will never compete with what Moviedrome gave an entire generation on a weekly basis.

Salute the UK’s champion of the cinematic underdog — himself an underdog (albeit one of his own creation). I recommend everything on the ‘Straight to Hell’ DVD, bar the actual film in its unaccompanied form…


Not even the most fleeting mention of ‘The Parallax View’ can pass without including this video.

WATERPROOFED

Apologies for turning this blog into one of those stone-faced, wordless, image blogs for one night only. That wasn’t my avowed intention. This imagery was way too nostalgic and olde world to leave alone without spotlighting some newness down below. But it fell by the wayside because I got waylaid watching the Crufts 2011 finals (that boxer was robbed, yo) and reading about The Idler magazine’s new Idler Academy in west London. I lost concentration entirely.

All I can offer this evening is what was on my hard drive after I pillaged the ‘Backpacker’ archive for imagery pertaining to outdoor performance between 1973 and 1996. The project never amounted to anything, but I know a few like minds who might get a kick out of it. Hell, there’s plenty of right-clickers who might want to stick ‘em on their Tumblrs and claim them as their own. I don’t care, seeing as I borrowed them from a magazine in the first place.

The Columbia, Du Pont, Vasque, Marmot, Universal and Pivetta ads are particularly strong. In the current climate of outdoorsy one-upmanship (a trend that seems to have stuck), I’ll take this copy-heavy, utilitarian focus over the fey drivel that’s inappropriately applied to rugged gear throughout the blog world. I’ve been fixating on the Thinsulate labelling lately as one of my favourite pieces of branding. It’s democratic too compared to the steep price tags on steep incline wear that bears another personal favourite — the GORE-TEX tab.

Beyond the official North Face hookups, I loved Supreme’s woolly hat homage to the Thinsulate branding (not to be mistaken for the Thinsulate Supreme technology) in the vein of their Patagonia tributes.

Normal windy, wordy and pretentious service should resume next week.

BIGGIE VIA THE LAKE DISTRICT AND JULIO IGLESIAS

“Comin up on half a mil, we build/
Get real God, taking you on another one Son/
Uhh, Julio Iglesias/
Makin CREAM like that nigga.”

Raekwon ‘Criminology’

Yep. I’m aware that leading with a quote from a track taken from an album that fires barely concealed missiles at the late, great Frank White is a little odd, but I was hunting for Julio Iglesias references in rap. Funnily enough, Mystikal and South Park Mexican have used him in lines too, but I’m steering clear of the sex offenders. Kind of. Rap loves to grieve. If an MC or producer dies, we spend hours trading lines on Twitter, screaming to the skies, begging them to take Chris Moyles and leave us with our hip-hop hero for just one day.

Today’s been one of those days, being the anniversary of Biggie’s passing. And for once I fully understand. I love his wordplay, his versatility and his hunger for the hardcore. Had Mr. Wallace not been slain, rap would be different now – not necessarily better, not necessarily worse…but different. That’s an aura right there. Today you could get beat down for daring to wash your car when you should be listening to ‘Gimme the Loot.’ A murderer would be acquitted for stabbing you after hearing you hum ‘Hit ‘Em Up.’ My Facebook feed is riddled with the ‘Juicy’ video. Everyone’s copy/pasting lyrics in a bid to reach esoteric heights of fandom. But I don’t care, because, after Kool G Rap, Biggie Smalls was the illest.

But how do you blog about him without repeating yourself? You can’t. Everything he ever recorded is online somewhere. Except his appearance in Channel 4’s ‘Passengers’ in 1995, smoking blunts with Faith and wandering around Bed-Stuy, which somebody, somewhere must have ready to upload, I’ve actually posted the above image on my blog from when I used to blog at SlamXHype a couple of years ago. I actually posted it hours after being interviewed by ‘The Source,’ but when I told my mum, she didn’t give a shit, let alone smile.

But I think it’s remarkable that ‘Represent’ – a short-lived but excellent hip-hop UK-based fanzine – put the Notorious B.I.G. on its cover before anyone else. That’s deep. I read it in July 1994, and it contained (other than an ill-fated set of reviews that deemed Warren G’s LP better than the first Beatnuts LP) a feature on the big man based on a listen to the LP promo, declaring ‘Ready To Die’ as a successor to ‘Illmatic’ (released just a couple of months earlier).

