I’ve got technical jackets on the mind right now, but I’ll up more on that here another day. Let’s cast our mind back to a time when the raised collar and extra visibility of a HH design was the stuff of dreams. I think the sheer nostalgia a Helly-Hansen jacket instigates makes folks forget how hardcore they were in the face of inclement weather. I imagine that they were pretty good for sailing in too, but anyone who remembers their reign in hip-hop and jungle, just after Nautica and Tommy seemed to boom, will get all emotional at memories of cigarette/spliff burns and un-fixable synthetic materials. Helly Hansen’s popularity wasn’t just down to aspirational cost and a degree of inner-city functionality — Loud-founder Steve Rifkind was paid to promote the brand and its sales boomed as a result, with the jackets defining the late 1994 to late 1996 rap video. It never fails to amuse me what difference a decade made — from the whitest ad of all time in 1984 to a former member of Brand Nubian as the frontman for a 1996 campaign (here’s another image from the Wild Cowboys and Hansen ads). After we all moved on, I don’t recall returning to Helly for more and I’ve always wondered whether the mansion and a yacht (rap nerds will clock the connection) brigade were alienated by the company’s courtship of hip-hop. I’m sure I recall it being sold in JD Sports for a minute, but I spotted it on a recent episode of The Deadliest Catch too, and I’m fairly certain that those guys weren’t wearing it because they paid close attention to Flex’s 60 Minutes of Funk.
Too busy to blog, so here’s some pictures of Raekwon instead. I know that’s meant for Tumblr, but I’m too old to be upping 1990s rap imagery on there. Why Rae? Because I see more and more adoption of the 1993-1999 hip-hop aesthetic across lookbooks and products means anachronisms galore plus I think this guy always edged Puba in the style stakes. Even when he’s in that Michael Douglas Basic Instinct knitwear on the beach in linen trousers for Vibe to promote that patchy second album Lex Diamond is still styling it. Motorola phones, Polo, Sertigs and shorts, fly medallions. The rest of the Wu were style masters too, but this guy always stood out. Shit, I’m hyped at the prospect of Corey Feldman as Mouth from The Goonies (no amount of tees worn by I.T. bods and dudes called Dan at design studios who get fully Movembered can kill my love of the film), Crispin Glover and Snake Plissken action figures made in a faux early 1980s Kenner style, but the appearance on Tumblr of this shot from a 1995 Rap Pages shoot (the coolest of all Rae shoots — to quote the man, “…soon to get an article in Rap Page“) that I’ve been hunting for a while has brought back some powerful memories of keeping a mental note of everything this guy wore and then trying to find something similar and wearing it badly. He wore the box before most other rappers too when he posed with his bodyguard for Kenneth Cappello in 2005 and since he rocked up at RapFix in head to toe Fila ahead of the release of this year’s Fly International Luxurious Art album (which promises to be a celebration of the gear he’s worn throughout the years), this guy still seems on it, even if the more eccentric outfits of his younger days seem to have been jettisoned for the F, the C and the man on a horse.
Apologies for the lack of good updates on the site right now. We started 2014 so well then tailed off into rush-jobs. I’m currently working on a book project and some other things so I apologise for the dearth of anything substantial here (and an increase in nostalgia on what was already a pretty nostalgia-heavy slice of the internet). I would be too scared to ever submit my day-to-day goods to Hypebeast (apologies to Rav) for the scrutiny of the angriest men on Disqus. But if I put up the selection from a late 1999 issue of Vibe, they’d all fall back. Nobody should leave home without a Sega Dreamcast, Helmut Lang sunglasses, some adidas fragrance from Target, a T18z Ericsson phone and accompanying Ericsson Mobile Companion Flightposites, Sony Minidisc and some Joel Schumacher Batman & Robin looking Prada boots, all carried in a big Samsonite case. Beats a MacBook with a box sticker, token Submariner and Goro feathers, but that entry-level Vuitton bill holder was obligatory 15 years ago too.
