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REAPERS

I know we should encourage print publications in ailing times (especially when an online appetite for anything that constitutes content means that a lot of digital features and editorials are at least 40% longer than the average attention span, scattered with “one” in lieu of “you” in a bid at intelligence), but there’s a lot on the shelves that just seems to exist, bogged down with the predictable PR pushes of the moment and lacking any paper pulp identity. I had no idea that ‘TAR’ was still going either. ‘The Hunger’ magazine caught me off guard. I caught a glimpse of it and dismissed it as another vacuous publication that was presumably the pet project of some oligarch’s wife.

Then I found out that ‘The Hunger’ is Rankin’s baby, meaning the level of photography is predictably excellent, but it’s notable that advertisements seem to have been smartly folded into the actual content rather than the bookends of 40+ ad pages we’re used to. If we’re talking in idiot’s terms here — and during a recession it’s always worth reverting to a dopey notion where size and weight determines value — 500 pages for £4 is pretty good.

What really shines is Rankin’s conversations with some of ‘LIFE’s greatest contributors, including Burk Urkel, Guillermo “Bill” Eppiridge and John Shearer in the Documentary section. If you’re UK or Europe based, you can catch Rankin’s pretty good ‘America in Pictures: The Story of Life Magazine‘ right here on BBC iPlayer (if you can’t access it, consider it revenge for the times those MTV links you’ve embedded have denied me) — his passion shines through and he fanboys out with childish enthusiasm on meeting the pioneers of the photographic essay. Next time you’re admiring your Instagram efforts, I recommend trawling through the ‘LIFE’ archives on Google Books to puncture that misguided sense of what’s awesome. I love John Shearer’s ‘The ‘Prez’ of the Reapers’ photo essay (with text from Reginald Bragonier) that ran in the 25th August, 1972 issue. You can read it in its entirety here.

‘LIFE’ ran several excellent gang-related pieces before, but this reflected a new wave of crew violence, depicting the Bronx climate that spawned the Black Spades and inspired Walter Hill’s vision of Sol Yurick’s ‘the Warriors.’ Pride, violence, grief and a face beyond the bravado is present in Shearer’s work and while the article ends of a downbeat note, his blog indicates that Eddie Cuevas — the star of the article — left the gang life after beating the murder case to become a set-painter.

‘The Hunger’s website is strong, offering a plethora of video content and I recommend trawling through the BBC4 ‘All American’ collection to watch a 1981 ‘Arena’ episode on the Chelsea Hotel, four episodes of Alexis Korner’s ‘The Devil’s Music’ from 1979 and the more recent ‘America on a Plate[‘ documentary on the cultural relevance of the diner. You can lose a lot of time constructively while it lasts.

While ‘LIFE’ was a sappy, re-released shadow of its former self long before I was born, Henry Chalfont and Tony Silver (R.I.P.) 1983’s ‘Style Wars’ was a life-changer that offered another Bronx tale. Even catching it long after that fabled Channel 4 screening, those quotes from SKEME’s mum, CAP, Kase 2 (R.I.P.) and Min One have entered the everyday conversational lexicon of me my equally nerdish associates and I as much as ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘Seinfeld’ ever did. It’s bigger than hip-hop.

The frequently great ConspiracyUK radio show (from 27 minutes in), which seems to get some long interviews (with Menace sometimes sounding like Morell from ‘A Room For Romeo Brass’ with a rap fixation) with tough to track down subjects, recently chatted with Henry Chalfant for half an hour on the fundraising project to restore the 30 hours of outtakes left decaying. After the Save Style Wars campaign launched with a questionably fancy looking site that looked like it would flee the country with your credit card details, the new Style Wars site used KickStarter to raise the $28,000 to save them. Last week it hit the funding goal and the extra money will be used to restore the documentary itself. There’s some good incentives to contribute and at time-of-writing, 56 hours left to donate.

KickStarter is also being used to fund the release of Michael Miller‘s ‘West Coast Hip Hop: A History in Pictures’ which has doubled its goal. Compiled, Miller’s west coast rap photography (including the ‘Cypress Hill’ cover shot) could be well worth your time.

