It’s a testament to how hard I’ve fallen off that I miss things like this on the Internet. Having said that, why isn’t the rest of the hypesphere picking up on this? We’ve become lazy. By Such and Such‘s 13-minute conversation with Supreme creative director Brendon Babenzien is well worth watching for some little insights into how he entered the industry and his take on style versus fashion. As Animal Farm/Pervert (working on the post-Don incarnation of the brand) alumni, it’s a nifty segue to this great Oi Polloi interview with Louis Loizou, director of How Can I Be Down: a documentary about Pervert and its founder, Don Busweiler, who opted to leave society with a collective called The Brethren in the mid 1990s. The parallels with the cult of prints on clothing and the kind of cult that makes you grow a beard and drop out are presumably not coincidental. This eight minute preview includes chats with Erik Brunetti, Eric Haze, Rick Klotz, Alyasha Owerka-Moore and Ian MacKaye, with more promised if Loizou gets full finding via Kickstarter. The connection between Pervert, Supreme, Gimme 5 and pretty much every other key entity from the era, all the way up to its influence on Miami based brand Stray Rats (who, like Pervert in its early days, work plenty of hardcore mentality into their work), means that this story deserves to be told in the depth that this film is promising to tell it in. The underlying theme of Don’s story is about false prophets, but he makes some pretty prescient statements regarding where that street wear thing of theirs would be a couple of decades down the line.
Continuing the dewy-eyed Soho nostalgia trip from a couple of weeks back, Sofarok upped the early 1990s (1992/93?) Bond International catalogue onto his Flickr account that @rdadub kindly took the effort to supply and scan. Between this and the 1997 magalogue, there’s more imagery of Pervert clothing than I’ve ever seen online (and there’s a little more information on Pervert right here). Newburgh Street was the spot — Rhyme Syndicate merchandise, Insane, Ben Davis, NFC, Stüssy, Goodenough, Carhartt and Tommy Boy were all in here with a nice global concept that indicates that they put in work. Anyone interested in notions of streetwear and London’s role as a hub for interesting brands beck in the day should check this out.
The internet has been spitting out jewels this week — if you’re interested in shoes and don’t mess with the Air Humara, Terra Humara or Air Minot, we can’t talk. Those are Peter Fogg designs and he’s one of my favourite footwear designers ever and this Sole Collector series of videos where Nick chats to the people behind the shoes is cool, with some gems coming out of the conversations — the Terra Humara is apparently based on a brake disc from a motorbike.
I also never knew that Steve Van Zandt (one of my heroes) pulled a real-life Silvio Dante move and saved Paul Simon from being assassinated. This Jocks & Nerds piece on Mo’ Wax by former Straight No Chaser man Paul Bradshow is a great read too.
Idiot Twitter was afire with Pharrell hat jokes this week, but it was good to see some discourse on the Buffalo hat resulting from that. There’s none more b-boy or b-girl than that headwear in all its Peru-inspired glory and the fact that, like Bond International, it’s a British creation with overseas connections has got me feeling unexpectedly patriotic right now.
Salutes to Alex Dweck for reminding me about the Givenchy Pervert piece’s parallels with a pioneering brand from the past.
As time goes on, what was once the shit — something worth seeking out — can disappear into anonymity. Due to streetwear’s cyclical nature, a healthy dose of reverence whenever content creation’s constant sprawl looks for an industry retrospective, the majority of brands I grew up loving have maintained longevity. Stüssy is still powerful, Supreme evolved, Holmes morphed into Silas who reappeared a little less appealing but seemed to transfer that old spirit into Palace, Fuct stays excellent, Nigo’s role in BAPE was minimized but the brand still has some clout, X-Large is big in Japan (or at least it seems to be), Gimme5 still has distribution clout, Fresh Jive does whatever the fuck it wants, Eightball and Droors gave way to DC, Union still does great work in Los Angeles, SSUR is on a wave right now, former Phat Farm and PNB operatives have huge roles in the industry, Zoo York fell off but the key people there made their own mark, STASH and Futura made good livings post NFC, Kingpin was great (R.I.P. Bleu Valdimer) but seemed to stop in the transition to Project Dragon. There’s a whole lot more, but for the most part, they’re either still in business or there’s a reasonable explanation as to why they shut up shop. All except Pervert.
