Monthly Archives: April 2012


Has it really been 20 years since Koon, Powell, Wind, Briseño and Solano were acquitted, LA burned, Perry Farrell masturbated multiple times and then everybody declared war on rap and announced that everything with an f-word was “gangsta”? It led to ‘Get the Fist’ — not a pro-fisting anthem, but a charity record that’s better than Live Aid II and III’s reminder that 1989 and 2004 were dark musical times, but not as good as Springsteen and Run-DMC condemning Sun City. I remember footage of Positive K, Biz and MC Serch’s albums being sent beneath the steamroller during the storm over that crappy ‘Cop Killer’ song too.

Still, it was nice to feel like you weren’t meant to be listening to the music — authorities, parents and even the artists goading me and calling me a cracker made the experience fun. Now it wants to be your friend — it retweets you and collaborates with Katy Perry, then saunters off and reworks an Aston Martin. Hip-hop practically strokes your balls and asks how your day at work was. Things done changed. I still can’t resist the lure of the rap autobiography – DMX, Ice-T, 50 Cent, Jay-Z (a decent read beyond the lyrical deconstructions), Common and J-Zone’s efforts were decent in their own ways, but Prodigy set the standard with ‘My Infamous Life’ by talking smack as if he was never going to be released and not letting too much truth get in the way of a good yarn. That seems to have instigated some impending tomes — Lil’ Kim’s ‘The Price of Loyalty’ drops in June, ‘Bizzy By Choice, Bone By Blood’ by Bizzy Bone, ‘The Dynasty: Sex, Drugs, Murder and Hip Hop’ by Ray Benzino arrive in July, Boots Riley has one set for December and Q-Tip’s ‘Industry Rules: the World According to Q-Tip, From Linden Blvd. to El Sugundo and Beyond’ is a long way off (25th March 2014 according to Amazon). Somewhere among all those releases, RA the Rugged Man’s book might appear too.

Given his notorious inability to hold his tongue, Benzino’s book appeals to me – I want more information on the whole ‘The Source’ deal, the early Boston rap days, label issues as a result of the aforementioned ‘Cop Killer’ fallout, the CGI magic carpets and that strange documentary that was on WSHH recently, which featured an inexplicable Jay Electronica appearance banging on about Satan and the illuminati, years before he took to blasting the shit out of pheasants with Zac Goldsmith of an evening. I imagine it will probably indicate that Made Men made classic albums too, but I’m willing to overlook all that. Every rapper used to have a book, film and beverage in the offing, but many failed to materialise. I never believed ‘Zino’s book would appear, but now there’s even a cover shot as proof of life. On a biographical note, HarperCollins are reported to have obtained UK rights to Mike Tyson’s memoir and it’s apparently set for an October 2013 release — very good news indeed. Getting overeager about these things can prove humiliating though – a lot of us have been waiting for ‘Bowie: Object’ (which sounds like an even fancier version of ‘My Rugged 211’ or that Hiroshi Fujiwara ‘Personal Effects’ book, but this time, it’s a tome showcasing some of Bowie’s favourite archive artefacts), but Bowie Myths showcased a “leak” that looked questionable. It was evidently written by somebody that understands Bowie, yet predictably, it turned out to be fake and even the man himself took to Facebook (“Blinkin’ garden gnomes! Really”) to dismiss it. Between that and a hastily doctored pair of Jordan Is with the Nike SB logo on the tongue (as I understand it, that Jordan I SB for the Bones Brigade film isn’t happening), fast news travel and a hunger for information are optimum conditions for pranks.

