There’s a lot of people whose worlds peaked when Bizarre Love Triangle released. They’ll talk of nothing but defunct Manchester nightclubs and daydream about Hooky’s low slung bass. They’ll sail of a wave of revisionist history that crashes in their heroes fake DJing at a student union, and get angry at any whippersnapper who dares to comment on their teen idols, positively or negatively. Dancefloor veterans telling you, “You weren’t there maaaaan!” But beyond the angry old men, most of the music is still fantastic, and the art direction on those Factory releases is magnificent. Peter Saville is name checked repeatedly with good reason — not only is his work memorable from a graphic standpoint, but there’s a thought process at word that makes him an interesting interview subject. Saville spoke with Lou Stoppard at SHOWStudio recently, and they’ve upped a 99 minute uncut version of the conversation. Every second of Power, Corruption & Lies or Closer is still essential, and much of what Saville has got to say has something to give to a new generation — his pro-research sentiment about the epiphany of realising the amount he never knew (mentioned around the 45 minute mark), and the subsequent bliss of stumbling upon the vastness of context is a call to learn, rather than the actions of a time-frozen curmudgeon. Everyone with a new brand making homages of homages who wants to be around in 24 months might benefit from listening — even if it’s just for 12 minutes.
This Canadian documentary from 1993 has just appeared on YouTube via Barnaby Marshall. 10-20: Berlin provides some rare footage of the first Cycle Messenger World Championships that took place in Germany. William Gibson makes an appearance, on the back of his novel Virtual Light being based around a courier in a post-earthquake SF, and there’s also a brief chat with Futura 2000 (who was once a messenger himself). Despite the early 1990s Real World style presentation, there’s some superb soundbites in it.
Despite lasting for over 104 episodes before it was canned, The Word was treated like televisual Super Noodles by critics and establishment figures alike for half a decade. We, the target audience, appreciated it though, and 19 years after its final episode screened in March 1995 (watching Strike’s performance of You Sure Do from that broadcast this evening had me emotional), there seems to be a worthy amount of nostalgia for those 808 State soundtracked opening credits and the lawlessness that followed. As those reviews preempted online coverage, their toxicity has deteriorated, so we’ve forgotten the disorganised outside broadcasts and hopefuls munching on plates of dead skin, emptied colostomy bags and filtered the best bits into those memory banks. What was good was great — like live performances by artists who, in a concerted bid to show no respect to the live format, made classic TV, or George, Zippy and Shaun Ryder getting acquainted — but there was a lot of rubbish in the mix. It was sometimes like the contents of an issue of The Face being bellowed from the stage during a nightclub PA, but that was part of its appeal — sincerity shuffled self-consciously alongside humiliation and irony. We watched that thing religiously as its excesses elbowed it from a tea time slot to the post-pub position. It was there that a generation planning to go harder the following night would exit the pubs, get home, skin up with terrible hash, crack open more beers and watch it alone or in a heavily populated front room. The Word was great group TV every Friday around 11pm.
The two segments that stayed with me weren’t the usual suspects either. One was a late 1993 segment where Mark Lamarr investigated Desert Eagles and chatted to the Franklin Avenue Posse and Steele from Smif-n-Wessun about it, before a return to the studio where Terry quizzed forgotten rapper K7 (of Come Baby Come fame) on the subject of firearms. The second was a February 1994 piece from the same episode where Rod Hull attacked Snoop Dogg (mentioned here a few years back) on Nike founder and chairman Phil Knight’s son Travis back when he rapped as Chilly Tee (he now heads up LAIKA). Where else were you going to see stuff like this? Beyond these clips, it’s worth noting that The Word Appreciationaccount on Dailymotion has at least 17 full episodes uploaded — there’s all kinds of misses in there, but the gems remain and it’s best streamed late in the day and under the influence. Just like it always was.