Obsessing over stock at Planet in my hometown, Slam City, Bond and Dr Jives, Pervert was always a brand I actively hunted — it seemed to have the hip-hop and rave crossovers, captured the acid jazz craze of the time and had skater appeal too. Harking from Miami’s South Beach they had that beach life authenticity that made Stussy seem so authentic back when it debuted. That was a region that never seemed to be represented by anything this credible (Miami’s Stray Rats has done some strong work for the city in the last few years with a healthy respect for Pervert’s work), but Pervert had the name, had a photogenic frontman (and a great BMXer in his youth) who got some profiles in mainstream magazines like ‘Rolling Stone’ (see below) back when being in print was a huge deal in the shape of founder Don Busweiler who started it in his late teens. Trademarking Pervert branding in mid 1990 for “hats, T-shirts, shorts, pants, jackets, shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, footwear, headwear, and swimwear”, Busweiler can be considered an elder statesman of streetwear (I don’t use that hated umbrella term lightly, but when a brand isn’t necessarily a skate brand but trades in printed and embroidered cotton, it’s all I can do).
Pervert’s Animal Farm store was an operations base (stocking Stussy, Fuct, Fresh Jive and the rest) and they were actively involved in the local club scene. It’s a testament to Pervert’s role locally that anyone I’ve met from Miami who’s 30+ years of age seemed to have something to do with the Pervert crew in one way or another. The brand would have cleared up in any number of streetwear booms, the rise in Mo’ Wax and the affiliated toys and tees — even multiple quick cash crazes for parody shirts (next time you see a PUMA tee in a tourist trap souvenir store, think of Don and his team), but it never lasted long enough, because in 1995, after a relationship breakup, Don Busweiler ended Pervert and joined Jim Roberts’ Brethren cult (also know as the Garbage Eaters) with its Christian values that pretty much deem anyone doing anything different a practitioner of perversion.
The beards and bikes of male Brethren members might seem hipster-esque, and the cult’s famous bin-dipping is bizarre, but there’s a real tragedy to this story — the comments on this post hint at the emotional damage of Don’s (apparently calling himself Micaiah) or disappearance and his parents have been quoted in documentaries and articles on Roberts’ activities. ‘God Willing’, a recent documentary (screened on PBS) documents the anguish of the parents of children who vanished to join the nomadic Roberts group and it’s powerful stuff. The ABANDONED status code of Pervert’s trademark hints at the sudden end of the brand. It’s a sad story of what could have been, but the impact Busweiler and the team made in those few short years is significant, but alas, it all occurred before the internet became an extension of the world we live in, so informationally, it’s as if it barely ever existed. I guarantee the influence of Pervert has corrupted your wardrobe in one way or another — bear in mind that Supreme’s creative director Brendon Babenzien started his career at Pervert.
If you haven’t already watched everything on the Gasface’s channel. including all five ‘Think B.I.G.’ installments, you’re slipping. Everyone with an SLR with filming capabilities might be a filmmaker now, but these French hip-hop obsessives are masters of their art. Somebody should just give these guys their own channel as the prove that only the French can do rap nostalgia and digging without coming off corny.
That was a lazy blog post, right? Here’s a load of old RRL and Polo Sport ads to pad it out. I know you love that stuff as much as I do (except that white guy with dreads).
