“You’re pint-sized, I’m Mike’s eyes with the gladiator tattoos on it.”
Nas, ‘Nazareth Savage’
“I freak beats, slam it like Iron Sheik/Jam like a Tec with correct techniques.”
Nas,’It Ain’t Hard to Tell’
This post is dedicated to the memory of the MacBook Pro that just passed, taking away imagery for a planned post and making me improvise with hastily cobbled together entries like this. Iron Mike‘s Instagram image of the big man stood alongside the Iron Sheik at the end of last week was — and I’m not being ironic here — one of the best pictures I’ve seen in years. This was a meeting of two of my favourite people who’ve grown up but not lost their capacity to entertain. The Sheik’s wild threats via twitter live up to his wild image of old, namechecked by Nas and authentically unhinged in a heavily rehearsed realm, and Mike Tyson is a man who seems to have emerged from the darkness, the family tragedies and the apparent catharsis of James Toback’s ‘Tyson’ documentary a changed man — less the rent-a-thug or genuinely unnerving thousand yard stare of his appearance in the Wu-Tang heavy mess of ‘Black and White’ and more of a controlled presence that seems to be in on the jokes. I’m not a Tyson apologist, but I’m a fan of his fights, his respect for boxing history and willingness to bare his soul. He’s a complicated character and the current woeful state of heavyweight bouts has me nostalgic for the Mitch Green scrap outside Dapper Dan and even contemporary Mike meltdowns like the Lennox press scrap (now that’s how you brawl at a press conference — it isn’t a real brawl unless legs get inexplicably bitten) and the threats at journos. That’s the raw side of a warrior mindset, but the Haye and Chisora dust up’s use of props was straight-up WWE behaviour.
In fact, I’d rather watch WWE than watch the aforementioned pair fight. At least I’ll respect the fighters more. Long after Mike’s 1990 WWF refereeing replacement for a Hogan and Randy Savage bout in favour of an unexpectedly victorious Buster Douglas, and several years after his wild post-jail antics seemed to be an influence on the Raw-era he was given WWE Hall of Fame status at the weekend. And it was here that two legends met. That image of them together is a classic Mike image beyond the ring — up there with his meeting with Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1991 clad in flamboyant knitwear, his late night Wheaties run in a particularly fly Fila tracksuit, ‘LIFE’ magazine ‘s shot of him in an MCM and Rolex combo, plus the entire ‘Sports Illustrated’ shoot from 1985 (note the Etonic Mirage on his feet in the pigeon coop) for the January 6, 1986 cover story (which you can read here), where a 19-year-old Kid Dynamite greets well wishers and chills with his pigeons. A hero meets a hero. I’m just surprised that when these two legends met, the universe didn’t implode in honour of them. There’s a few personal favourites below, plus a heavily watermarked picture of Webster in Air Jordan Is from the 1987 ‘Webster’ episode with the Tyson cameo.
I just finished reading Glenn ‘O Brien’s ‘How to Be a Man.’ A book with a name like that should infuriate me, but it’s all far lighter and more of a general philosophy than the instructional title indicates. Any arbiter of style offering themselves up as a counsel of cool dressing is usually a sureshot source of bellendery — just think about that wave of websites post ‘Street Etiquette’ or ‘Style Salvage’ run by sartorial tipsters who were in print tees the week before, offering a lightweight imitation of both cited sites’ success by telling you how to wear a suit. Half those dudes do smart very, very badly, and while it’s easy to slum it and look like some kind of secret millionaire, your attempts to do dandyism will inadvertently reveal your bank balance. ‘O Brien however is just very, very well dressed and — looking at old ‘TV Party’ episodes — always has been sharp.