The amount of boot talk on here is pretty monotonous, to the point where I considered creating a spinoff site called Shitkickers, that was solely dedicated to them. But I never got round to it. The reason for their ubiquity here as a topic is that there’s too many great brands out there with amazing ads to ignore when we’re talking about matters of design and construction. My respect for the Italian boot industry is substantial (as the preoccupation with La Sportiva and Vasque demonstrates) and Montebelluna is the town that matters when it comes to that artform (it’s also where Nike gets certain football boots made too) to the point where it houses the Museo dello Scarpone aka. the Museum of the Boot which looks very interesting indeed. Aku is one of those brands with plenty of performance cred up to the present day, but one that actively sought an urban consumer when it launched Stateside circa 1997. It’s an interesting case study in delivering two very different messages for their Timberland-clad trend consumer and the climbing and hiking communities — presumably via a U.S. licence holder.
The blacked out ads in urban outlets like ‘Vibe’ and ‘The Source’ highlighted cost and style, while brushing on the performance side and mentioning the all-important GORE-TEX while the ads for hiking press are dense with facts and figures. Launched around 1990 by boot boffin with innovative inclinations Galliano Bordin as the successor to his workshop’s Dinsport trekking and ski boot brand that ran from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, Aku is a classic Montebelluna brand. I never saw much more advertising this extensive after these March 1997 campaigns (maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough), but while it’s not the stuff of rap lyric references, I know a few New Yorkers who still get misty-eyed for the $220+ priced pieces of the line from 15 years ago that date back to a time when they were losing it over Italian off-roaders.
Related to the above through its nationality, the appearance on the Rizzoli site of the ‘Thirty Years of Research in Style: WP Lavori in Corso’ book, with a publication date of April 16th is a reason to be happy this year. If the Massimo Osti and Stone Island tomes didn’t deliver enough documentation of Italian impact on the way we dress, here’s some more for you. As you can see above, I can look at old ads old day, and from the preview on the WP Lavori site, it looks pretty heavy on the ad archive front. With WP Lavori and its creative director Andrea Canè being a cover star on ‘Inventory’s sixth issue, that relationship seems to have expanded, meaning the book is an ‘Inventory’ co-production. I like Philip Watts and Leanne Cloudsdale’s writing, and the ‘Inventory’ aesthetic means a certain clarity and quality control that I respect. WP Lavori have been putting it down for a shedloads of classic brands since 1982, acquiring, licensing and crucially, treating the companies in question with a certain respect that guarantees longevity, long before there were blogs or carefully rehearsed artful layering for Pitti Uomo tradeshow camera coverage on said blogs. This book is likely to be good.
Can we tenuously link this to the above via Tom Penny’s Columbia boots? No? Okay then. Ged Wells’ Insane brand has been mentioned here before but the history page on the relaunched brand’s website is worth reading to learn how the brand grew, from Andy Holmes giving Wells’ work a name, Hiroshi Fujiwara introducing it to Japan, Jesus Jones’ role in boosting the brand’s popularity, Sophia Prantera’s work that evolved it significantly and ’30 Days of Night’, ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ director David Slade being the director of the Insane skate video back in the day. Basically, it’s all the stuff I managed to not mention when I blogged about Insane a few years back, but it reinforces the significance of Ged’s creations and reminds me of the days when Curtis McCann was that dude.
Because everybody seems to care about Air Jordans nowadays, including the post VII versions that the people of Britain used to let gather dust in the select stores that carried them and because I’m being exceptionally lazy right now, it’s a good time to dump some lesser-discussed Jordan ephemera up here. I maintain that in terms of sub-cultural shoe spotting, from Heavy D to ‘School Daze’, ‘Warlock’ and beyond, the Air Jordan II is deeply underrated and easily one of the greatest Jordans ever. To this day, I’ve seen every other Jordan crop up, but only handled an original pair of IIs once. Every reissue misses the point because the Made in Italy status of the shoe that pitched it perfectly into a world where high-end brands were making their own hustler-friendly sports footwear and swatted them away with one of the definitive designs that bore so much power that it didn’t even bother with a swoosh. For that reason, there’s only one issue of the Jordan II that’s any good and those highs and lows in the two colourways are no longer wearable. Both those colours crop up in Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ video and the recent ‘Bad25’ documentary got a good shot of them in between all the PUMAs and fawning talking heads.
