Tag Archives: asap rocky

THE BOX

I love contemporary hip-hop. I love the tweet alerted, spur-of-the-moment instant fix that eliminated your boy in the States having the hookup. If you’re a late-to-bed European, you’re pretty much privy to the next thing at exactly the same time as your brothers across the Atlantic. Rap got globalised. Of course, some would criticise the fast food nature of projects as the boundaries between mixtape and album (do people even make “street albums” any more?) blur and touring makes the money. To stay on top of what’s dropping is a challenge, but in 2011, its been amusing to see the same rap download blogs that once delighted in goading the lumbering major labels stumbling when it comes to the next wave.

Odd Future made the majority (Hypetrak, Madbury and Street Etiquette aside) look pretty vacant when it came to their work and team A$AP were another crew that caught them sleeping. Where next? Is Chicago’s King Louie the next to instigate a mass late pass hand out? Now Tyler’s only got to Run His Mouth On Twitter in jest and it’s a multiple blog headline in the lust for greasy talk and its consequences. How relevant is the hip-hop blog if these guys can handle their own tweet, WordPress and Tumblr mouthpieces for people who like to call themselves cultural curators (I prefer the term press release regurgitator) to reassemble?

The only regret for me is the lack of joy in a brand name check nowadays. I blame Lupe Fiasco. Once, to see an item beyond the usual high-end boast brand, oversized Avirex, XXXL Source ad fodder (word to Maurice Malone) or utilitarian military or re-appropriated logger yard surplus was a startling moment that was genuinely memorable. Kanye in Supreme in ‘Vibe’ circa 2003 (posted on this blog a while back) was unexpected. Retro killed the interesting shoe mentions (Nore’s “Yo, I loved the Bo Jackson’s, the orange and blue…” Air Trainer SC reference on ‘I Love My Life’ was one of the last truly great sneaker namedrops, but Wale mentioning as many Jordan retros as possible doesn’t count, because that’s just a tactic to keep him on seeding lists) and streetwear lines on a rapper’s back have gone far beyond Nas’s Crooks & Castles namecheck and ALIFE’s excellent patio party projects to become ubiquitous.

Now, every Sendspace MC and his crew are Supreme down, but it’s more humorous that Supreme gear might be at the core of the OFWGKTA/A$AP static. Long before Mac Miller could cover ‘Billboard’ without a major label, we spent money on big plastic discs that usually consisted of the following — white MCs self-consciously trying to out psycho each other (the fathers of today’s breed of white rappers who pull lots of funny faces and act self-consciously jokey on WSHH interviews or rap about goblins and secret caves to nobody but the disparate band of characters who still frequent UGHH) or some Tribe-lite jazz rap that aged horribly.

The majority of my 1996-1998 indy rap purchases are gathering dust, unless I encounter a sudden urge to spend an hour listening to wearying Mike Zoot twelves, but there’s exceptions. The goonier, Premier-endorsed no-label dudes who never got round to a full length album, anything Mike Heron affiliated and the works of Non Phixion, who made conscious ignorance an artform and tore out the backpack bracket through sheer aggression. ‘The Future Is Now’ was an obsession of mine from the moment I got an internet connection at home.

Company Flow fit in here somewhere, but I have to concede that their Norris McWhirter with a stopwatch, syllable and simile-cramming hasn’t aged quite as well with me beyond ‘8 Steps To Perfection.’ Despite that, supported by ‘Ego Trip’s glorious mix of metal and hardcore, tunnel bangers and grimy obscure label support plus frequent plugs for a certain 274 Lafayette Street institution, Company Flow’s Bigg Jus wore the Supreme box logo back in 1997 for that middle-fingered ‘Independent as fuck’ press shot (though, with Murdoch money at Rawkus, I’m still waiting for Kool G Rap to testify at the Leveson inquiry) and it made an impression on me as I harassed Bond and Dr Jives by phone in the quest for a tee.

Ill Bill’s Supreme 1999 box cap with the Swedish-looking camo mixed with hood basics like Timbs and vast Iceberg denim for a Ricky Powell shoot (circa 2001?) that appears in ‘The Future Is Now’ (the “goons at Supreme” even get a thank-you) captured Supreme’s hood/skate/top-tier straddling appeal. It’s a notable moment in the union of rappers and skatewear (though almost a decade earlier, Y’all So Stupid, who’d later crop up for the indie boom as Mass Influence in Vans and FUCT on the Pharcyde’s art direction represented a strong left coast aesthetic). I wonder how some of the now-forgotten old JanSport guard would have fared with current DIY infrastructures in place — would they thrive in the MP3 market, or cave under the relentless mixtape workload expectations?

On the subject of backpack-rap, there’s more backpack talk in the second part of the piece I wrote for the homie Frank. There’s something similar on Forums coming too for those who care about that kind of thing and understand the power of that shoe.

Big up the Germans too. Because I have the sense of direction of a post thunderstorm feline, I couldn’t make it to the Arc’teryx press meetup this morning, but I did wander the Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Tate Modern listening to Juicy J and the new Vado before heading to a meeting with some German associates. I’m large on the Straße. On that subject, shouts to the circular knit types at Merz b. Schwanen who are creating loopwheeled cotton treats in Germany as part of a brand founded exactly 100 years ago but recently revived and whose style 221 button border shirts come Cabourn approved.

And big up Criterion and Janus for restoring Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1973 sci-fi flick ‘World On a Wire.’ The DVD and Blu-ray, with Sam Smyth (who also drums for Ben Folds) — the man behind some outstanding Criterion cover and poster design — responsible for the artwork. It drops in February 2012.

