Monthly Archives: June 2010


Fuck a paragraph. Let a letterform do the talking. I’m not a crotchety boom-bap pensioner quite yet (just spent the last quarter of an hour marveling at the infinite ignorant potential of Gunplay’s Wrap Rock Ent. imprint) but in an era where a rapper only has to glance at a Jeff Koons painting or namecheck MGMT to be deemed abstract, hip-hop’s conservatism is still in effect. All the face tattoos and Bart pendants can’t alter that. Lil B might be the exception.

RAMMΣLLZΣΣ was a one-off. Anyone else remember the story about him wearing sneakers over sneakers?

Recent pieces in ‘SNEEZE’ (issue 6) and Dave Tompkins’ ‘How to Wreck a Nice Beach’ are worth your energies.


Remember when David Mills’ (RIP) ‘Kingpin’ promised great things, as the ‘Corner’ and ‘Homicide’ man turned his hand to a mini-series about a  drug cartel? Remember what a crushing let down it was, squashed by non-HBO residence? That’s because the real thing is more remarkable than any fiction. Theme parks, pet hippos, discotheques inside prisons, ostentatiousness redefined and wars declared on countries of residence? Yayo money can, as ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ (directed by Billy Corben who made previous ESPN ’30 for 30′ highlight ‘The U’) attested, make people do crazy things. Cartels had a hand in Columbia’s football leagues and national side, with major money changing hands. A documentary about the Andrés Escobar’s 1994 slaying ran on Channel 4 during their ‘Gangsters’ season a few years back, but there was still more to the story. The History Channel’s ‘Killing Pablo’ had me fascinated all over again. As did the Vice article and VBS feature with those downright creepy images of Pablo’s family get-togethers.

Taken from Viceland’s ‘Memories of Medellin’ feature—Pablo’s ‘Three Musketeers’

But the ESPN 30 for 30 presentation, ‘The Two Escobars’ is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. Depressing, gruesome, and shorn of any Corben docu-sheen, it dispels a few myths yet adds to the tragedy of Andrés’s death. Directed by the brothers Zimbalist, Jeff and Michael, it screened earlier last week, and if you’ve watched the film-makers’ ‘Favela Rising’ you know you’re in for a treat. My fellow documentary-heads, especially those with a penchant for the macabre, will go crazy for it. It’s comprehensive but gripping and necessarily grim without being alienating. Plus there’s some suits to make Chopper City envy, big-haired flamboyant football (that scorpion kick save on an offside ball makes an appearance) and one of the best portrayals of a country shattered by corruption on a scale that’s difficult to convey with cameras alone. Best documentary on 2010? Pretty much, and ’30 for 30’s unleashed plenty of sporting competition. The upcoming Tim Richmond one could prove interesting too.

I detest having to use the term soccer over football, but add a “narco” prefix and I’m a little happier to throw it around.

Reading about Joaquín Guzmán when he made ‘Forbes’ last winter, and with the recent Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke drama, it’s clear there’s a few more stories to be told in documentary format over the next few months. Drug lords make good TV.

The best bit? What seems to be an official ESPN account just upped ‘The Two Escobars’ in its entirety on YouTube. Enjoy. It’ll linger in your mind long after viewing.


This entry is part of an inadvertent trilogy. Sports footwear rarely crops up too heavily here (there’s other outlets for that), but having bemoaned the lack of release for Wieden+Kennedy’s ‘Sneakerhead’ documentary and the demise of San Francisco’s Harputs, how about a moment for a more innocent age of advertising, as America and Canada’s local papers hawked some shoes deemed classic nowadays in a variety of ways? Seeing as the inbox is trembling under the weight of any number of hastily cobbled together and cynically synthesised “virals,” there’s always time to look at some ’70s and ’80s artworking.

