Back from a week overseas, so apologies for the delayed update here. In conversations over Szechuan food, Stüssy art director Mr. Adam Weissman mentioned that, as an enthusiastic 15-year-old, he co-directed, produced and wrote a hip-hop cable TV show in the vein of Fab 5 Freddy’s section of Yo! MTV Raps with a young Alchemist/Mudfoot on presentation duties during some early episodes that transmitted solely to the people of Beverly Hills. With Al wildly gesticulating and using slang I haven’t heard in a minute (one day we’ll have to explain to kids that a name like Funkee Phlavaz didn’t seem weird or dumb a few decades ago) while stood in a Cross Colors strewn Fred Segal, this is a loose-fitted time capsule of hip-hop from 1992 and 1993. Most of the videos are classics of the time, but it’s good to see them in good quality and the earnest nature of the whole thing, down to Adam interrogating Apache with a giant mic and the strangely flamboyant serif font on the end credits. There’s a whole load of barely told stories from this era (though Brian Cross’s It’s Not About a Salary is a great primer), with Blood of Abraham, Atban Klann, Bud Bundy, Balistyx and early Dilated Peoples making up the story of Los Angeles rap connecting with that famously wealthy postcode without having to descend into discussion of Brian Austin Green spitting those Demon Boyz/Das EFX wiggedy-diggedy multiple syllables. Adam told me one of the greatest anecdotes regarding Ruthless that I ever heard, so I’m looking forward to seeing some related acts on the show when more episodes get upped (there were 15 more made) on the show’s new website later this month.
Anyone else out there in a job that they find tough to describe to elderly relatives, old school friends at reunions and taxi drivers? I sometimes lie and say I work in accounts, hoping that the interrogator doesn’t start asking me about software, modes of analysis, VAT loopholes or — in a worst case scenario — to help them with their tax return. It’s because I find most people to be nodding dullards at gatherings and I can’t be bothered to talk about trainers. I don’t care what they do and I know that they’re only asking about my occupation because we’re conversationally handicapped by the fact neither of us wants to be in the other’s company.
Occasionally I write some copy for brands. Sometimes they’re brands that even that person might know rather than some friend’s project which I would never bother even broach in awkward conversation. Those projects validate my existence to some degree and allow me to tell the truth at social events that aren’t some godawful product launch that’s full of boring “tastemakers” taking pictures of carefully lit displays and pulling those strange momentary vinegar faces behind their 5Ds as they prepare to make Tumblr history with their documented awesomeness.
It must be nice to be able to describe your occupation in at least four words without having to make some lame mumbled excuse for your existence.
Though I can remember back to being able to say that I worked in accounts or I worked in a warehouse back in the day, yearning to be doing something really wanky. I watched a documentary after leaving higher education that fired my imagination — it featured a bunch of people in an office in some up-and-coming “hub” area of London working as “creatives” for some creative agency that’s either long dead or a multiple Campaign award winner by now.
There was no set start or finish time (I was in a job where cigarette times were pretty much run to a stopwatch at this point) people brought in dogs and whizzed around on little metal scooters. They didn’t actually appear to do anything, and I fancied spending the rest of my life in a role like that. But my bland covering letters and C.V. that lied and said I swam and played guitar in my free time (my dad suggested that was better than “Watching weird films and hoarding sportswear”) didn’t even get me rejection letters. So I ended in various accounts roles, including one role that involved brokering prices for corpse cleanup, all requiring numbers rather than the written word and rendering me mediocre, with little chance of promotion.
I looked up to Soho’s Unorthodox Styles because they did cool shit with brands and obsessed about tropical fish, Supreme and Nikes. They even had a webcam in the office and used a mysterious thing called Blogger to keep people updated on their exploits. They appeared to be the opposite of the yellow tinted sunglass wearing, Star Wars t-shirt sporting buffoons whose jobs I coveted a couple of years previously — they actually appeared to work daft hours. Yet it looked to be worthwhile. And through gloriously convoluted circumstances, I ended up at Unorthodox Styles, and on arrival Mr. Russell Williamson told me that I was a copywriter, despite having no actual copywriting experience. Russell is awesome like that.
So when I’m asked how I got into this nonsense, all I can proffer is, “dumb luck”. Because I can’t be one of those people who acts like they’re reinventing the wheel with anything I assist with (writing, SMUs and all that works with it doesn’t feel like real work, so I can’t take it seriously), I don’t think I’m a very good copywriter at all, so I’m always looking for some education.
For years, I’d been ordered to invest in ‘The Copy Book’ but the madcap Amazon Marketplace prices put me off. I’d attempted to heist a copy but failed and got confused by the differences between the 1995 original and a paperback edition circa 2000 called ‘The Copywriter’s Bible’. But now those concerns are an irrelevance and if you were stockpiling a copy and watching those prices rise, your speculation failed, because TASCHEN’s vast reprint and redux with D&AD ups the original 32 participants to 48 and runs the gamut from long-form, text-heavy advertising masterpieces to memorable triple word campaigns.
The stylish cover’s transparent overlay depicts eye tracking data, reiterating that good copy is indeed a science. Some commentary and advice from some personal heroes like Dan Wieden, Dave Trott, Nigel Roberts (“Words are great. People still read. But they only read what they want to.”), Tony Barry and Marty Cooke is occasionally contradictory but always absorbing. The crisply reproduced ads that accompany each spotlighted author’s writing could prove beneficial for anyone looking to maintain brevity, attention and stay on message without resorting to repetition (or lazy alliteration like that).