Every meeting I’ve gone to lately seems to have talk of “a print project” thrown around in the same way they were banging on about an “online magazine” a year or so ago. Unless you’ve got an oligarch backer the high gloss approach will crash and burn and just trying to be ‘Monocle’s fashion section distilled down like weak Ribena – a sickly pink when it should be a purple, isn’t enough. I can’t say I’ve been awed by a magazine lately (though there’s been some strong content) on visuals alone in the same way that ‘Relax’ used to blow my mind frequently. Sure, it got to a point where on grabbing it from Magma, it was all plants, pastels and Mike Mills again and again (the visual angle was important, because I couldn’t understand a bloody word of that Japanese text) and then it was cancelled in 2006, but before that, it was a perfect, progressive example of magazine design — inserts, posters, stickers and those covers…inspirational in a way that ‘The Face’ once was and very little has been since…at least nothing that would leave you with change from a tenner. The adidas and Dogtown issues were tremendous and there’s still room in my life for something just as powerful. The Being Hunted crew always seemed to worship this magazine too (I’m looking forward to seeing Being Hunted 7.0), because Jorg and co know their stuff. Salutes to the LMCA archive for maintaining the covers and the YouWorkForThem squad for keeping their magazine and book visuals stored, even after they stopped selling them. Why isn’t there a ‘Relax’ retrospective book? I still believe print can change lives, but `also I believe that it’s a format that only a select few can truly succeed in.

Page images taken from YouWorkForThem

If it’s quirky, it’s cult now. I’ve been trying to work out when cult ceased to be an appealing tag – perhaps it was the post Quentin slew of chatty, smart-Alec mob flicks that jarred each and every time. Maybe it was Rob Zombie and co’s attempts to reproduce a moment in time that was originally simply a victim of no means and a lack of professional crew. Either way, the best stuff from back in the day had an earnestness about it and a sense of strange that wasn’t synthesised. All the talk of ninjas last week had me thinking of David Carradine’s work and I still maintain that 1989’s ‘Sonny Boy’ is underrated. Alongside ‘Santa Sangre’ it offers something uncomfortable but intoxicating in a totally unrestrained approach to bloodletting and Carradine’s commitment to the film, from his cross-dressing performance to the work on the soundtrack is admirable. Cheap and memorable is a fair summary (like 1990’s unnerving ‘Luther the Geek’), but that doesn’t necessarily make it a film for all tastes — come to think of it, many will just find ‘Sonny Boy’ deeply offensive, but I guarantee you’ve not seen much like this one before. Brad Dourif has spent much of his career stumbling into curiosities like this and I’m assuming distribution issues mean it won’t ever get a proper DVD release again.


Apologies for the picture quality here — I just developed an Instagram addiction far later than everybody else, which means gratuitous shots of things I’ve spotted lately to pad out blog posts. Eventually my iPhone will get lost or stolen and I’ll be back to the cataract image resolution of the BlackBerry. Consider this a phase. The image above is something I’d been meaning to up here before — it’s the eccentric window display of a large store that sells cheap tat in Bedford Town centre. I see it every day, but it gets odder and odder – who puts airsoft replica Kalashnikovs, cheap dolls, fake flowers and hookah pipes together? There’s a school of retail that extolls the notion of singling out one thing and doing it well — I prefer the slightly more haphazard bric-a-brac approach.

That male doll appears to be dressed like a gang member too, with that top buttoned mini Pendleton, khakis, beanie and headband. There aren’t too many one-stop spots for houseplant seeds and a convincing looking Glock copy — this is one of them. What also caught my attention was these Kevlar branded lace tips on the new Nike Elite range — Kevlar laces are nothing new and while that branding’s hardly necessary, there’s something oddly appealing about that attention-to-detail. Bulletproof shoelaces are the future.

Films you’ve been placing into the “recent” category are officially old. I never realised that ‘Shallow Grave’ is 18 years old. The film’s old enough to legally buy a copy of itself. Arriving at a time when British films were of ‘Splitting Heirs’ with Eric Idle standard, you’ve got to give it to Danny Boyle for bringing a blend of populism and quality control back home. That’s not to say there weren’t fantastic British movies around at that time (that’s a whole ‘nother entry), but Boyle pushed things forward. As Ewan McGregor’s face on a film poster becomes a harbinger of twee or dull (though ‘Knight and Day’, ‘This Means War’, ‘Larry Crowne’ and posters for anything starring either or both Jennifer Aniston or a post ‘300’ Gerard Butler are the most significant never-watch-pledge reverse-marketing campaigns of recent years), he probably needs to man up and apologise to Danny.

