It’s good to be busy this early in the year, but it’s also a problem when it comes to giving this blog an update with any weight to it. I’m distracted by Oscar screeners too. Still, there’s a few things worth calling out here — Kickstarter has a couple of interesting book projects coming to a close, and the Jay Adams book could be good. That’s because it’s a expanded version of a fairly sought-after, decent publication I’ve thumbed through, but never owned, created in association with Osiris a year or so after Dogtown and Z-Boys was released. Whatever your opinion of Mr. Adams’ antics during his earlier life (and if you’re inclined to dismiss the darker points of your other anti-heroes, it’s best to pipe down), Adams is an undeniable legend whose influence on several subcultures was substantial (try saying that after a meth binge) and few skaters deserve a substantial documentation to the extent that he does, and this promises to be definitive, so it’s worth getting involved in this campaign to get it published. David Hackett and the team’s tribute to the patron saint of all things gnarly is definitely something to look forward to this year.
The painstaking creation of Robert Alva and Robert Reiling’s (aka WISK and RELAX) The History of Los Angeles Graffiti Art Volume 1, 1983-1988, which came with accompanying DVDs, was something to admire. That book was released almost a decade ago, and now part two is being put together — The History of Los Angeles Graffiti Art Volume 2, 1989-1994 brings the history lesson to nearly 1,000 pages. This edition is a 458-page follow-up with a more sober, stylish looking cover. With so much emphasis on the east coast’s writers, it’s good to see this kind of labour-of-love taking making an appearance. Freeway pieces and blockbusters truly take shape around this time, and with the first book fetching some big Amazon Marketplace money, $45 could prove to be a good deal.
Just in case that book gives you a hankering to get up, take heed of this 1970s anti-graffiti video uploaded a couple of years back by ProperGanderSaul. Pledges of love sprayed in broad daylight, block capital slurs, daring climbs onto signs, anti-principal marker pen insults and some throwback gang name…it’s all here.
And lo, Kanye dropped an A.P.C. collection and for a few brief minutes, my Twitter timeline forgot about the legalisation of homicide toward young black males who’ve committed the crime of sauntering. Where’s the inflammatory raps (shouts to Jeezy though)? People love the 1992 shoes, but they seem less keen on retroing the righteousness that drew me to hip-hop in the first place. No compilation mixtures? No 15 minute coast-unifying posse tracks? Not a solitary Zimmerman threat on MP3? Wow. I guess those headphone deals get nulled if anyone starts calling for destruction. Rappers can hop on an instrumental and add a fake-freestyle verse to a hit in a couple of hours but can’t react to that case? These are strange days. Maybe hip-hop needs to spawn a reactionary sub-culture against itself.
On the A.P.C. front that collection brings back the plain white tee as the Hip-Hop t-shirt and it’s a borderline tall tee too. That’s not to say the tall tee ever went away. Under Rick Owens, it blacked out and scooped, but now the tall tee has gone white on us again – Storm Shadow to previous seasons’ Snake Eyes in the urban ninjitsu stakes. Tall tees were always a big look, so I look forward to the legions of clone brands and individuals pushing that look hard this summer. Kanye makes this stuff look good and I respect the commitment to fleece and cotton basics as well as the indulgences in fit that will make it a troubling wear if you’re not Kanye West. After ‘Ye pointed out that J-Kwon’s Tipsy was good, will that reappraisal of fun club music reach the finger-snapping lows of seven years ago when Dem Franchize Boyz had hits? When Dem Franchise Boyz – qualified to be reviewing plain t-shirts on the strength of 2004’s White Tee – reviewed white tees in Vibe magazine all those summers ago it was one of the last great fashion features in a hip-hop magazine, dismissing transparent shirts, luxurious fabrics and packets in favour of Finish Line talls in 5XL. I once tried a white shirt roundup on here, but this feature was always far better…
I forgot to include these 1989 New York Subway ads in my Guardian Angels blog from last week. I like the whole “Come back on the trains! You won’t get murdered!” sentiment of it, plus the amusing approach to graffiti in the copy.