I think this blog is becoming a receptacle for magazine scans of anything from the 1980’s or 1990’s and getting a little too bogged down in nostalgia. I could reblog the same pictures of the Kate Moss for Supreme posters that are around town at the moment, but every single blog on the planet seems to be chucking up the same shots. I’ll leave it to them, but I definitely need a copy for my wall. I’ve been trawling the archives for some information on one specific boot and the quest led me to old issues of ‘The Source.’ I can’t stress the importance of that magazine back when the closest place to get it was the WH Smiths in Luton’s Arndale Centre and people got angry because TLC were on the cover. Lord knows what they’d make of Nicki Minaj at the weekend, but I assume they’re probably dead of old age by now, which spares them the rage. I liked the specially shot covers back in the day (seemingly one of the final casualties of their shakeups over the last few years) and I haven’t picked up a copy for close to a decade, but I’m glad that ‘The Source’ is still going.
It was the militancy of older issues and the real reporting (I think Ronin Ro’s piece on Luther Campbell touring Japan, as reproduced in ‘Gangsta’ is one of the magazine’s most insightful moments) plus glimpses of products I’d never seen before that had me hooked. The November 1993 issue was an old school retrospective that taught my gun rap loving self a great deal (it included the Henry Chalfont shot above) and despite the frequently anaemic graffiti content, the four-page feature on legends like Dondi and Futura by Ricky Powell was a great moment in a period generally considered to be the magazine’s downturn and an early 1993 article on the new wave of streetwear brands that hit their radar the previous year was a moment when skate and hip-hop (primarily through Pervert) style really seemed to strike, championed by west coast MCs from the Good Life Cafe scene. I don’t listen to the music so much these days, but everything seemed to gel and broaden my horizons. I never found the boot I was hunting, but November 1993’s ‘Knockin’ Boots’ with the questionable inclusion of Hi-Tec, but including the glorious Iditarod Sport Hiker, Merrell Wilderness ($260!) and the ACG Rhyolite never fails to make me yearn for a golden era of invincible footwear.
The White/Cement Jordan IV eluded me in 1989 in favour of the other key colours — as did the reissue a decade later. The 2012 version feels like closure on that matter (I won’t cry myself to sleep over the lack of NIKE AIR). 2006’s IVs were of quality comparable to the plastic Michael Jackson cash-in slip-ons that some unfortunate kids still broke out at my school back when the IV debuted. The new version is marginally better in quality and after two days of wear, creasing isn’t critical, but the curried goat stain I attained today nearly led to a Buggin’ Out type scenario, even though I was the sole culprit. Probably best to go half a size down, and they still rub on my little toe. But what are you going to do? Grown men shouldn’t be getting so agitated about things they didn’t get the first time around. Plus they’re still the best looking Jordan ever.
This blog post is brought to you by BlackBerry and Orange’s failings in giving me a device on insurance that blocked me out of the blog entry I’d written for today. That meant a hasty rewrite on a completely different topic.
I’m excited about the impending rerelease of Akinyele’s ‘Vagina Diner.’ I’ve decried our preoccupation with the old on here before, but one album deserving of a second time in the spotlight is Akinyele’s 1993’s smartly crafted punchline sleaze opus, ‘Vagina Diner’ — I maintain that Spice 1, Too Short and any number of Rap-A-Lot artists (the Complex interview with J Prince the other week was excellent) had the albums I can replay now, and most of the others we get dewy eyed about from the east coast seemed to have excellent singles but many of the ensuing albums are just boasts, horns and bass that outstays its welcome after twenty minutes. Salutes to De La, Jungle Brothers and Tribe for understanding the art of LP structure back then, even if ‘J Beez…’ got fucking slaughtered.
Akinyele’s effort was something different though. Getting Large Professor to produce the whole thing — a privilege of being signed to Atlantic/Interscope — made the whole thing cohesive and a precursor to those one producer and one MC albums that are frequently promised but rarely executed properly. ‘Vagina Diner’s awesome titled could have been justified with some talk of the man being a cunning linguist, but that amazing Ralph Bakshi/REAS/John Kricfalusi-esque cover art indicates that it’s just an album about fucking and some ignorant stuff.