There’s a glorious lack of reverence for the subject matter. No self-referential nonsense, and no knowing smirks, with retailers given an evident freedom to sell these as pure performance pieces, rather than retrospective objects-of-obsession. Nike Pegasus “BLEMS”? Bermudas hawked alongside microwaves? Hunting safety classes booked while copping adidas Conductors? The cruder the artwork, the more appealing it becomes. I’m fully sold on the Nike “Air-Port.” Wieden+Kennedy were top of their game at this point, but there’s a charm to each of these matter-of-fact creations that’s enough to revive my occasionally lagging love for the subject matter. Sadly I’ve mislaid the 1985 one where a store can barely give away those pesky “Nike Jordan Canvas” -even for the grand total of $20.

It’s a barometer as to how far things have come when this pure approach to hawking product is infinitely more appealing than the round edges and winks of contemporary marketing. The shelves are heaving with books on the topic of training shoes…sneakers…whatever you want to call them, but even if your love is dead, dying or barely there in the first place, seek 2005’s ‘Blue Ribbons’ book made in conjunction with Nike Japan, and authored by Mr. Takatoshi Akutagawa. Fully translated, it’s beautifully written, has a mine of information I’ve never seen anywhere else, and is flawlessly designed.

Looking at the price hike on old ‘Free & Easy’ back issues, it might have skyrocketed in price, but if you see it sub-£30, invest or regret. The jump-off for Nike’s VNTG line, and just preceding the BRS Air Max release, it’s a perfect guide to the golden age of Nike running. This video from The Shoe Game is devoid of the usual stuttering bluster from no-nothings or the usual band of single branders – Khalli’s got knowledge and some interesting pieces. Less sure about LA Gear, but the Lendls? Boom. The circulated video of the Parisian apartment with the Nike Elton Johns in the mix still takes the crown. I’m not a collector, just an appreciator, and in the case of these ads, there’s a certain joy in seeing sacred cows being treated like cattle feed.

As a major tangent, but a necessary one, seeing as I’ve been getting steadily more and more excited about the release of this Australian crime thriller. For ‘Animal Kingdom’, the great trailer is nicely complemented by this superior poster art. Bring it on.


Well, the Jerk Store called, and they’re running out of you.” George Costanza, ‘The Comeback’

For all the sharp attire, Bret Easton Ellis exudes the aura of don’t-give-a-fuck. Thought ‘Lunar Park’ was lacking? Bet you wouldn’t have the balls to confront him on it at an upcoming reading for fear of public putdown. Garrett McDonough’s account of an embarrassing meeting was published in ‘The Believer’ last July, and is worth your time. The joke was on us, as he rohypnoled the reader just as they were enjoying a fictional autobiographic device, and parodied Stephen King’s narrative approach with the usual self-referential splattergun targeted. What then, can we expect from ‘Imperial Bedrooms’, the sequel to ‘Less Than Zero’?

We know this is a sequel because he’s using the Elvis Costello titles again. Seeking more of the clinically detached horror only Ellis can depict (and I’m reliably informed that ‘Imperial Bedrooms’ cooly delivers in that regard), and anticipating the author’s character cameos, there’s one irritation. We Brits aren’t getting the book until early July, whereas the Americans could pick it up last monday. Leaving me wide open for spoilers like one of Ellis’s shackled victims, I’ve waited 20 years to read a follow-up (I can’t pretend I’ve been in anticipation since the original 1985 release).That’s not to say the characters haven’t been busy—Ellis screwed Blair in ‘Lunar Park’, Julian cropped up in ‘The Informers’ and Clay narrated in ‘Rules of Attraction’. These were fleeting appearances. I need more than that.

I need to read ‘Imperial Bedrooms’ now. How hard is it to release a book in the UK and US simultaneously? If it was about a boy wizard, the launch would be global. Self-destructive youths now “grown up”? No ones giving out goody bags with the first purchases. Presumably the delay leading up to July 1st is for Bret to visit Europe and answer the same questions regarding violence, reality TV, gaps between books, his current residence and filmic adaptations. I need my blank-faced introspection-defying fix. For the casual literary shock tactics, Ellis critics circa. 1985 might want to look at 2010’s preoccupation with dead eyed reality shows to provoke the have-nots into aspiration, powder-nosed “celebs” spreading their legs exiting expensive vehicles, and a solemn obsession with labels and soulless, heavily marketed, electronic objects of desire.

