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.
“The rap game is the WWF, we inside these steel cages/Outrageous things staged on real stages takin’ pictures with the long faces” Royce Da 5’9
Heavily tattooed with ink spreading from his (red)neck to his hands, JellyRoll, not to be mistaken with the producer of the same name, a shaven-headed white 300 plus pound behemoth sits behind the desk of a mock office scene, flippantly answering a call while hollering out his opponent in a thick southern accent. Oktaine a smaller-framed upstart, who speaks in a curious infliction of crip-talk, terms that sound curious from a caucasian character – particularly one from a reportedly rich family – and street level Memphis slang is the subject of his rant, having dissed him in a YouTube video days previous. While this looks like it could lead to a suplex, we’re talking hip-hop – not wrestling, though inferred physical assaults make up much of the conversation.
Another melanin-free man mountain, fellow Tennessean Haystak is a frequent topic of discussion – the Nashville-based MC who squashed a rivalry with onetime Timbaland associate Bubba Sparxxx , (himself not your average scrawny, pallid MC, attempting to conceal evident insecurities with colour by playing the outrageous class clown as has been the case beyond the region) dropped his own video on the subjects at hand, steaming drunk on a sofa, cackling and hollering out G-Unit and seemingly anyone else in the vicinity. Haystak is something of a local phenomenon – with a career going back over a decade and once signed to Def Jam South, whiteness is a frequent topic – the ‘Crazy White Boys’ C.W.B. crew talk sounds a little eerie given the region’s history.
As an outsider, it’s a curious to see as the ‘Banging in Little Rock‘ documentary, but whereas there was some evident play-slanging on display among the real-deal bangers, white rap seems to have evolved in the south as more than a cash-in with the obligatory post Marshall honky, into something more significant. After all, if you’re still stuck off the realness, while Oktaine’s bank balance is a topic-of-discussion, poverty might be spread across the nation, but folk down here, regardless of colour, know all about being poor, broke and while JellyRoll’s frame betrays it, hungry.
While the talk on ‘Stak is that his career has been hindered by betrayal and a jealously of other whiteys, Oktaine, whose work thus far has cancelled out the lyrical flair with some downright odd promos and tinny sound, promises a Gucci Mane guest spot, which for obvious legal reasons at present is implausible. Jelly however, has just signed to Lil’ Wyte’s Wyte Muzik imprint. Allied with 3-6 Mafia and signed to Hypnotize Minds, Wyte’s built up a vast fanbase, and beyond the pill-popping preoccupation, he’s got some genuine skills and vision – more than a pet cracker cash-in, he’s benefited from 3-6’s ascent, and after Juicy and Paul advised him, given the current state of the industry, to start a label himself while remaining with them, Wyte Muzik came to fruition. It looks like JellyRoll is allied with the right man.
This all seems to be part of whole scene off the usual radar – that radar being one fuelled by frequently viewed, constantly refreshed, tricked-out WordPress setups. That just adds to the fun. And what became of the oft-lampooned Florida native White Dawg? He was last heard in 2007 sampling Richard Marx records. Bubba’s ‘Deliverance’ remains one of rap’s most underrated LPs and he seems to exist in a certain limbo at present- hopefully he’ll have the same luck as the recently Grand Hustled Killer Mike. Where N*E*R*D’s boy Lee Harvey went is anyone’s guess, and the Lil’ Jon and Organised Noise affiliated Po’ White Trash & the Trailer Park Symphony are M.I.A. too. Rappers have been acting like wrestlers in WWF’s heyday with that flash video trash talking for a minute, but when they look like wrestlers too, you know things have gone pleasantly full-circle. It’s enough to jumpstart a while blog post on wrestling and rap.
Ignore the John Cena and Insane Clown affiliations for a minute. If you were fixated with the pre-fight hollering with the lurid logo in the background, mouthy managers to the side, or better still, with the short promo videos, back when the World Wrestling realm of sports entertainment could be confused with a wildlife foundation, and yearn for the pre-WWE subplots and presentation, rap took the mantle. It doesn’t matter whether it’s white boys obscure beyond their locale, Jansporters, Rapidshare rappers, big guns, also-rans or former stars…the dignity of a one-on-one conversation has been superseded by the video address. Rap beef is part and parcel – there’s no point recounting the classics – just know that now, a once obscure war like that between Bone Thugs and 3-6 Mafia (was the Memphis altercation captured by Sacha Jenkins in February 1995’s Vibe the instigator there? Good Terry Richardson shots in that short piece too) would be followed by the masses with traded video threats of violence.
