Tag Archives: 50 cent



With all the current Air Max talk, it’s worth talking about the oddities that are kept out of the celebratory storytelling time and time again. The Nike Air Max line was far broader than simply revolving around six or so silhouettes and some of the less-popular instalments and spinoffs are some of the maddest Nike design of the last decade and a half. While we were losing our minds over small swooshes on Air Max 1s and obsessing over 1985 basketball designs, Nike’s performance divisions got really really strange post-2000, building on the madness of the Alpha Project initiative.

As a result, some truly bizarre Air Max models that have never been seen since their debuts made brief appearances that have never been looked at with any real fondness. Much of it is ugly-looking on first glance, but these these things look like concept models rather than anything even mildly commercial. As far as I’m concerned, that’s something admirable. In an era of “WTF LOL” social media feedback and Emojis weeping with laughter, there’s a conservatism at work and if a shoe does’t sell out within six minutes, it’s a flop. The odds are against freakish footwear unless it has a high-end co-sign.


2002 was a strange year for shoes. Nobody talks about Tube Air any more. They pretend it never even happened, but it was at the heart of one of 2001’s Air Max and the Air Max 2002. It’s like the eccentric uncle that nobody wants at the family gathering because he’s going to get slaughtered and start morris dancing or playing a ukulele. While 2001’s main instalment in the series is considered to be a strange deconstructed oddity with only half the lacing that was just one of two flagships that year — an agreeably ambitious Air Max with Tube Air at the rear and a more conventional forefoot Visible Air unit, plus horizontal and vertical embossed on the upper, (the MAX on the toe was a bad move) that superseded it later that year can be considered an Air Max 2001 too. That model was accompanied by other weird models like the Air Max Tremble which was officially part of the Presto range. The Air Max 2002 expanded the Tube Air to minimise the standard forefoot visibility and had a mono-fit tongue/collar combo — barely anyone talks about it, at all. You might recall fleeting glimpses on the unpleasant C-Phaze and not-so-bad P-Phaze basketball designs around the same time.airmax2002

Even stranger was the Air Max Dolce — at the start of 2002, this was the flagship Air Max of the moment and it was a laceless creation that looked like performance Hush Puppies with its tech-loafer look. Ambitious and peculiar, it’s odd, but managed to spawn the Air Max Dolce Light the following year that looked a little less troubling. In fact, the loafer concept was on several models of the era — the zip-up Fantaposite Max, Air Trainerposite Max (to a lesser extent), Air Max Specter and Air Max Amplify.

While for many, the 1998 Air Max Plus aka TN is one of the finest Air Max models ever (I concur), it’s easy to forget that the Air Max Plus spawned a series. The Air Max Plus 4 was truly unappealing and blocky, but the Air Max Plus 5, that carried a technology that looked like the flop Tube Air but was actually a TN unit is another bold entry that’s hardly attractive, but at least it’s agreeably unconventional compared to its predecessor, with that sock-like Turbulence-esque forefoot. That early 2003 release got plenty of shine when it was 50 Cent’s workout in lab conditions shoe of choice in the In da Club video that ran on every key music video channel almost permanently for a couple of months that year.

I’ve long assumed that Shox became a focal point for cushioning over Air Max in the early 2000s, and when the boing had been brought back to earth, Nike stripped things down and dropped the comparatively dull Air Max 2003 (an air unit from six years prior, really?) and seemed to scrap a modification to that same unit in early samples of the 2004. The 360 jump started things again. I’m not surprised that these curiosities aren’t used in a marketing narrative. Time has been unkind to them and we weren’t too enamoured with them in the first place. They’re tough to shoehorn into a sense of evolution too, but if you strip away the preoccupation with design from the past from this point, these are a perfect time capsule for a time when shoe design seemed to go insane. But we need to unearth these things on the off-chance that a 2025 audience decides that they’re ready for robo slip-ons all over again.




“Go read a book you illiterate son of a bitch and step up yo’ vocab.”

Having lived my life vicariously via the rap media for roughly two decades, I’ve developed that curious habit of picking up any tome with a vague mention of hip-hop culture. The result? Shelves heaving with hardback and paperback rap-related literature. I don’t regret a single purchase, but the good quality ratio is deeply askew. I respect Toop’s ‘Rap Attack’ but it’s a little dry and dated (and yes, I picked up versions 1, 2 and 3 for those extra chapters) and favour ‘Spraycan Art’ over ‘Subway Art,’ simply because I read it first and MODE 2 is that dude. My personal favourites are the dirt-digging drama of Ronin Ro’s possibly semi-fictional (who Brian Cross aka. B+ called, “a clown” on these very pages) ‘Have Gun Will Travel’ and ‘Gangsta,’ the aforementioned Mr. Cross’s ‘It’s Not About a Salary,’ ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ by Jeff Chang, Brian Coleman’s ‘Rakim Told Me’ and ‘Check the Technique,’ both ‘Ego Trip…’ tomes, Cheo H. Coker’s ‘Unbelievable’ Biggie bio and now Dan Charnas’ ‘The Big Payback.’