Forgot today was blogging day. Can I just talk about the last three things I watched on YouTube? While I’m at it, I’ll plug this Tinker Hatfield feature too because there’s a few jewels in there for the nerds. I’ve been distracted by Mickey Drexler’s remarks in this Stanford appearance from late last year — I don’t subscribe to the quasi-motivational drivel that do-littles hurl all over Twitter and Facebook, but Drexler’s answer 23 minutes in regarding explosive modes of management is amazing and he offers a good excuse to use next time you swear loudly in a meeting. “Surround yourself with people that get it,” is easier said than done but it’s the key to greatness. It also means you need to recruit fellow dysfunctional oddballs.
This BBC footage of Goldie in 1989, as well as some other writers is pretty good too. It’s a shame that Dick Fontaine’s candid clips of Goldie talking about NYC trainyard and tunnel excursions have been taken down from YouTube.
For a minute I thought that a 2000 Channel 4 documentary (from Madonna Night) on her early Downtown days was a figment of my imagination, but it’s partially available online. One of the few documents of Futura 2000’s relationship with Madge, it includes a few soundbites from the man himself plus Fab Five Freddy’s entertaining attitude to her antics in the early 1980s, “I really thought Madonna was cool, but for me personally, she was not the kind of chick I would really would have wanted to get with, because a lot of my other crew had been up around her. You know what I’m saying? And that just wasn’t my steelo at the time.”
The FUCT book for Rizzoli arrives in September, but Erik Brunetti has got his hands on an advance copy and it looks very good indeed. He’s taking pre-orders for signed copies on his site and with “streetwear”s continuing slide into just being a load of self-congratulatory thirtysomethings selling crap to kids (actually, it’s always been like that, hasn’t it?) the sense of threat that Brunetti managed to bring to the party seems more vital than ever. The fact Erik really fucking hates street art is reason enough to support his cause.
Zack De La Rocha wearing the classic Ford bite tee on a No Nirvana — a 1993 BBC Late Show special, was a great moment in streetwear on British TV. While Rage Against the Machine sure ain’t grunge (though that show was mostly bands that fell into that genre), will the current preoccupation with that scene’s industry mean an onslaught of short-sleeve tees over long-sleeves as well as plaid around the waist?
The perfect soundtrack for that FUCT book would be Sly and the Family Stone’s classic There’s a Riot Goin’ On, with its aura of apocalypse vaguely audible beneath the good time riffing and Get On Down’s gold CD remaster comes with an embroidered take on the blood and stars American flag cover. No matter how jaded you are with fancy packaging to make you buy things you’re familiar with all of again, you’ve got to admit it looks pretty.
Can somebody send me some cans of the AriZona Richard Prince Lemon Fizz collaboration from late last year please? Watching the ESPN Arnold Palmer mini-documentary, with its footage of the AriZona production line has reminded me that my aborted NYC trip meant I never got round to handing over 99 cents to get some. I have to concede that the post New Year downer is in effect and that sugary concoction looks like some much-needed sugar assistance to jumpstart my enthusiasm again.
The industry is boring, but only boring people get bored. However, I suspect the time has come for me to slowly shift from sports footwear retail (unless it’s for brands who want to pay me a decent sum to write about it) into other subjects. It’s a young man’s game and selling shoes is not something I have much of an interest in. I also suspect that not working with the damned things day in, day out would probably re-up my interest too and improve any work I’m involved in pertaining to sportswear. That doesn’t stop me feeling the urge to throw shoe-centric matters up here alongside the other stuff, because I’m too far gone (Dostoevsky’s, “It seems, in fact, that the second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half” quote is applicable here without seeming too much like tinpot intellectual showboating) on that topic. I can’t resist 1989 newspaper ads like the one above, with their ridiculous lineups, images of Eric Dressen, my childhood hero and current Epicly Later’d subject matter oozing 1988 style in the Nike Court Force for a ‘Thrasher’ shoot. If you’re interested (and I would never be able to listen to my own voice), there’s a phone conversation with me over on the Sneaker Fiends Unite podcast (shouts to Dallas Penn and Pete).
This nonnative jacket is needed. The majority of the SS 2013 line is impressive (the pig suede Laborer Jacket is serious), but the Trooper Jacket with the overdyed treatment and Windstopper treatment reworks a military standard and makes its mark on it without getting too fussy. That pick of the purple and the button-down lapel give a basic some extra identity without getting unwearable or overdesigned. At Yen/Pound translation, it’s approximately £440. Add on taxes and shipping and that price probably doubles. I really need to wrangle a Tokyo trip somehow that’s based around a pilgrimage to Tsutaya Books and exploiting the lack of Parcelforce depot visits buying direct from the source can entail.
