Long before A$AP and adidas crossed paths, the connection between Rocky and the three-stripes helped pave the way for hip-hop history. After Nike endorsed Stallone in 1982’s Rocky III, adidas had made friends with the Italian Stallion in subsequent years , leading up to the fourth chapter. Before the strange bit where it claims that he discovered Run-D.M.C. breakdancing in the mid 1980s (probably not true — b-boying was never their forte and they’d put out an album by 1984), Barbara Smit’s Pitch Invasion is a great source of information on “Mr. adidas” himself Angelo Anastasio. the entertainment promotion man behind that pioneering footwear deal. Anastasio went from a mid 70s pro with New York Cosmos to the Ferrari-driver schmoozing around Hollywood. From Paulie’s robot (after Paulie went from violent woman beating drunk to loveable oaf in line with the franchise’s increased shine) to Vince DiCola’s War — a composition capable of getting a pacifist pumped enough to put their fists through a kebab shop window —it’s understandable that this heavy-handed red menace tale is a fan favourite (I’m a Clubber Lang man myself). I can’t help but think that the only thing more 1980s than Rocky IV, is the thought of Anastasio making power moves around 1985 on the streets of Los Angeles? The world needs a documentary on that pre-Yeezy heyday of entertainment marketing.
With Christmas fast approaching, it’s time to reflect on those less fortunate than ourselves. As a result, I’m reflecting on the tragic younger form of me in 1985 and in 1994, when I requested amazing things I never got. On the back of a TV showing of ‘First Blood’ and the release of ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’ everybody wanted a Rambo-style knife and sewing kit for mending yourself post self-surgery in the wild while on the run for knocking a policeman out a helicopter with a well-aimed rock. When novelty stores started cashing in by selling badly made weapons with a compass at the end of the handle and an enclosed wire that was meant to cut down trees, but everybody knew was for garroting enemies, everyone suddenly decided they needed one and we got on that camo hype early. I was denied one, but my brother was allowed a “survival knife” which he subsequently ruined while away at camp while throwing it at a tree to show off (or so he claims – maybe he killed a man and had to dispose of the weapon). Not only did it not stick in the tree, but the self igniting matches are alleged to have somehow lit themselves in the process and melted the handle. And that was that.
I wanted a pager because rappers always had them, name checked them and made them seem important. The fact I only needed to get hold of about two people who were glued to their Super NES anyway was irrelevant and after coming close to getting hold of a Motorola numerical pager that would involve elaborate number codes and some premium price to contact me, the plan was dropped. Looking at ads like the ones above, you can’s blame me for willing Santa to gift me the goods though, can you? The brilliantly-named Knifeco also made the more expensive and even more terrifying Survivor model that was like a grown-up version of the Survival Knife Kit. In 2012, the “Answering machine for your pocket” is totally redundant and I’d be arrested and face a custodial sentence if I marched around with Knifeco’s handiwork in a sheath (though I want this official version). There’s still part of me that wants to receive both of them on the 25th of December, just for some closure, but it’s safe to say that the ads are better than the actual items. They don’t do ads like this any more. What can I link this talk of bowie hunting knives to?
Putting together the Christmas list, there’s plenty that’s due to drop after the big day. If we fast forward over a year, Mike Tyson’s autobiography has a publication date of the 22nd of May, 2014, but to tide us over, ‘The Undisputed Truth’ by Mike Tyson and Paul Sloman (presumably based on the Broadway show) is released on the 16th of July 2013 and yes, there’s an audio book of it too. Hopefully there’ll be an audio book of the autobiography too. I’m also saddened to see that the ‘David Bowie Is’ book doesn’t come out until a couple of weeks before the exhibition of over 300 items picked from Bowie’s art, outfits and objects that the book ties in with starts at the V&A museum (sponsored by Gucci). Seeing as the majority of men’s fashion editors appear to have just noticed that mid 1970s David Bowie looks awesome, despite the rest of the world knowing this several years prior, this exhibit and book should give them more to copy a little too late, thus defeating the object of Bowie’s masterful re appropriation and ability to stay ahead of the curve.
Image taken from this Flickr account.
Mr. Matt Collett upped a link to a Flickr collection of Nike archive visit images from a few years bacon Facebook and it opened up a whole can of nerdery for me. We’ve all seen the Mag, the Batman boots made from Air Trainer SCs and the Batman Jordans created specially for films, but even on a trip to those fabled vaults recently I didn’t spot the ‘Jurassic Park’ raptor shoes (and I’m not talking newcomer slang for a particular pair of VIIs) there. In Donald Katz’s ‘Just Do It’ it mentions these models as an inspiration on the Air Carnivore because they were supposedly loosely related to, “…a shoe that Tinker Hatfield had worked on for the people running around inside some of the animal costumes in Jurassic Park (Tinker called those shoes Air Dinos and had since encouraged an “Animalistic” design motif).”