Criterion’s edition of ‘Shallow Grave’ drops in June and the cover art brings back hammer time, looking like a Wickes catalogue money shot to the uninitiated and something more sinister to anyone that’s seen the film. Criterion are also putting the excellent white person problems comedy-drama ‘The Last Days of Disco’ (14 years old) onto Blu-ray in July, with my favourite Chloë Sevigny (between this and ‘American Psycho, during 1998 and 1999, she covered the decade prior pretty well) performance ever and a smart use of 1980s New York that doesn’t try too hard to place period detail by chucking brands and body poppers all over the place. I’d be surprised if Danny Boyle didn’t take a few notes for the song and dance ending of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Matt Keeslar’s character’s speech about why disco can never be killed is cinematic gold.

I really sold people who read this blog short with that one. On the Chloë Sevigny topic, ‘Gummo’ is 15 years old and I still can’t get enough of the whole Mark Gonzales chair wrestling scene. It’s probably an indictment of much that followed that ‘Gummo’ is still a truly odd experience. The chocolate bar from the bath still unsettles me more than any amount of gore and mayhem. The prospect of James Franco as a RiFF RAFF style character in ‘Spring Breakers’ alongside Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens is very appealing too. The Entertainment Tonight preview of it promises “real” and more “real” plus loads of beautiful girls in bikinis, but perhaps it’s set to truly confound folk by being relatively conventional. The 1997 ‘New York’ magazine profile of Harmony from 1997, painting him as some enemy of morality is interesting — plus it has Nan Goldin on photography duties.


Weapon ads in old issues of ‘Black Belt’ take it back to 1984 — a time of local video shops with a wall of cheap martial art movies to match the heft of the horror and porn sections and school trips to France being the optimum time to pick up knuckle dusters, fun size explosives and the fabled throwing stars. Not so much ‘Niggas in Paris’ — more like ninjas in Calais. I love these pictures, from the peak of Michael Dudikoff’s career and a time when Lee Van Cleef and Sho Kosugi in ‘The Master’ took ninjas prime-time before a swift cancellation, who wouldn’t want foot claws and a belt buckle with a removable throwing star. The scope for stupidity, and a trip to the emergency ward, with these offerings is still deeply tempting. Who would have thought anything that included a knuckle knife could look downright quaint 28 years down the line?

My quest for the perfect sweat continues and like the white tee one (mission aborted, I’ll stick with Kirklands from Costco from now on) it’s too subjective to announce a winner. But looking in spots like J Simons reveals some contenders that aren’t Japanese repros or the usual suspects. Germany’s Pike Brothers have a grey melange number that gets the neck, cuffs and snug but not skin tight (the downfall of many a fine effort from the far east) fit right. The brand seems more aimed at the 1950s’ revivalist crowd, but even if you’re not a pomade and braces kind of chap, they get this basic right and drop it at a fair price point. Taking the name of the design back to its physical training origins by calling it the P.T. Sweater makes a lot of sense too — resisting any urge for contrast ribbing or flat lock seams that you’d be able to see from a mile off lets this accessorise pretty much everything. A very strong effort.

As proof that people have been solemnly over thinking graffiti on canvases for a lot longer than European tourists have being wandering east London with cameras held aloft on Banksy-themed tours, ART/new york’s ‘Graffiti/Post Graffiti’ has reappeared on YouTube again. It tends to appear then be pulled down and while it’s not essential, it’s a good accompaniment for some core flicks for fans of this miserable sub-culture. I’ve long pondered as to whether anyone downtown in the early 1980s realised that they were at the nucleus of a zeitgeist, or whether it was a squalid hand to mouth time for anyone beyond the chosen few. What is clear is that by 1984, when this documentary was put together, the joy had been sucked out by solemn studies like this. Still, at least some deserving folks were getting paid at this point and now this kind of film is pure gold. There’s some good Rammellzee works and sonics, some Futura and Crash’s leather jacket, but it’s the serious faces in attendance watching the canvas being reworked at the New York Society for Ethical Culture happening that are some of the best footage in this short film. That Marc H. Miller Basquiat interview (an edit of a far longer chat) is the one that inspired the confrontational Christopher Walken conversation in the ‘Basquiat’ biopic — a great film, rife with SANE and COPE tags and throw ups to ruin the historical authenticity, though none were as jarring as the OBEY poster in a Lester Bangs themed deleted scene in ‘Almost Famous.’