According to IMDB, the rights have been grabbed, and the film adaptation is set for 2012. Bret was right to be less than happy with 1987’s ‘Less Than Zero’. The film is garbage. Shock value was shorn in favour of a TV movie atmosphere complete with sledgehammer drug moralising. Leave anything to bubble for more than a decade and the ‘cult’ tag is applied by default, but it bears such little resemblance to the novel that it’s astonishing. Sure, there’s Ray Bans and yayo, but that’s it. Downey Jr. broods by swimming pools, Andrew McCarthy would be better off with Bernie for a weekend, Jami Gertz is beautiful but dull…atrocious. 1 of 2 great things in the movie is James Spader’s reptilian turn as Rip.

Spader spent much of the ’80s as some kind of nemesis for Andrew McCarthy. Brat pack typecasting at its best had him down as the jerk’s jerk. As rich Steff McKee in ‘Pretty in Pink’ he tried to drive a wedge between Andrew and Molly. As rich Mr. Richards in supernatural sex doll comedy ‘Mannequin’ he tried to stop Andrew boning a dummy. As rich Rip in ‘Less Than Zero’ he even exercises some fleck-shirted kung fu styles against Andrew in trying to undermine his attempts at drug intervention. The long coats, orange v-necks, slicked hair and floating phones give Rip a certain cool too. That’s not to say he’s anything like Bret’s Rip. As snide a character as he is, Spader’s Rip is barely as monstrous as the one depicted on paper. It wasn’t until 1990 that I saw Spader as an almost-good guy, when he played a put-upon…surprise, surprise…yuppie, dragged to the dark side in the underrated ‘Bad Influence’. He was no angel there either.

At least jerk-nemesis George Costanza took revenge on the Spader’s character in the Seinfeld episode ‘The Apology’ where we find out his misbehaviour was down to an alcohol problem that relapses courtesy of Costanza.

The film’s other strong point is the Rick Rubin coordinated soundtrack. Slayer covering Iron Butterfly? Poison doing Kiss? Strangely, other than two classics from LL Cool J and Public Enemy (later included on 2 essential albums), The Bangles’ cover version of ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ is a highlight. While the book dwells on The Go-Go’s, another beautiful girl group with faint alt-rock tendencies (Susannah Hoff was one of the most stunning women in music) is a fair replacement, and the aggressive undertones to their cover suit the source material. The same cover version was also used to winning effect in Powell’s 1994 ‘Suburban Diners’ video. An emotional Roy Orbison contribution (released a year before his death) sounds like a dry run for Rubin’s Johnny Cash collaborations. Strange that something so emotive could be written by no less than Glenn Danzig. And not a ghoul, murderer or sexual assault in sight.


When it comes to the UK hip-hop look and sound, someone’s changed their tune in a major way. I wrote the following in 2008-

“It’s one thing being harassed by charity muggers on the hunt for your sort code on a busy shopping street or having a long distance phonecard thrust upon you at every turn, but the enterprising characters trying to get their Percee on and shift a CD-R because you look like a likely hip-hop consumer (at the age of 30, a massive insult) are the new menace. It’s not even a mixtape. It’s just some UK bloke in beat shoes with hotrock burnt tracky bottoms on with tired bars, recycling Heatmakerz instrumentals. The British rap scene absorbed itself, slowly dissolving, eroded by its own weak attitude while grime kids grafted, battled and shamelessly self-promoted.

Feeling liberated by the joy of feeling absolutely nothing when someone dressed like Barry George demands that we support “the homegrown” — stripped of eccentricity, humour, originality and a deeply dull preoccupation that rhyming off the noggin is the be all and end all (see also, Skillz and Supernatural) it simply devolved. The sense of obligation, that “putting in work” meant pressing up complete shit, sulking, sitting in a bedsit, sick with the bitterness of decades spent practising tags, backspinning and writing rhymes with deliberate references to Pat Butcher and Blair to assert UK status is over. As far as rap goes, keep on outsourcing.