But that’s not my favourite Jordan II moment in popular culture — ‘Sports Illustrated’s final issue of 1987 was a picture special, with a close up shot of Walter Iooss Jr’s overhead shot of Mike. The odd thing is, despite it being the year of the II, Jordan isn’t wearing a pair – he’s wearing a deeply nondescript pair of the low-priced Court Force Low. Not the strangest thing. What is strange is that if you flip the same magazine to the back cover, there’s a man in a Winston cigarette ad, sat on a stoop taking in those tasty carcinogens while wearing a pair of…Nike Air Jordan IIs. It’s as if somebody painstakingly took the time out to switch the footwear in the photos.
With the XIII on the comeback trail this weekend, they should have retroed the September 1997 NikeTown launch party for that shoe (bearing in mind that it was the dawn of the spin-off Jordan Brand too), complete with Dwayne from ‘A Different World’ and BLACKStreet’s Chauncey. I think Jordan Brand could probably get them to attend for a not considerable fee, and I’m sure I’ve spotted Mike in that suit in recent years. Around the same time, Bobbito caught up with Jordan for ‘Vibe’s ‘Sound Check’ and MJ suddenly aged when ‘In the Ghetto’ by Eric B & Rakim (the Jordan of rap) was played, professing to have never heard of the god and claiming to never listen to rap at all. What would Heavy D have said? Still, his, “Is this hard rap?” query is something I occasionally use when an unfamiliar artist is blared in my direction. Strange to think an athlete who’s so namechecked and linked to hip-hop never actually messes with rap. In a curious way, that makes Jordan even more hip-hop, just like Scarface when he revealed he listens to Enya and Pink Floyd instead of rap.
Mr Salehe Bembury is a key mind behind the Cole Haan Lunargrand shoe, which has been widely imitated but not yet bettered in its mix of the weird and the traditional (I maintain the grey with volt was the truest, purest example of that impure blend at its most effective) and he put me onto an image that’s on his blog via Jeff Henderson (it’s a veritable chain of image sources and I’m assuming Jeff is the same Jeff Henderson who was integral to the design of the excellent Lunar Eclipse and Air Max 2009) of a possible prototype of a high heel that seems to use Lunarlon. What happens to Lunarlon and Cole Haan now, post-Nike? I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s a pretty cool addition to a high heel.
Do you know what’s hypocritical? Berating rap nostalgia and then losing my mind over a box set of a well documented hip-hop release from 1994. But considering I change my mind on most subjects at least thrice daily, consider whatever’s on here a screengrab of my psyche at that moment in time rather than any opinion with longevity. CNN just got excited about Nasir Jones’ output, I personally haven’t fucked with much of his work post-‘Illmatic’, bar guest spots, a couple of songs per album (‘You’re Da Man’ on ‘Stillmatic’ samples ‘Sugar Man’ by Rodriguez — the subject of the excellent ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ documentary), ‘The Lost Tapes’, that Mike Tyson bio track, and the newest LP. I attribute my own reverence to the running time — ‘Illmatic’ isn’t long enough to let my frayed attention span wane and that I purchased it alongside that bland Fugees tape when it first dropped, meaning it shone even brighter by comparison.
Get On Down‘s Akinyele set might have been canned (sample clearance hell), but their work on the classics amplifies the joy of gawping at sleevenotes in a digital era. The wooden case, audiophile CD, repressed and remastered double vinyl, hardback book, replica press release, poster and press shots, plus the reproduction of the earlier Nas logo sticker are all geek manna, but they’re as far removed from that launch priced Sony cassette with the distorted bass as it gets. There’s a handful of hip-hop albums that deserve the Springsteen-esque bombast, but when I can psychologically separate myself from the kind of rap fan-damentalists who leave “cool story bro” baiting essays beneath blog entries, this album remains largely (‘One Time 4 Your Mind’ still sounds inessential) unfuckwithable. Thank you Get On Down and Mr. Frank the Butcher for the hookup on this.
I’m hearing good things about the ‘Maniac’ remake and despite my love of Jay Chattaway’s score for the original, the mysterious Rob’s soundtrack for the redux is pretty effective. Before that film’s sweaty sadism wrecks your day, how about ruining your Sunday by watching the legendary Austrian serial killer flick, ‘Angst’ from 1983, with the innovative camera work (mentioned here before) that influenced Gasper Noé in a major way. Somebody’s kindly upped Gerald Kargl’s hard-to-find masterpiece onto YouTube. If you can tolerate things like this, you’ll love it and if it upsets you, it’s fucking meant to — it’s a kinetic but hyper real exploration of a serial killer’s antics in bleak surroundings. It kind of goes with the territory.
