This SHOWstudio conversation with i-D founder Terry Jones is 52 minutes well spent. It’s good to hear Jones discuss his approach to art direction back in his early days at Vogue and any print head out there will get something out of it. This man’s publication taught me a ton when I stood and used WH Smiths as a reading room after school and his regulation pair of Chucks was a colossal inspiration on the shoes I choose to wear at least every other day as my age advances. Not a lot of time to talk about much else on here today, but time with Jones is better spent than anything I can muster. On the topic of magazines, this Daily Beast piece on The Source and its inexplicable survival while XXL was almost booted into digital form is a necessary read.
Earlier this evening I wrote something for this blog then found out it was on another site with a better writeup. After that Armin Tamzarian Billy and the Cloneasaurus moment I had to resort to something else quickly. However, don’t mistake that for integrity, because my plan-b was to up some more magazine scans and upping somebody else’s work in such a wholesale fashion is pretty much the opposite of integrity. Once this self-inflicted (what can I say? I’m a yes man, which ends up turning me into a no man when it comes to favours for a few months) freelance workload is over maybe I can start living in the now rather than the glut of nostalgia I’ve been unloading on these pages lately. There’s too many shoe-related (a lazy day job overspill) pieces on here and too much magazine scanning in lieu of writing anything over 500 words. Normal service will resume at some point in early summer.
One of The Source‘s greatest moments in shoe coverage was the August 1994 issue with The Fat Fifteen selection that has the Jordan 10, Fila Spoiler Mid, the underrated adidas Intruder (as worn by John Starks), Womens’ Allegra, Air Flare and the Jordan III reissue. I can remember seeing this and immediately scrawling down the names of over a quarter of the showcased shoes and scheming how I could raise the funds for them. Then there’s the Just Kickin It piece where rappers talk about their favourite shoes. Andre 3000 likes an adidas Forum and Big Boi shouts out the EQT range, while Phife and Da Brat co-sign the Nike Air Darwin. Shyhiem and Kurious show an affinity for the Barkley CB2. A few months ahead of the staff walkout, The Source still ruled my life as a reference point and stuff like this gave me all the information I needed to head to a sports shop armed with questions.
When this blog was marginally more interesting, I pondered as to who draw the US poster for The Beastmaster that King Kase2 and the crew acted a fool over at the train station in Style Wars. Recently I discovered that it was C. Winston Taylor (aka. C.W. Taylor) was responsible for it. That’s one mystery solved, but I want to know who was responsible for the Champion Cheeba parody tee that was sold in Union circa 1993. Was it a SSUR creation?
I’m back in the UK and it doesn’t look like I missed much during my absence (I’m basing that assumption on the contents of my email inbox). New York was excellent and while there were several highlights, the carrot cake at Carbone and visiting Quad Recording Studios (and yes, references were made to testicular bullet holes in the lobby) with Mr. Nick Schonberger to see Large Professor playing Stalley some new beats from an iPod were two of the best moments. Many of the producers I’ve obsessed over in my lifetime have hit a decade-long dull streak but Extra P is still a beast. To be in the presence of genius or a really big fucking slice of dessert is always a privilege. Nothing makes me amplify my awkward Brit steez more than meeting my rap heroes as a fumbled iPod cable passover testified.
One of the few other rap dudes who would have me carrying on like that is Kool G Rap, with whom the Professor worked on classics like Streets of New York — looking at old issues of The Source, I find myself mourning the decline of the record label art department who put the incredible teasers that were scattered throughout that magazine. The release of Kool G’s 4,5,6 in 1995 was preceded by Epic paying for small ads with co-signs from Method Man, LL Cool J and — best of all — this quote from Biggie that sums up the ultra violent state-of-mind that the great man was capable of conjuring. Nowadays this would probably lead to a boycott of something somewhere and a mass of Twitter reactions. Back then, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid at this or the album when it eventually dropped.
According to my friends at Proper, Champion is on its way back in the United Kingdom, but looking at their £65 sweats with the SuperDry style prints and how they’ve even flubbed the U.S. college gear, I’m not sure what to make of it all. It’s definitely a collection that had me pulling the Michel Roux Jr. faces. Recently I was discussing whether there’s actually a “real” Champion out there or whether it’s just a mass of regional licenses. How can it be that Nick and Stalley’s Blue Collar Gang BCG creation that’s printed on a middleweight Champion blank with the C on the sleeve ether an entire brand’s local output? Somebody somewhere really doesn’t understand the power of simplicity their company holds. I feel that the bin-shoe I spotted on Friday in Greenwich Village sums up my feelings on this situation, but I retain a single spec of optimism that somebody might get it right at some point in the next twelve months.