‘TV Party’ is — quite rightly — held up as a pivotal moment in youth TV. Wherever I go, talk of web TV seems to lead to talk of O’ Brien and Chris Stein’s organised chaos. That public access lawlessness offered a fuzzy, wobbly insight into an aspirational world, but it was also pioneering in broadcasting the cool guy (and girl) existence of a cartel aloof characters enjoying varying amounts of fame, but a constant credibility. The angry callers, the weed smoke in the studio, SAMO and Fab 5 Freddy scuffling, live performances that ranged from classic performances to artful tap drip repetition, plus some stoned attempts at situationism might not have been seen by many beyond the transmission range, but as its legend spread by VHS, DVD and flash video, ‘TV Party’ became the thing that many still want to be. Alas, deliberate attempts at that lo-fi feel, plus a lack of O’ Brien style central figure just feels regressive. You can’t recreate a happy accident without looking awkward — like one of those crooked guys who walks in front of cars to get insurance loot.
I always imagined that working life at the Factory would be awesome like ‘TV Party,’ until I read Bob Colacello’s ‘Holy Terror’ and realised that working for Warhol probably wasn’t as much of a laugh as I’d been led to believe.
‘TV Party’s legacy now sits in the web video that’s at your control. Boiler Room’s london broadcasts represent a good use of that televisual democracy. Intolerable hours of USTREAM with some self-centred individual looking bemused and saying “Can you hear me?” to a discordant feedback blast or YouTube videos of guys in their bedrooms talking about the colours of their latest footwear “pickup” are a DIY television evolution that sacrifices the party spirit for solitude. Not everybody gets an invite you see, as those constant queries O’ Brien fielded about getting into the Mudd Club proved. All they could do is wish. Today’s breed of amateur broadcasters prefer to treat their audience as part of the proceedings. Are the new breed of web celebs and “influencers” creating that same sense of envy as Glenn created between 1978 and 1982? I have no idea. The insistence on inciting those viewing to become participants too opened up the velvet rope to anybody who wants to join in.
‘TV Party’s demise coincides with the dawn of ‘The Tube’ on British TV in 1982 which led to a post-acid series of ‘yoof’ classics like Def II’s ‘Dance Energy’ that ran from 1990 to 1993, going from cathode ray party to a strange broad daylight club setting, and a place well worth breaking the Huaraches out for, plus Channel 4’s ‘The Word’ which ran from 1990 to 1995, bringing back that shambolic feel and occasional dazed expressions. Alas, after ‘Passengers’ on Channel 4, compiled some frequently smart documentaries for low attention spans, British youth TV seemed to fizzle in an alcopop addled laddishness and ladette-centric realm of shows that made ‘The Word’ look rather considered by comparison. Reality TV could also be seen as a byproduct of public access egocentricity. Latterly, ‘No Hats, No Trainers’ brought Alchemist and Just Blaze to a weekend afternoon with greater success than Channel 4’s abysmal ‘Whatever’ a few years earlier.
Salutes to MVD for uploading ‘TV Party: the Documentary’, the debut episode of ‘TV Party’ from December 18th, 1978, the Halloween 1979 episode and the ‘Sublimely Intolerable Show’ episode with a technically hindered opening. Watch, be inspired by the attitude (some of it is genuinely intolerable) and endeavour to create something completely different.
This part of a 1992 ‘Dance Energy’ special is a YouTube bonus. Six minutes in, there’s some rare footage of the 1992 ‘1st Annual Rapper’s Boxing Championships’, as covered in ‘The Source.’ You can see Willie D take down Melle Mel, Freddie Foxxx beat down a shook-looking Spook from True Colors (I checked Discogs and they had an album, but I never heard it. Maybe this was an ill-fated attempt at publicity). What I never knew was that Poet of PHD aka. Blaq Poet fought at the event against some bloke called Big B and won. Unkut had the magazine scan up a few years back, but this footage is gold. There’s a lot of tough talk these days, but if the ‘2nd Annual Rapper’s Boxing Championships’ took place as a 20th anniversary sequel, I guarantee the majority would pussy out like Tim Dog did or have their weed carrier let off shots for Worldstar to transmit to the ignorance-hungry masses. Simon Woodstock beating Sticky Fingaz was another great moment in hip-hop boxing too.