‘Vagina Diner’s playing time doesn’t allow for Akinyele’s hiccup style to drive the listener insane and Extra P goes in. ‘The Bomb’s Carhartt hooded, roomy denim anthemic quality, a couple of twenty-second interludes that could have been stretched to full-length, the smoothed-out keys at ‘Bags Packed’s outro all made this a necessary album. Nobody’s boy hopped on to ruin tracks, and any attempts to get soulful were scuppered with some brutal talk. And that’s where it all went wrong. Ak’s line on ‘I Luh Hur’ about a hypothetical pregnant belly kicking and punching (“I’m fed up, and sorry that I’ve done it /I’m ready to set her up and have my little man kick her in the stomach”) seemed to be taken a little out of proportion — it was an unnecessary and idiotic moment, but Ice Cube touched on a similarly unpleasant matter (“Then I thought deep about giving up the money/What I need to do is kick the bitch in the tummy” from ‘You Can’t Fade Me’) and it seemed to get lost in the midst of other allegations of troublemaking against him. Ghetto Gold Matt reminded me of the December 1993 editorial in ‘The Source’ from Kierna Mayo decrying the lyrics and Akinyele’s letter of response in the February 1994 issue.
Cube was more profitable for his label, but with a lack of commercial success, Atlantic dropping Akinyele seemed like a cost-effective move. For some reason, summer 1993 was a bad time to be dropping an album and getting heard — bald headed rappers with raspy voices, Parliament samples and weed talk took precedence, and while ‘Vagina Diner’ got good reviews, it just got lost in comparison with an equally nihilistic and perfectly produced set like the ‘Intoxicated Demons ‘EP. Perhaps Interscope could have promoted it a little more. Ah, the hard life of the punchline rapper. If Interscope had let ‘Break a Bitch Neck’ (Kierna would have been triply furious about that one and it really undermines the point he makes in his letter too) go on that album as planned, that shit would have gone platinum. RA The Rugged Man’s ‘Cunt Renaissance’ line “Pregnant bitch — you get kicked in the belly/So fuck all them hookers who had beef with Akinyele” references the outcry and subsequent dropping of Ak (his boy — hence the indy release, ‘What The Fuck?’) in Crustified Dibbs’s typically sensitive manner.
Unsurprisingly, RA got dropped by Jive, but surprisingly, Jive picked up Ak later that decade, who’d reinvented himself as a porno rapper with the success of ’96’s ‘Put It In your Mouth’ — taking the sexuality of ‘Vagina Diner’ and making it a little more British postcard lewd rather than the Ike Turner backhand steez of his earlier works. A year earlier, ’95’s ‘Loud Hangover’ appearance with Sadat X had me wanting him to join the Loud roster. After that, Akinyele descended into the nowhere zone of Koch’s terrible early ’00s long players (see also, calamities like KRS One’s ‘Spiritual Minded’ album, Grand Puba’s terrible third LP and Onyx’s ‘Bacdafucup’ sequel). 2004’s ‘Live at the Barbecue: Unreleased Hits’ compilation had a few tracks that seemed to be from a 1994 project that never materialized at the time.
Just as ‘Put It In Your Mouth’ introduced a whole new audience to Ak’s work, the ‘Vagina Diner’ album seemed to vanish from the CD and record racks circa ’96. Other albums have had re-release after re-release, plus tours covering the entire tracklist, yet ‘Vagina Diner’ remains elusive, bar a vinyl bootleg or two. Recently, a promo edition of the LP sold on eBay, with lettering apparently from Ak himself. Compared to the real promo edition, it looked more like a bootleg — maybe Ak took matters into his own hands? But now you don’t need to shell out mad money for the dull single vinyl edition or crazed dough for a second-hand CD on Amazon, because according to their twitter feed Get On Down records, responsible for the recent ODB ‘Return to the 36 Chambers’ reissue, are putting out a remastered Digipak edition of ‘Vagina Diner’ in 2012. Hopefully it’ll restore some lost tracks, make up for years of compressed Mediafire piracy sound and blow up the album artwork to poster size.