There’s been histories of hip-hop, but who wants to hear some half-baked tale of gang violence quelled by dancing, the Sugarhill Gang, Run-DMC and other second, third and quadruple-hand smoke? The good stuff happened behind-the-scenes. To reinforce earlier sentiments, this is the best history of hip-hop ever written. The industry’s in flux now—Elliott Wilson at ‘Respect’ and Combat Jack at ‘The Source’s online operation are a reason to be optimistic. ‘Complex’ is bridging multiple gaps too. But as long as reaction videos and Twitter quotes are the norm, rap journalism won’t reach those Mind Squad glory days. Charnas creates a vast patchwork that cleverly overlaps each anecdote, resulting in perfectly pitched trivia.

Rap fans are hardcore gossips, and this’ll sate that appetite in some style, but those looking for superior writing, research and total enlightenment will be rewarded too. It’s a huge story of marketing, risks and exploitation, and the 600+ pages here ensure that Charnas has space to keep it thoro’ but it never turns arrid despite that phenomenal attention-to-detail. If Stacy Gueraseva’s fine ‘Def Jam Inc.’ whetted your appetite for smart writing, myth busting and information overload, Don just took it to the next level. Hyperbole? Yes. But it’s justified hyperbole.

Crucially—as rap marketing evolves digitally but critique dumbs down to a sizzurp crawl where four decades of painstaking progress and broken ground is written off by stoned YouTube commentators as being Freemasonry—we need a comprehensive history to piece together just how powerful hip-hop culture became. Magazine heads in particular will spontaneously combust at the tales of Shector and Mays’ meeting of minds (Charnas was an early Source scribe) and the trash-talking early days of ‘Vibe.’ It’s nice to see hip-hop get the book it always deserved. Those four years this book spent in development certainly weren’t wasted.

Here’s my ten favourite things I learnt from ‘The Big Payback’ (there’s much, much more where these came from)—

1. T La Rock worked in a pharmacy.

2. Ann Carli thought that Lyor Cohen was handicapped because he was “lumbering” and sounded like he had a speech impediment, thanks to his USA/Israel upbringing.

3. Russell Simmons dismissed any notion of Will Smith being the next Eddie Murphy in 1988 by announcing that, “He might be as big as Malcolm Jamal Warner.”

4. The adult film star that Rick Rubin dated was Melissa Melendez.

5. Kangol Kid from UTFO recorded a message on Jon Shecter’s parents’ answering machine with the lyrics, “Jon and Jane went to get a snack / But if you leave a message, they’ll call you right back / Take it from me, the leader of the pack.”

6. Ed Lover used to be a security guard. The initial ‘YO!…’ gig payed marginally more than he was getting each fortnight.

7. Timberland’s chief executive officer really did tell the New York Times that the urban market for their product was miniscule and that the target market was “honest working people.”

8. Phil Knight was one of SRC’s (Steve Rifkind Company) earliest clients, after recruiting them for the Chilly Tee release in 1993. He invited Rifkind and some of the crew to Beaverton and they learnt about global marketing from Nike’s team to add to their street marketing savvy.

9. Oliver Grant from Wu Tang aka. Power was integral to the birth and growth of Wu Wear. He wore a full Coca-Cola outfit accompanied by Barkley Nikes (Alpha Force IIs?) to woodworking class and got glue all over it. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter was in the same class that day.

10. As part of a genius Chris Lighty-assisted move, 50 Cent’s ‘Formula 50’ Vitaminwater flavour is based on grape “quarter waters”—hence his ‘I Get Money’ brag, “I took quarter-water, sold it in bottles for two bucks.”


That title’s not a cancer reference. We’re talking Champion. Over the months this blog’s been mired in references to reverse weave, from talk of the genesis of the tactically stitched build, hardcore and No Mas’s loving tribute to the US-made versions. It’s time to dead that obsession on this URL, but not before one final love letter to Champion products. Well, it is Valentine’s day.