Oliver Hutton’s Flickr account is excellent and worth checking out, but is this image of an object credited to the Hulk, the mysterious “Air Dino”? Was it created for motion capture of raptor actors (inadvertent double rhyme) in the original ‘Jurassic Park’? I know there’s a few Beaverton-based boffins who can help me out here and the gift of weirdo knowledge would be gratefully received this Christmas.
“So, okay, okay, okay, y’all can’t fuck with me, no way/Jose or Héctor Camacho/Tech blows and watch yo’ chest close and tacos”
Juelz Santana, Diplomats ‘Gangsta Music’
“And I’ma go so opposite of soft/Off the richter, Héctor Camacho Man Randy Savage/Above status, quo, flow, so, pro”
Lil’ Wayne ‘Mr Carter’
Farewell, Héctor Camacho. You were my kind of fighter. Seemingly boxing forever, Puerto Rico’s own macho man and king of the reverse rat tail ‘do gave not one single fuck. Six losses in 30 years of professional bouts, mastering some bizarre modes of pre-fight mindfuckery, defeating Julian Solís, Ray Mancini, Vinny Pazienza and Julio César Chávez, plus aging incarnations of Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán, plus all manner of wild behaviour outside the ring, including getting his dick tattooed and whipping it out for Playgirl when he was pushing 50, burgling an electronics store while high on ecstasy and starring in a Latin reality show, where women compete to date Macho (‘It’s Macho Time’) all added to the legend. You can’t deny Héctor didn’t push it to the limit. Slain by a mystery assailant, he’ll be missed. With his shift to Islam after his own controversies it’s unlikely that Héctor Camacho Jr’s boxing career will be as storied as his father’s, but those hip-hop name checks (including a Cam’ron line on the ‘S.D.E’ album) keep the legacy alive.
Ed Davis’s The Heavy Mental site is one of my favourite places to lurk. The interviews and original work on the site are relevant to my interests and he seems to have myriad affiliated projects on the go and on the low, whether it’s participation in Ralph Bakshi screenings, these patches and tees (that reaper design is serious) and affiliations with Sydney’s excellent Supply store (10 years old this year). Because Ed can design very well indeed, his new S.O.H. collection is looking good too, steeped in thrash and doom imagery and letterforms, with the Southern Lord references (word to Sunn O))))) and Voivod logo homage for a shirt with Supply. S.O.H. launches with four designs and a lookbook titles ‘Expendable Youth’ with blunts, fireworks, firearms and Jeff Fotocar behind the camera. Fuct has a lot to answer for, in the best possible way — between these designs and Julian Consuegra’s Stray Rats, with its hardcore frame of reference, Erik’s uncompromising attitude is present, but the vision is the creators’ own. It’s rare that I get hyped about tee designs beyond the usual suspects, but these are great. Between Ed’s work and Perks & Mini’s designs, Australia does it better than the majority. There’s more pages to that lookbook too and I have no idea where these are dropping, nor can I find a website, but I’m sure a launch is imminent. I admire the vagueness. Most people have teased their tees to death by this point and dropped two Vimeos already.
A few Nike curiosities from the 1987 era below — Bucks player Sidney Moncrief promoting the mysterious Nike Rugby Union designs that seem like a response to the bolder Polo, Coca-Cola and adidas apparel creations around that time. That colour blocking and abundance of embroidered detail makes these interesting and the Bengals’ “Boomer” Esiason mean-mugging in Lycra to plug the recently released Air Windrunner is part of the same restrained campaign that ditches the shouty Futura Extra Bold of the time for a more gentile approach. If you want it bolder, then the cheesy Nike Apparel ad from the same era that’s pushing bicycle-wear via a campy-attired courier. The approach to clothing at this point in time lacked the confidence of the footwear, though an appearance from Agassi in one of the campaign shots hints at a brighter future, both literally and figuratively.
Recycled material from the hard drive today, with a Tyson-centric theme incited by talk of Roy Jones Jr. scheming a bout with Kimbo Slice, thus devaluing boxing to the point where it might as well involve kangaroos like a 1950s British fairground. If I had my way, the majority of posts here would involve Kid Dynamite anyway. ‘Spin’s January 1991 meeting between LL Cool J (on the back of ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’) and a post Douglas-defeat Tyson is excellent. The “Neither of them have ever heard of Morrissey” line in the intro is a nice start and the topics discussed are pleasantly incendiary, linking boxing and hip-hop and scattering it with a few choice bits of trivia along the way. It’s a bit like classic ‘Source’ meets ‘Playboy’ in terms of content. The ‘Wild, Wild Haircut Craze’ piece from a 1989 ‘Ebony’ uses Mike’s ‘Killer 1’ cut as the starting point to talk step-up flattops and “channel cuts.” The images of Tyson (wearing a Fila track top) and Ali, Tyson being congratulated by Eddie Murphy (who’s at a career point between the mild flop of ‘Another 48 Hours’ and the resurrection that was ‘Boomerang’) and an older shot of Mike proving that espadrilles are for players if you’re built like a brick shithouse and wear a chunky anklet with them. TOMS wearers are still bellends though.