Front and back and even on the CD’s diner sign look, the album’s dripping art direction was on point, but unlikely to find friends among the feminist fraternity. I refuse to be that guy on every stack of YouTube comments claiming, “Now that’s hip-hop — not like Drake or Lil Wayne” like a dad blasting Fleetwood Mac on the school run, but there’s a lot of merit in this album. A lot of lost albums need never return, but this is different. A rerelease is unlikely to bring the album a vast new audience (buying a CD or vinyl is considered quaint), but for those of us who care, ‘Vagina Diner’ 2012 is a big, big deal and hopefully that enthusiasm might prove infectious.
For your patience in reading these recollections, and while we’re stuck in 1993, here’s some highlights from the April ’93 ‘The Source’ Style Preview. Zhigge kitted in Armani Exchange, plus PNB, Pervert, Fuct, Not From Concentrate, Conart (the brand with Slash’s younger brother on board in its early days) and many more in the hat and tee collection, plus the Max ’93, Air Traverse, Jordan VIII, Rod Laver, Vans Chukka, Torsion Alegra and Equipment Support on a packed pair of shoe pages, that even the presence of flop post-Ewing shoe brand Aerial Assault can’t sully. Eighteen years later we still seem to be tethered to the aesthetics of the designs on display.
Writing a top 50 of anything is a motherfucker. Nobody maintains a top 50 of something unless they’re truly insane. I keep a top 5 of some stuff, but that’s as far as it goes. And that’s subject to change. So putting together anything longer is hard, and beyond that top 10 ranking, it’s merely tactical. “You put XXXXX at 35! Are you crazy?” they shout in the comments section. And I don’t listen. Douchebags can glower at me at trade shows all they like. Streetwear is a subject that’s very important to me, and I can’t be bothered to break down what constitutes streetwear — you know what it is. Salutes to all who started at 432F.
When Bradley at Complex asked me to list 50 great streetwear bites (that was later changed to homages because “Bites” is a little too controversial), I was keen to get involved. Check it out right here. It’s nice to celebrate a realm before it went all cut, sew and RRL-lite — I’m not qualified to be talking about these things professionally, as I’m just a fan. I’m a toy. But that rack of shirts I browsed in Planet Clothing back in the early 1990s that was laden with Fuct, Freshjive, X-Large and some stray Carhartt is still fresh in my mind. It was a glorious confusion — was it skate wear? Hip-hop gear? I couldn’t work it out. So I used this opportunity with Compex’s 50 Greatest Pop Culture References In Streetwear to celebrate that. But I still had to omit some stuff important to me to fit that 50, and I forgot one key design.
I assume nobody cried about LRG being out the list again, because they’re not peddlers of parody, but I had to ditch Eightball and Droors because they’re skate brands, and before you claim that Supreme is a skate brand, we all know that it’s something bigger in 2011. In fact, I could easily make a list of nothing but Supreme gear, and I’m sure they loathe being tagged as streetwear too. But again, this isn’t the place for debate. It was originally a list of 80 or so designs. Some images were just impossible to find and some creations were excised because I couldn’t justify featuring more than 6 of the same brand when there’s a numerical perimeter to work within. You all knew Stussy and Supreme’s Chanel and Kruger homages would top it though, didn’t you?
But some stuff’s in there solely because I respect their business game or because that design typified an era, regardless of how regrettable it might look now. OBEY warrants a place for importance even if it’s super-wack to me nowadays, but those stickers fired my imagination back in the day. I saw one question on Twitter — “How could they forget air Johnny?” I can answer that one. Because it’s shit. It was nice to take another look at the work of the late Bleu Valdimer’s overlooked Kingpin line and Pervert’s Don Busweiler, who ditched the brand to join a cult. There’s a phenomenal documentary in there somewhere.