Seeing verification of the Beats deal and hearing about the Cross Colours comeback made the image above doubly relevant. Few brands were putting an artist as uncompromising as Dr. Dre in their ad campaigns back in 1993, but Cross Colours — a brand that deserves to be recognised as a game changer — connects to pretty much every key player in rap and the shirts on their back during the golden era of African-American owned brands. Created in 1989 by South Central LA-based Carl Jones and Thomas “TJ” Walker Cross Colours wasn’t their first brand. Jones had put in work designing graphics for Ocean Pacific and Guess, before becoming a partner on the popular Surf Fetish surf brand in 1986, with Walker as part of the team. After spotting the potential in rap’s wardrobe, Fetish Blues was launched in 1989 — drop crotch trousers being a key seller and musical notes being part of the branding.
That same year, Jones and Walker would leave to launch Cross Colours to build on that success — Afrocentric colours, patterns and imagery played a significant part of the brand’s signature aesthetic.
From 1990, it was on. Labels read “Ya dig” and delivered “Academic Hard wear” for the “Post hip hop nation.” Spike Lee’s Spike’s Joint store would open in July that year with some labels designed by Walker. Cross Colours would take some inspiration from Lee’s pioneering endeavour, with a holding company called Solo Joint. Lee’s people would take umbrage with those parallels leading to a legal outcome that would prove problematic for the newer brand and the formation of Threads 4 Life, which would also carry another brand — Brooklyn-born Carl Williams’ Karl Kani line, which connected with Cross Colours after Williams and Jones met in 1990 and would be sold as the more upmarket part of the portfolio — a rap-related response to the Ralph Lauren business model. In a short period of time, Cross Colours would unite Stevie Wonder, TLC, Snoop Dogg and Mark Wahlberg, with some superior celebrity-led ads in magazines like The Source. Their decision to give clothes to the crew of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and In Living Color paid off.
By 1992, Cross Colours (and a Spike’s Joint concession) would make it to Macy’s. With sales growing from 15 million in 1991 to 160 million by 1993, Threads 4 Life was huge and in response to a change in hip-hop’ sound, the look became less playful. It opened up a number of warehouse stores, plus a flagship store. Check out this footage of a group of dancers plugging the brand in Japan. Another upstart line, April Walker’s Walker Wear, almost became part of the family and Karl Kani had started to become the leading brand in profits, even expanding into footwear with Kani and Cross Colours’ shoes made under license by the Skechers company. At one point, Magic Johnson — who appeared in ads for the brand — was rumoured to be investing heavily, but the deal never manifested. This kind of thing might not have helped in the long run either.
By 1994, Threads 4 Life found itself in trouble — demand outweighed production, the ramifications from the Spike Lee lawsuit (as detailed in Lewis McAdam’s lengthy Loose Threadsarticle from June 26, 1994’s LA Times magazine) had caused some critical damage, bootlegging was epidemic and a retail chain that spent big (as in accounting for 60% of sales) with the company had gone into bankruptcy. Seemingly as quickly as it blew up, Cross Colours was gone — it never ceased to be relevant entirely, but Kani’s name held much more prestige. Williams’ would take his company from the ailing Threads 4 Life and launch Karl Kani Infinity to thrive in subsequent years. Several Threads 4 Life staffers would make an impact in the industry where Cross Colours’ ultimately floundered by heading up Mecca, Enyce and Sean Jean.
Carl Jones had consulted for the brilliantly named Cy-Borg Millennium Clothing around 1992 and in 1997, he and TJ Walker would work on the brand again (according to the Daily News Record at the time, “The new, innovative streetwear line, launched this spring, is based on a futuristic concept that integrates technology — the information superhighway — with fashion…”). Jones would go on to found a self-titled brand, plus Juke Joint and a line called California Vintage, before working on creative direction for clients including Forever 21 and currently heads up the Bleulab reversible denim brand. Walker would run the Nation Design Studio that worked with AND1 and Converse, co-found Modisch, head up Jaded Apparel Corp and currently consults as a brand technician, designer and product developer. Both are still Los Angeles based.