Swallow Magazine takes its time with the rollout, having hit issue three in just under four years, but it’s one of the best food publications in terms of capturing the visceral pleasure of stuffing your face. Concept heavy with each issue, after the Trans-Siberian edition, the hardcover is gone in favor of different binding, more content and a scratch and sniff Mexico City theme throughout. The whole food obsession seems to have boomed since it last dropped, so publicity for the new Swallow Magazine installment has been more substantial than before. Protein ran a little show in their gallery to celebrate the release and this interview with the magazine’s founder and editor James Casey is pretty good. He raises some interesting points on print as an object of beauty and a method of administering experiences a digital medium can’t deliver quite yet.
With the passing of both Chi Cheng and Jeff Hanneman this year, it’s a good time to reacquaint with some metal classics as a tribute to their work. Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman’s Louder Than Hell: The Definitive History of Metal is a reason I’m looking forward to my next birthday. This and the French Montana album are a good reason for me to not spend the day traveling to a Swiss clinic. Oral histories are addictive and metal is a breeding ground for anecdotes on anecdotes on anecdotes.
Farewell Tim Dog. I wrote excitedly about your Dateline appearance last summer and now you’ve gone. I know Tim never had too many lyrical smarts (the majority of the very poor Do Or Die album exposes them), but for we Brits, his 1991 debut and those Ultramagnetics affiliations made him a significant source of fascination. No disrespect to Dilla’s output and his legions of post-passing Stans, but the DJ Quik Beatdown Skit and the ram raided intro of Penicillin on Wax may have had more impact on my life than his entire output. Like some prime Rap-A-Lot of the era the album had it all — some smart sequencing, an appetite for beef, good production and the sexually explicit Secret Fantasies (that blew my pubescent mind and made me see Cindy from En Vogue in a different light) all made it a classic. Reinforcing my faraway vision of the Bronx as that grim locale that even Paul Newman couldn’t save, the album’s goon-laden sleeve shots and the artist’s jewellery-draped, sunglassed, flat-topped, stone-faced portrait in black and white is a classic.
Tim’s decision to call out NWA and even heist their NIGGAZ4LIFE opening was inspired marketing — before we had hashtags he had a campaign of burning Compton hats and tees with Fuck Compton that flipped the classic old English font (worn by his boys in Huaraches while he stood in a Giants Starter jacket). Calling out the west coast, Kwame, Vanilla Ice, Kid-N-Play and anyone with a pop inclination, Tim’s first album sounds like it’s about 150 years old in 2013, where the subliminal is excitedly dissected by sycophantic rap journalists and the crossover is no longer taboo. The Dog gets extra love for causing Compton’s Tweedy Bird Loc (they don’t make them like that any more) to let of lyrical shots in both his and NWA’s direction — a hip-hop bar brawl. After ducking out of a celebrity boxing bout prior to his disappointing follow-up, Tim’s Fuck Wit Dre Day response, Bitch With a Perm took two years to materialise and was barely listenable, followed by Make Way For the Indian a deeply forgettable duet with Bhangramuffin sensation Apache Indian. And that was pretty much that.
The last Tim Dog track I paid attention to was the strange and amazing 29 second A Visit to the Zoo skit from his Big Time album with Kool Keith…then nothing. Until he appeared on MySpace trying to sell a 5-CD Greatest Hits compilation, despite possessing an EP-length quantity of hits (and that would be pushing it), before getting his Madoff on with gullible, lonely ladies. He also promoted his book, Who Killed Hip-Hop on his site (“Pre-order the book now and get 3 TIM DOG Mixtapes for free”). I had no idea that he recorded two more albums either. In some ways, Tim deads that myth that lyrics were the only way to get ahead back in the day — he just seemed to get fame through knowing some talented artists and having a propensity for greasy talk (criticisms which could be leveled at several contemporary acts), but there was something about him that captured the era where every artist had to have a “thing.” Tim’s “thing” was uncut ignorance and that’s what made us love his work. Salutes to Ruffhouse and Columbia’s art department for coming correct with Pencillin on Wax — the early 1992 ad above has some of my favourite copy (The Source was full of ads with phenomenal, bombastic wordplay between 1991 and 1993) — in fact, it’s campaigns like this that made me want to be a copywriter. Rest in peace.
Once again (this entry really is a rehash of last July’s writeups), can Fila take a look at their 1986 tennis output and being back their premium status after over a decade of being dragged through the bargain boxes by bad licensing decisions? These designs are still phenomenal. Most brands trying to come back were barely there in the first place, but you wore. Actually, seeing as Fila would almost certainly be dragged into the lure of collaboration blog inches by some marketing dude who just heard of this really cool thing called “sneakerheads”, maybe it’s best if they didn’t.