I regret omitting Supreme’s ARMY shirt, Stussy’s PiL-style StU, Zoopreme, King Stampede’s Cult stuff, Supreme Maxell, the J$ Situationormal Alpo shirt, Absurd’s A-Wing, DQM’s Meatallica, Diamond D-Wing, Undrcrwn’s Biggie and Pac shirts, Undrcrwn’s Coogi-style basketball shirts, Silas’s ‘Silas Bloody Silas’ shirt, Gimme5’s Ghostbusters image, Fuct’s ‘Warriors’, the BMW Red Army Faction shirt (I couldn’t find the designer), Perks & Mini’s Balearic Flag and Sun-Ra designs, Goodenough’s ‘Dog or Die, Staple’s Cassius Clay, Crooked Tongues’s ‘Crooked Force’, SSUR’s IZM IBM homage, Tonite’s ‘Party On’ Patagonia shirt, ALIFE’s Otis Bantum Correctional Facility, Freshjive’s ‘Don’t Tread On Me’, WTAPS’s ‘Rise Above’ stuff NFC’s Krylon print, 10.DEEP’s Champion shirt, the SSUR Bruce Lee ‘Enter the Dragon’ chest marks, the St. Alfred’s YSL style monogram, the Bounty Hunter Danzig font, the Bounty Hunter Ducky Boys shirt, Pervert’s Kappa bite, Orchard Street’s ‘Pimp Accordingly’, Mishka’s ‘Death to All’, HVM8 ‘Bone Thugs & Typography’, aNYthing’s BAD NEWS series and a few more….in fact, I’m sure there’s a hundred more significant shirts, hats and sweats.
I couldn’t single out a specific NBHD design that’s an iconic homage. Mr. Craig Ford reminded me of plenty more Hysteric Glamour creations, Duffer’s Ducci Gucci bite and a Hermes homage, plus BAPE’s Versace and Cazal copies. The Natural Born ‘I Against I’ and 2K/Gingham Beatles designs are clever, but I never saw them as homages or imitations. Even only including a single No Mas design seemed churlish.
But now I’m boring myself.
There’s one major idiotic omission in the listing (and apologies to Erik for misspelling his name as Eric a couple of times) — the Fuct ‘Goodfellas’ shirt. The brand’s early ’92 film poster art preempts SSUR’s ‘Mean Streets’ and Supreme’s ‘Taxi Driver’. I mentioned it, then forgot to include it later on like a dumbass. It seems so obvious to stick gangsterism on cotton now, but back then it felt totally fresh. Fuct is a very overlooked brand indeed.
Why is the list largely absent of designs post-2006? Because there’s some lines that deserve a spotlight and I’m afraid SSUR creations warranted a place more than your line. There’s still some great creations being pumped out from newer labels, but post-2006, the homaged brands seemed to want more of that hypesphere loot and seemed happier to officially collaborate. I feel that murdered some of the rebel spirit and that was an instant disqualification, though on seeing the list, Jeff Staple mentioned that the John Jovino Gun Shop shirt was made with his cooperation.
It’s heartening to see a streetwear resurgence of sorts in the UK. Shouts to Gabriel at Origin London for his latest project with This is My Costume, Puck and Second To None. At fear of sounding patronising, the dude is 17 and creating a presence for his brand using a network of folk who dwell on the new. We old farts are on our way out — and not a moment too soon. Too much nostalgia can prove unhealthy.
With all the current MTV celebrations, it’s always worth re-watching the ‘VH1 Goes Inside Yo! MTV Raps’ documentary from a few years back. There’s some great outtake footage in there, and just as that rack of randomly gathered shirts had a vast impact on me, those saturday mornings watching Ed and the team were life-changing. Anyone else remember those switches to Marxman and Talkin’ Loud releases during Fred’s non-studio section courtesy of MTV Europe? I always felt I was missing out on some amazing US stuff as a result of that intrusion.
And if anybody can tell me what a ‘Purple Onion’ is in the comments, I’d love to know. While this track is hypnotic, I initially wrote the video off as a So Me copy, but the ‘Pop Up Video’ style comments and ‘What They Do’ style is decent.