Cross Colours was relaunched in 2000 as a mid-priced brand without Jones or Walker, with the trademark bought by a group that included Skechers’ CEO Robert Greenberg. That never seemed to make much noise, and there seemed to be more dud re-ups with that license in subsequent years, but it’s good to see the brand relaunch in 2014 with the original duo involved again and holding the license. While I’m unlikely to start lusting after an Ethnic Rhythms jacket (though I was all over that piece decades ago), this brand deserves its recognition. I know some of you W)Taps and visvim disciples first took interest in clothing by the vast denims and unnecessary adornments on garments created by the some of the sons of Cross Colours. The new site is here, with a brief history that’s accompanied by some great images. To this day, I still don’t know why they used the non-American spelling of colour. Was Cross Colors already taken?
Is it finally time to officially mourn Zoo York’s demise? Being taken over by a brand called Iconix who dismantle an established skate program to put loyal ZY riders like Zered Bassett and Eli Reed out in the cold is a low blow that indicates that the brand’s finally teetered over the edge its been wobbling on for just under a decade. Having been in business for over 19 years, it’s a real shame too. If you’re wondering why a situation involving a brand that frequently makes TK Maxx appearances irks me so much, is because of the history. I can still remember spending an afternoon on a J.R. Hartley style phone-around to every skate shop that advertised in ‘Sidewalk Surfer’ in the hunt for the black Zoo York hoody with the white letters — for those old enough to remember, there was once a point when that seemed as hardbody as a Supreme shirt. Post-Millennium, it all seemed to take a gradual slide.
The Zoo York story actually pre-dates 1993 by a couple of decades. While there’s no official tie between the two entities, the Zoo York Soul Artists, led by ALI, who founded the collective did give permission for Zoo York to use the name. It’s frequently forgotten that Zoo York Soul Artists (RIP Andy Kessler) helped spawn the Zoo York Recordz label, that released several records between 1981 and 1983, with ALI performing on ‘Shoot the Pump’ under the J Walter Negro name. You can read more about that label in this 2005 blog entry. I know a few graff nerds out there too — so can anybody confirm that the top picture (taken from Norman Mailer and Jon Naar’s ‘The Faith of Graffiti’ is the fabled Zoo York wall? (Edit: Mr Sofarok forwarded me this link.)
This Karmaloop video on the 1993 Zoo York mastermind Eli Gessner, explains how he was affiliated with the original squad, but after SHUT’s closure, Rodney Smith spoke to ALI, leading to Eli and Rodney setting up Zoo York 2.0. Having built it on the back of Eli’s work with an early Phat Farm, those shirts appearing in 1995’s ‘Kids’ during the park scene (lettering and a subway design), with Justin Pierce (RIP), Javier Núñez, Jeff Pang and other Zoo Yorkers making up the film’s cast. It was a decent piece of global marketing — especially on the back of the movie’s controversial nature.
1997’s ‘Mixtape’ video (salutes to scottieb1 for upping it on YouTube) reinforced the power of the team and the brand — that authentically NYC mix of street skate (with shades of classic 411) and gutter hip-hop, with Harold Hunter (RIP), Roc Raida (RIP), Anthony Correa and Peter Bici making memorable appearances. 1999’s ‘Peep This’ and ‘Heads’, 2001’s E.S.T. 2.0 and 2002’s ‘Unbreakable: Mixtape 2’ (Akira Mowatt is currently doing his thing with the After Midnight brand now) were all a strong visual reinforcement of the Zoo York sensibility.
