It might have been online for a couple of years, but this video by Eli Morgan Gessner that edits together footage from 1986/1987 is a tribute to much-loved OG Shut crew member Beasley who passed away in the early 1990s. Loads of New York legends, Beasley street planting wearing the Iowa Dunk Hi and the Mr. Magic premiere of Nobody Beats the Biz blared from a boombox around the time it happened makes this footage priceless. I was slack with the updates this week. I promise I’ll try harder this weekend. Just watch this instead.
No update today because I’m busy selling my soul elsewhere. With ‘Air Max Day’ (possibly created by Mayor Quimby) looming, for which I supplied some writing, it had me wondering why some Air Max models have never made a comeback. The AM1 has been played out for a minute, but there’s other chapters that deserve attention — Sergio Lozano (designer of the Air Max 95) had one of his finest non-95/Air Mada moments with the Air Tuned Max in 1999. I recall going to short-lived club Home late the year that these released and the hefty queue being heavy with Tuned Max. Then, despite having some of the best ads ever, the technology seemed to vanish. Those Alpha Project designs were ahead of their time. When the excellent Air Max Deluxe appeared the following year, the sole seemed to switch back to the 97 unit, which seemed like a regressive touch, but the Air Max 2000 and Air Max 2001 (or was it the Air Max Ecstasy?) brought back the five-dotted Tuned Air. Three years of the same unit seemed questionable. Then the overlooked Air Max 2002 got all progressive and dropped tubular Air on us. The failure of that instalment meant that the 2003 reverted back to a six-year-old air unit. That always seemed like an admission of defeat to me. I’m guessing that bringing back the Tuned Max unit wouldn’t be cheap, given the weird piston-powered, multiple pressure, multiple chamber nature of that particular technology.
I’ve written about it here before, but the last outpost of untapped Jordan greatness is the Italian-made Air Jordan II. A comparative commercial failure on its launch, Peter Moore and Bruce Kilgore’s creation is one of the best shoe designs ever. I don’t know if it was production numbers or the fact that Nike — stung after dropping 15+ variations of the first shoe not including the Air Jordan Knock Off edition — kept it a little tighter. Thus, the Air Jordan II has a little more magic to it. And the fact that none are wearable means you never see a pair on anyone’s feet, thanks to Polyurethane’s decay during dormant years in a box. Then there’s the near-mythical tennis shoes and KO edition that I’ve only ever seen pictures of. Apparently former Nike marketing kingpin made an exaggerated guess in 1986 that one in twelve Americans owned a pair of Air Jordans, which makes current hype look a little tame. While I’d seen the print and TV ads with IMAGINATION on for the shoe, I hadn’t seen the one above before and I never knew that the Jordan II was originally called the Imagination, back in the shoe’s early days. There’s little mystery around anything any more, particularly shoes we grew up with, but the Jordan II is a shoe with stories to tell.
I’m in minimum effort blog mode because I’m on holiday for the next fortnight, but that twitch I get when I don’t click something in WordPress twice a week means I at least have to put something up here today. I’ll never quite understand the never not working ethos, because it hints at impending apathy, stomach ulcers and a poor approach to managing what needs to be done, but when hobby and career collide, it’s tough to split the two. I have no real problem with that, but seeing as I’m sat here in an apartment when there’s a glorious NYC day outside that’s not too humid or piss-smelling, it seems my OCD is winning at the moment.
Having spent the weekend in Connecticut courtesy of Mr Nick Schonberger and his fam, I ate some of the best food I’ve ever eaten and witnessed some of the most boss living, stroked a cat that looked a little like Sgt. Sipowicz, learnt of the power of the smash burger technique via Chris Schonberger and noticed that Nick has beaten shoes that ether the entire collections of some “celebrity” sneaker dudes. Plenty of ancient people with Nantucket Reds on who live the life your favourite rappers fictionalise just scattered the streets too. My new ambition is to become wealthy and live in this area eating lobster and fried clams until my heart gives out and I fall into the river that backs my garden with a final splash, with my fate undiscovered for a couple of hours because the grounds are so sprawling.