I think the piece was written by DJ E-Legal, but I could be mistaken. ‘Represent House’ was based in Cumbria. We’re not talking London here – we’re talking Lake District territory. Matty C might have made his career-defining move, but it was a Brit-magazine – one that had Finsta Bundy on one of their covers – who made their own lo-fit but notable powermove during Biggie’s rise to fame.

Another key moment where strange gets stranger is the union of Biggie with then Jive upstart Crustified Dibbs aka. RA The Rugged Man. I never knew how this all happened, and an old email circulation of Biggie engaging in some kind of score sheet and claiming he wasn’t into the whole experience has floated around, but I don’t believe it — I’m sure I remember Biggie saluting just how Dibbs took it there in the misogyny stakes too. RA and B.I.G. work well together.

‘Cunt Renaissance’ is still one of the most offensive records I’ve ever heard and while the OG version is produced by Marc “Nigga” Nilez, matching the murky production I’ve heard on bootlegs of ‘Night of the Bloody Apes’ (I’m not a massive fan going on the tape-sounding leaks — I prefer the sound of RA from 1997 to the present day), I prefer the mysterious remix from a mixtape from a decade or so ago. I’ve never known the producer, but it elevates these depraved verses to almost epic status with a lavish loop.

The sample in question comes from another duet, albeit one less preoccupied with bodily fluids — the introduction to Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross’s 1984 hit, ‘All of You’ (the mystery producer even let Miss Ross’s voice make a brief appearance when he used the record). I love the duality between the discarded blunt guts sex talk and the cocaine mansion seduction that the tracks evoke. For all the gossip, cinematic depictions, partying and bullshit, there’s still a lot of depths unexplored in Christopher Wallace’s short, memorable career.

UNRELATED MATTERS:


I’m excited about Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ after the disappointment of Criterion not releasing the version of ‘The Thin Red Line’ that goes on for, like, a week with half of Hollywood in it. Yesterday, ‘Little White Lies’ upped an interview with the special effects team who promised that there’ll be dinosaurs in it. Then the interview was pulled down. I hope the dinosaurs remain in the final cut and don’t get the Billy Bob Thornton treatment. There’s an interesting new poster doing the rounds too.

On semi-related Criterion matters, go check Eric Skillman’s blog to witness his work. An occasional Criterion cover artist and designer, book cover designer and comic artist, he’s consistently excellent, and in an age where everyone’s a goddamn art director, this guy is the real deal. I love looking at his work (that ‘Wiseblood’ cover’s still a classic) and the design process section of the site is fascinating.

It’s not Eric’s work to my knowledge, but the cover for Criterion’s ‘Le Cercle Rouge’ (set for release in April) is a winner. A film this assured and stylish (the original promotional materials were good in the first place) can’t be an easy brief, but the gun element sets it off perfectly.

T-Shirt Party’s at an end. Nearly a year since I covered it here, and the mysterious Stan Still (who became less mysterious as the months progressed) fulfilled his mission to make 52 tees with accompanying videos. It ends with a black one, after 51 white shirts, plus a DVD of the visuals. I actually bumped into the man behind the project on a Supreme shoot when we were tasked with covering a backdrop with bricks of black box logo stickers. Time flies when you’re blogging gobshite.

I’ve never met anyone as dedicated to a singular subject matter as Scott (Bothan Spynet). He was doing the shoe-a-day thing a long time ago too. A nice bloke and someone with streetwear history, I stumbled across this little interview with him. Can’t remember if they were in that CLOT/ACU book a few years back with the alternate Stash BWs, but those samples of the 2003 Futura artist series Nike Blazer that Futura scrapped just before releasing the curry/Jedi version still kills me since they appeared on Recon a few years back. An amazing makeup that equals the unreleased Stussy Blazers from2001. They should have put out both.

And while I’m not a runner, I just freeload a lot, the Nike team in NYC recently instigated a masterplan that would even get me running. Training sessions with a hardcore mind-body correlator — Mr. John Joseph of the Cro-Mags. That’s serious. If you never picked up ‘The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon’ or ‘Meat is for Pussies,’ you should do. Training with a man preparing himself for this year’s Ironman tournament must be a pretty damned intense experience. He’s intense when he’s static and we’ve all seen him on stage so it’s safe to assume he’s pretty focused on the keep fit regime. Good work, Nike. Very good work.