After the pre-Christmas talk on here of bootleg tees and sweats, ‘Slogan T-Shirts: Cult and Culture’ by Stephanie Talbot was released last week and it explores the culture of bootleg shirts in far more authoritative detail than anything I could muster. DisneyRollerGirl (a contributor to the book) upped the piece where Barnzley breaks down how he saw the real tees, banged them out as bootlegs, then felt infuriated at seeing his idea bootlegged. Well worth a read. Seeing the Palace Versace design copied and sold in a Camden marketplace is not dissimilar — a copy of a copy that still feels like a violation.
Bar the feather filled jackets I used to gawp at, Tom Penny’s fabled boots and the occasional temptation by Vibe ads for Body Jar outerwear, Columbia has never grabbed me like North Face, Patagonia and Arc’teryx did, but that late 1980s collection of ultra tech, interchangeable ski jackets in the insane colour combinations like the Vamoose Parka and the Powder Keg always grabbed my attention. I always assumed that Columbia embraced the fashion crowd a little earlier than most and made the decision to be built overseas long before the majority too, but the story of the brand, from the late 1930s start by fleeing Nazi Germany and purchasing the Rosenfeld Hat Company to make it the Columbia Hat Company to the 1960 switch to the Columbia Sportswear Company, is an interesting one.
The matriarchal nature of the company after Gert Boyle took over after her husband passed in 1970 (the ad above is from 1968) gave it a point-of-difference over other outdoor brands of the era, with Gert and her sons’ battles over the colours and modernity of the 1980s creations (the campaign started around 1984) being a key part of the marketing strategy. Given that an 80-something Gert fought off some wannabe kidnappers a couple of years ago, the ads weren’t too far from the truth. Gert Boyle is also credited as creating the brand’s first fishing vest in 1960 and, while the brand is currently taking on the might of GORE-TEX with Omni-Dry, they were putting the iconic household name membrane into a parka back in 1975, which makes them one of the first to use it on a coat.
Boyle helping steer the brand from near-bankruptcy to a publicly traded one by 1998, and taking in Sorel and Mountain Hardwear along the way, is near miraculous. The copywriting on the ski jacket ads stays classic and 1983’s GORE-TEX and Thinsulate Delta Marsh Parka is no joke.
Mr Leo Sandino-Taylor a upped an interesting image on his Instagram from the Stanley Kubrick exhibition during its Los Angeles residency of the mystery man posing for a photograph in some Nike Air Mad Maxes. It was so good, I had to borrow it for here, so go follow him to make up for my theft. If the Footscape is the Cassavetes of the Nike line and the AM1 is Spielberg, the recycled rubber and reinforced precision and mild eccentricity of the Mad Max is kind of appropriate for Stanley, even though I’d say the Huarache was a better shoe representation of him. Like the excellent Air Max Racer from around the same time, you don’t see many pictures of the Mad Max and to see them on the feet of a rarely seen man is even better. This one trumps the Jordan Vs on David Fincher and might be the greatest sportswear on a non-athlete moment since Bob Marley wore Marathon TRs. Especially since Saville in Air Max became less of a cause for celebration, given recent revelations. Seriously, if any one image sums up what this blog is about, it’s STANLEY KUBRICK WEARING A PAIR OF NIKE AIR MAD MAX.
First of all, fuck you if you didn’t like Devin the Dude and, while I can understand you not hearing the cult classic that is the Odd Squad album where his career commenced (though its been ZIP and RAR filed heavily since people used YouSendIt links), you should track it down. There’s not too many albums you can pitch to the next generations, because the younger heads won’t care for the sameness of Hard Knocks’ long player regardless of how wide-eyed you are about it, but there’s too much going on with 1994’s ‘Fadanuf Fa Erybody’ to ignore.