Harry Jumonji is a name checked downtown skate legend who represents the hardcore attitude of the city, but had a career blighted by crack addiction and jail time. Life would barely be worth living without the prospect of another focused skate documentary in post-production, and after some solid portraits of other characters, from Gator to Hosoi to Duane to Jessee, it’s Harry’s time. It’s nice to see New York in the spotlight, and while I assumed Epicly Later’d might cover him one day (on the Later’d front, the Fabian Alomar story could fit another 2 hours), NY Skateboarding just reported on a trailer for a documentary from Erica Hill Studio. With a life that moved from Parana to Ubatuba to New York, Harry’s a legend — this 1989 image of him skating in Air Solo Flights and Stussy, taken by Bill Thomas and used in the teasers for ‘Deathbowl to Downtown’ is a classic.


I’ve posted about this documentary here before, but during a colossal tidy up and clear out, I found my rough cut copy of ‘Sneaker Heads’ on DVD and watched it for the first time since I last wrote about it (around 3 years ago). It held up well. Only a handful of folk (and If you’re one of them, I owe you) read this blog back then, so there might be a spot of déjà vu here, but the screen grabs I posted were finger nail size. You can see the 3-minute teaser right here too. That repetition is appropriate though, because the attitudes espoused in this film are echoed in 2012. Self-hating hype folk should watch ‘Sneaker Heads’ and just appreciate what we’ve got — alas, my work loaned MacBook won’t allow me the luxury of burns or rips, so I’m strictly jpegs at the moment. What happened to the eBayers selling bootlegs of this film anyway? There used to be plenty around. At the moment there’s plenty of murmuring about new generations ruining everything with their queuing and their hoarding and their hype and their pesky fixation with limited edition, but guess what? People were doing that just under a decade ago too. People moaned about it back then too.

‘Sneaker Heads’ was a Wieden+Kennedy and Brand Jordan production directed by Israel, with production by some music industry and ESPN affiliated folks, but it never seemed to be fully completed. The copy I’ve got and the one that was bootlegged has no real credits over the CGI intro of some living Escape AF3s (though you can see the completed title sequence right here), missing statistics and no real ending, but there’s at least some semblance of narrative and some of the footage is gold. Yet ‘Sneakerheads’ got shelved. I like ‘Just For Kicks’ as a primer (salutes for getting the Run-DMC adidas cash demand too) and I thought some of the chats in last year’s ‘Casuals’ documentary (in the case of ‘Just For Kicks’ and ‘Sneaker Heads’ there was some casual and footie talk that got shelved, mainly because it’s all far odder and complex in terms of social interactions and oneupmanship than NYC culture, even though it’s equally as significant in telling the story of sports footwear) were eccentric enough to sit alongside some of the conversations in this film. Other than that, some episodes of ‘It’s the Shoes’ on ESPN aside, most attempts to tell Nike, adidas and New Balance tales on film in more than 10 minutes are intolerable. ‘Sneaker Heads’ feels like a time capsule of the sports footwear cycle just pre-peak and we’re back in the same position right now.