With those excruciating paragraphs before I even mentioned the book title, I’m already ignoring the lessons within ‘The Copy Book’ but I recommend picking it up as a celebration of marketing’s true masterpieces. If advertising is ever whittled down entirely to 140 hyperbolic characters for tracked Retweets or a clickable YouTube video that purports to have been banned for “viral” purposes, at least there’s this document of a time when notepads, napkins, empty envelopes and leaflets unlucky enough to be in the line of fire were annihilated in the quest to perfect the message.
On that occasionally out-of-print subject, shouts to Jeff Staple on Twitter for reminding me of the existence of FontBook for iPad on Apple’s App store. £3.99 beats £285.29 on Amazon Marketplace. The compare function is invaluable.
I like ‘Men’s File’ magazine. It always feels like the team behind it like going out and doing stuff rather than thinking of ways to create photoshoots in parks or gawping at each other’s sockless McNairy-clad feet. I respect the fact that this publication has the RRL hookup, and has done for a little while now. Any rag can get a co-sign from whatever brand we’re jocking at the moment, but the RRL co-sign is strong. The team got the invite to visit the Double RL ranch and took military historian Simon Delaney with them as models. That’s deep. Unless you’re Oprah, those tepees are usually out-of-bounds.
After the Nike campus and archive, this was always my second dream field trip. Having visited the former, I fear the ranch is a little less feasible. Of course, it’s all cowboy dress up nonsense, but at the core of it, that’s Ralph’s hobby and as photoshoot locations go, it’s a tough one to beat. You can buy as much second hand Polo on eBay as you like, but riding an RL branded (not in the red-hot sense) horse trumps everything. Issue #5 also talks a little about Paris’s Apache gangs, which influenced the latest Mister Freedom collection. Apaches are a very interesting phenomenon — I hope Mister Freedom reproduces one of their amazing late 1800s knife/knuckleduster/gun hybrids too…
Speaking of Polo, shouts to Piff Gang for channeling the power of underrated Dipset spinoffs plus Currensy and Creative Control with a UK slant. My favourite UK rap is generally based on goonery. Piff Gang don’t trade in mindless goonery but they do smoke a lot, can flow and crucially, they don’t dress like they’re homeless — the downfall of many a UK MC who forgets the need for clean living in difficult circumstances. Phaze One is a solid MC and the rest of the crew bring it too. Bring on the mixtapes while the sun’s still making appearances over here…
“She’s got charm, a firearm to match mine/Goin to the movies packin his and her nines/Wearin’ Carhartt and leather, motherfuck the weather”
Writing this from a sickbed because I’m a drama queen, keeping an eye on a media schizophrenically disposed towards both a novelty sized iPod Touch and human suffering on an epic scale, I wasn’t in the mood for blogging. but do you know what? That’s loser talk. Shit, Eddie Futch would probably slap me if he heard me whining because of the man flu. As discussed and noted by all who’ve left the country lately for any mass gathering of thin people in glasses, chinos and Woolrich standing around taking in the whiff of sixty pound scented candles, solemnly talking Horween factory output, over familiarity is lurking into the frame when it comes to the heritage brands that were once a glorious mystery to you. From a personal point of view, one brand represents more than passing trends – Carhartt.
From getting real close to the Panasonic with a skittering pause image of MTV Raps acts to decipher the fat-arsed ‘C’ to the first Carhartt and workwear boom in the UK, with American Classics and Camden market spots shifting the kind of cord collared canvas and denim attire one could fell a burglar with, it’s never really lost that magic for me. Duck canvas is a thing of beauty. I don’t need the fancy stuff – i’m not into wearing it in, the current selvedge pants from Carhartt Europe are ace, but it’s not something to fuss over too much. When one blanket lined item perishes, it’s time to restock during a US excursion. I can trust the union-made stuff; not from some tired preoccupation that those in the factory are Whistling Dixie and dancing around, but because I’ve never been let down by the brand’s core creations. For the money, the Mexican-made sweats are fresh too, though from experience they lose some serious length after a wash. Brown duck is a non-nonsense design classic, and that square patch confers legend status.
James and the crew at Carhartt Europe’s UK office are even more preoccupied with the line, so my onetime wariness of the localised Carhartt’s intentions proved utterly unwarranted. Seeing as Carhartt have been doing this for as long as they do, I’m looking forward to the seeing the fruition of the duck pieces I spotted in the books late last year. US-made coats in fits that aren’t best suited to Terror from ‘The Wanderers’? Very necessary. I was just doing some speedy research on Carhartt’s early days, and with the passing of onetime Flavor Unit linchpin Apache last week, the brand’s been on my mind.
Apache’s solo album hadn’t held up as well as I hoped on a tribute listen (‘Smooth Yet Hard’ on the Flavor Unit compilation does what the title suggests though, his posse cut contributions were strong, and ‘Do Fa Self’ brings back happy memories) – but despite wearing his duck brown vest to the point where he had a touch of the General Zod cosmic villainy going on, he was a strong ambassador for the brand, and one of the first rappers I ever heard namecheck Carhartt. RIP. In tribute, here’s a hastily compiled collection of pre-1920 Carhartt newspaper ads, stories and job-related talk. The earliest is from 1897, and the latest is the strike saga of August 1919 that appeared to blow up and conclude over the space of just four days.