It’s tradeshow season and I’m anticipating a mass of prints on racks. Previews of Engineered Garments spring/summer offerings hinted at them executing that aesthetic better than most and the Nepenthes Osaka’s site’s images of the Anchor Baker Jacket, Paisley Ghurka Shorts and that insane oversized blow up of the more restrained floral print on another Lafayette Shirt from this season are all way more interesting than much of what I’ve seen elsewhere. These and the Hawaiian Print Microfiber Ground Jacket are all fun Ridicule is nothing to be scared of, but I bet I get too shook to get properly floral. Those that can will make that giant pattern look incredible while the rest of us resort to our drab wardrobe staples. More Engineered eccentricity. Just think of paisley as a form of camo — albeit, late 1980 indie club camo.
What happened to the ‘Blue Gold’ denim documentary that did the blog rounds back in 2009? While we wait, ‘Warp and Weft: a Snapshot of Raw Denim in the United States’ is finished and out there with a Kickstarter cash boost (thank you Selectism for the heads-up). 70 minutes of denim fanatics talking proved pretty absorbing — Superfuture culture is prominent throughout, and the appearance by their denim Jedi, RingRing, with his face blurred, the interviews at Selfedge, the DIY jean making footage (via Roy Slaper) and the visit to the Levi’s archive (I once worked on a LVC project and had to get in touch with the archive who didn’t think some late 1980s Levi’s selvedge designs existed) are all highlights. The infamous Levi’s legal blitz of 2007 which changed the repro market is mentioned, as is the occasionally overlooked but pioneering Warehouse brand. The RED camerawork’s nice, but the sound doesn’t match that clarity, but it’s a minor gripe. If you missed the launch, you can still support it over here. This is the subject’s surface scratched — a sequel set in Japan is needed. A UK edition with footage of Robert Elms’ near lynching for goading Northerners over jeans after the December 1984 end of Levi’s selvedge production as the opener would be amazing.
I would love to thank the person who sent me this scan of a page from what I believe was a 1986 issue of ‘Runner’s World’ with the entire Steve Cram Nike collection (including the legendary Destiny — for kids who were too cool and monied to fuck with the Bongo), but I lost the original email to email or comment and I’ll amend this. This collection flopped at the time, but the uncommercial colours of the time look great in 2013. Bourne Sports in Stoke-On-Trent didn’t need a website — they just slashed prices and an order form. I wish I could use some kind of time traveling Diners or Access card and buy the lot. The Cram Range is very, very underrated. I know we’ve discussed it here before, but this is a clearer look at the scale of the line.
My refusal to use an RSS feed has dropkicked me out the loop. I miss out on everything. It took FACT to tell me about the first of 18 Rinse YouTube interviews to celebrate their 18th birthday, Oneupmanship Journal to tell me that Four Pins had upped a piece about the resurrection of Padmore & Barnes (I believe that the new production will be in Portugal rather than Ireland) and Mr Sofarok to tell me about the relaunched LTD’s two-part PNB Nation retrospective, complete with interviews with all the brand’s founder members. I don’t think PNB Nation gets its dues (in fact, there’s a number of “urban” brands that deserve a retrospective — I know a number of significant figures passed through Phat Farm) and solid information is thin on the ground. Knowing that the PNB crew ended up in significant industry roles, both founding brands and guiding existing entities, I got the feeling that there was no time for retrospect, because the wheels were still in motion for their careers. The contemporary PNB Nation with the Nick Cannon affiliations was an abomination compared to a pioneering east coast entity that linked skating, hip-hop and graffiti before Supreme got there (though James Jebbia and Union played a significant role in PNB’s elevation). Now emails and @ Tweets about t-shirt brands are the new please-listen-to-my-demo as the cotton ceasefire that had us in plain white and grey seems to be over, young ‘uns need to learn about the selling-from-a-carrier-bag approach of years gone by before they starting visualising dollar and pound signs. West works for Supreme, handling special projects (the special ops of skatewear) and I damn near Stanned out on speaking to him recently because of the PNB legacy. I still don’t know what happened with the Perry Ellis deal between 1998 and 2000, but PNB stays important. For those who’ve seen this blog before and remember me thinking Ed Lover was wearing a Supreme sweatshirt on the final ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ in 1995, former PNB man Sung corrected me on Instagram — it was PNB. Fuck punctuation and paragraphs. Go and read the feature here. Salutes to Hawaii Mike for putting it together.