The whole post 9/11 ‘Unbreakable’ campaign was one of Zoo York’s finest moments and when eckō acquired the brand in 2001,externally, Zoo York seemed to operate as it always did (though Mr Dave Ortiz did once mention to me, that the tiny inner bird print during the early days with eckō was a joke about how a little bird might rest on a big rhino) — the Nike Dunk SB from 2002 was part of that carefully curated approach to entering the skate arena with credible partners. Greg Lucci and Sal Barbier were a smart addition to the brand to maintain some energy and creativity. In 2003, Zoo York were tapped up to make some non-SB Nike Blazer colourways too. Pharrell wearing the brand before every rapper dressed like an explosion in the Karmaloop warehouse was no bad thing and Bad Brains in some magazine ads was a good look, but the 2004 use of Ashton Kutcher as Zoo York’s frontman was a truly strange moment. 2006’s team up with Lady Sovereign was just as baffling. But having the homie Grotesk as art director ensured their visual direction was on point.
But then having Skechers producing Zoo York footwear? Uh-oh. Zoo York’s tumble into a sub Route One world of big store basements and slashed prices was conferred when it was singled out in the equally mediocre HBO show ‘How to Make it in America’ as an example of a brand losing its edge (some kind of revenge by Zoo York OG Eli Gessner who was a creative consultant on the show?). Which leads us to Zoo York 2012 — I like Kate Upton as much as the next man, but it felt like an M&Ms commercial with bonus boobs.
I’m no stranger to the difficulties of losing your edge when the cold, hard truths regarding cashflow come in and I’m fully aware that explaining cultural cache, credibility and limited editions to a suit is like trying to discuss Sartre with a rampaging bear, but to lose all your ties to the early 2000s in such a calculated way is a kiss of death in the long run. Still, there’s plenty more companies to pick up the team riders you’ve discarded like a McDonald’s bag. Salutes to the real New Yorkers like SHUT, UXA, 5Boro and Supreme.
I can’t work out Jay Electronica at all. The track with Mobb Deep was heralded on Twitter as the second coming of pretty much everything and turned out utterly unremarkable and I have a feeling that many will die of old age waiting for that album to release, but Jay seems to have made some of the most bizarre career choices of any rapper ever — that suited role in the near decade old Benzino video that leaked earlier this year, where he babbled about Satan and Eminem, despite working with Denaun Porter later on in his career pales next to his Daily Mail appearance — the culmination of his friendship with Zac Goldsmith is that he’d been boning his brother Ben’s wife, Kate Rothschild. Illuminati theorists everywhere must have damn near erupted. Was Jay on some strange mission to break up powerful unions from the inside, or did he just want to sow his oats? I’m thinking it’s the latter, but I want to believe the former. What next? Currensy becomes part of the Mittal family?
This blog post is brought to you by BlackBerry and Orange’s failings in giving me a device on insurance that blocked me out of the blog entry I’d written for today. That meant a hasty rewrite on a completely different topic.
I’m excited about the impending rerelease of Akinyele’s ‘Vagina Diner.’ I’ve decried our preoccupation with the old on here before, but one album deserving of a second time in the spotlight is Akinyele’s 1993’s smartly crafted punchline sleaze opus, ‘Vagina Diner’ — I maintain that Spice 1, Too Short and any number of Rap-A-Lot artists (the Complex interview with J Prince the other week was excellent) had the albums I can replay now, and most of the others we get dewy eyed about from the east coast seemed to have excellent singles but many of the ensuing albums are just boasts, horns and bass that outstays its welcome after twenty minutes. Salutes to De La, Jungle Brothers and Tribe for understanding the art of LP structure back then, even if ‘J Beez…’ got fucking slaughtered.
Akinyele’s effort was something different though. Getting Large Professor to produce the whole thing — a privilege of being signed to Atlantic/Interscope — made the whole thing cohesive and a precursor to those one producer and one MC albums that are frequently promised but rarely executed properly. ‘Vagina Diner’s awesome titled could have been justified with some talk of the man being a cunning linguist, but that amazing Ralph Bakshi/REAS/John Kricfalusi-esque cover art indicates that it’s just an album about fucking and some ignorant stuff.