Has it really been 20 years since Koon, Powell, Wind, Briseño and Solano were acquitted, LA burned, Perry Farrell masturbated multiple times and then everybody declared war on rap and announced that everything with an f-word was “gangsta”? It led to ‘Get the Fist’ — not a pro-fisting anthem, but a charity record that’s better than Live Aid II and III’s reminder that 1989 and 2004 were dark musical times, but not as good as Springsteen and Run-DMC condemning Sun City. I remember footage of Positive K, Biz and MC Serch’s albums being sent beneath the steamroller during the storm over that crappy ‘Cop Killer’ song too.
Still, it was nice to feel like you weren’t meant to be listening to the music — authorities, parents and even the artists goading me and calling me a cracker made the experience fun. Now it wants to be your friend — it retweets you and collaborates with Katy Perry, then saunters off and reworks an Aston Martin. Hip-hop practically strokes your balls and asks how your day at work was. Things done changed. I still can’t resist the lure of the rap autobiography – DMX, Ice-T, 50 Cent, Jay-Z (a decent read beyond the lyrical deconstructions), Common and J-Zone’s efforts were decent in their own ways, but Prodigy set the standard with ‘My Infamous Life’ by talking smack as if he was never going to be released and not letting too much truth get in the way of a good yarn. That seems to have instigated some impending tomes — Lil’ Kim’s ‘The Price of Loyalty’ drops in June, ‘Bizzy By Choice, Bone By Blood’ by Bizzy Bone, ‘The Dynasty: Sex, Drugs, Murder and Hip Hop’ by Ray Benzino arrive in July, Boots Riley has one set for December and Q-Tip’s ‘Industry Rules: the World According to Q-Tip, From Linden Blvd. to El Sugundo and Beyond’ is a long way off (25th March 2014 according to Amazon). Somewhere among all those releases, RA the Rugged Man’s book might appear too.
Given his notorious inability to hold his tongue, Benzino’s book appeals to me – I want more information on the whole ‘The Source’ deal, the early Boston rap days, label issues as a result of the aforementioned ‘Cop Killer’ fallout, the CGI magic carpets and that strange documentary that was on WSHH recently, which featured an inexplicable Jay Electronica appearance banging on about Satan and the illuminati, years before he took to blasting the shit out of pheasants with Zac Goldsmith of an evening. I imagine it will probably indicate that Made Men made classic albums too, but I’m willing to overlook all that. Every rapper used to have a book, film and beverage in the offing, but many failed to materialise. I never believed ‘Zino’s book would appear, but now there’s even a cover shot as proof of life. On a biographical note, HarperCollins are reported to have obtained UK rights to Mike Tyson’s memoir and it’s apparently set for an October 2013 release — very good news indeed. Getting overeager about these things can prove humiliating though – a lot of us have been waiting for ‘Bowie: Object’ (which sounds like an even fancier version of ‘My Rugged 211’ or that Hiroshi Fujiwara ‘Personal Effects’ book, but this time, it’s a tome showcasing some of Bowie’s favourite archive artefacts), but Bowie Myths showcased a “leak” that looked questionable. It was evidently written by somebody that understands Bowie, yet predictably, it turned out to be fake and even the man himself took to Facebook (“Blinkin’ garden gnomes! Really”) to dismiss it. Between that and a hastily doctored pair of Jordan Is with the Nike SB logo on the tongue (as I understand it, that Jordan I SB for the Bones Brigade film isn’t happening), fast news travel and a hunger for information are optimum conditions for pranks.
Every meeting I’ve gone to lately seems to have talk of “a print project” thrown around in the same way they were banging on about an “online magazine” a year or so ago. Unless you’ve got an oligarch backer the high gloss approach will crash and burn and just trying to be ‘Monocle’s fashion section distilled down like weak Ribena – a sickly pink when it should be a purple, isn’t enough. I can’t say I’ve been awed by a magazine lately (though there’s been some strong content) on visuals alone in the same way that ‘Relax’ used to blow my mind frequently. Sure, it got to a point where on grabbing it from Magma, it was all plants, pastels and Mike Mills again and again (the visual angle was important, because I couldn’t understand a bloody word of that Japanese text) and then it was cancelled in 2006, but before that, it was a perfect, progressive example of magazine design — inserts, posters, stickers and those covers…inspirational in a way that ‘The Face’ once was and very little has been since…at least nothing that would leave you with change from a tenner. The adidas and Dogtown issues were tremendous and there’s still room in my life for something just as powerful. The Being Hunted crew always seemed to worship this magazine too (I’m looking forward to seeing Being Hunted 7.0), because Jorg and co know their stuff. Salutes to the LMCA archive for maintaining the covers and the YouWorkForThem squad for keeping their magazine and book visuals stored, even after they stopped selling them. Why isn’t there a ‘Relax’ retrospective book? I still believe print can change lives, but `also I believe that it’s a format that only a select few can truly succeed in.