It’s a rare moment of actually socialising on a Sunday today, so I’ll keep it brief and just throw whatever’s on the hard drive at it. This weekend I’ve been pondering the way Ron Perlman really is a composite of Ferrell and Waits (someone on Instagram also pointed out that he’s got a touch of ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ about him too). Perlman is one of my favourite screen presences. even though I always assumed he’d be some kind of lanky dandy out of makeup after his run on ‘Beauty and the Beast’ — I never realized he was the simian-faced monk in ‘The Name of the Rose’ too. While Ron was involved in the only ‘Police Academy’ film I can’t actually sit through (despite ”Mission to Moscow’s scant 83 minute running time), him being in that recent ultraviolent ‘Punisher’ short and spending 4 hours in makeup to visit sick children as ‘Hellboy’ makes him a class act. Looking at the makeup guy’s t-shirt in that link, I was unaware of just how many pieces of Miskatonic University merchandise there are. Ain’t no nerdery like horror and fantasy nerdery…
…well, there is shoe nerdery too. At the moment I’m working on something that necessitates some ad research and I think few but the nerdiest pay attention to 1999 in favor of far earlier campaigns. At the moment we seem to be seeing a reaction to the emphasis on heritage and retros that will see us deluged with faux-tech, but the last time I can remember seeing such dedication to progression was pre-millennium, when it seemed unseemly to look back on the verge of such a spaceage sounding landmark. And here I am getting nostalgic for 13 years ago. Not only is the HR Giger-esque and brief “superclub” staple Air Tuned Max one of the last great shoes of the 20th century (I think the Jordan retro and escalating Dunk fixation, plus rap metallers in Superstars was the death knell for this kind of oddball performance product — bar a handful of highlights for the best part of a decade like the Woven, Free and Presto), but it had an ad campaign that reference sex with dolls. In fact the whole collection of ads was interesting, covering KD’s latest (with a plunger) and making light of the meat industry too when it came to the Flightposite. Check the shoe selection for spring that year in an old ‘Vibe.’ And not a reissue in sight.
I can’t actually wear caps because they make me look like a car thief, because I’m old and because my head is vast. That wasn’t always the case though — I used to have a Dodgers and White Sox hat (Ice Cube and MC Eiht inspired me) that I wore every day, until I saw a photo of myself with the cheap Starter hats perched high on my head, adding an extra four inches to an already sizeable noggin. That was that. But I’ll always respect the baseball cap. Some say it’s not British to wear one, but that’s usually strung-out rock stars and fashion advice gurus who dress like Paul Burrell. Their opinion doesn’t matter. They could counter my argument by pointing out that Jonathan King rocked a cap heavily on ‘Entertainment USA’ back in the day, and I’ll give them that one, but there’s a place for the hat in my heart, hanging in the affordable section of the sports shop, assisted by my mum’s 30% discount.
Before the reign of the fitted (my first fitted was actually an uncomfortable 1993 Hurricanes design in that glorious green and orange that lacked at least an inch in circumference), I was obsessed by Del’s peak in the ‘Catch a Bad One’ video from 1994. Just destructively folding the peak by that point was considered bad form, so I submerged the wool-mix test subject in the sink before fastening the peak around a length of plastic guttering using rubber bands and leaving it to dry. The effect was a temporary curve of at least 330 degrees, resulting in a long-term 180 degree effect. As you might have guessed, I was an odd teenager.
My oversized dome also led to shame on a purchase of a Stussy New Era a few years later, where shop workers frantically searched in the stockroom for a stray freak size fitted. It was like the time I witnessed a morbidly obese lady fail the turnstiles at Anfield and have to be let in a special door complete with dungeon master style keys. That deaded my personal relationship with caps entirely, bar my love for the Hundreds Starter tribute in 2006 that felt downright quaint in a world of 59Fiftys with spirit level straight peaks, complete with holograms and foil stickers. Who would have thought that the “snapback” (we just used to call them caps) would reign again alongside the 5-panel hat (another style I can’t wear)? Who decided that a fringe visible under the front of the hat was a good idea? Streetwear Dave steez in full effect.