While I could never pull it off ever, I’m still preoccupied with Phenomenon’s collaboration with luxury good overlords MCM, resulting in these tiger camo garments that have a Dapper Dan does special forces steez about them. Biker jackets, army vests, half trench coats and some strange skinny pants are the second coming of all-over print for the monied and flamboyant. Who wrangled this collaboration? I respect the lunacy of it all. It’s anti-utiliarian, anti-surplus weird that treats those military markings like a monogram. They’re at the Contemporary Fix store now.
Who listens to music journalists any more? Nobody. But there’s always room for good writing on the topic and ‘SUP’ always delivers. In a world where everyone’s gone design-free, Wood Wood are some of the few who bring it on the imagery, innovation and typography. They’re a brilliant bunch of Danish stereotypes in that regard. The ‘SUP’ and Wood Wood t-shirt collection takes some of the best images made for the magazine and commits them to cotton. Jason Nocito and Bea Fremdermann’s work is great, but the Milan Zrnic ‘King of Pop’ image is the best of the bunch.
It’s a good time to be a David Lynch fan, but even if recent works have been a little too calculatedly oddball, who’s testing ‘Blue Velvet’? The film stays unsurpassed and Lynch’s declaration earlier in the year that some footage had been unearthed for the Blu-ray was no lie — there’s 51:42 of extra material plus a new documentary too. Most deleted scenes should stay buried, but in Lynch’s world and with the predictable struggles with a major studio, it’s clear that footage will be worthy. We’re not talking piss-poor CGI Jabba the Hutt’s here — we’re talking more Pabst Blue Ribbon loving psychopath Frank “You receive a love letter from me and you’re fucked forever” Booth, including a scene where he gets crazy with a pair of flaming tits in the background. As the best advert for a remastered release ever, that scene hit the internet on Friday ahead of next week’s release for the 25th anniversary edition. The option to have the scenes randomly branched into the original film to make it triply unsettling is sadly absent, so they’re only available as a supplement. Still, that Christmas present list is really starting to come together.
I’m continually jocking Criterion for their pick of releases and artwork, the impending release of the jazzy, bone crunching , smartly suited and downright odd ‘Tokyo Drifter’ captures those curiously coloured muzzle flashes and rhythmic feel perfectly. The move from black and white to colour in ‘Tokyo Drifter’ wasn’t for the budgetary reasons that Lindsay Anderson’s ‘If’ switched between the two — apparently it was to capture Tokyo’s feel before and after the 1964 Olympics. On that note, was there ever a more cocaine-friendly, goon motivation Olympic theme tune than Paul Engemann and Giorgio Moroder’s Los Angeles 1984 theme tune, ‘Reach Out’? It sounds like the sequel to the duo’s ‘Push It To The Limit’ (the 12” extended version with the extra guitar is amazing) and was big in Germany. Now he fronts a brand that makes healthy chocolate. Sadly, he hasn’t re-recorded a version of ‘Push It To The Limit’ about cocoa solids rather than coca leaf extracts.
Speaking of coke and movie myths, it’s well worth spending some time on this UK-based temple of all things Cannon. As a child, Golan-Globus productions both delighted and disappointed me, but the lack of Dolby in favour of Ultra-Stereo was a frequent annoyance. This site even manages to play on that budget saving point of difference, but it’s the trivia here with regards to films never made (this other Cannon site mentions an unfilmed ‘Breakin 3’) like a crappy ‘Spider Man’ film from 1986, but also the mysterious ‘Investigation’ — a Paul Schrader script from 1987 that was set to be directed by Andrei Konchalovsky who directed a rare Cannon exercise in quality with the classic ‘Runaway Train’ and starring Al Pacino before a switch to Christopher Walken. Variety magazine even ran an ad with a mooted Cannes 1988 premiere. Thanks to HunterTarantino on the CHUD forums for uploading the ad. He also upped the Variety ad for the John Travolta and Rebecca De Mornay cop flick ‘Crack’ that never got made — another Golan-Globus production. ‘Crack’ was set to be directed by Stan Dragoti who nearly ended up in a German jail on a cocaine possession charge in 1979, with Travolta as a by the books cop and De Mornay as a “street savvy detective” going undercover to smash a cocaine racket. Dragotti promised, “more verisimilitude than ‘Lethal Weapon’…” but no film ever appeared. That film reeks of 1987 Hollywood thriller. HunterTarantino also upped the Variety promo for a never produced John Milius film called ‘Horseman of the Khyber’ for Carolco. I’ve seen that the poster art sold recently on eBay, but I’m struggling to find any other information about that project.