Page images taken from YouWorkForThem
If it’s quirky, it’s cult now. I’ve been trying to work out when cult ceased to be an appealing tag – perhaps it was the post Quentin slew of chatty, smart-Alec mob flicks that jarred each and every time. Maybe it was Rob Zombie and co’s attempts to reproduce a moment in time that was originally simply a victim of no means and a lack of professional crew. Either way, the best stuff from back in the day had an earnestness about it and a sense of strange that wasn’t synthesised. All the talk of ninjas last week had me thinking of David Carradine’s work and I still maintain that 1989’s ‘Sonny Boy’ is underrated. Alongside ‘Santa Sangre’ it offers something uncomfortable but intoxicating in a totally unrestrained approach to bloodletting and Carradine’s commitment to the film, from his cross-dressing performance to the work on the soundtrack is admirable. Cheap and memorable is a fair summary (like 1990’s unnerving ‘Luther the Geek’), but that doesn’t necessarily make it a film for all tastes — come to think of it, many will just find ‘Sonny Boy’ deeply offensive, but I guarantee you’ve not seen much like this one before. Brad Dourif has spent much of his career stumbling into curiosities like this and I’m assuming distribution issues mean it won’t ever get a proper DVD release again.
“You’re pint-sized, I’m Mike’s eyes with the gladiator tattoos on it.”
Nas, ‘Nazareth Savage’
“I freak beats, slam it like Iron Sheik/Jam like a Tec with correct techniques.”
Nas,’It Ain’t Hard to Tell’
This post is dedicated to the memory of the MacBook Pro that just passed, taking away imagery for a planned post and making me improvise with hastily cobbled together entries like this. Iron Mike‘s Instagram image of the big man stood alongside the Iron Sheik at the end of last week was — and I’m not being ironic here — one of the best pictures I’ve seen in years. This was a meeting of two of my favourite people who’ve grown up but not lost their capacity to entertain. The Sheik’s wild threats via twitter live up to his wild image of old, namechecked by Nas and authentically unhinged in a heavily rehearsed realm, and Mike Tyson is a man who seems to have emerged from the darkness, the family tragedies and the apparent catharsis of James Toback’s ‘Tyson’ documentary a changed man — less the rent-a-thug or genuinely unnerving thousand yard stare of his appearance in the Wu-Tang heavy mess of ‘Black and White’ and more of a controlled presence that seems to be in on the jokes. I’m not a Tyson apologist, but I’m a fan of his fights, his respect for boxing history and willingness to bare his soul. He’s a complicated character and the current woeful state of heavyweight bouts has me nostalgic for the Mitch Green scrap outside Dapper Dan and even contemporary Mike meltdowns like the Lennox press scrap (now that’s how you brawl at a press conference — it isn’t a real brawl unless legs get inexplicably bitten) and the threats at journos. That’s the raw side of a warrior mindset, but the Haye and Chisora dust up’s use of props was straight-up WWE behaviour.
In fact, I’d rather watch WWE than watch the aforementioned pair fight. At least I’ll respect the fighters more. Long after Mike’s 1990 WWF refereeing replacement for a Hogan and Randy Savage bout in favour of an unexpectedly victorious Buster Douglas, and several years after his wild post-jail antics seemed to be an influence on the Raw-era he was given WWE Hall of Fame status at the weekend. And it was here that two legends met. That image of them together is a classic Mike image beyond the ring — up there with his meeting with Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1991 clad in flamboyant knitwear, his late night Wheaties run in a particularly fly Fila tracksuit, ‘LIFE’ magazine ‘s shot of him in an MCM and Rolex combo, plus the entire ‘Sports Illustrated’ shoot from 1985 (note the Etonic Mirage on his feet in the pigeon coop) for the January 6, 1986 cover story (which you can read here), where a 19-year-old Kid Dynamite greets well wishers and chills with his pigeons. A hero meets a hero. I’m just surprised that when these two legends met, the universe didn’t implode in honour of them. There’s a few personal favourites below, plus a heavily watermarked picture of Webster in Air Jordan Is from the 1987 ‘Webster’ episode with the Tyson cameo.
In a realm where so many magazines have said no más due to lagging ad opportunities and a focus on digital above pulped trees, there’s still some contenders like ‘Victory Journal’ making the most of sprawling pages and the scope to enlighten in a tactile, visually pleasing way that the web can’t match. Theoretically, with its ability to stream, cater to a statistical addiction, constantly update and get a jab in long before print can retaliate, the internet should have the extra reach to make any showdown a mismatch, but they’re too very different beasts. A legacy of great photojournalism, impassioned essays and sprawling profiles of the characters who dedicate their lives to sporting disciplines — from the frequently forgotten characters (especially during the recent NBA deadlock) who make a living serving snacks, attending the car park and cleaning up long after the cheers and traded blows have finished, to the professional athletes — has made for compelling reading and viewing time and time again.