‘Vagina Diner’s playing time doesn’t allow for Akinyele’s hiccup style to drive the listener insane and Extra P goes in. ‘The Bomb’s Carhartt hooded, roomy denim anthemic quality, a couple of twenty-second interludes that could have been stretched to full-length, the smoothed-out keys at ‘Bags Packed’s outro all made this a necessary album. Nobody’s boy hopped on to ruin tracks, and any attempts to get soulful were scuppered with some brutal talk. And that’s where it all went wrong. Ak’s line on ‘I Luh Hur’ about a hypothetical pregnant belly kicking and punching (“I’m fed up, and sorry that I’ve done it /I’m ready to set her up and have my little man kick her in the stomach”) seemed to be taken a little out of proportion — it was an unnecessary and idiotic moment, but Ice Cube touched on a similarly unpleasant matter (“Then I thought deep about giving up the money/What I need to do is kick the bitch in the tummy” from ‘You Can’t Fade Me’) and it seemed to get lost in the midst of other allegations of troublemaking against him. Ghetto Gold Matt reminded me of the December 1993 editorial in ‘The Source’ from Kierna Mayo decrying the lyrics and Akinyele’s letter of response in the February 1994 issue.
Cube was more profitable for his label, but with a lack of commercial success, Atlantic dropping Akinyele seemed like a cost-effective move. For some reason, summer 1993 was a bad time to be dropping an album and getting heard — bald headed rappers with raspy voices, Parliament samples and weed talk took precedence, and while ‘Vagina Diner’ got good reviews, it just got lost in comparison with an equally nihilistic and perfectly produced set like the ‘Intoxicated Demons ‘EP. Perhaps Interscope could have promoted it a little more. Ah, the hard life of the punchline rapper. If Interscope had let ‘Break a Bitch Neck’ (Kierna would have been triply furious about that one and it really undermines the point he makes in his letter too) go on that album as planned, that shit would have gone platinum. RA The Rugged Man’s ‘Cunt Renaissance’ line “Pregnant bitch — you get kicked in the belly/So fuck all them hookers who had beef with Akinyele” references the outcry and subsequent dropping of Ak (his boy — hence the indy release, ‘What The Fuck?’) in Crustified Dibbs’s typically sensitive manner.
Unsurprisingly, RA got dropped by Jive, but surprisingly, Jive picked up Ak later that decade, who’d reinvented himself as a porno rapper with the success of ’96’s ‘Put It In your Mouth’ — taking the sexuality of ‘Vagina Diner’ and making it a little more British postcard lewd rather than the Ike Turner backhand steez of his earlier works. A year earlier, ’95’s ‘Loud Hangover’ appearance with Sadat X had me wanting him to join the Loud roster. After that, Akinyele descended into the nowhere zone of Koch’s terrible early ’00s long players (see also, calamities like KRS One’s ‘Spiritual Minded’ album, Grand Puba’s terrible third LP and Onyx’s ‘Bacdafucup’ sequel). 2004’s ‘Live at the Barbecue: Unreleased Hits’ compilation had a few tracks that seemed to be from a 1994 project that never materialized at the time.
Just as ‘Put It In Your Mouth’ introduced a whole new audience to Ak’s work, the ‘Vagina Diner’ album seemed to vanish from the CD and record racks circa ’96. Other albums have had re-release after re-release, plus tours covering the entire tracklist, yet ‘Vagina Diner’ remains elusive, bar a vinyl bootleg or two. Recently, a promo edition of the LP sold on eBay, with lettering apparently from Ak himself. Compared to the real promo edition, it looked more like a bootleg — maybe Ak took matters into his own hands? But now you don’t need to shell out mad money for the dull single vinyl edition or crazed dough for a second-hand CD on Amazon, because according to their twitter feed Get On Down records, responsible for the recent ODB ‘Return to the 36 Chambers’ reissue, are putting out a remastered Digipak edition of ‘Vagina Diner’ in 2012. Hopefully it’ll restore some lost tracks, make up for years of compressed Mediafire piracy sound and blow up the album artwork to poster size.