Now I’m seeing more and more fitteds like the Our Legacy Ebbetts Field design, with plenty more Ebbetts creations from the hordes of imitators, but if it keeps a fine brand like Ebbetts busy, I’m cool with that. Is that a reaction to the snapback fever? I’m just glad that I never wore the Negro league Jackie Robinson cap I picked up all those years ago. I imagine it could have earned my pallid face some bruises, but I noticed that Starter are dabbling in those league designs again for later this year. I wonder if Chris Brown and Tyga will ever release a ‘Flexfit Back’ freestyle?
Back in 1990, ‘Spin’ magazine let Spike Lee, fresh from ‘Mo’ Better Blues,’ guest edit the magazine. Alongside excellent pieces on Public Enemy and Bad Brains, it also included ‘SPIKE LEE’S ALL-STAR B-BOY CAPS’ — two pages of Spike offering one-line reviews of his favourite caps, culminating in him decrying a man in a Celtics hat as an “Uncle Tom.” The images were shot by one Ari Marcopoulos and it’s an amazing feature. The Public Enemy piece has a nice picture of Chuck reclining in the white/cement Jordan IVs. He wears them well, though not as well as Hank Shocklee wore ’em in Glen E. Friedman’s images of the group.
While we’re talking big-name photographers in their jobbing days, before he was getting his boner out at any opportunity, Terry Richardson was shooting Bone Thugs-n-Harmony in Memphis to accompany a short Sacha Jenkins profile of the group (around the show that instigated the Three-6 beef?) before their cover story by Jenkins a year later. I’m in nostalgia mode, and the post signature wave of Karl Kani gear with the plate (I never saw the plaid shirt that Eazy-E wore in the ‘Real Muthaphuckkin G’s’ video on sale) to elude bootleggers had me fiending in 1993/94 like the Ape Shall Never Kill Ape letters and Supreme box would have me hunting a few years later. Biggie, Keith Murray and Aaliyah made it look necessary — I got the hoody, but despite the plate being a fake deterrent, I ended up with fake denims. And just like that, they were uncool. Bone Thugs wore the plate hoody heavy in the Richardson photos and twinned with the vast cellular phone in a liquor store, it was particularly effective. FUBU, Mecca and the rest meant that Karl caught a bad one.
Farewell to Mr. Geoff Hollister, Nike employee #3 and a man who brokered an SMU for Elton John, created the Windrunner jacket, designed the Aqua Sock and created a promotional strategy for a struggling Blue Ribbon Sports. I never got the opportunity to meet the man during his visit to the UK to promote his book, ‘Out of Nowhere,’ but I heard nothing but positive things. Rest in peace Geoff.
It’s good to see that the Big Star documentary ”Nothing Can Hurt Me: the Big Star Story’ that got Kickstarter funding seems to be coming along nicely. This trailer’s promising. Teenage Fanclub taught me about this group, and with only one living founder member, it could get emotional. Some legends fall through the gaps, but the influence stays substantial.
I had to post this 1995 ‘Vibe’ spread of the Wu again, just because Frankmatic reminded me of just how incredible this smokey Norman Watson portrait of the group is. ODB’s Phat Farm rugby and Rae’s Polo Sport and oversized mobile phone stay amazing, or as RZA would put it, wemarkable. I was also a fan of an earlier shoot of all nine members from early 1994 (which spent a few months on my wall in colour form when I was younger courtesy of HHC), with Champion ‘C’s, Meth’s phenomenal plaid shirt, the mysterious ‘Q’ and ‘Down Low’ brands and U-God rocking the New Balance 577 very nicely indeed. Full crew shots were a rarity, but they always had me hunting for the gear on show.
But that’s me living in rap’s past. In fact, I was recently reminded of the Starter Bell Biv Devoe collection of hats and jackets that was meant to lead to a Boyz II Men collaboration too (I guess the denim shorts, shirt, tie and cap look was deemed lucrative), which had me hunting again.
