It’s been a minute since I bought a regular rap magazine, but I’m still buying hip-hop related books like a fiend. Scarface’s recent autobiography was an ultra-downbeat read, but a worthy one (I was pleased to see that have hated the cover art to Geto Boys’ Da Good da Bad & da Ugly as much as I did) that’s a fine accompaniment to Prodigy’s book (still the ultimate hip-hop bio) and the Q-Tip, Lil’ Kim and Benzino memoirs seem to have vanished from the release schedules after a on-off wait of almost Rawkus Kool G or Heltah Skeltah-like levels. The one that I’m ultra hyped for is the Nas autobiography, It Ain’t Hard to Tell: A Memoir, which, according to Amazon and the publisher, Simon and Schuster, drops later this year, on November 10th — four years after its announcement caused some brief blog fuss. Rap books get delayed even harder than the damn albums, but if Nasir Jones opts to make like P and pull no punches, it’s going to be a classic. In the interim, I’ll probably pick up the Luther Campbell, Buck 65 and Kevin Powell books in coming months, but there’s one extra volume with some serious potential — Rap Tees: A Collection of Hip Hop T-Shirts 1980-2000 by collector and connoisseur DJ Ross One, which drops on Powerhouse in October. Promising hundreds of promo, bootleg and concert shirts representing Sugarhill, EPMD, the Wu, BDP, 2Pac and everyone else, the Screen Stars style cover art has me sold on it already. This kind of archive is my idea of heaven — if somebody gathers the rap promo sticker collection of an OG like Jules Gayton and publishes it, I’ll be in heaven. On the Scarface front, the impending existence of a 33 1/3 book completely dedicated to The Geto Boys, thanks to travel writer and New Yorker contributor Rolf Potts, is something to celebrate too.
My updates here have been sporadic due to work distractions. For that, I apologise (I actually need to get this basic blog template redesigned at some point soon too). A couple of pieces I wrote are in the new 032c. It’s easy to become jaded in a world where much of what you love has become cyclical cultural mass, but that’s how you become so embittered that you render yourself unemployable. I still manage to get hyped about things like this. As somebody who’s an admirer of ACG, 032c and ACRONYM’s work, I was excited to see the All Conditions Gear article we put together in the new issue, plus an extract from a conversation I had with Toby and Sk8thing from Cav Empt. There are longer versions of the interviews that might find their way online too. Shouts to Joerg for letting me get involved. Go pick up issue #28, because it’s still the best magazine of its kind on the market — the What We Believe piece is bold and brilliant, plus there’s a rare spot of Supreme print advertising in there too. There’s an 032c clothing line coming soon that, going on the strength of some brief IG previews (and knowing that they don’t do anything by half), will be good.
On the magazine front, upping the seminal Ruder than the Rest article from an early 1991 issue of The Face half a decade ago amassed a lot of interest at the time, with this period of real London streetwear barely documented or celebrated. The logical follow-up to it was Norman Watson’s Karl and Derick styled New Skool shoot (mentioned on this blog a couple of times before) from later that year (which includes Mr. Charlie Dark as a young ‘un). That piece united skatewear, streetwear and sportswear perfectly — Nike Air Max and Huaraches worn with Pervert, Poizone, Fresh Jive, Anarchic Adjustment and Insane, plus haircuts by Conrad of Cuts and Rollin’ Stock. It was incredible — the look that dwells in the Basement and gets hectic in Wavey Garms now, but back when it really seemed to take form for a wider audience to watch from far, far away.
6:77FlyCreative have put together an exhibition called Ruffnecks, Rudeboys and Rollups that gathers imagery from this pivotal era of style in the country’s capital, with submissions from the likes of Normski. It runs from a private view on Friday, May 22nd to Sunday, May 24th at 5th Base Gallery at 23 Heneage Street in east London, with some very appropriate sponsorship from Supermalt. I’m looking forward to seeing it, and I hope it’s the start of something even bigger.
Linking every topic above again, something interesting is happening with The Face archives by the looks of things — Maxwell Logan and Nick Logan have started an Instagram account called THE____ARCHIVE that showcases me gems from the magazine’s vaults for its 35th anniversary, like these logo prototypes from Steve Bush. This outlet, plus Paul Gorman’s book, should provide some extra insight beyond the fancy design and memorable features. It’s the 35th anniversary of the very much alive i-D this year too.