Hip-hop and Champion sit together like any other re-appropriation of the basics the subculture’s popularized, but while the bulbous fit with the ‘C’ on the sleeve largely represents the east coast from ’91-’94, and the brand never really left us, it’s currently in the midst of a renaissance. Is it tactical distribution from the brand? Who knows, but Jadakiss, Nas, Rae and Cam’ron have been C’d out in the heft of the Super Hood lately, while 50, Ghost and Rick Ross have been spotted in the brand’s newest creation – the Super Crewneck.

As staple as Polo in the cotton fleece arena, the brand’s gone one further with a giant applique ‘C’ that seems like a gloriously low-end retort to the big ‘Lo horse and rider (if a connection to the house of Ralph seems far-fetched check the feature below from December 1991 drawing a parallel).

It’s almost as far removed from the neat, slimmer cut Japan-made replicas of marl grey American masterpieces as you can get – ‘almost’ is employed there because the thinner, Double Dry fleece Classic Sweatshirt, another personal favourite, is cheap (fifteen bucks!) cheerful, and available in a mindbending array of shades, including some of the colours that had fans scrambling when they were in a reversed stitch. Many would prefer to shell out extra for the sleeve ‘C’ and a thicker cotton and polyester blend, but some might be able to appreciate that dementedly low pricepoint.

From the vintage shades, Cazal logo face ink and enlarged Vuitton custom gear, Officer Rawse has a certain aspirational aura that took a Champion fanboy back to the characters that elevated an athletic brand to him in the first place. It’s tough to single out the non-hardcore musical endorsees who made their mark the hardest wearing Rochester’s finest. Notable examples are MC Lyte in the snap button jacket in 1989’s ‘Self Destruction’ video, and Rakim’s large tonal logo on an orange hoodie during a 1992 MTV appearance, worn with white AF1s too. Inspirational. To be inspired to hunt down a sweat because a rapper wore it is some boom-bap pensioner behaviour – an act of second childhood, with that hefty branding acting as the perfect analogy for hip-hop’s current louder, brasher state, compared to the lowkey single vinyl murk of ’93.

Champion USA now resides comfortably as part of the Hanesbrand family – fitting that the Beefy-T and Reverse Weave are related in their much-loved basics that a certain subsection of Brits in particular, worship. It’s the American Classics generation – that store doesn’t get its full recognition, peddling the import necessities since 1981.

The curious lack of recent availability of classic (respect to the Original Store for filling a gap in the market) Champion products in the UK has given a new Reverse Weave the power to incite conversations between strangers – while fat laces and Vans are now no mark of a like mind, that ‘C’ still has clout. The Italian distributor catering to the EU is slipping, yet they’ve happily franchised the footwear side to produce some budget shockers, though to be fair, in NYC these Air Max 87 copies were spotted. C’mon Champion, when you dropped the suede block colour mids in 1990 with a spurious technology, we could sit them next to the Fila F13. These knockoffs damage the brand as a whole.

Not a good look.

And yes, the Double Dry and Super Crewneck have the ‘flying squirrel’ fit on the arms; minimal waist or cuff lengths, a preposterous amount of room, and room at the front for a fifty inch chest. But the high school jock fit is part and parcel of the contemporary Champion experience. The colours and thickness on the Super Crewneck in particular, are good. As the picture of Mr. Ross indicates, even with his weight, he’s not packing one of these bad boys out. At least the wrist ‘C’ is stitched rather than stuck on, and the Super Crewneck is bonkers enough to justify purchase if you’re a brand disciple. And yes, while the equally insane Super Letterman jacket feels like excellent value, padded, and only eight-five bucks, it’s just as hefty.

Double Dry & Supercrew – A whole lotta sleeve.

Those residing in Japan get some extra breaks. Asia’s licensee loves Champion. A cursory visit to sportswear mecca Oshman’s reveals gems. Having been introduced to the tees they sell by Michael Kopelman, who knows his garments, I noticed you’ll get none of the supersize with the China-made ‘Champion Products Inc.’ label pieces – from the neck detailing to the slimmer fit, they’re a near perfect shirt. The Reverse Weave zip parkas and crewnecks are slimmed-down too and superior in quality. There’s oddities too, like grey-on-grey polka dot zip parkas, yet somehow it all works.

If that doesn’t sate the Reverse Weave appetite, Osaka’s HUNKYDORY  have been dropping gems with an American-made replica line. We might be done with the US build preoccupation, but these fits here are superior, and these are beautifully packaged. The Remake Crew Sweat takes it way, way back, but the Reverse Weave Crew Sweat is all that the brand’s output could and should be. Beautiful. There you have it – from the ridiculous, to the sublime.