Don’t pretend you don’t love rap beef in 2010. Fanboys and girls, hipsters still haw-hawing at the dumber side of the scene, purists, NYC project rap disciples, occasional blog glimpsers, the barely interested – you love to see some static. Now it’s not just rumours of Q-tip catching an eye jammy. You can watch it unfold. In a post-50 world, where Curtis made warring his marketing tool from feigning innocence over his rapper robbing debut onwards, the rise of 50 Cent very nearly coincided with the rise of YouTube – alright, his fourth LP, ‘Curtis’ ties in with the site’s debut. From then on? Open season, Vimeo, OnSmash, World Star Hip Hop and 50’s beef-heavy This Is 50 made outlets to watch rappers, producers, managers, DJs…everyone talking shit. Curtis was the Vince McMahon of the industry.
In recent years, beyond the webcam, flipcam and phone camera made it even easier to upload some bravado and bad attitude. Forget some beatboxing cornball talking elements to you – we may as well announce that YouTube is one of hip-hop’s main elements. Even the most luddite acts who still feel the internet is borderline herb territory are on there – the “I don’t even care about y’all bloggers but I’ma do this video anyway” brigade are out to boost flagging sales an amass views. It’s a beautiful thing.
In case you were already enraged by this sentiment, here’s another one to rub that wound – most of these videos have been more memorable than the records around them. That’s not to say hip-hop is in a dark place right now – it’s not – if you’ll trawl through the ephemera a digital democracy has unearthed, you’ll still find classics. Studio/frontroom/street videos just make things more fun.
The last few years have dredged up some iconic lo-fi moments – a petulant J-Hood dragging his D-Block chain then regretting it, Tru-Life keen to show how he wasn’t broke by showing you around a rented penthouse, 50 recruiting an ultra gully supergroup of sorts – Bang Bang Boogie to badmouth Fat Joe, Juelz getting his London hood pass revoked, Soulja Boy appearing online to address haters with a new facial tattoo, someone new holding a piece of Yung Berg’s jewellery for the camera, Benzino waving a gun around with a stern look and much more. 2009 was a golden year for beef onscreen – masterpieces included 50 apparently rushed to hospital after being injured by the wackness of Joey’s latest album and Chopper aka. Young City’s now legendary World Star address.
Ah yes. The Chopper monologue. Evidently under the impression he was a boss on the Ric Flair “My shoes cost more than your house!” level, former Da Band member Chopper seemed to have borrowed one of Flair’s suits for an online address on March 9th, 2009. With shoulders on some zoot suit, David Byrne ‘Stop Making Sense’ levels, feedback retribution was swift, unmerciful (“OLE “PATRICK EWING SITTING ON THE BENCH INJURED” SUIT HAVING A** BOI”) and glorious. Classic material. One of the best hip-hop moments of recent years, and it was in e-feedback form. Attempted opulence gone wrong. Consider this a celebration of its one-year anniversary.
This isn’t a co-sign of self-important video bloggers talking about rap-related subject matters. Nor does it tolerate the creeping tedium of the reaction video. But the trawl for anything with “disses” “goes at” or “addresses rumors” that’s rap-related is the current addiction round these parts. Hopefully 2010 will usher in at least a couple of classics. Extra points for anyone suffering post-upload jitters and pulling their outburst down, leaving a “this video has been removed by the user” where bravado was once broadcasted. It’s the new drunk text.
One day, maybe a rap video will hit these heights:
MCs have been hollering out WWF superstars for a minute. As a bonus for reaching this far in this rambling blog entry, here’s some of the greatest lines for the top 10 brawlers (Nas’s Iron Sheik line is excluded – it’s a given and it’s included in this video here, and the Ruff Ryders WWE track is too obvious ):
Ric’s the most hip-hop of all wrestlers – ostentatious and a born baller, his trademark “Wooo” makes him extra quotable. He did try to sue T.I. for performing his trademark walk in the ‘Front Back’ video, but it got squashed.
“Wooo! Ric Flair on ’em”
Young Dro ft. Lil Cali ‘Ric Flair’
“5 for 22 I’m like, Wooo! Ric Flair”
Cam’Ron ft. Vado ‘Ric Flair’
“Shittin’ on niggas from the top when I get there/So gangster but so smooth like Ric Flair”
Curtains ‘That’s How It Is’
“Cartier is my wrist-wear (I can do dat)/My bank account similar to Ric Flair’s (I can do dat)”
Lil’ Flip feat. Juvenile & Skip ‘I Can Do Dat’ (Remix)
“You know me – I ain’t even gon’ sweat her/Ric Flair stay jumpin’ off the dresser”
Young Jeezy feat. U.S.D.A. ‘Cold Summer’
MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE
Yep, Randy released his own rap album, but who cares? Lil’ Wayne is evidently a big fan, referencing the manic onetime king a couple of times.
“I’m Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bob Backlund/Paul Akin, ha ha, who they think they car jackin?”