I REALLY MEAN IT

I had to post this 1995 ‘Vibe’ spread of the Wu again, just because Frankmatic reminded me of just how incredible this smokey Norman Watson portrait of the group is. ODB’s Phat Farm rugby and Rae’s Polo Sport and oversized mobile phone stay amazing, or as RZA would put it, wemarkable. I was also a fan of an earlier shoot of all nine members from early 1994 (which spent a few months on my wall in colour form when I was younger courtesy of HHC), with Champion ‘C’s, Meth’s phenomenal plaid shirt, the mysterious ‘Q’ and ‘Down Low’ brands and U-God rocking the New Balance 577 very nicely indeed. Full crew shots were a rarity, but they always had me hunting for the gear on show.

But that’s me living in rap’s past. In fact, I was recently reminded of the Starter Bell Biv Devoe collection of hats and jackets that was meant to lead to a Boyz II Men collaboration too (I guess the denim shorts, shirt, tie and cap look was deemed lucrative), which had me hunting again.

I’m a hypocrite. After decrying rap fans stuck in the past on this blog (and seeing as one of my pet hates is blogs writing that “As you may have noticed…” bullshit as if they’ve got a following, I won’t pretend anyone read the original post but it ran as follows: stop living in fucking 1993) I realised that I’m musically frozen in 2003 when I thought the Roc would become the ultimate rap powerhouse, that Cam and Jay were friends and that M.O.P. and Victoria Beckham might not be the worst collaboration ever. I was even optimistic when Damon Dash (remember ‘America’ magazine?) was lording it up in a Chelsea property, before he was evicted in early 2005. Don’t pretend you didn’t think that the Roc-A-Fella roster was remarkable too. Then it all fell apart.

The Diplomats recorded some of their best work around that era too, and Diplomat Records put out classics, whether Def Jam or Koch were involved. 2003’s ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ is the best release from that era. Then there were insane amounts of mix CDs that friends would bring back in stacks from New York visits, full of Heatmakerz productions or amazing Purple City performances. For my money, and taking affiliates into account, Dipset are the greatest rap group of all time. They ticked all the necessary boxes —  insane production choices, goonery, attire and fly gibberish. That’s what I look for in my music.

Yeah, you can throw down Native Tongues and the Wu, but if you’re on a lengthy roadtrip, those jazz breaks and Staten’s Hudson on PCP flows are going to grind you down. You will never, ever bore of a healthy dose of the Dips. Especially ‘The Answer’ by Juelz and Cam’ron’s ‘Bigger Picture.’ And considering that you could seemingly hoard a terabyte of Dipset tracks and still be hunting the stadium rock samples that never cleared, you could make it a return roadtrip too without skips. Well, I might skip ‘Magic’ by JR Writer for being a little too dumb, but the rest would play uninterrupted.

But I’m white and white people fucking love Dipset. Miss Info’s recent Q&A with the reformed crew and the subsequent show made me ponder just how much I wish the Diplomats continued their ascent before the 2007 disintegration of the group. The fact that Jimmy brought out ASAP Rocky (who was recently in the studio with AraabMUZIK) as an example of Harlem’s future is both heartening and depressing, leaving me wondering as to whether the new Diplomats album would ultimately emerge sounding dated and half-arsed next to rap’s new breed. That hiatus as a group dynamic could prove sonically harmful, but as a live act, their individual achievements make for the best setlists ever and Miss Info asked some strong questions, including matters of Killa’s claim that, “I get computers ‘putin” from ‘Get ‘Em Girls.’ In his answer he reveals that he’s prone to the crime of retweeting without crediting the source.



Dame gets a bad rap, but no matter how obnoxious the antics, I respect his business approach. The haircut tantrum in ‘Backstage’ directed at Kevin Liles — instigated by a promo jacket but hinting at a bigger problem — should have been turned into a million comedy gifs, but you don’t make a mark by keeping your mouth shut. Still, that footage of Dame losing it in a Def Jam boardroom that was released a couple of years back wasn’t half as entertaining.

Combat Jack’s piece on him two years ago was tremendous, dissecting the psyche of Mr. Dash and I’ve been enjoying a YouTube highlight reel of his finest moments on camera, including the aforementioned shouting match on tour (incidentally, that video of DMX that XXL posted recently is sad, bar the deeply quotable “Little Beet?”  query — especially after watching a 1999 Darkman in ‘Backstage’) and some legendary asshole soundbites. But a great Dame interview on HiphopDX last week addressed that moment and showcases some previously unseen humility.





With Steve Stoute, another Dame opponent,  doing the promo rounds for this excellent book, ‘The Tanning of America,’ this footage of him talking RBK, hip-hop marketing at corporate level and how it shouldn’t be done plus related topics, ends with some chat on the Dash subject. Mr. Stoute is a businessman worth listening to. Lesson 101 from the Dash affair seems to be the importance of not burning bridges on the road to riches. Whatever your opinion of Damon, he was instrumental in aiding and abetting multiple movements that set the stage for Mr. West to go couture last night in Paris, with Dash getting his hipster on while everyone else was still in voluminous denim.

On a wildly unrelated note, this French flick looks like fun, with ‘Sleepless Night’ continuing the Gallic winning streak when it comes to thrillers. So much so in fact, that it’s already being optioned for a remake. Because unlike France, America has run out of cinematic ideas entirely.