There’s plenty to love. Nerds will enjoy EMZ and Air Rev’s (his suede swoosh Lows are still killer) digging mission for Ellesse while the everybody else is queuing for Jordan IIIs (ring any bells?) and ESPO Air Force IIs in 2003 is refreshing in its traditional approach, the surgeon with the enviable Jordan collection, Chris Hall (who kindly gave me this copy) talking skateboarding and AJIs, cars customised to match Cool Grey Jordan XIs, AF1 disciple Christian Clancy of Interscope (now the manager of Odd Future), my Crooked Tongues mentors getting a blink-and-miss appearance, Euro-dons Edson of Patta and Thomas Giorgetti, Spike Lee, lots of old news clips, Dr J, Jordan smoking a cigar and being cryptic about the AJXX, Alan Mesa’s insane game worn collection plus DJ AM’s genuine enthusiasm and superior in-house displays proving that he was a celebrity collector with a deep, deep knowledge — it’s poignant when he mentions that he’ll never stop hoarding. I guess he never did lose the excitement for shoes during his short life. There’s A-Ron in Supreme, Martin Packer, Bobbito, Retrokid and plenty more folks who all have their own perspective on this wearable compulsion.

But who exactly was ‘Sneaker Heads’ aimed at? The teaser hinted at a theatrical release and one was apparently cited for 2004, but it’s not the greatest advertisement for the brands. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite bleak in its indictment of brands attempting to mould an existing culture of collectors. “They got a new pair of Dunks every fuckin’ day” and a dismissal of “Halle Berry artist series bullshit” aren’t the greatest PR, and while those queues are living, breathing testaments to the power of the product, the furious lady offing and blinding because she queued 12 hours for ESPOs is the swearier angrier side of that world. People complain about bad retros and reformed obsessives sell their AF1s because they’re jaded by the state of the industry. There’s a sense that it’s documenting a post-purity period for things, but how sentimental can we be for mass-produced tactically reissued product. Maybe it was Michael Jordan saying “Shit” that got it shelved.

As a piece of research for internal study in the development for future Nike and Jordan product directed at a then-fresh energy market, ‘Sneaker Heads’ may have proven extremely useful. When the current boom subsides and everyone’s back in brogues again for half a decade, and the whole sneaker “thing” erupts again, you’ll be able to watch this in 2021 and see parallels between kids complaining on whatever medium they’re misusing all over again, using the same arguments. It’s the same old story over and over again.

Anyway, here’s some stills, because Mr Clark Kent and Mr Steve Bryden were curious to see whether they made the final cut. I think, with a little polish, ‘Sneaker Heads’ would be relevant today. In fact, if any enterprising editor could splice the best of this film into ‘Just For Kicks’ to extend that running time it would create a classic piece of sub-culture documentation for we weirdos who still keep the faith. After that long-overdue viewing, my passion for shoes was restored — I wish I’d watched it prior to disposing of some dustier pieces of the collection. Then they’d still be gathering dust, but I’d still be kidding myself that I was going to break them out of hibernation one day.


This week I was fairly excited to see Questlove enthusiastically Tweeting about the Complex piece on films and shoes that I wrote last year and was pretty pleased with, despite a muted response. At the same time I put that together, I started drafting a top TV moments list, but I got rid of it, because for all my ‘Seinfeld’ love, my favourite TV and trainer moments are a little more localised, and they’d just make people agitated. While kids are queuing and getting angry with each other on YouTube over sports footwear in 2012, back in the early 1990s, as prices rocketed and technology got increasingly stupid, there were a spate of footwear plots on shows that were big in the UK, On the more populist front, I like the fact the Assassin shoe in the 1991 ‘Simpsons’ episode (with a fictional price tag of $125) that key influencer Ned Flanders inspires Homer into buying. I especially like the way it evokes the impending Yeezy 2 in its shape and applications. Neddy was ahead of the curve. But that doesn’t touch two rarely discussed storylines that worked in the deadly serious subject of basketball shoe theft on BBC1 during the 5pm to 6pm slot via ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘Neighbours.’

In winter 1990, a scriptwriter on the other side of the world got bored and began concocting a footwear-themed plot, that was transmitted on UK TV in December 1991, a year after it screened in Australia, making it out-of-date straight away. The May 1990 ‘Sneakers or Your Life’ story from ‘Sports Illustrated’ indicated a Stateside spate of shoe crimes, but, as proof of the epidemic nature of both crime and fashion, it reached sleepy Erinsborough too. Commencing with the show’s resident moody teen, Todd Landers (played by Kristian Schmid who I last saw leading a party on Sydney Harbour Bridge as an instructor, but has apparently had a TV comeback), flossing with his new shoes at Daphne’s to impress the girls and crowing on about their $190 price tag, despite them being a pair of Hi-Tec monstrosities that would barely sell for more than £30 UK pounds at the time to the unfortunates with parents who wouldn’t heed their warnings of playground mockery.