It’s so creative and funky (yeah, I said it and I make a point of never using “funky” in vain), that it’s the perfect accompaniment to Outkast’s debut from the same year. In fact, this Rap-A-Lot classic is so good that Rob Quest from the group being blind was largely rendered irrelevant by the strength of the music (check out this excellent Noz interview with Rob from earlier this summer). The mooted follow-up that ‘Rap Pages’ discussed back in 1999 never happened, but it’s worth noting that what constituted a serious brick in 1994 is different from 2012’s failures — ‘Fadanuf…’ shifted just under 70k and the group despaired, but Nicki Minaj’s ‘Roman Reloaded: the Re-Up’ shifted 34,501 last week and still landed at 28 on the Billboard 200. Tokyo’s DJ Muro is shifting some of his own gear on his DIGOT site and he’s selling this promo Odd Squad t-shirt that’s awesome enough to get married or buried in.
Since Nick at Classic Kicks put me onto a video of Eli Bonerz showcasing the X-Large store in 1992 on MTV’S House of Style, I’ve had dusty adidas Campus and Conart on the mind. We have tendency to sidestep a few brands when it comes to street wear retrospect, sending graffiti-inspired brands into some kind of rap-addled nowhere zone that’s neither skate nor street enough for some folk. That’s bollocks of course, because Conart and Third Rail created their own lanes back in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Now, tag and burner covered cotton isn’t necessarily what I’m wearing, but flicking through old issues of ‘The Source’ and ‘Can Control’ I’ve seen ads that had me hastily researching (pre-internet) the world of international money orders to at least lay my hands on a catalogue and stickers.
Third Rail’s expansion into different elements of apparel (I don’t recall hearing the term cut and sew back then) and Conart’s spin on a classically west coast small front logo and graphic explosion across the back with the oval chest lettering belying the graffiti characters mean-mugging on the shirt’s reverse all blew my mind in my early teen years, and while I knew the legendary RISK from reading ‘Spraycan Art’ until the binding broke and was aware that he was a key mind in the Third Rail empire, it wasn’t until I read Slash’s autobiography that I realised that Conart’s Ash Hudson is Slash’s younger brother. It’s odd how some brands don’t quite get the shouts they deserve, but Conart and Third Rail cemented LA’s position as the birthplace of street wear as we know it. I’m sure every brand making gear elsewhere, be it New York, Tokyo or London, would concede the power of west coast labels inspired them to make their own power moves, fused with their local aesthetics, trends, movements and attitude.
These two brands made full use of the merger of style, airbrush custom culture, long legacy of Cholo style letterforms, technical flare and everything else that differentiated LA’s graffiti from other regions. As far as ambassadors for other coasts went, the moment Biggie wore a Conart tee to wield a machine gun, a certain immortality was cemented.
Conart’s current site seems to be down, but the above image of a 1989 ad from ‘URB’ is taken from their Facebook and RISK’s blog upped some old ads last year — this post is well worth your time.
This December 26, 1994 ‘LA Times’ article captures a certain moment in time (even if it seems to misspell RISK’s real name):
He once took spray-paint cans and made the city of Los Angeles his imagination’s canvas, but Ash Hudson has now turned a third-story Rampart Boulevard loft into a studio where L.A.’s biggest vandalism problem is a business success story.
A former graffiti vandal—or tagger, in the vernacular of the streets—Hudson turned entrepreneur in 1989 by founding a firm called Conart. He has turned it into a clothing distributor that designs graffiti images for T-shirts and caps and boasts of 1994 orders totaling $1 million.
Conart (convict and art) now employs half a dozen paint-can-wielding staff artists and provides free-lance work for others, helping to focus their creative energies into a lucrative business.
“We’re occupying so much of their time that they don’t have time to go out on the street,” said the 22-year-old Hudson, a native of Culver City.
Taggers have been dreaded and hunted in major cities since urban teens began vandalizing buildings, subways and freeways in the late 1970s. The term refers to the vandals’ tags, or personalized signatures, they attach to their handiwork around the city.
But out of this illegal pastime have sprung legitimate graffiti artists, claiming a niche in the contemporary art world as well as in the clothing industry.
Dozens of graffiti clothing companies have started in big cities throughout the country, particularly in Los Angeles and New York and mostly by former taggers, said Robert Christofaro, a graphic designer for In Fashion, a trade magazine in New York City. Many of the companies have found it hard to stay afloat.
“A lot of them can’t manage to stay open . . . it’s a hard marketplace,” Christofaro said.
But for many, graffiti has become an avenue to opportunity. The clothing designs have attracted a large following of young adults who grew up fascinated by the genre.