The T-Shirt Party project with photographer Tom Beard includes a shirt with some Notting Hill Carnival goers wearing the Air Max 90 properly. Even the forbidden mix of stripes and swoosh looks better than any carefully structured streetwear “fit.” All the minds behind the project have a strong idea of London style — the kind that doesn’t seem to get much blog shine in favour of some synthesised perceptions of what kids actually wear.
First things first, I recently got sent my own site as part of a press pack on the assumption that something I’d written was some kind of advertorial for a brand. Fuck that. What’s the point of that stuff? This isn’t “placement.” I don’t play that PR mouthpiece fuckery on this site. If it’s here, it’s because I’m a fan rather than an request to cover something, so please, please stop sending me releases for product placement here on your music, terrible “street art” prints or brand that makes wacky tees to match your hype shoe colourway and make you look like a sex offender. The internet is awash with insincerity. I’d sooner be somebody who (cue Just Blaze beat) really means it. Shouts to Tyler at WorkinNights for getting in touch though — the Jes Aurilius ‘All Skrewed Up’ mix is soundtracking this blog entry’s creation.
Alas, the time has come to get all heritage again, because I don’t think there’s a better pair of boots in my wardrobe than the Danner Mountain Lights. I’ll be damned if I ever wear them to go off road in, and with their flashy Vibram Cristy soles that are devoid of lugs and intended for military, service or work, I’d almost certainly slip and fall to my doom in them. I did a warehouse stock take in them a few years back under the misapprehension that they were steel-toed though, but thankfully I’m not walking with a limp right now. Looking at these boots, in a world of synthesised histories, I think the Mountain Light deserves a little more historical context as a design classic and a breakthrough piece of hiking functionality. That’s a good enough excuse to cobble together an attempt at a narrative here. Gotta love those ‘Backpacker’ archives.
I love GORE-TEX lined gear and if you’ve spotted the gratuitous uploading of early 1990’s winter boot round ups from ‘The Source’ that you can see in this post and this post, it always seems that Danner slipped beneath the radar at street level, despite being a particularly legitimate item. Vasque Hikers and Merrell Wilderness got some shine, and there was a lot of Havana Joe. And with Danner being a Portland-based brand, I even found myself scrutinising Sir Mixalot LP sleeves to spot a pair, given his Seattle proximity to the brand’s headquarters and factory, to no avail. To sate my own personal curiosity I’d also like to know who set off the red lace craze on hiking boots — Pivetta, Lowa, Limmer and Browning all seemed to have them as a focal point all those years ago, but I’ve seen it on ski boots from the 1940’s and 1950’s too, so who started it?
The Danner Mountain Light commenced life as the Danner 6490 (the hardier older brethren of the 7509 Climbing Boot) model back in the early 1970’s. While it didn’t carry the Light name then, it was a shoe famed for its lightweight feel. If you’ve held a pair, you’ll note that they feel pretty weighty, but the 6490’s 3 pound and 14 oz on the scales was low in 1973, when a fair amount of hiking boots clocked in at 5 pounds. The 6490’s supple leather on the one—piece upper and minimal seams to rub on inside made it a boot without a break-in period, the Vibram sole maintained traction, a padded tongue ensured extra comfort while that ski-boot style wrapped tongue cover and bellow detailing made them waterproof too. Leather lined and built to last, Danner’s 6490, advertised in the mid 1970’s as the 6490 Mountain Trail Boot and boasting a glowing ‘Backpacker’ magazine review became a bestseller that, “Needs little or no breaking in.”
Continue reading DANNER: TRAVELLING LIGHT
I hold maharishi in high esteem. It was the brand that advertised in mid ’90’s issues of ‘HHC’ and the pre-‘TRACE,’ ‘TRUE’ magazine with the hemp and zen connection. I remember it being prominent in the issue of ‘HHC’ that ran my poorly-written defence of KRS-One in the Biteback section from “GAZ One, Bedford” — my first moment in print since the ‘Bedfordshire Times’ claimed I’d called ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II’ “Turtletastic!” on exiting a free screening. But whereas so many other brands fell by the wayside, it evolved. It even managed to outlive the era of Sarah Cox and members of All Saints stumbling glassy-eyed out of the Met Bar in Snopants. The other All Saints would create rival militaristic trouser designs and H&M earned themselves a lawsuit over their “homages” but Hardy Blechman’s vision of a war-free re-appropriation of military functionality was one of the few great British streetwear brands.