As well as the spectacle of the events and the jot of participation in the crowd and on the field, ‘Sports Illustrated’ and the defunct ‘Sport’ fueled the No Mas team, inspiring a wave of gear rooted in absolute obsession that span off into media content, fighter sponsorship and an agency (Doubleday & Cartwright). As a showcase of their abilities and as another love letter to sports, their ‘Victory Journal’ is a necessary read. I don’t care much for any sport that’s not broken into three or five-minute rounds, but I love sports journalism from the likes of Gay Talese and some more prominent macho intellectuals’ talk of boxing meets a its match next to Dick Schaap’s work or Mark Kram’s incendiary paragraphs (this moderated chat on the topic is tremendous). With an emphasis on design as well as copy (their typeface game is extensive), the ‘Victory Journal’ team evade the obvious with the cover shot — some nautical jousters engaging in an activity that I never knew existed, continuing a bold move that treasures visual clout over familiarity, moving from Brazilian football to this lesser-known pastime by way of Jimmy Snuka.
Issue Three, with its “For Love or money” motto, is the perfect home for Cheryl Dunn‘s 1980s’ boxing photography and frequent No Mas collaborator Mickey Dusyj’s 1986 Mets portraits. Dunn recently got $45,000 funding via Kickstarter to finish her ‘Everybody Street’ documentary on NYC street photography and these portraits of a golden age are a testament to her versatility and knack for access. Just as Grantland.com and Deadspin.com provide compelling stories online and ESPN’s ’40 For 40′ series had a strong hit rate, ‘Victory Journal’ taps into the part of sports culture that even the kids who spent two lessons a week with great Nikes on their feet but their hands in their pocket can be caught up in the sheer passion and aptitude for oddball behaviour that professional sports (and let’s not forget the luminaries of sports entertainment either) attracts. Go visit www.victoryjournal.com to grab a copy.
I’ve talked No Mas on here before and I’m keen not to repeat myself in my unbridled enthusiasm. There’s some repro brands remaking old Ali shirts for lithe hipsters to wear as well as other notable tee designs, but No Mas is different — it’s not jocked and juiced up, tearing doors from hinges on a testosterone-addled rampage, but it is wild-eyed with obsession and laden with nostalgia. After Staple put out the Ali sweat in the early ’00s, No Mas takes that baton and just fucking runs with it. Actually, given the breadth of their output, maybe they need testing — this is sporting fandom on steroids. Current highlights included a foray into MMA with a licensed UFC 1 ‘The Beginning’ shirt taking it back to November ’93 and a celebration of the defunct but unsurpassed PRIDE Fighting Championships, motivational speaker and Arguello defeater Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor’s “Hawk Time” shirt. The Leon Spinks replica harks back to Leon’s choice of self-promoting attire around the time of the second Ali bout and the ‘Sport’ magazine masthead shirt pays tribute to another lost empire. There’s even an officially licensed Gleason’s Gym shirt.
It comes down to this — the tees and sweats I covet are rooted in sports performance. You can loopwheel it or you can cover it in disruptive patterning, but at the core, it’s about athleticism. No Mas make no attempt to cover up those origins and take it back to the essence. That, in itself, is infectious.
Speaking of Grantland, McSweeney have compiled articles from that site with a basketball texture cover. But beyond sports, their food publication in association with Momofuku’s David Chang , ‘Lucky Peach’ is on its second issue. This looks like a publication to match ‘Swallow’ in terms of content and design. I don’t know what I was smoking over the summer to miss the first issue — a ramen special — but it won’t happen again. An adhesive tribute to fruit stickers? I’m all over that.
On a sporting style note, Edwin Moses doesn’t get his dues for looking slick on the move with that (post-Diadora?) sunglasses and beard steez that made him look like Rick Ross if he kicked the breakfast bisque habit and got athletic. People criticised Ed for looking distance in the shades, but he had eyes susceptible to glare (and I’m not talking about the glares of haters). I’m not sure the beads were for medical benefit, but the overall look is serious.
If Steve Jobs and Kyle from Tenacious D didn’t sell the New Balance 993 to you, it’s also Louis CK’s shoe of choice too. Louis’s Rolex, loose denim, black tee and black 993 combo is no joke. Larry’s love of Simple might be infectious, but the 993 is officially the shoe of geniuses. Louis rocks it during his $5 comedy special (well worth your money — the weed routine, parental revenge and soldiers on planes bits are worth, like, $1.6666667 each alone). Its been a good year for New Balance, and this is a happy finish (insert jizzy punchline here).