Listening to Elton John’s underrated ‘Rock of the Westies’ (GTA players know that ‘Street Kids’ is on point), all I can say is, thank god for that white. Elton’s prodigal yayo habit in 1975 caused him to create bangers with a completely new band. But beyond the sounds, that outfit on the album cover is some unkempt flamboyance. Check the near-beard, deerstalker, polo shirt, dog tag, bugged-out sunglasses and flossy rings, including a keyboard looking piece. Inspirational. This shot captures Sir Elton somewhere between broken and awesome. Rock stars don’t dress with this kind of lunacy any more.

The big aggressively shapeshifting elephant in the room at the moment is ‘The Thing’ prequel. I wanted to like it and some of the effects were strong, but it lacked the absolute dread and sense of isolation that made the 1982 version so necessary. It wasn’t a complete waste of human cells though and no spoilers intended (it has its own self-contained plot), but the segway between movies is smart. The hood might lack fur this time around, but the helicopter markings, doomy thud of the original score and Albertus MT typeface let the film conclude on a high note.

After the backpack talk the other week on Boylston Trading Company, Mr. Frank Rivera gave me the opportunity to write ‘Expendable Income’ — a love letter to the adidas Forum Hi which is one of my favourite shoes. I still don’t know why the story of the shoe hasn’t been told at length before (and there’s still a lot of facts to check and tales to be included), nor why the Hi seemed to be so hard to find post 2002. It’s good to talk Dellinger, crack money and stupid price tags. Click the image or check it out here.

Look around you. 2007 just got retroed. The onslaught of camouflage gear, queues for shoes and the rise of the print. That protectively waxed conservatism had to disintegrate at some point. All over patterned hoodies again? Ralph Lauren himself seems to favour these wintery traditional patterns above the majority of what his empire pumps out, and this Spruce Heather fleece has an air of 1989 about it too. It sure isn’t cheap, but it’s something different for the fanboys. No Polo player on the chest – this opts for a waistband patch logo instead. I like the texture too.

I just found out that Lewis Rapkin’s ‘Live From Tokyo’ documentary about the city’s music culture is finally available to rent on some new-fangled YouTube rental system. It’s worth £1.99 of your money (with a disaster relief charity donation in there too). I love Tokyo.

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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.

STANCE

Forget that never not working mantra. I’m not working this week and it feels good. It’s nice not to be writing an excess of shoe-related talk for a change, but guess what? Even during time off, I’m drawn to the subject. It’s a curse. Mr. Jeff Staple wasn’t lying when he mentioned that sleeping giant of footwear addiction that can’t be shaken off, even when you’re no longer in a brand’s target demographic (face facts, my over-30 brethren — you know that’s true). I even found myself making plans for Nike-related projects unconsciously on my BlackBerry earlier today, but it doesn’t feel like work — it’s normal, forgettable no-brainer behaviour.

Putting on a jacket and leaving the house isn’t something notable  either — it’s something I just tend to do thoughtlessly, though I do see increasing numbers of photo shoots wherein a shirt and jacket combo as lumpen and ill-fitting as the clothes I throw on every morning is apparently “styled.” And lest we forget, I’m just a sagging shitbag when it comes to my dress sense, Styling is a noble artform (the attitudinal and brash trickle down of Ray Petri and associate’s Buffalo work fired my imagination as a kid and continues to be a pinnacle aesthetic in my eyes), but just putting some everyman attire on dudes with public school hairdos doesn’t look that difficult. Doing something different seems tougher.

Maybe these folk are doing it so well that they just make it look easy. Maybe I’d sever a finger buttoning up a shirt, or break a leg adding a millimetre to a turn up I know a few photographers who get a little touchy about the fact a license to do events and product shots seems to come free in the box of any SLR, so I imagine that plenty of stylists with a vision are a little perplexed about the tidal wave of chancers. I guess everybody has to start somewhere, but would it too much to ask to see bland
worn differently?

