This one is pretty rare. Given the recent hoo-ha regarding American social media reactions to Giggs’ duo of More Life appearances (our music being slandered by Americans would have stung a decade ago, but now? Less so.) and the frequently naive history lessons offered as a response from these shores, it’s worth rewinding to London Posse’s Yo! MTV Raps international edition appearance from 1993. It certainly wasn’t the first Brit-America rap crossover moment by any stretch, but I remember being impressed by this second-half section of an episode being dedicated to this nation’s capital, where a baffled Fred attempted to interview Black Radical and General Levy talked about our scene, before we had to watch a scattering of videos by Marxman, Urban Species and Honky instead of the American videos that the US audience was getting to see on their broadcast. Personally, I think that — with plenty of honourable mentions, mostly singles rather than albums — between Rodney and Bionic’s opus Gangster Chronicle (this interview was from around the time How’s Life in London? was reissued, remixed and sponsored by British Knight) and the rise of road rap, UK rap was a patchy, patchy thing. It took another 14 years or so for it to seem like it could be a actual career. Go to this blog right here and watch this encounter, filmed in Piccadilly Circus just after an IRA bomb scare for extra historical context — Rodney P espousing the importance of following the indie route and Bionic echoing the importance of that outside-the-industry approach preempts the recent business model that took Stormzy to the top by a long, long time. Back then, it seemed like a pipe dream. Now it’s the road to going gold.
My friend Nick Santora has far greater fixation with sports footwear related imagery and ephemera than me. He runs the Classic Kicks site, social accounts and podcast and used to run the fine NYC store of the same name. He just made the plunge into publishing, but is keeping it as pixels for the time being. That doesn’t stop the visually inclined, 124 page Classic Kicks #1 from being designed as if it was on paper, down to the quality of design and page size. The inaugural issue has a ton of content (that’s content in the good sense as opposed to the gushing stream of content for content’s sake that is making anything useful harder to find using Google). If you’re a nerd, you’ll mess with this project — the old adidas and Fila ads are worth the price of admission, but the chats with Nike ad gods Chuck Kuhn, Bob Peterson and Bill Sumner with accompanying reproductions of some of their work, while — most importantly if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time — renaissance man and reggae archivist Roger Steffens shuts down that rumour that Nike’s mysterious Rasta Man samples were made for Bob Marley. Deeper than the usual shoe coverage and it’s best viewed on a tablet, though I would spend big on a physical copy. Well worth your £2.99 or digital subscription fee.
To some, Sigue Sigue Sputnik were one of those press-inflated flops of the 1980s, billed as the new thing — a glam sci-fi band with a loose dystopian dress code and apocalyptic Droog-like art direction, but incapable of maintaining the momentum of their Giorgio Moroder produced breakthrough. I think they were one of the great acts of that moment — a post Generation X creation who made a record that defines its era and maintained a mystique that had me fascinated. The sense of swindle and piss-taking that pervaded their work had some serious marketing dollars behind it. That promo extended to a 1986 MTV takeover called Sputnik Network Television that user result has upped onto YouTube. Presented by Tony James, who introduces Peter Gabriel videos, interviews shadowy record execs and Jennifer Gray, quizzes a spaniel and takes phone calls a young Futura 2000 is art guest, painting throughout in bike courier attire. Lenny gets a lot of screen time, mentioning his Fila boycott, but citing the brand as, “Sort of a street Gucci of 1986,” and expressing embarrassment at his Clash-produced solo single. A fantastic time capsule of its era that — as Lenny’s mention of his t-shirt line indicates — sows the seeds for plenty of interesting things that followed.
During a recent European excursion (all will be revealed at some point in the next few weeks), I got to learn a little more regarding the cultural history of ultra-comfortable French and Portuguese made casual footwear. Mephisto has become a source of fascination for me — the antidote to over marketed obviousness — and showcased alongside several other archive images, including some German and French league shirts and Mephisto branded hoardings at pitches, this (according to my source) lower league club’s late 1980s kit included this incredible Hummel goalie shirt with Mephisto sponsorship and an image of the brand’s trademark Rainbow silhouette. It’s a thing of wonder. If you know, you know. Those demonic M’s on the collar are a magnificent touch too.
My contempt for most contemporary shoe-related documentaries is pretty well-documented here, but this Vice Sports documentary on Dunk SBs is good. Fifteen Years of SB Dunk: Stories From the Inside Out feels true to the original spirit of the shoe (which I always felt reached its apex in late 2005) and is a fine companion piece to the Air Force 1 production from 10 years ago. Having been interviewed for it, I was gutted that an appearance from me would mean I could never watch the film, but fortunately, my rambling answers were excised from the final cut. Which meant I can view it, take notes and talk about it right here. Wild that these things went from around 150 at Slam City to NikeTown status, but they were pivotal in creating the blueprint for contemporary hype.
Have we discussed the Polo-centric American Layers podcast here before? It’s on its 37th episode and the chat with Dallas Penn is perfect for you young and old heads looking to join the dots on the subject of street style and reappropriation. On the topic of education, BEINGHUNTED has spread further offline with the debut of Jörg Haas’ magazine of the same name. If you’ve spent any time here, you know that I was pretty much moved to write on these topics because of BEINGHUNTED 16 years ago. In addition to an essay on Japan’s cultural differences and a piece on emotional data, there’s a trip into Jörg’s expansive archives that includes Supreme jeans with that red tab device homage, a UNION tee, BAPE on a ONEITA blank, a piggy bank themed on Zaius’ boy Galen and a fleece Carhartt zip hoodie from 1994 that I’ve never seen before. According to the editor’s letter at the start, it took a month to put together, as opposed to the day it took to bring the site to life in 1999. Support the originator and don’t sleep on Berlin’s contribution to this thing of ours.
First things first, rest in peace to Tycoon To$h. All us disciples of Tokyo streetwear owe the man and the culture he brought, from new wave to a local interpretation of hip-hop, a fair amount. Major Force inspired Mo’Wax and Mo’Wax inspired…well, you get the general idea. On the topic of early 1990s gems, the superb Webm8 site keeps bringing the gems, with nuggets like this fit-inducing two-minute retrospective of 1990-era ‘fits that was shown on MTV Europe in association with Swatch back in the day. Lots of crap and a few fakes in the mix, but to be fair, there was a lot of that my wardrobe back then. Shouts to everyone who used to watch this kind of stuff intently to take notes back in the day.