“All the people that are most successful in the graffiti scene have expanded but held on to their graffiti roots. . . . The whole thing is being innovative,” said Kelly Gravao, another ex-tagger, who now owns Third Rail, an alternative clothing company in Boyle Heights. Third Rail also began by selling graffiti designed T-shirts and caps, but has since expanded its clothing line.
Gravao, 26, was arrested on many occasions and even shot in the leg when he tagged “in the wrong neighborhood,” he said.
Third Rail has grown 300% in sales since it opened in 1990, not long after Conart, Gravao said. He has one retail clothing store, Crazy Life, and is about to open a second in Hollywood. He said his focus has shifted from graffiti to various other clothing designs, targeted at surfers, skateboarders and snowboard enthusiasts.
Conart, he said, is one of the survivors in the graffiti-clothing business, benefiting when many imitators fell by the wayside. Today it sells to 470 accounts at specialty stores across the United States and as far away as Japan, where graffiti designs have become very popular.
“In Japan they’re not doing Japanese letters, they’re doing American letter schemes,” Hudson said.
Conart does half of its business there, where its designs are sold out soon after they are sent out, he said. He has even heard of bootleg Conart T-shirts being sold around Tokyo.
“(Graffiti) has become a big thing now with rap. . . . In one week everything (in stores) is sold out,” said Ken Kitakaze, who has coordinated Conart’s distribution to at least 50 stores throughout Japan for the last four years.
Conart is “the original maker of the graffiti street-style T-shirt,” said Paul Takahashi, a buyer for Extra-Large, whose clothing stores in Hollywood and New York were among the first to carry Conart’s designs. The market was saturated with imitators as soon as Conart’s designs hit stores, he said.
“We carry Conart because we try to keep the more original stuff.”
Irma Zandl, president of Zandl Group, New York marketing-trend consultants, said that recently clothing targeted to young adults has been dull. In the clothing industry the time is right for visually exciting pieces, like the ones graffiti artists design, she said.
The T-shirt designs are colorful and mesmerizing, but at the same time they often touch on social issues—and take a controversial point of view.
One of Conart’s depicts a Ku Klux Klan member holding his infant son, who is also dressed in the white garb of the organization. At the bottom it says: “Future Police Officer.” Another shirt is a caricature of two black men, one holding a gun and the other waving a flag that says: “No Justice No Peace.”
Hudson, an African American whose dreadlocks dangle to his chest, didn’t expect any of this success. Big business snuck up on him and his “conartists,” as he calls them. It snowballed when he began selling graffiti designed T-shirts in front of high schools at age 16.
“(Conart) was a hobby turned business,” he said. “I saw the connection of putting the imagery on clothing.”
Dammit, internet. You’re supposed to keep me updated on everything that happens, yet the launch of Foot Locker’s Europe-only (allegedly) rollout of Nike Huarache LEs wasn’t brought to my attention until they were all over eBay. The Huarache is the shoe that changed everything back in the early 1990s (you don’t see kids embracing modern silhouettes any more on these shores), then had a second wave in the early 2000s at road level again alongside a swathe of monotone Huarache Trainers too. Apparently these Black and Tour Yellow 2012 reissues are just the start of a summer-long rollout. I can’t get down with this shoe when it’s sat on a Free 5.0 sole and while I’d prefer some mesh in that toe box rather than Durabuck type fabric, these are pretty banging.
If supplies had been more plentiful (thank you Tan for the hookup), I think the streets would have been flooded with them once again. Instead it felt like the Foot Locker Limited Edition hangtag days of old. I’d like to think that it was a connoisseur backlash to the Free editions that led to the re-release, but I think ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and Wiz Khalifa are the entities that got these signed off. Still, in an era where every element of sports footwear is previewed, given closer looks and even the opening of a box is broadcast, that a release like these could come and go in relative silence is kind of odd.
Drop 3 of Our Legacy’s Splash collection appears online tomorrow. Serious looks, animal print Cosmo Kramer style shirts and Riri zippered designs with constellations printed on them? As I’ve mentioned before, this brand is untouchable at the moment. Defining the rollover basics at ‘Rollover’? Good move. The Oi Polloi exclusives, contrast armed Great Sweats, tracksuit bottoms that bring a refined edge to the uniform of the unemployed and pretty much everything they make appeals to me without being mired in the beige pixel world that so many other upstart menswear lines are. Tres Bien also still have the best blog of any store, bar maybe the Hundreds.
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.