I’m a hypocrite. After decrying rap fans stuck in the past on this blog (and seeing as one of my pet hates is blogs writing that “As you may have noticed…” bullshit as if they’ve got a following, I won’t pretend anyone read the original post but it ran as follows: stop living in fucking 1993) I realised that I’m musically frozen in 2003 when I thought the Roc would become the ultimate rap powerhouse, that Cam and Jay were friends and that M.O.P. and Victoria Beckham might not be the worst collaboration ever. I was even optimistic when Damon Dash (remember ‘America’ magazine?) was lording it up in a Chelsea property, before he was evicted in early 2005. Don’t pretend you didn’t think that the Roc-A-Fella roster was remarkable too. Then it all fell apart.
The Diplomats recorded some of their best work around that era too, and Diplomat Records put out classics, whether Def Jam or Koch were involved. 2003’s ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ is the best release from that era. Then there were insane amounts of mix CDs that friends would bring back in stacks from New York visits, full of Heatmakerz productions or amazing Purple City performances. For my money, and taking affiliates into account, Dipset are the greatest rap group of all time. They ticked all the necessary boxes — insane production choices, goonery, attire and fly gibberish. That’s what I look for in my music.
Yeah, you can throw down Native Tongues and the Wu, but if you’re on a lengthy roadtrip, those jazz breaks and Staten’s Hudson on PCP flows are going to grind you down. You will never, ever bore of a healthy dose of the Dips. Especially ‘The Answer’ by Juelz and Cam’ron’s ‘Bigger Picture.’ And considering that you could seemingly hoard a terabyte of Dipset tracks and still be hunting the stadium rock samples that never cleared, you could make it a return roadtrip too without skips. Well, I might skip ‘Magic’ by JR Writer for being a little too dumb, but the rest would play uninterrupted.
But I’m white and white people fucking love Dipset. Miss Info’s recent Q&A with the reformed crew and the subsequent show made me ponder just how much I wish the Diplomats continued their ascent before the 2007 disintegration of the group. The fact that Jimmy brought out ASAP Rocky (who was recently in the studio with AraabMUZIK) as an example of Harlem’s future is both heartening and depressing, leaving me wondering as to whether the new Diplomats album would ultimately emerge sounding dated and half-arsed next to rap’s new breed. That hiatus as a group dynamic could prove sonically harmful, but as a live act, their individual achievements make for the best setlists ever and Miss Info asked some strong questions, including matters of Killa’s claim that, “I get computers ‘putin” from ‘Get ‘Em Girls.’ In his answer he reveals that he’s prone to the crime of retweeting without crediting the source.
Dame gets a bad rap, but no matter how obnoxious the antics, I respect his business approach. The haircut tantrum in ‘Backstage’ directed at Kevin Liles — instigated by a promo jacket but hinting at a bigger problem — should have been turned into a million comedy gifs, but you don’t make a mark by keeping your mouth shut. Still, that footage of Dame losing it in a Def Jam boardroom that was released a couple of years back wasn’t half as entertaining.
Combat Jack’s piece on him two years ago was tremendous, dissecting the psyche of Mr. Dash and I’ve been enjoying a YouTube highlight reel of his finest moments on camera, including the aforementioned shouting match on tour (incidentally, that video of DMX that XXL posted recently is sad, bar the deeply quotable “Little Beet?” query — especially after watching a 1999 Darkman in ‘Backstage’) and some legendary asshole soundbites. But a great Dame interview on HiphopDX last week addressed that moment and showcases some previously unseen humility.
With Steve Stoute, another Dame opponent, doing the promo rounds for this excellent book, ‘The Tanning of America,’ this footage of him talking RBK, hip-hop marketing at corporate level and how it shouldn’t be done plus related topics, ends with some chat on the Dash subject. Mr. Stoute is a businessman worth listening to. Lesson 101 from the Dash affair seems to be the importance of not burning bridges on the road to riches. Whatever your opinion of Damon, he was instrumental in aiding and abetting multiple movements that set the stage for Mr. West to go couture last night in Paris, with Dash getting his hipster on while everyone else was still in voluminous denim.
On a wildly unrelated note, this French flick looks like fun, with ‘Sleepless Night’ continuing the Gallic winning streak when it comes to thrillers. So much so in fact, that it’s already being optioned for a remake. Because unlike France, America has run out of cinematic ideas entirely.