Seeing the video for Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’ again at the V&A’s ‘Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990’ exhibition reminded me of how besotted I was with her and her whole swagger when I was a kid. I’m sure I recall entering a competition on BBC 1’s ‘Going Live’ to win a signed pair of adidas Metro Attitudes (the rare-as-fuck ones with the reptile print). Capturing a brilliant collision between high fashion, high art and popular culture and laced with brash branding that caught the eye of a new breed of expensive label magpies, drawn to anything they couldn’t afford that screamed its price point with every wear. What a lady. It’s an endlessly repackable style too, from the bolshy videos, to her lack of pregnant pause when it came to performing live.

In 1992, her seemingly non-styled (but nicely shot by Jean Baptiste Mondino) ‘Homebrew’-era (the album with ‘Buddy X’ as remixed with a Biggie appearance that led to Neneh getting a shout out on the ‘Ready To Die’ sleeve) is proof positive that Jordans look better on ladies. As the week ticks by with internet hype stripping the Jordan III’s cool away, let’s not forget how amazing a Jordan can be when it’s worn without giving a fuck, minus the tiptoes and twitpics. Neneh’s Military Blue IVs were old by the time this issue of ‘The Face’ went out (it’s dated October 1992), but the look of them is enough to make me forget that they were easily available in a plastic replica form for as little as £17 a couple of years ago. We’ll have forgotten about the reissues when they’re released again next summer, but the Jordan IV in that shade of blue hasn’t aged as well as Neneh.

I also forgot about Neneh Cherry recording with Hiroshi Fujiwara in 1994. You can hear ‘Turn My Back’ right here and it sounds like 1994 had a tendency to sound.

Inspiration and nice guy Nikolai put me onto Melbourne-based www.itsonlyatshirt.com who are putting out officially licensed horror film related tees in old style VHS box packaging. If the name ‘Patrick’ rings a bell, then you’ll probably lose your mind over this project. The frequently screened Oz b-movie about a terrifying telekinetic boy in a coma used to be a BBC late night staple, but I haven’t seen it in a while. I recall a jump scare at the film’s conclusion that once made me scream in a cowardly manner. In the Ozploitation stakes, ‘Patrick’ and ‘Long Weekend’ seemed to crop up with a certain frequency (often around holiday periods, when bedtime wasn’t a concern) and to see it celebrated like this is tremendous news. In this interview, it’s alluded that a ‘Raw Meat’ (aka ‘Death Line’ with the amazing soundtrack) shirt, based on the equally troubling 1973 classic is at brainstorm stage with this brand.

Look at these early 1997 Wallabee options that were featured in ‘New York’ magazine. Was that a post Ghostface reaction? The oranges are beautiful. It’s a shame that they were probably the post-87 North American market ones that were China made. Still, nice colours and composition. And if anybody knows who was behind the Killa Shoe Co. Padmore & Barnes made Wallabee-alikes from the early 2000s, I’d love to know.

This Erik Brunetti interview on the Heavy Mental is awesome, “Los Angeles, at least to my knowledge, is too caught up in ‘street art’ and hype-driven openings, which produce the worst piles of shit I have ever seen. Just dreadful to look at.

Lest I forget, the homie Frank has just upped some of my musings on bags and outerwear history on Boylston Trading Company’s site to coincide with the Lexdray drop. My stuff is typically meandering, but I suppose if you’re talking about the outdoors, you’re allowed to ramble. It’s split into two parts and I think the second part is going up at some point this week. Good peoples and the Boylston Forums that are dropping in early December are killer.

Emptying the contents of a memory card, I found more images from the New Balance Flimby trip a while back. The original 670s are tremendous and the Kawasaki 993 is interesting. It’s still not quite as amazing as the Harrods New Balance M1700 from many years back (those Harrods NB images are swiped from homework4h38.blogspot.com and Parisian New Balance collector par excellence, Jay OneTwo’s images). Those shelves of UK-made goodies caused a few flashbacks and there’s a few samples there that bore striking differences to the production product. The mita croc skin 1700s from 2007 are underrated.