Cam’Ron feat. Hell Rell, J.R. Writer & Jim Jones ‘Get ‘Em Daddy (Remix)
“And I’ma go so opposite of soft/Off the richter/ Hector Camacho Man Randy Savage/Above status, quo, flow, so, pro”
Lil’ Wayne feat. Jay-Z ‘Mr. Carter’
“I am hotter than the Sunday after Saturday/I swear I’m a savage like Lil Webbie and Randy”
Lil’ Wayne feat. Busta Rhymes ‘La La’
“Running away from the habit cause they average/Me and Maj just gots more rap than Randy Savage”
Da King & I ‘Flip Da Script’
Scheming Ted might be the greatest of all WWF characters. The hand wringing in particular fired young imaginations – DiBiase might be one of the best performers in and outside the ring. Frequent namechecks are a testament to this.
“40. cals with broke safeties/Just try to rob me/Million dollar man, Ted DiBiase”
Lil’ Wayne feat. Mack Maine ‘Money in the Bank’
“Runnin from the paparazzi/I’m a million dollar nigga like DiBiase”
Messy Marv ‘I Don’t Dance’
“And I make sure, when I say so/It’s Jay Rock and Weezy, need I say more/Clothesline the beat, Ted DiBiase flow”
Jay Rock feat. Lil’ Wayne ‘All My Life’
“Dig what I’m sayin yo? D-I-C-E/Shove a mic in your mouth, like Ted DiBiase”
The Roots feat. Dice Raw ‘Ain’t Sayin’ Nothing New’
“Watch me, you can catch it live on the Hitachi/Poppin shit like a Nazi, iced out like DiBiase”
Big Pun ‘It’s So Hard’
“Ha Ha – Blood DiBiase/Skully, beef and broccolis”
Cam’Ron feat. Hell Rell ‘Y’all Can’t Live His Life’
“Million Dollar Man baby, Ted DiBiase/Catch me sippin’ on some Hen, maybe Courvoisier”
Lil’ Wayne Feat. Big Tymers ‘Tha Block Is Hot’
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS
So what if he became a crackhead? In his heyday, Jake was the ultimate. His snake-in-a-bag antics inspired the greatest of all wrestling punchlines, courtesy of Fabolous.
“In any event it’s fake like wrestling/Get em like Jake The Snake on mescalines”
MF Doom ‘Gazillion Ear’
“Cubs come to paper chase, I’ve dealt with major cake/Ever since Jake the Snake, all I rocked was Bathing Apes”
J.R. Writer & Juelz Santana ‘ Get Used To This’
“Yeah, I’m back, fresh off of hatecation/I let the haters take a break/Now I’ma let it out the bag like Jake the Snake”
Fabolous from Maino’s ‘Hi Haters'(Remix)
RAVISHING RICK RUDE
Nemesis of Jake the Snake, Ravishing Rick Rude was, like Rick Martel, Mr. Perfect and Rocker Shawn Michaels, ultra-cocky.
“Crime figure, rhyme spitter, his gun spit too/Call ’em Sex Pistols, ravishing, nigga, I’m Rick Rude”
Ghostface Killah feat. Capadonna, Method Man, Raekwon, Sun God & Trife Da God ‘Paisley Darts’
Bionic elbowing, elder statesman of pro-wrestling, and thief of Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s battle cry, not even polka dots on a leotard could kill Dusty’s career.
“Time to drop these bows, like Dusty Rhodes/Then I yell hooo”
“Cuz I was down before the hype like Dusty Rhodes and Bob Backlund/Bruno Sammartino, Stan Staziak/Now The Rock and Stone Cold are my favorite maniacs”
LL Cool J feat. DMX, Method Man & Redman ‘Fuhgidabowdit’
KOKO B. WARE
Walking into the ring to Morris Day and The Time, wielding a macaw, recording ‘The Piledriver‘ on the same album that Vince McMahon sung ‘Stand Back‘ on, and rocking a mean pair of shades, you can’t hate Koko, and Joe Crack was right to namecheck him.
“Beware like Koko, yo I’m not a slow boat/Got so much dough I va-cate in Acapulco”
Fat Joe ‘Flow Joe’
A high flying Fijian wrestler who once had a mammoth coke habit should be the subject of many more punchlines. He still re-enters the ring on occasion despite being 66 years old.
“So come on light the buddha/Check your honey while I scoop her/The Superfly, Jimmy Fly Snuka rips the roof off”
Redman ‘Blow Your Mind’
The philandering ‘Thunder in Paradise’ star gets a lot of namechecks.
“My president is black, rolls golden charms/Twenty-two inch rims like Hulk Hogan’s arms”
Young Jeezy feat. Nas ‘My President’
ROWDY RODDY PIPER
Cast as the villiain, his furious role in the Cyndi Lauper ‘Goonies R Good Enough’ promo, and star turn in John Carpenters classic ‘They Live’ twinned with faux Scottish heritage makes Roddy the man.
“I might get it, hit it, split it but yo I’ll never wife her/I’m Rowdy Roddy Piper, but when she can’t decipher”
Cam’Ron feat. Byrd Lady & Skitzo ‘Cookies ‘N Apple Juice’
“We Rowdy like Roddy, probably robbin your stash/Catch a body like Charlie up North, stashin knives up my ass”
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.