Even their MHI spinoff, a more defined ground level takedown in comparison to maharishi, offered tees with camo stitching on the neck that was impossible to stretch (trust me, my head can stretch any garment’s collar) and breathable mesh armpits. We got the Henry Chalfant tees in train boxes, the DPM book and the Terminators, visited the Gonz and MODE2 exhibitions in the impressive DMHI store, then high rents and market shifts seemed to shake things up to the point where I pretty much stopped paying attention to maharishi or its spinoffs. Hardy Blechman remains a hero to me though for transcending what could have been an idealistic couple of seasons of itchy fabrics and sloganeering, and turning it into a lifestyle brand with a serious amount of substance, aided in no small part by that authoritative tome.
The Spring/Summer 2011 maharishi offerings, shown in 2010 on a circular catwalk hinted that the brand was getting interesting again, but the offerings for late 2012 that have been getting some tradeshow shine look great. Just as camo heads in cuntery towards levels of overkill akin to the wartime pattern overdose of 2006 (camo and tailoring will be in Primark by the end of the summer — witness the brown elastic chino brigade embrace the disruptive patterns very, very soon), maharishi is doing what the brand does best and seems to have Mr. Blechman back on board at a design level to riff on an encyclopedic knowledge of military function, textures and fabrics, rather than just diving into the camouflage patterns. The ultra-detailed cut-out overlays on tees offer some deep levels of detail, but the netting-theme based on the fabric blend of Personal Load Carrying Equipment tactical webbing is appropriately British in inspiration, but goes far beyond chucking a tweaked pattern on a slim-fitting jacket. It’s delivering what maharishi does best, and even the selection of athletic fleece basics looks pretty strong too.
John Wayne’s tiger pattern fatigues from here
But regardless of how much army fatigue I find myself suffering from, camo will always be cool to me. Tiger stripes will always maintain those deadly special ops connotations to me, steeped in a Green Beret mystique. No amount of misuse can take that away. I like the way John Wayne’s outfit in the much-maligned ‘The Green Berets’ is frequently referenced in Sgt. Richard D. Johnson’s ‘Tiger Patterns’ as “John Wayne Dense” and “John Wayne Sparse” — I always enjoyed that film as a kid, offering some irresponsible levels of violence on a Saturday afternoon, with an awesome theme tune to boot. Right-wing propaganda isn’t right, but it does make for some of the most fun action films Hollywood ever put out. In fact, ‘The Green Berets’ has an example of Skyhook in it too, which makes it doubly interesting (I wish there was footage of the original military tests on that system, using a pig that apparently attacked the crew after being “rescued”) One set of the Duke’s tiger stripes went on sale late last year and sold for just over $13,000. Owning those and learning the techniques displayed in this photo set from a 1985 issue of ‘Black Belt’ would make anybody at least 30% more excellent.
But forget the tiger stripes for a minute. Mr. Charlie Morgan gave me a heads-up on the existence of a replica of Snake Plissken’s strange asymmetric camouflage patterned trousers from ‘Escape From New York.’ Those trousers, with their strange front cargo pockets and low belt loops have been the talk of forums for a while, with users oblivious to the fact that, unless you look like Kurt Russell circa 1981, dressing like Snake will just make you look deeply camp rather than a growling badass. Is this the camo that soldiers battling in a dystopian future would need? When they’re not onscreen, in the cold light of day, the EFNY camo is a bit Cyberdog circa 1997 rather than the apocalyptic 1997 Carpenter depicted. Still, Macleod’s MODEL ‘1997 pant is an amazing labour of love that’s made using the Blu-ray edition of the film as a reference point for maximum authenticity. Mr. Morgan also put me onto Macleod’s ‘Mr. Bickle’ toy replica of Travis Bickle’s homemade gun sleeve — the perfect accompaniment to the Real McCoy’s Bickle-wear. To save you having to get in touch with Easy Andy, you can even buy a toy Colt 25 or 380 Walther to put in it to perfect your Travis in the mirror or avenging angel in army jacket routine. They even sell retro-style targets too — everything a crazed loner needs in their life.
And for no good reason, here’s another winter boot spread from ‘The Source’ — this one’s from the November 1994 issue aka. the staff walk-out edition that left the magazine a shadow of its former self from that issue onwards. I wonder if the Lugz and Skechers in there were ‘Zino’s fault too? Still, can’t fault those Vasques.
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.
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.
Blog post from February 2009.
Without dwelling too much on an argument that’s been e-debated to death, I want my kids and my kid’s kids to be as inspired by hip-hop attire as I was. How much importance should we place on apparel and footwear? A lot. Case study- I lost respect for Guru when I clocked him wearing cropped trousers and adi Goodyear shoes at London’s Jazz Cafe a couple of years back. That and Solar’s beats were the nail in a solo coffin. Yeah, I’m shallow, but it finally split the solo artist from the Gang Starr years in my psyche.