Despite lasting for over 104 episodes before it was canned, The Word was treated like televisual Super Noodles by critics and establishment figures alike for half a decade. We, the target audience, appreciated it though, and 19 years after its final episode screened in March 1995 (watching Strike’s performance of You Sure Do from that broadcast this evening had me emotional), there seems to be a worthy amount of nostalgia for those 808 State soundtracked opening credits and the lawlessness that followed. As those reviews preempted online coverage, their toxicity has deteriorated, so we’ve forgotten the disorganised outside broadcasts and hopefuls munching on plates of dead skin, emptied colostomy bags and filtered the best bits into those memory banks. What was good was great — like live performances by artists who, in a concerted bid to show no respect to the live format, made classic TV, or George, Zippy and Shaun Ryder getting acquainted — but there was a lot of rubbish in the mix. It was sometimes like the contents of an issue of The Face being bellowed from the stage during a nightclub PA, but that was part of its appeal — sincerity shuffled self-consciously alongside humiliation and irony. We watched that thing religiously as its excesses elbowed it from a tea time slot to the post-pub position. It was there that a generation planning to go harder the following night would exit the pubs, get home, skin up with terrible hash, crack open more beers and watch it alone or in a heavily populated front room. The Word was great group TV every Friday around 11pm.
The two segments that stayed with me weren’t the usual suspects either. One was a late 1993 segment where Mark Lamarr investigated Desert Eagles and chatted to the Franklin Avenue Posse and Steele from Smif-n-Wessun about it, before a return to the studio where Terry quizzed forgotten rapper K7 (of Come Baby Come fame) on the subject of firearms. The second was a February 1994 piece from the same episode where Rod Hull attacked Snoop Dogg (mentioned here a few years back) on Nike founder and chairman Phil Knight’s son Travis back when he rapped as Chilly Tee (he now heads up LAIKA). Where else were you going to see stuff like this? Beyond these clips, it’s worth noting that The Word Appreciationaccount on Dailymotion has at least 17 full episodes uploaded — there’s all kinds of misses in there, but the gems remain and it’s best streamed late in the day and under the influence. Just like it always was.
I’m out of town for a while, so this is a weak blog update. I only just realised that the Passengers segment on Biggie Smalls from 1995 has been uploaded on YouTube, despite it being there since August. For years this was inexplicably absent from the internet and just as The Word‘s Onyx Throw Ya Gunz made an appearance fairly recently after being little more than a gradually eroding memory for 19 years, it’s back. Not only was the UK the place where Biggie got his first magazine cover, the following year, Channel 4 transmitted nearly fifteen minutes of his daily operations on a Friday night as part of Passengers, the patchy but entertaining yoof magazine show that also included pieces like James Lebon profiling Shyhiem during his Rugged Child days. You get Chris Wallace’s mum talking about his Polo pieces as a kid, some studio static with some concealed firearms, great footage of Faith smoking lots of weed, some live footage and a young Lil Kim (credited as Little Kim). Classic material. Naturally, like most long-unseen things of this ilk, this was elevated to a D.A. Pennebaker level of insight in my mind during its absence, but significantly less in-depth now I’ve finally watched it again. Shouts to jimbeanthelegend1982 for that upload.
Edit:The original uploader, iom seventynine hasn’t got his full dues here — go check his YouTube channel for other UK TV gems like Company Flow on Jo Whiley’s show and Bushwick Bill on Badass TV…
Please excuse the rushed nature of this blog entry. I was going to move servers to make gwarizm.com the official home of all this claptrap but strange domain redirecting issues meant I actually ended up having the time to chuck something up here tonight after all. My relationship with printed matter is a tempestuous one — for much of my life I dreamed of being a scribe for one of the fancy magazines that broke the £2.50 mark in WH Smiths, but once I actually wrote for one, I realized that most of the content was advertorial (even the stuff without “advertising feature” on the top of the page). That culled my buying habits significantly.
While putting out a publication seems to be a new norm as some reaction to people thinking bloggers are chancers, doing it well is difficult. After all, the big magazines are spreading their pages for advertisers for a reason — survival. Just starting a magazine for the hell of it is as tedious as calling your blog an online magazine, so I’ve slashed my purchases to a handful of regular and when-they-can-be-fucked-to publications. Being lazy and odd (and not actually living in London) I never made it to Goodhood’s launch for the new issue of LAW, but I feel guilty about it, because it’s something worth supporting — continuing the history lesson, when I was putting out strange blog entries for Acyde’s The Most Influential site a few years back, I was determined to keep it UK-centric.