Team Gourmet know a lot about shoes. Jon and the Gregs are passionate about footwear – not in that dry skinny chino pinroll, Fuzzyfelt AM1 and Obey five-panel hat way…that by numbers shoe dude stuff is horrible. The minds behind Gourmet know shitloads about every brand and reference all kinds of footwear. Except a lot of people don’t notice that, because they’re too hype on a retro shoe that looks like it came from one of those sites where everything’s $80. I like shoes with a story. Not a story in some superfluous PR muppet kind of way or basing it on a type of fish, but in the naming and execution. You should like a shoe on face value first and the covered, zip up style of the Dignan is appealing. There’s a spot of Moc in there and the brand’s usual high-end cues, but the real inspiration is ‘The Departed.’ Specifically the end scene where Mark Wahlberg’s foul-mouthed Sgt. Dignam shoots rat cop Colin Sullivan in the face with hospital shoe covers to cover his tracks. Gourmet have always maintained a healthy preoccupation with a shady living blend of tracksuit, fancy footwear and pinky rings, but this clinical tracksuited outfit ups the ante of anti-hero outfits. Cross trainers, renegade cops doing the right thing and technical fabrics in one shoe? Salutes to the crew.
If you haven’t bought a copy of ‘The End’ compilation, and you’ve got an interest in the roots of Britain’s adi fandom, you’re slipping. The adidas sponsorship of the book is perfectly pitched and isn’t gratuitous like, say, UK rappers looking glum in PUMA, Salutes to Sabotage Times for putting it together too (it’s available from Selectadisc, Oi Polloi, Garbstore and HMV now too). The adidas ads in there include a great Forest Hills one, but the ad inside for a special made-in-Germany Munchen for February 2012 is the most interesting element, harking back to early ’00s issues of ‘The Face.’ One of adidas’s finest late ’70s moments (and way, way, way better in PU sole form as Munchen or Suisse than the skinnier ’72 version too) is coming back in homegrown form, and even the box looks on point. The casual connection can be horribly mishandled, but adidas and ‘The End’ are great partners.
Shouts to Gabriel and the Origin London team on this i-D feature too — young London talent on the rise, offering something that isn’t steeped in wearying self reference. 17 years old and already running a brand? Salutes.
Two of my heavyweight heroes have passed this week, and it breaks my heart. The retrospective reels depicting Joe Frazier’s greatness are a stark contrast to the sorry state of the heavyweight division these days (though Kirkland and Angulo’s Super Welterweight bout at the weekend was a throwback to a happier time). Anybody blinded by Ali-mania and some salty exchanges of words is a clown. Frazier’s vicious style and heavy hitting makes him a god. It’s a tragedy that he seemed to spend the last few years of his life in a different place to a formerly demonised Ali opponent like George Foreman who came out the other side (after a period of depression) a happy human being. This 1973 Playboy interview is worth a read ahead of any eulogies and the forthcoming documentary ‘When the Smoke Clears’ about Joe, Philly and the closure of his gym is promising too.
Then there’s Heavy D.
It was surreal watching the onetime Overweight Lover on Westwood.tv, pondering the excellence of ‘Blue Funk’ and thinking about how ‘You Can’t See What I Can See’ was up there with ‘Dwyck’ in the b-side stakes, only to hear of his passing. Hip-hop loves to wail and shout “whyyyyyyy?” to the heavens via social media and rap tribute during any passing, but Heavy D deserves a substantial mourning period — see that Drake album that’s been weeping salty tears from your iPhone screen since monday? That mix of macho bars and the soul stuff is the byproduct of the big man’s work, where a Teddy Riley production settled alongside the hardest of Premier beats without a single murmur of complaint. And that was during a time when Wreckx-N-Effect’s boys got vexed at Phife’s anti swing sentiments and EPMD were decrying R&B crossovers. Heavy helped make Puffy the man his is today, and Puff’s influence — regardless of your opinion of the Ciroc wielding ego — on pop culture as a whole is gargantuan.
Heavy D knew early on that there’s no such thing as selling out, provided that you do it right and that Sprite campaign pre-dates a slew of multi-national flirtations with hip-hop. Better that that, ‘Nike’ on the ‘Living Large’ LP in 1987 is an early ode swoosh with a Teddy Riley on co-operation that’s so shameless that Heavy even apologises at the end before angling for a promo deal. On the ‘Chunky But Funky’ cover, the Jordan IIs quantities are on the level of Heavy D’s scrawny opposites, the Skinny Boys. It’s a shame that one of the Boyz forgot his Italian-made classics on the morning of the shoot.
On a loosely related nostalgia note, Trevor Jackson and Richard XL’s live Ustream video construction of a UK rap mixtape the other day plus this 1986 DJ Mek footage of London Posse in Dublin as highlighted by the Hot As Balls crew brought back some memories of Mr. Jackson’s Bite It! work under the Underdog alias. Had his Playgroup album dropped in the MP3 blog era, the world would have collectively ejaculated tweet plaudits about it and the new generation of quasi-artistic MCs would hop on the productions for their Mediafire mixtapes. But the world wasn’t quite ready for that one and his Output imprint closed in 2006. Under his Underdog guise, Trevor dropped some bangers, at a time when the UK re-rub was a reason to skip a track. It’s interesting that he frequently downplays his musical ability at that time, indicating that treating the sonics the same way as graphic design, with a patchwork approach was the key to his sound.