I had no idea that LL Bean made an ice cream collaboration with local brand Gifford’s. Heritage goes frozen dairy and it’s delicious. This > all duck boot knockoffs.
Having grown up on Tim Dog’s works (and I still believe that the intro to ‘Penicillin On Wax’ and ‘DJ Quik Beat Down’ are the greatest elements of any album ever), finding out that this Bronx goon is a cad too via ‘Dateline’ was excellent, but was disappointed to hear that Tim had no criminal record. I would pay to see the ‘Chocolate Fantasy’ tour, I’m certain that back in the MySpace era, I saw a mention of that mysterious 5-CD box set and considered pre-ordering it via some spurious pre-order site. I could have been one of those victims. How the heck is he still trying to deal with Sony, when his career fizzled in a blitz of Snoop disses and Apache Indian guest spots? I never realised that ‘Fuck Compton’ was inspired by Dave Funkenklein (RIP) trying to get Tim on Hollywood Basic and asking for an NWA style project (Dave retaliates here). I think Bonz Malone had the measure of him all the way back in early 1992…
That Apple clothing collection from 1986 that’s been doing the web rounds since Buzzfeed highlighted it again (after the Trad upped it a while ago) last week might have caused some amusement, but those collaborations with Patagonia on the shirt and belt and North Face for a vest are intriguing. Patagonia’s cult following and persona echoes the Steve Jobs (and the contents of that catalogue is the antithesis of Jobs’ vision) eras of Apple in many ways, but those shirts are terrible. Apple x North Face would bruise the blogs in 2012 though.
Just as some sites seem to have fostered Kitty Genovese syndrome on a global scale, with hordes more likely to whip out the phone to film before they’ll ever call for help, I’ve long felt that social media has a tendency to sustain grieving to the point where it simply becomes crocodile tears. If it’s not a death, it’s a birthday of a dead person, then the anniversary of that death and I felt that I’d become a little hardened to all that. After all, how can you feel real sadness for the passing of somebody you never met? Then Adam Yauch died and I felt guilty for being so cynical, because — trite as it sounds — it genuinely felt like I’d lost a mentor.
This blog can’t be neatly summarised, but I can assure you that at nearly every level, there’s some Beastie Boys influence — despite MCA’s admirable achievements as an individual, I’m afraid that I see the trio as one. Instead I treat the Beastie Boys as a leaping trinity of differently pitched sounds operating in unison. I can’t pin down the people who visit here either, but I know — from comments on skate and clothing entries in particular — that the Beastie Boys had a vast impact on them. The Beastie Boys were a conduit for pretty much every sub-cultural element I’ve ever taken an interest in. Lee Perry, John Holmes, Spike Jonze, Minor Threat, Slayer, Ben Davis (see above for evidence of that brand’s impact on me), adidas Campus, PUMA Clydes and all the rest were all interconnected by Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D’s joyous brain farts of cultural references. Let them decipher it rather than offer a simplified path — those that get it will get it eventually. ‘Grand Royal’ magazine’s frequent journalistic gems opened my eyes to the joys of self-indulgent long form writing, Todd James’ Brooklyn Dust logo is still one of my favourites, the talk of deadstock shoe sourcing (and we’ll forgive them for inadvertently spawning the crappy Sneaker Pimps) and Mike D’s involvement in X-Large is a pivotal moment in street wear.
A fair chunk of the industry I work in is the byproduct of something that the Beastie Boys contributed to significantly and I know, from Russ at Unorthodox Styles’ office on my first job interview there, that they’d made a mark on him too. So I kind of owe them for providing me with a source of income and as a founder member, Yauch can take a fair amount of that gratitude from me. If you operate in the street wear realm at any level, you’ve got to doth a snapback to the man — think back to the X-Fuct era, Nigo doing his homework by studying X-Large’s ape preoccupation (which went full circle when Ad-Rock wore Very Ape and the crew wore and collaborated with Bathing Ape) and MCA wearing a Supreme coach jacket to meet the Dalai Lama. They embraced the internet pretty early on too (I can remember thinking X-Large shunning paper catalogues for a website wasn’t going to catch on — turns out I was wrong). All that and I haven’t even mentioned the music.