In Erinsborough, basketball boots are called ‘runners” just as we Brits call any form of sports footwear a “trainer” and a bruised and battered Todd has to explain to Helen and Jim that he was robbed for his kicks by local goons and that he’s practising kung-fu in order to settle the score. You know you’re in the sticks when kids are robbing Hi-Tecs. A couple of episodes later, he and his buddy Josh attempt an entrapment and retaliation by borrowing Paul Robinson’s adidas Torsions (they look like Bank Shots — Stefan Dennis, the actor who played Paul rocked an assortment of expensive late 1980’s adidas during his brief, terrible singing career, including the astronomically costly ‘Best of Times’ leather jacket) that are a couple of sizes too big and using Josh as bully bait. As Todd and Josh approach a young thug on a BMX who, with his snapback perched atop his hair instead of over it, earrings and rucksack is a proto Streetwear Dave, he’s flanked by some goons who offer the threat, “I’ll give you a choice. Either I punch your head in, or you give me your treads.” Vicked. Josh loses a loose shoe during the scuffle, much to the fury of Paul, who purports to have paid $300 for those runners. It’s a deep plot indeed. There’s little more action after that, with the outcome serving as some kind of warning against shoe-related vigilantism.

This kid is rocking the Streetwear Dave look in late 1990

‘Grange Hill’ dropped some sports footwear knowledge during its 15th series in early 1992. For some reason, trainers were worked into pretty much the entire series, commencing with a young pupil amazing his fellow pupils so much with a pair of Jordan VIs, that they carry him into the class like a god and place him on the teacher’s desk to inspect their feet. For presumed legal reasons, the shoes are never referred to as Nike Jordans. Instead the kid crows about them being a brand called “Sportech” and that the shoes are $160 from the States and you can’t get them over here. He speaks enthusiastically of “roll bars” and “heel counters” on them but runs his mouth too much and gets them stolen from the changing rooms later that day. Loose lips sink ships bruv.

As a result, trainers are banned in Grange Hill, unless you’re a teacher, and a hapless character called Ray (played by an actor who I believe ended up DJing in my hometown for a while), wants to cop the same pair of shoes as the American temporary teacher who just started that term in an inexplicable bid to woo her by wearing women’s footwear. That leads to some outdoor sports store shots with Air Max 90s and Air Trainers in the mix, plus a couple of real brand names called out. Ray can’t afford any, so he’s inexplicably hoodwinked by a character called Maria, who goes into a sports shop and gawps at Reebok Twilight Zones before buying some sale stock from round the back and makes them into the worst custom shoes ever. I have little time for custom footwear, but these are especially bad. Somehow, via a sales pitch that they’re “exclusive” and “American” Ray buys them. Like a div. By the end of the series trainers are legalised in the Grange Hill halls again. Wasn’t this show about gritty real-life issues once upon a time?

Thank you YouTube for housing full episodes of the offending episodes too. Who sat and uploaded every ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘Neighbours’? That’s commitment to the cause. Whether the current boom leaches into popular entertainment like that remains to be seen, but it’s worth mentioning that neither early 1990s plot was as excruciating as that AF1 storyline in ‘Entourage’ or a single second of ‘How to Make It In America’ but it harks back to a time when everybody beneath the age of 25 seemed to be utterly obsessed with footwear, not just the condensed band of weirdos you see today. I’m looking forward to a subplot in ‘Eastenders’ where one of the stage school newbies drafted in to play some kind of urban cartoon character sees pound signs over a box of fake Foamposites. Maybe those episodes will be as etched into the brain of the new generation of viewers as these episodes stuck with me, in all their heavy handed, poorly acted glory.