While some Underdog work might have been lumped with the post-Muggs, THC-haze there’s an ambience and knack for psychedelia in the mix that could be fully appreciation when it was free from the distraction of comparison with beloved originals. On the Brotherhood’s ‘Elementalz’ it was out there. Some of the album might sound a little naive now, but the little gothic touches and lavish yet abstract art from Dave Mckean indicated that someone had taken their time putting it together in contrast to the graffiti fonts and barely Pentel tag fonts of rival British releases. It never set off a movement and as a nation, few lessons were learned and UK rap moaned and stagnated. Now the real appeal is in a hastily recorded road rap sound that’s too agitated to bother with lavish inlays.
This interview with Jackson is brutally honest at a time when many swagger around as one-man brands on a Klout score mission. He downplays a little too much of his work, but it’s clear that the graphic design and typography is still his first passion (check out Cynthia Rose’s ‘Design After Dark’ for some sleeve and clubland designs that typify the late ’80s to early ’90s, including some of Jackson’s Champion and Gee Street work). His site has a good cross section of his works so far, but Bite It!s street-level take on the Suzuki rhino and the attention lavished on some otherwise forgotten 12″s with Donald Christie’s photography.
Little Pauly Ryan EP’s been on here before, but it deserves a second appearance alongside Scientists of Sound and 100% Proof releases too. Who else was doing anything like that in 1992? He still works with Donald on video projects like this. That sloganeering should be memorable to ‘Phat’ readers too. I can’t help but think that that one-man, money’s-no-object (rarely the key to longevity in the recording industry) crusade against mediocrity deserves inspection from a wider audience as we champion some right old sh…actually, to honour Hev’s ‘Don’t Curse’ plea, it can get censored…shameless rubbish.
“Perhaps when everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful.”
Stanley Kubrick, 1968
I’m a terrible interviewer. I wish I could wade in ready for war and ask the questions that need to be answering, but I just don’t — I’m more keen to engage in a genial conversation and keep the subject happy. That frequently leads to sycophantic laugh-alongs. Having said that, in my sector, generally there’s no call for anything particularly probing — bear in mind that I operate in a realm where saying that something is good but not a classic is deemed insightful and scathingly critical. Introspect forsook the realm in which I dwell. Imagine if Alex Haley had laughed along with George Lincoln Rockwell’s baseless racist theories to keep him happy, and Rockwell was staring down the barrel of a gun laying sideways between interrogator and subject. Transcribing myself is equally excruciating, as it reveals that not only am I a sycophantic, chuckling goon, but I also have the nasal voice of a simpleton who punctuates points with an irksome “like” at least twenty times in forty minutes.
Mr. Pardeep Sall is my favourite source of book recommendations, and he put me onto each volume of ‘The Playboy Interviews’ — a useful collection of compendiums, shorn of distracting masturbation fodder and filtered for the very best conversations. As you might have noticed, I’ve never had any formal journalistic training but Mr. Sall was correct when he recommended these, explaining that they’re “Better than any course” of you’re looking for a masterclass in professional but probing technique. ‘The Directors’ and ‘Movers and Shakers’ are particularly outstanding. Lawrence Grobel’s 1985 chat with John Huston and Eric Norden’s 1968 conversation with Stanley Kubrick are currently fresh in my mind, but I have to pass on a second-hand recommendation with regards to these tomes. Especially if, like me, your interview game needs stepping up beyond, “Why are you so great?”
The Kubrick piece also reminded me about his earliest moving picture, a bombastic 1951 short, entitled ‘Day of the Fight’ documenting middleweight fighter Walter Cartier’s pre-fight build-up, with an excitable Douglas Edwards voice over. At 16 minutes long, it’s strange to see that there was even a poster for this film (seen below courtesy of www.postermountain.com). I wonder as to how Kubrick fared in a documentation environment where his meticulous nature was tethered by real-world movements, but while subtlety and deliberate pacing are a no-go here, the lighting’s on point and there’s some tracking too. ‘Day of the Fight’ is a follow-up to Kubrick’s 1949 ‘Prizefighter’ photo-essay for ‘Look’ which you can read right here in its entirety. I’m obsessed with the aesthetic of old world boxing, from Nat Fleischer’s work to these kinds of moving and static pictures.
‘Look’ was a ‘Life’ imitator in many respects, and ‘Life’ briefly covered Walter Cartier too in ‘Fight Trainer’ — a photo-essay by the excellent Eliot Elisofon focusing on the work of Polish-born, Brooklyn-raised trainer Charley Goldman. While the focus is on a Rocky Marciano — a significantly more successful fighter trained by Goldman, there’s some shots of Cartier in training mode under the great man’s tutelage. The ‘Life’ piece is dated February 12th, 1951 — just under a year after the 1950 bout that Kubrick documented. Cartier’s prizefighter career never soared and he fared better as an occasional actor, but Kubrick’s decision to use him as a study afforded him a certain immortality. Four years later, his breakthrough of sorts, ‘Killer’s Kiss’ would use gyms and boxing rings as a setting with the same shadowy intensity, and as with ‘Day of the Fight’ it was imbued with a punch drunk sense of melodrama that wasn’t indicative of the director’s more cerebral vision. Still, Kubrick at his worst was, like Cartier, not a bad prospect at all.