From seeing the Beastie Boys get vilified on the cover of ‘The Sun’ when they toured with Madonna, I found myself festooning crudely drawn characters with equally poorly rendered VW logos at the age of 9 in every notebook at school. The Beastie Boys had strippers and the press said that they made fun of disabled kids. As a kid myself, that seemed funny. Just as the charts were riddled with comedy raps, the contents of ‘Licence to Ill’ seemed to fit in perfectly (and in retrospect, given the boys’ misunderstood self-parody, satires like ‘No Sleep Til Bedtime’ were doubly weak). Then they vanished for a minute after cropping up in a Sky Movies classic, ‘Tougher Than Leather’ (despite being regarded as a flop, an album that helped cement my love of hip-hop way more than ‘Raising Hell’ did — I know a few other rap nerds that feel the same). After ads cropped up in the specialist press and ‘Smash Hits’ alike, ‘Paul’s Boutique’ seemed to hit with a thud, despite the deserved good will it amassed later down the line. I especially like the revelation in the articles below that the Beastie Boys horror-comedy film they were meant to make with Russell and Rick — ‘Scared Stupid’— which was going to be followed up by a ‘To Catch a Thief’ remake starring Oran’ Juice Jones was deaded when Molly Ringwald talked Ad-Rock out of making it because it might harm his acting credibility.
My blood boiled when 3rd Bass took potshots at them (“Screaming ‘Hey Ladies’? Why bother?”) at the close of ‘Sons of 3rd Bass’ (Whiteboys calling whiteboys “devils” always confused me). Then the Beastie Boys owned the decade that followed and taught me that being unpleasant to ladies wasn’t that cool, growing up publicly. Not a lot of bands can do that and while the whole instrumental jam and comedy ‘Country Mike’ material never did anything for me, you had to respect the willingness to experiment. Plus they proved to we rap-loving crackers that just being your damn self and getting whiteboy wasted was the key to longevity, rather than haplessly trying to be “down”, and that through a few degrees of separation, pretty much everything was hip-hop in one way or another. I still kind of blame them for inadvertently creating Limp Bizkit and co, but despite that charmless mutant offspring misinterpreting what went before, the good far outweighs the bad.
Skipping from talk of skin colour, how many rap groups from the early 1980s are still together and more importantly, how many would you still pay to see? That’s the real mark of the Beastie Boys’ achievement. Some argued that forty-somethings spitting fly gibberish over distorted drums might have started to lose its appeal as an MP3, but live they could still crush it. Plus, they really seemed to be friends offstage — this was no marriage of convenience, which makes Adam’s passing all the more heartbreaking.
At a push, if I had to pick, MCA was the best rapper of the trio — as with the equally missed Guru, it’s mostly the voice, with those gruff tones counteracting the nasal nerdery at work. I’m particularly fond of his insanely stoned delivery on an early demo of ‘Car Thief’. Yauch’s film work (not dissimilar to George Harrison’s work with Handmade) with Oscilloscope Laboratories is significant too in supporting great output — ‘Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot’, directed by Adam, was strong. This is just a scraping of what MCA achieved too — it’s the art of turning music, art, clothing, film, sport and print into one big playroom, but somehow adding integrity into the mix too. Nobody else will ever match that, but even a handful of lessons learnt are enough to keep things moving.
Goodbye Adam Yauch — cheers for everything.
The images below are taken from this ‘Spin’ article from 1998 that’s a must-read.
Here’s the whole of ‘Tougher Than Leather’ in all its trashy glory. MCA just jeers and pulls some faces when he’s off the stage, but that doesn’t stop the Beastie Boys cameos from being excellent.
“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.