On a footwear note, the Honeyee piece ‘Good Shoes, Good Style’ showcases some good footwear, like Jun’s pair of Danner River Grippers. I wish every feature on that site had an English translation though — the Hiroshi and Kim Jones conversation looks particularly interesting, but the Flash nature of the pieces means I can’t even get my Babelfish on. Maybe I just need to learn Japanese.


Socialising, taxes and other matters have hindered my blogging aptitude this week, so all I can do today is recycle other things and call myself a “content creator” or “curator” or whatever. First things first, I finally saw this Supreme shoot by Tyrone Lebon in the new ‘Arena Homme+’ (which has an interesting take on the Osti archive in it) that I wrote some accompanying text for. It was fun to mention 2 Chainz in a writeup for ‘Arena’ but my scanning skills are weak so I lost the left side of the pages, so if you want to read what I wrote (and it’ll teach you veterans absolutely nothing new about the brand), you’ll have to buy it or go and treat WH Smiths like a library. Shouts to Rory for listing me as a “contributing editor” though — that’s fake importance at its best.

For reasons unknown, I’ve been pondering the mystery of Task Force jackets and the lesser-seen Task Force shoes today. That warrants the wholesale theft of pieces from the ‘Spin’ magazine b-boy special of 1988 that included Doctor Dre (as in the Original Flavor/MTV Raps Dre) breaking down some slang, Flav in Troop and some MCM and Dapper Dan talk, Big Daddy Kane on Cameo haircuts, ‘DMC’s Culinary Guide to Queens’ taking you around some of the boroughs’ finest junk food spots and a meeting-of-minds with Fab 5 Freddy and the legendary Max Roach. It’s naive with the benefit of retrospect, but there’s a lot of fun content here from a deeply significant year — the inclusion of DMC and the next wave who’d take the baton and take their shine makes it doubly interesting.

I have to take some time out to salute my friend Sharmadean Reid for putting out ‘The WAH Nails Book of Nail Art.’ I’m unlikely to get a Nike Safari print on my thumbnail anytime soon, but the book’s a smart distillation of the whole WAH worldview into a hardback book with plenty of cues from the ‘WAH’ fanzines in there too. Now everybody’s on that hop into print wave, but Sharma was putting out her own magazine (complete with Ecko sponsorship) before she hit 20. The spirit of ‘Sassy’ is peppered throughout all things ‘WAH’ (salutes to the Monster Children crew for finding away around the deletion of ‘Sassy’ spinoff ‘Dirt’s lost issue #8) but crucially, it offers a whole lifestyle angle that’s oddly aspirational. Let’s note forget hat most of this blog is a flagrant bite of the WAH blog circa 2006. Shar’s more of a role model than most of the males I’ve dealt with in this industry, many of a whom are backstabbing, two-faced bunch of burnt out chancers. But that’s a rant for another day. Salutes to Sharmadean and the WAH team.

90s KIDS

Many months ago, I wrote a post on here decrying the 30 and 40-somethings bemoaning the current state of hip-hop and dwelling on 1993. I still believe there was plenty of crap around back then to match the current onslaught, but I have to admit to a certain hypocrisy — look at the old Source magazines and old ACG fanboy uploads in the posts that followed…it’s tough to shake off a love for the early 1990s aesthetic. I still have a problem with the people who seem to spend a great deal of time writing “THIS IS THE REAL HIP HOP. NOT WACK SHIT LIKE DRAKE AND LIL WAYNE” under pretty much every rap video from pre-2000 on YouTube. Less time spent on your anti-Drake crusade and more time realising that Roughhouse Survivors playing in a club isn’t conducive to meeting the opposite sex and maybe, just maybe, you’ll at least hold hands with a woman one day.