I’ve long been fascinated with the case of Lennie Kirk, and in the gossipy, where-are-they-now and who’s-the-gnarliest posting world of skate culture online, Kirk’s antics have been discussed time and time again. This North Carolina raised character is best-known for his holy rolling Timecode segment, which according to legend (now confirmed — this and a second near-death experience did it apparently), contains the dumpster incident at 0:33 that caused him to find god in his own unique way. Neighbours fans from back in the day will remember resident chef Mark Gottlieb getting hit on the head and becoming a hardcore Christian who berated Libby for her skirt length and rebranded Daphne’s as the Holy Roll. Kirk’s case was similar, but with less cafes and more sawn-off shotguns. Mixing god-bothering with gangsterism, Lennie Kirk has been in and out of prison over the years, but his cult status and could-have-been reputation has maintained a certain mystique. It’s the stuff of feel-bad skate documentaries, but photographer Dennis McGrath’s Heaven tells his story with a certain sensitivity — photos from McGrath and friends are accompanied by letters from prison, notes and a conclusive police report that reveals that his behaviour had escalated into next-level wildness that put him back in prison for a long stretch in 2013. It could have been a freak show, but this is a beautiful book, with Ed Templeton assisting on design. The team behind the recent FTC book definitely lucked out in managing to catch him for a Q&A a few years back, but for those of you looking for a broader examination of this enigma from birth to current behind-bars status, this should have you preaching to fellow 1990s skate fundamentalists.
How badly are most bloggers bought by brand affiliations? And are most folks writing on fashion capable of forming an opinion? I have no idea, because I’m a total sellout, but the new issue of System has a 15,000 word interview with Cathy Horyn by Jonathan Wingfield, accompanied by Juergen Teller photography, that’s educational and insightful. In conversation, Wingfield brings up the line, “This stuff is so desperate not to make enemies, it’s going to have trouble making any friends,” from Benjamin Gnocchi’s review of Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton building. It’s a quote applicable to most writing on the subject of style. As is to be expected, Horyn doesn’t hold back. Easily one of the best things I’ve read this year.
The CUTS documentary I mentioned on here a month or so ago now has a fundraising page. Whether you couldn’t care less about hairdressing or not, the fruits of nearly 20 years of on and off filming in Soho is likely to be entertaining if you’re inclined to watch cultures evolve, devolve or emerge.
I’ve never ever considered myself a journalist, because I’m not qualified to be one and I generally write about the same topic, using the same words and phrases, again and again and again. I write as a hobby, and it’s always an honour to be asked to write for magazines I pick up — especially when they actually engage in an editing process, rather than hurling my semi-proofed copy straight in there. Participating in the back and forth of a good edit session is part of the pleasure as far as I’m concerned, because I’m prone to drop a typo or ten. INVENTORY — whose attention to detail is something that I admire —asked if I wanted to speak to Erik Brunetti about his career for their new issue, and he was more keen to talk art than dwell on Fuct. Which is fair enough. Plus I spoke to him about clothing and controversy for ACCLAIM a couple of years back. Because it’s Erik in conversation, he drops plenty of quotables on several subjects, plus there’s some great Tim Barber photography to accompany it.
LAW just dropped an excellent short video on Slipmatt (who was part of SL2 — the kind of act XL used to sign back in the early 1990s). This electrician/hardcore DJ legend embodies an era and is still putting in the hours today. There’s something admirable about the British subcultural characters who carve a niche that they persist in, whether it’s considered cool or not. Shouts to the Bedford crew who were buying the cassette packs from Not Just a Ticket back in the day, while I was haunting Andy’s Records for rap tapes.
Seeing as Slipmatt embodies the spirit of 1992 like few others can, it’s worth noting that Ian Powell upped a Dance Energy from Monday, November 23rd 1992 in its (almost) entirety, from the House Party era of the show, complete with a comedy subplot where Vas Blackwood schemes to earn some money for some trainers and Normski executes the laceless Huarache look with a certain panache. The performances by Secret Life and Reese Project will smear that nostalgia a little for you by reminding you that the good music was generally a one in three affair on this programme.
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.
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.
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.