To the angry local lyricists—speed up those rhymes, study Hijack, mention more sorcery and exorcism and fuck off to Germany. Your Britcore sound might earn you a Euro and floor to sleep on. Meanwhile, across the pond, those effortless Parisians can merge rap and graf with no trace of corniness. Extra points for the double time flows and nice jackets.”

Call me shallow, but beyond some tinny sonics and a small-minded worldview that hindered the sound of hip-hop, the look alienated me too. Raised as I was on rappers posing outside the Gee Street offices in head-to-toe Troop and Reebok (back when Reebok was aspirational), or Hip Hop Connection shots of UK crews in Chipie, Air Max Lights, Africa pendants and pinrolls, things just seemed to get squalid. Local rap just became an embarrassment, split into two factions – the night where grime was slightly slowed to a half-arsed mulch of screwfaces and attitude, and the dogs-on-strings, balding with a beer belly beneath a faded Stones Throw fun-free student-friendly headnod, no hint of populism evenings. I never felt either scenes. To truly conquer, I wanted to hear kids on the street listening to UK rap, and for cohesive long-players that weren’t just bought out of sympathy for the scene’s bedraggled patrons. When I saw the atrocious artwork for Blade’s ‘Guerilla Tactics’ I just walked away. I didn’t look back.

Years prior, London MCs looked aspirational. They might have been skint, but they didn’t have the spliff-yellowed forefingers or stretch-necked tees. Unless you’re really good, I don’t want to see a rapping tramp. Album covers were lurid but not lurid good. I don’t hold US rap up as a hotbed of superior design, but there’s weak, and there’s a friend from the call-centre day job’s desktop publishing software. Bar the fine work of Big Dada, and superior mixtape artworkers with international clients like Deftone, great UK rap covers were a ’90s thing. ‘Horns of Jericho’s over-literal underground with punk rock cut and paste, ‘Gangster Chronicle’s newspaper and (the overlooked) ‘Elementalz’s Dave McKean art. An extra mention for Bite It! records’ Little Pauly Ryan sleeve.

It could’ve been amazing. MC Duke’s semi-famous stately home ‘Organised Rhyme’ photoshoot, draped in tweed and gold was some Andre 3000 antics long before ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’…even on that debut ‘Dre was a Jordan man. Of course, the Krown Rulers ‘Paper Chase’ album sleeve in chainmail with a castle behind them  was marginally more gentrified, but to a young ‘un, a presumably underpaid (from rap anyway) Duke seemed as flossy as Big Daddy Kane. He also turned up a few years later in a full Burberry suit. A few decades later? Shabbiness reigned supreme. Then UK rap went pop with the appalling N-Dubz, Tinchy and Pro Green, Plan B got wacker. In 2010, the F64 era brought the faith back. All blacked-out in their attire, at least Strapzy, Giggs, Skanx bring a certain swagger where desperation once ruled the scene. I even like SAS’s work more, shorn of that Dipset affiliation. My expectations for the Trident-baiting Giggs’ new album (and XL debut) ‘Let Em Ave It’ are high, but I’m undecided on that artwork. A garish blend of 2000AD, naivety, and akin to a cautionary government-funded pamphlet handed out in an upper school, at least he tried. Any unexpectedly odd touch like that warrants a celebration. Long may this momentum continue.