As a Brit, i felt it was my duty to talk about local matters and not my yankophile leanings. TMI actually changed before I could run out of ideas fully, but I was definitely running on fumes. I feel a certain guilt for not representing Britain fully on here, but – as I’ve mentioned several times – I think the ISYS squad, Rollo Jackson and LAW do it better than I ever could. There’s a certain Britishness that barely translates abroad and it’s part of the urban and suburban everyday existence — it’s all sportswear, mild eccentricity, inadvertently odd design touches and scowls. Most of the time we take it for granted and don’t document it (I’ve hunted some imagery for a couple of projects in the last 12 months and was shocked at how little documentation there was). LAW goes in to log it with a keen design eye that affords everyday objects and lives a certain elegance.
LAW #3 is out now and the use of Goodhood’s interior with the magazine’s driving slogan was a nice touch (all LAW-related imagery here is swaggerjacked from the Goodhood site). You can buy it right here for £12.50.
Another magazine that gets a lot of deserved shine here is Oi Polloi’s Pica~Post. You need to know your stuff to actually have fun with anything and everything in this free publication – from the typography to the product pick is on point. This beats any bullshit slow blog-baiting lookbook (and those Anthony Crook Engineered Garments shots in here are a nice example of how a lookbook can be done) and you can read this online right here but the way it’s printed as an object gives it a purpose beyond the screen. Shouts to Eóin and the whole Pica~Post mind squad.
In addition to the above, the Joe McKenna profile in Fantastic Man #17 is excellent too. But you’d expect them to deliver on a feature like that, wouldn’t you?
Cheers to Nike SB for letting me do some writing about the Koston 2 shoe for the Nike Inc. site. Anything that lets me interview Eric is the sort of thing that would make the 15-year-old me do an awkward dance in public. Now I just do it in private. There seems to be a quick glimpse of an interesting Lunarlon-aided Koston 2 golf shoe sitting by Tiger Woods’ shopping bags in the behind-the-scenes footage.
On the shoe topic, now that every hip-hop related documentary of my youth is available on 2-disc DVD or on YouTube, where are the British trainer documentaries? The first time I ever saw Tinker and company was on the excellent 1992 BBC program Trainer Wars. I know that was far better than any recent effort to document sports footwear. Where can I get hold of a copy of it? Back in the day, you paid someone like Dave the Ruf to send you a 240-minute tape of tenth-generation dubs of everything you needed. I need Trainer Wars and the 2001 Sneaker Freaks documentary that Channel 4 aired as part of the Alt.TV series with Jeremy Howlett sitting on top of Howlett’s. OG Air Max 95s being sold for insane money at Meteor Sports and Will Self pulling a gasface at the notion of anyone hoarding Nikes. In fact, I believed that Trainer Wars never happened until I found this footage of the commercial for it from when it showed on Discovery Europe.
Making light of Channel 4’s ‘Street Summer’ season is like shooting beatboxers in a barrel, so it would be too obvious to lampoon their Superdry-friendly mix of parkour, BMX, making music with your mouth and dripping stencils. It is what it is, “urban” culture zip-filed up into some kind of rapping, dancing expression of da ‘yoof. If you expected a three-hour Money Boss Players documentary, a JA character study or a celebration of Hypnotize Minds, then you were being wildly optimistic. Still, it’s curious that T4’s ‘Inside SBTV: From Bedroom to Boardroom’ and some of BBC Two’s ‘No Hats, No Trainers’ felt like superior attempts at the same subject matter.
But their two-hour ‘How Hip Hop Changed the World’ was a wasted opportunity. It’s not a case of naivety and nerdery, angrily fist waving at a lack of Beatnuts — it was just a weak offering that seemed to be cobbled together by the same minds behind ‘Street Summer’s infamous commercial. Idris Elba waved his arms around and swaggered like Danny Dyer on a roof somewhere, Nas was deadpan and dull, plenty of UK acts got excited, people were filmed in the act of racking their memory banks and historically it flitted around like some Burroughs-esqe cut-and-paste hallucination. People spinning on their head! Mike Skinner! Ronald Reagan looking impressed! Diddy being wealthy! The Sugarhill Gang! Weetabix men! A clip from a Wu-Tang Video!
‘How Hip Hop Changed the World’ was simply another ‘I Love…’ nostalgia show that felt curiously dated, like the sort of thing you might catch at 3:15am on a freeview music channel in a drunken haze and it displayed a curious regression — 1999’s ‘The Hip-Hop Years’ attempted a history and failed with a simplistic delivery, but it was more watchable than friday night’s offering. As if to highlight the inferior nature of Channel 4’s latest failure, adverts looked culled from YouTube and plenty of footage from 1987’s BBC Open Space documentary ‘Bad Meaning Good’ and 1984’s ‘Beat This! A Hip-Hop History’ was used. The latter efforts were excellent, and while hip-hop culture operated in a smaller space for documentation, how on earth is hip-hop still being treated as some kind of fly-by-night gimmick in terms of documentation?