Front and back and even on the CD’s diner sign look, the album’s dripping art direction was on point, but unlikely to find friends among the feminist fraternity. I refuse to be that guy on every stack of YouTube comments claiming, “Now that’s hip-hop — not like Drake or Lil Wayne” like a dad blasting Fleetwood Mac on the school run, but there’s a lot of merit in this album. A lot of lost albums need never return, but this is different. A rerelease is unlikely to bring the album a vast new audience (buying a CD or vinyl is considered quaint), but for those of us who care, ‘Vagina Diner’ 2012 is a big, big deal and hopefully that enthusiasm might prove infectious.
For your patience in reading these recollections, and while we’re stuck in 1993, here’s some highlights from the April ’93 ‘The Source’ Style Preview. Zhigge kitted in Armani Exchange, plus PNB, Pervert, Fuct, Not From Concentrate, Conart (the brand with Slash’s younger brother on board in its early days) and many more in the hat and tee collection, plus the Max ’93, Air Traverse, Jordan VIII, Rod Laver, Vans Chukka, Torsion Alegra and Equipment Support on a packed pair of shoe pages, that even the presence of flop post-Ewing shoe brand Aerial Assault can’t sully. Eighteen years later we still seem to be tethered to the aesthetics of the designs on display.
Please shut the fuck up about 1993. I just went through some TDK C90 tape compilations I made 17 years ago. Everyone claims that rap’s downfall is the preoccupation with material objects. Try telling that to Busy Bee in ‘Wild Style’. You’re the problem. Not Soulja Boy, not Kanye West—you. Boom-bap pensioners keep trying to tell me that rap pretty much rolled over and ceased to be in 1995. It was—according to the paunchy souls in faded tracksuits—better, because it had drums, samples and other such things, and rappers would say things like, “banging more heads than Metallica“. The truth is, that from 1991 onwards, style biting was rife. If you gave up at the turn of the decade, I’m not mad at you.
But that hallowed year that is 1993 sounds a bit murky, Ah yes, that golden year of letdowns like Hoodratz’s ‘Sneeke Muthafukaz’, Das EFX’s ‘Straight Up Sewaside’ and Red Fox’s ‘As a Matter of Fox’…wow. Happy days. Admittedly there were plenty of classics that year (‘…36 Chambers’ being a standout —’Enta Da Stage’ hasn’t aged as well) but there were also more Pete Rock and DJ Muggs imitations, more cash-in blunt talk, grimee bald bullshit and a whole lot of nonsense. Atlantic and Universal are unlikely to take punts on people chatting about “stunts” and “the bozack” nowadays—is that a bad thing? Assuming that an album’s tracklist should still put a ‘Z’ on skills, require distortive bass and wacky one-liners is naïve. Like I said, pre-’91, I appreciate the preoccupation, but hip-hop never died off. At all. Please don’t fire a list of albums of the era my way to prove me wrong either—I don’t care.
Revisionist 1992 history will tell you that Roughhouse Survivors, Zhigge and School of Hard Knocks albums are classics. This is incorrect—they only had decent singles. The same altered history pushes some mediocre LPs from 1993 to similar status. For instance, Da Youngsta’s ‘The Aftermath’ was far superior than Mobb Deep’s ‘Juvenile Hell’ yet it frequently gets overlooked. The majority of left coast releases that year have aged better—Spice 1’s ‘187 He Wrote’, Snoop’s ‘Doggystyle’ and Too Short’s ‘Get In Where You Fit In’ really stand out. But going back through the tapes, the majority just has the same bitten basslines, semi-speedy flows and some jazz horns. Again and again and again.