So when you’ve got that coke money, what do you spend it on? Vehicles and lavish fittings. The recent VH1’Planet Rock’ documentary on crack and the hip-hop generation was an interesting watch for that archive footage. A little Q&A with the directors recently appeared on YouTube, but it was the few minutes on the spending habits of New York hustlers at Harlem’s Dapper Dan’s (Azie would’ve almost certainly shopped there) and Alpo’s custom Gucci tire cover. There’s shots there of a jeep that’s MCM’d out inside and outside, but I only recently discovered, via MCM’s own blog, that there were official MCM motor vehicles, including a jeep with an interior festooned with the expensive leather. They also upped some old lookbook shots, including a couple living the good life, with the male partner rocking a duck booted look that’s part country gentleman and part baller. I believe this fellow got out at the right time and never got high on his own supply. There’s merit in both tricked-out vehicles.
I’m feeling Y’OH’s new site a great deal. Like those Dapper Dan days, at its best, streetwear should be about aspiration and nods to unattainable luxury — think Stussy with the linked ‘C’s or Duffer channeling Gucci and Hermes. There’s no point trying to be Supreme, because it’s already here and firing on all cylinders, while the Oxford shirt is better bought from those who specialise in that garment. I’d like to support more British brands on here, but for the most part, our homegrown streetwear simply seems too safe to the point where it’s regressive.
Shouts to Palace, Origin London, British Remains, Trapstar (their marketing savvy is no joke — those snapbacks travel far) and Y’OH. Y’OH is by far the most ambitious of the bunch by offering product that doesn’t seek marl grey anonymity, with African prints on the Kanja and Jumoke shirts that offer either a boxy fit or extra length, bold bomber jackets and even manage to make the parka look interesting despite the onset of 40/60 fatigue. Even the t-shirt (Y-Shirt) offerings are deeply unorthodox, making other cut and sew merchants look beige by comparison. Eighty percent of what Y’OH create commands attention and challenges the wearer, but since streetwear became pallid, passive and weedy, something needed to give. Branding can make or break a garment and Y’OH’s patch logo is very strong indeed, with a touch of tribalism, mountaineering and the self-assured ®.
Now you’re at the limit, what do you do? If you’re Waka Flocka Flame, you break out the ramen and put on the kettle, living up to that ‘One Squad’ line, “I’ma forever stay hood millionaire eating ramen noodles…” Where some rappers are keen to talk it up in the spirit of those late ‘80s high rollers, this Monopoly kingpin doesn’t do the Rick Ross lobster bisque for breakfast diet. Salutes to Waka for upping this tattooed fistful of Maruchan chicken ramen onto Lockerz. Ramen is a very hip-hop foodstuff with a disposable, anti-vitamin feel to match the download and delete wave of average mixtapes that dropped last week.
Hype makes the industry tick. No blog buzz within 24 hours of launch? Disaster. Nothing gets time to breathe. I find myself laughing at peers picking up on something that went wall-to-wall on Facebook 48 hours prior, and it’s not something that I’m proud of. I’m convinced that the downside of this quick hit, tentacled notion of “street culture” is that while it might snake out far beyond printed tees (and my friend Mr. Marcus Troy made an interesting point on Hypebeast regarding the possibility that too many brands might be dwelling on an “over it” audience at the expense of an audience who want to wear caps, tees and hats, rather than washed-out, button-down blues), it doesn’t seem to take time to create any roots.