The truth of the matter is that hip-hop needs something akin to the ten-part Ken Burns treatment. An adaptation of Dan Charnas’s ‘The Big Payback’ would be fascinating. Some would say that it’s still too immature and others claim that it regressed…that it doesn’t respect itself enough to warrant a serious documentation, but that would be erroneous. Contemporary “urban” culture being treated as some kind of bad musical where folks dance out their grievances in dayglo clothing is part of the problem — depictions of the inner-cities are wildly at odds with the realities, and a multi billion-dollar business that seems to have permeated everything is still being summarised in a 1-minute moving tableaux of twattery.
Forget $299 books retreading the flawed steps of ‘Hip Hop Immortals’ or the equally messy ‘Hip Hop Immortals: We Got Your Kids’ and ‘Rhyme & Reason’ documentaries. The culture got more complicated and the depictions got dumber. How on earth does an expert in Tudor history end up on Newsnight in lieu of any of the young journalists who could have offered some valuable insight without resorting to a Mr. Starkey-friendly “white voice”? How did Channel 4 go from screening Henry Chalfont’s masterful ‘Style Wars’ in 1984 to 120 minutes of unstructured stating-the-bloody-obvious 27 years later? This was a valuable opportunity to celebrate something remarkable squandered.
While we’re ranting, what’s up with the 5D culture of factory-tour videos? If your brand needs to show me the manufacturing process in order for me to appreciate it, then I want nothing to do with it. The provenance of a garment or item seems to be superseding whether it’s actually very good. Making something in the UK and describing it down to the strand of cotton doesn’t necessarily make it better than anything else. Production line shots, earnest images of men in aprons, occasional blur and a SBTRKT or Beirut soundtrack are becoming a formula — if your documentation of handcrafts feels formulaic and clinical, then you’ve missed your own point.
I had a wander round Jacket Required in London. I can’t remember much, but I enjoyed myself. My favourite item was a velvet jacket from Sk8thing and Nigo’s Human Made line depicting a Toddy Cat (aka. the Asian Palm Civet — the creature that defecates the berries that make Kopi Lawak coffee) enjoying a brew. It’s a very expensive item, but like the varsity jacket with a hotdog across the back, Nigo seems to have restored his aptitude for awesome again, building on the URSUS styles to go completely crazy with these surreal, self-indulgent vintage style. I like the Carhartt camo pieces as part of the archive line that are dropping soon too — definite crowd pleasers, and the contemporary buttons on the recent heritage-style stuff have been ridded in favour or something a little more olde world.
Rest in peace KASE 2 TFP. I mourned his passing a little too early on Twitter this week, but the one-armed, letter camouflaging, King of Styyyyyyyyyyyle has passed away. I know Goldie painted with Kaze, but did I dream up the footage of a starstruck Goldie meeting KASE 2 back in the 1980s? Was it from the ‘Zulu Dawn’ footage pulled down from YouTube? My love for the ‘Beastmaster’ scene in ‘Style Wars’ has been expounded upon here before, but this legend deserves a celebration.
Linking to that Canon 5D remark, you’re likely to see an influx of tattoo-centric videos soon, but ignoring a lot I’m really enjoying VBS’s Tattoo Age. In a fantastic coincidence (and one that will no doubt cheer up the homie Nick Schonberger, just as VBS started teasing the Grime episodes, Grime Daily started showing their ‘Tattoo Watch’ episodes. In the latter, there’s no talk of technique, just lots of madcap meanings or none-at-all, but the UFO chest piece is awesome.
This blog post from April 2009, originally had a link to footage of Chilly Tee’s legendary ‘The Word’ segment from ’93. Curiously, after I put it up, the link went dead.
Anyone in the UK of a certain age recognises that ‘The Word’ was a watershed TV moment. Broadcast between 1990 and 1995, it gradually amassed an unjust amount of hatred a couple of generations above the show’s target age. Granted it was a little slapdash, and the presentation was a little wonky, but if you wanted to see Onyx doing a reverse radio edit for a rendition of ‘Throw Ya Gunz’ that rejected the notion of incinerating a choir in favour of going, “…live like a wire, I’ll set ya fucking mother on fire…” or the Pharcyde live alongside a segment on Desert Eagle handguns (most boys going back to school on Monday morning giddy on the notion of shooting your enemy in the head through a car), this was the spot.