However, my Gallic preoccupation still remains. Despo Rutti is that dude. This is hard too –


Another contributor to this collateral trading-up is the maturation of the contemporary male’s taste level. The style-conscious male man has graduated from the high-fashion suit’s two-year cycle of disposability toward something with a longer life expectancy, and thus, value.” Alan Flusser, ‘Dressing The Man’, 2002

I’m a solid ni**a. A hundred percent. A tall-ass gangsta. That what I am. A tall-ass gangsta. Look at me ni**a. A real boss ni**a…I’m great. I’m extravagant.” Chopper City, 2009

When former Diddy reality TV underling Chopper City decided to make a video calling out his rap opponents and establish his boss credentials last March, it’s safe to assume that he didn’t see the implications of his oversized suit on the horizon. can be unmerciful at the best of times. A hotbed of goonery, footage of Rawse’s boy Gunplay acting the tit and webcam addresses, it’s deeply addictive stuff, but the e-roasting that Chopper received acts as a cautionary tale when an attempt at smart dressing gets stupid. David Byrne in ‘Stop Making Sense’? The boy at the end of ‘Big’? Way too obvious.

Over 3 months, the Worldstar comedians came out in force, offering some of the most esoteric yet fitting (as opposed to the vast shoulders of the sartorial subject matter) reference point. They came to a close in June 2009 – not helped by crackers unleashing some misfires. The funniest thing ever on the internet? After a compilation of talking animal clips, yes indeed. There’s few more joyous sights than a veritable festival of mockery, and with 6,324 replies, it brought the geniuses out to play. This was a bonafide mini-meme, and the YouTube parodies were plentiful. It actually made Chopper more memorable than he ever was before, yet one senses that this wasn’t some genius marketing scheme. All it took was the first comment from a guest poster, “If choppa don’t get his missy elliot “i can’t stand the rain ” wearin suit a** outta here…(sic)” to unleash a tide of superior badly tailored reference points…

“Old Carl Thomas I’ll never be the same again suit”
“Old Joe Clark Lean On Me suit”
“Old Tommy Davidson “Strictly Business” suit”
“He sounds mad stupid, grow up you stupid azz!Why is he dressed like Morris Day on Easter Sunday?”
“Ole “5 Heartbeats Eddy Cane” suit lookin boy!!!”
“Ole Blame it on the rain suit lookin boy”
“Ol’ Deion Sanders “Must Be The Money” video shoot suit wearing looking boy”
“Old Rodney King ” Cant we all just get along” press conference suit”
“Ol Tommy Wright III “Feel Me Before They Kill me” floating above the casket suit wearin azz n*gga”

Most memes are about as funny as an anal fissure in a matter of days. The Chopper City affair? Still hilarious. Wandering through the streets of Bed-Stuy last week, a few $99 suits in the same vein were spotted. In a 12:59, barely-watchable tirade, the cackling hangers-on, squalid home setting and that vast polyester silhouette is comedy perfection. For years, post-Master P, the vast grey or beige suit has come out to play frequently without comment. Something had to give. Flicking through Alan Flusser’s ‘Dressing The Man’, Chopper breaks every rule that Alan reinforces. There’s something oddly admirable about that. Anyone else remember Flusser popping shots at Thom Browne in a similar, albeit faintly more fitted, manner for a spot of fashion beef back in 2006?

To commemorate a year of Chopper’s suit, here’s some big shoulder bangers and their associated roast remark…

“You ol’ “ralph tresvant can you stand the rain suit ass muthaf***a”

“1996 Chauncey from Black Street “Dont Leave Me” suit.”

“Ol Slick Rick riding the bus in the “Teenage Love” video suit”

“Old Positive K ” I got a man” club suit”

“Old 1988 Johnny Kemp “Just Got Paid” suit”


Apologies for the lack of blog updates. NYC is taking up too much of my time. Seeing as the industry blogsphere is 80% mechanically  reconstituted lookbooks, I could get in on that action, but I can’t bring myself to do it. So I’d rather wait until I’m not on a burger hunt. Burgers are more important than blogging. Blame the Lightning Magazine burger edition. Corner Bistro, Five Guys and Shake Shack take the crown at the moment. I’m willing to find even better eats, so all suggestions are welcome.

In the meantime, watch this documentary about Fang’s Sammytown post-prison. It’s the first time I heard him spoken about so lovingly. “He’s fucking cool man. He’s right as rain. But shit happens. Yeah, he’s a murderer. Yes he is…”