Hype makes the industry tick. No blog buzz within 24 hours of launch? Disaster. Nothing gets time to breathe. I find myself laughing at peers picking up on something that went wall-to-wall on Facebook 48 hours prior, and it’s not something that I’m proud of. I’m convinced that the downside of this quick hit, tentacled notion of “street culture” is that while it might snake out far beyond printed tees (and my friend Mr. Marcus Troy made an interesting point on Hypebeast regarding the possibility that too many brands might be dwelling on an “over it” audience at the expense of an audience who want to wear caps, tees and hats, rather than washed-out, button-down blues), it doesn’t seem to take time to create any roots.
I also think that exposure to everything that goes down globally in ten minutes of browsing is homogenising local scenes. I still the joys of information overload provide benefits that outweigh that issue, but I felt it was something worth discussing, because when you turn into a miserable old fuck like me, you cease to create, and commence with utterly unnecessary introspect. Eugene at Hypebeast was kind enough to let me vent a little on the site about a lack of movements (though the title accidentally invokes my lazy way of life and approach to my career too), complete with a little disclaimer too for the site’s Op-Ed experiment.
Lest I look too much like an ageing hipster doofus, I wrote it a short time before the OFWGKTA movement truly went mainstream with the Kimmel and bug-chewing and I realised that nearly every hip-hop blog had become a redundant Johnny-come-lately. So please allow for the token trendy dad reference point. It’s the kind of unfocused ramble you might find here – mostly BlackBerry written and bearing my trademark cavalier approach to grammar. But the aim wasn’t another tiresome things were better in 19_ _ or 20_ _” rant, rather a query as to how cultures might progress in the abundant information age. You can find it here. The next Hypebeast crossover with this self-indulgent corner of the internet will be more focused, but it’s a fun opportunity I appreciate.
Any talk of HYPE also reminds me of the excellent 1989 Sports Illustrated article of the same name, talking about the relationship between sport and hyperbole, using the white leather jacket with “Don’t Believe the Hype” in gold and black across the back that Mike Tyson was fetching from Harlem’s Dapper Dan store at 4 in the morning when he ran into Mitch “Blood” Green and left him needing expensive sunglasses.
Just as the Lo-life gang’s illicit efforts popularized Polo, Hilfiger Nautica and The North Face in such a way that they altered street style forever, Dapper Dan deserves similar status — Gucci, MCM and Louis Vuitton can’t have been too pleased to see themselves bootlegged to the point where folk thought they might be making the madcap items taking pride of place on record sleeves sailing up the Billboard charts, but they created a brand loyalty and aspiration that’s made these houses a fortune. The Louboutin Swizz hookup and Kanye Vuittons are the by product of what “Dapper” Daniel Day was capitalizing on when he stayed open 24 hours for an audience of celebrities and the criminal minded back in the day.
Exclusive Game clothing are following that lineage with their gear for Jadakiss, Rick Ross and Diddy (check the custom MCM piece in the ‘Another One’ video) and anyone crying “FAKE!” might be missing the point. I only recently noticed that DJ E-Z Rock is wearing some customised Louis Vuitton monogram Air Force 1s in Janette Beckman’s 1988 photo shoot for the ‘It Takes Two’ album. Maybe I’d always been too distracted by the early Uptown sighting on an artist’s foot as well as that Dapper Dan tracksuit to pay full attention to the swoosh and heeltab. I always thought the designer fabric Air Force was a late 1990’s phenomenon, but this was Harlem style in full effect.
PHADE and the crew’s Shirt Kingz empire that ran relatively concurrent to the Dapper Dan movement with their printed sweats and tees deserves its props as part of the bigger contemporary picture now too. Mr. Paul Mittleman posted up some images of the crew’s heyday (I love the Safari sighting and some shots reiterate just how popular the Air Force II was — there’s some Assault action beyond the Fat Boys too) recently and it was clear that while the west had its own surf and skate culture for new brands to gnaw on, hip-hop’s golden age informed the east coast’s streetwear — Jamaica Coliseum Mall, where the Kingz had their retail operation apparently has a stall selling airbrushed shirts up to the present day, but PHADE, NIKE and KASHEME helped form a uniquely hip-hopcentric apparel and an industry that’s worth billions.
Shit, even the cheap artist photo tees that followed (usually incorporating a deceased artist) inspired Supreme’s teamups with Raekwon, Jim Jones and Juelz, plus the rest of those eBay-friendly releases. That lineage makes the sight of a sullen Lou Reed on a shirt even more entertaining.