Admittedly, I miss the days of memorising tape shout-outs but I appreciate that they were just a moment-in-time. Your favourite rappers were being jerked back in ’93 too. I know Kool G Rap was. MySpace solved nearly every milk carton missing rapper case a few years back, but honestly, I don’t feel too many artists who had potential for longevity fell through the gaps Anvil-style. Some passed away, some were incarcerated, but many just fell the fuck off, or rode a gimmick that swiftly derailed. Listen to those unreleased full albums (K.M.D. is a near-isolated example)—much of it was shelved for a reason. My buddies at Diggers With Gratitude have the truffle-pig nose for finding gems, but much that costs plenty of yen on limited edition vinyl that unlocks the vaults doesn’t justify the outlay.
Stop the talk of everything being about guns and clothes. You sound like your own mothers. Lyrically, the very best acts are still out there doing what they do best. The fact of the matter my friends, is that you ceased to dig for gems (made all the easier thanks to the internet). Your chosen sounds are very much alive. Your defeatist, regressive approach kept your favourite artists poor. If rap fans were as loyal as metal fans, the Beatnuts and Mash Out Posse would have Slayer and Iron Maiden style followings, buying each release and filling every gig. But they’re not. They either move on or walk away and pretend the ’00s never happened and that’s a tragedy. If you expect a grimier more uncompromising sound to still be on a major label’s radar, then you’re dumb, but it’s out there elsewhere.
In fact, material’s been out there all along on smaller labels, or self-pressed—harder to find, but If you gave as much of a shit as the effort of the screwface you administer to any contemporary rap, you would’ve made the effort. Chances are that indie street album would’ve put more coffers in your favourite rapper’s pocket than if it had been on RAL. You whiners were given an album from Roc Marciano that’s a classic, but chances are you bigged it up yet right-click-saved it. You’re your own worst enemies. How is it that Killa Sha probably passed without mad money in the bank? Because you spent more time moaning than investigating. At least Rick Ross put Kool G on, Jay’s working with Pete Rock, Just Blaze was shouting out Spoonie Gee on Twitter, Malice from Clipse paid tribute to ‘Love’s Gonna Get’cha’ and Kanye’s working with the godfather, Gil Scott-Heron—because you bleating nostalgia fetishists aren’t helping anyone out.
Me? I got the same goosebumps raised when I first saw Redman’s ‘Time 4 Sum Aksion’ video when I saw the Waka Flocka Flame’ video above. Odd, possibly misunderstood interpretations of Coen Brother flicks? Eyes on bullets? A dancing diamond-encrusted Fozzie Bear? It’s one of the best matches of sound and visuals in years. After all, everyone knows that the four elements of hip-hop are face tattoos, Worldstar Hip Hop, robbing Yung Berg and Tweet-beef. As long as hip-hop baffles, infuriates, alienates and befuddles an older generation, it’s in safe hands. Now you can go off and sulk to the medicore sounds of Rumpletilskinz’ ‘What Is a Rumpletilskinz?’ on your battered Walkman.
The year’s 1993 – hip-hop is horn-led, R&B choruses are frowned-upon, shorts are big, athletic footwear is rugged, with outdoor courts in mind, and if they’re too much for you, the boom in plain retrospective suede models is in full swing. In the following year, the resurrection of the earlier Jordan models will slowly but surely infect sneaker releases, arguably to the industry’s detriment. But that’s enough of the scene-setting (and bitter digressions) – if you didn’t get into the big smoke much in the early ’90s, a magazine like ‘Phat’ was a glossy-papered oasis of subcultural information and a break from then-waning publications like ‘i-D’ and ‘The Face’ who were too busy covering Courtney Love and ‘The Crying Game’ to focus too much on street fashion, giving us our very own British take on the then-great ‘Big Brother’. ‘Sassy’ spinoff (via Andy Jenkins, Mark Lewman and Spike Jonze) ‘Dirt’ also achieved cultdom Stateside, with a similar gung-ho, irreverent spirit before cancellation, but over here, and available in your local WH Smiths? We had a lot less to go on. ‘Phat’ was a mine of information.