What I do miss is the level of criticism that went down back then and the seriousness with which rap journos went about their work. The ‘Unsigned Hype’ section of ‘The Source’ felt like something to aspire to and the magazine’s reviews would knock a mic off for minor infractions. I’m sure I recall ‘Beat Down’ dismissing ‘Life’s a Bitch’ for being too smooth. And yes, when we lost that sense of integrity, we ended up with Made Men albums getting 7 mics out of 5. Still, I would give ‘Classic Limited Edition’ 3 miss for the ‘Is It You?’ video alone, which combines some thug Aladdin ‘A Whole New World’ steez with leather camo gear rocked on flying carpets, the worst CGI sphinx ever, Master P as a hologram and cheap ‘Stargate’ knockoff elements that don’t fit the music in any way, shape or form. It’s more fun than another Rik Cordero production though.

What caught me off guard was the new generation of young MCs and their dedication to the early to mid 1990s. Mac Miller spitting over Lord Finesse’s ‘Hip 2 the Game’ was interesting, but Joey BADA$$ and Wiki seem to go even further in their preoccupations with old rap. Are we seeing some curious reaction from the young ‘uns to the mid-life crisis of rap fans my age preoccupied with the works of Gunplay and the artist formerly known as Tity Boi? Joey’s ‘Survival Tactics’ sounds like it’s from the HAZE ‘New York Reality Check 101’ compilation. It’s a bloody Styles of Beyond beat…it doesn’t get more Mr Bongo Jansport headnod than that. Pro Era might stand for Progressive Era, but it’s a throwback sound and the impending mixtape’s called ‘1999.’ That Joey’s 17 is pretty staggering — it’s not surprising that someone can spit at that age…Nas was on ‘Live at the Barbecue’ at 18, Kane seemed to be ghost writing for some greats at 16 and wasn’t Bun-B making UGK music at 15? What’s odd is that Joey was around 4 years old when Styles of Beyond’s ‘2000 Fold’ originally dropped. That makes me feel downright pensionable. Are we seeing indy rap’s sound and look being retroed by a generation too young to remember it burning out in a blitz of verbose super-scientifical babble (and full-lengths bogged down in boring Tribe-copy beats from a time when even a Tribe Called Quest were treading water musically and primed to implode)?

Wiki’s 18 but with a graff preoccupation, Rammellzee and Suicide references on deck, well rehearsed breath control, and inspiration from Cam’ron at the close of his Epic days and Buckshot’s work, he’s defiantly New York at a time when even New York doesn’t want to sound New York. Trumping Joey’s tape date by called his first EP ‘1993,’ I recommend picking it up for £3.25 or so from Bandcamp — it’s accomplished stuff that’s heavy with the wordplay and chunky beats in a world dominated by fluid ambience on the production front, despite the arty presentation it’s not some abstract project. Had ‘1993’ been released in 1993, it would have fallen through the gaps with Jungle Brothers’ 3rd album then been resurrected by German rap bloggers rinsing the Yousendit account in early 2005. Remember that scene in ‘Belly’ with Tommy watching ‘Gummo’ (“Shit is bugged out”) on that big screen in his palatial home? Looking at Eric Yue’s ‘Wikispeaks’ video, it’s as if Hype’s filmmaking opened some weird vortex where a high gloss and lo-fi world merged. Those children of the 1990s are making some interesting music and visuals. It’s all about the movements, and teams Pro Era and Ratking seem happy to talk about their reference points whereas OFWKTA get pissy at talk of anything pre-Pharrell. I like the Ari Marcopoulos helmed promo for Wiki’s ‘Piece of Shit’ too. Are we going to see major label dough getting thrown at folk making music like this? That really would be an early 1990’s throwback.

While we’re talking about the kids, shouts to commanderdeviss3 on his YouTube video where he shows off his “Swag collection” — this looks like a Harmony Korine creation, from the young man’s periodically disappearing headphones to the total lack of joy for any of the amassed swagger he’s hoarded. commanderdeviss3 is awesome.

Out of interest, can anyone explain the Crustified Dibbs/R.A. the Rugged Man ‘Night of the Bloody Apes’ comic book? I’ve never seen this item beyond this mention here. I’m assuming that it was a Jive promo item like the Extra Prolific and Casual comic books, with Crustified’s proposed 1994 release date being around the release of ‘Fear Itself.’ I need more information on this one.