I also think that exposure to everything that goes down globally in ten minutes of browsing is homogenising local scenes. I still the joys of information overload provide benefits that outweigh that issue, but I felt it was something worth discussing, because when you turn into a miserable old fuck like me, you cease to create, and commence with utterly unnecessary introspect. Eugene at Hypebeast was kind enough to let me vent a little on the site about a lack of movements (though the title accidentally invokes my lazy way of life and approach to my career too), complete with a little disclaimer too for the site’s Op-Ed experiment.
Lest I look too much like an ageing hipster doofus, I wrote it a short time before the OFWGKTA movement truly went mainstream with the Kimmel and bug-chewing and I realised that nearly every hip-hop blog had become a redundant Johnny-come-lately. So please allow for the token trendy dad reference point. It’s the kind of unfocused ramble you might find here – mostly BlackBerry written and bearing my trademark cavalier approach to grammar. But the aim wasn’t another tiresome things were better in 19_ _ or 20_ _” rant, rather a query as to how cultures might progress in the abundant information age. You can find it here. The next Hypebeast crossover with this self-indulgent corner of the internet will be more focused, but it’s a fun opportunity I appreciate.
Any talk of HYPE also reminds me of the excellent 1989 Sports Illustrated article of the same name, talking about the relationship between sport and hyperbole, using the white leather jacket with “Don’t Believe the Hype” in gold and black across the back that Mike Tyson was fetching from Harlem’s Dapper Dan store at 4 in the morning when he ran into Mitch “Blood” Green and left him needing expensive sunglasses.
Just as the Lo-life gang’s illicit efforts popularized Polo, Hilfiger Nautica and The North Face in such a way that they altered street style forever, Dapper Dan deserves similar status — Gucci, MCM and Louis Vuitton can’t have been too pleased to see themselves bootlegged to the point where folk thought they might be making the madcap items taking pride of place on record sleeves sailing up the Billboard charts, but they created a brand loyalty and aspiration that’s made these houses a fortune. The Louboutin Swizz hookup and Kanye Vuittons are the by product of what “Dapper” Daniel Day was capitalizing on when he stayed open 24 hours for an audience of celebrities and the criminal minded back in the day.
Exclusive Game clothing are following that lineage with their gear for Jadakiss, Rick Ross and Diddy (check the custom MCM piece in the ‘Another One’ video) and anyone crying “FAKE!” might be missing the point. I only recently noticed that DJ E-Z Rock is wearing some customised Louis Vuitton monogram Air Force 1s in Janette Beckman’s 1988 photo shoot for the ‘It Takes Two’ album. Maybe I’d always been too distracted by the early Uptown sighting on an artist’s foot as well as that Dapper Dan tracksuit to pay full attention to the swoosh and heeltab. I always thought the designer fabric Air Force was a late 1990’s phenomenon, but this was Harlem style in full effect.
PHADE and the crew’s Shirt Kingz empire that ran relatively concurrent to the Dapper Dan movement with their printed sweats and tees deserves its props as part of the bigger contemporary picture now too. Mr. Paul Mittleman posted up some images of the crew’s heyday (I love the Safari sighting and some shots reiterate just how popular the Air Force II was — there’s some Assault action beyond the Fat Boys too) recently and it was clear that while the west had its own surf and skate culture for new brands to gnaw on, hip-hop’s golden age informed the east coast’s streetwear — Jamaica Coliseum Mall, where the Kingz had their retail operation apparently has a stall selling airbrushed shirts up to the present day, but PHADE, NIKE and KASHEME helped form a uniquely hip-hopcentric apparel and an industry that’s worth billions.
Shit, even the cheap artist photo tees that followed (usually incorporating a deceased artist) inspired Supreme’s teamups with Raekwon, Jim Jones and Juelz, plus the rest of those eBay-friendly releases. That lineage makes the sight of a sullen Lou Reed on a shirt even more entertaining.