Tag Archives: 30 rock

RAGE

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I’m still reeling from 30 Rock coming to a conclusion (the Tracey Jordan pacemaker gag made it all worthwhile) and the abrupt return of My Bloody Valentine, with a new album (does this mean that Cube/Dre Helter Skelter project is going to appear in its entirety all of a sudden?). The profound senses of sadness and euphoria have cancelled themselves out and left me numb. So I couldn’t think of much that’s interesting to write about. I’m enjoying Adam Mansbach’s Rage is Back though, even though I approached it with trepidation. Mansbach treated racial politics and hip-hop culture with Angry Black White Boy in 2005, and on first announcement, I assumed this was a sequel. After all, a devolution into increased ignorance and a world where people actually argue for a white rapper’s “pass” to use racial epithets would justify another book on a similar subject. But Rage is Back is about graffiti writers and yes, I feel your anxiety when it comes to a novel on the topic.

Graffiti in its illegal, fleeting form is a thing of beauty. Trying to pin it down sonically or visually beyond mere documentation can render it corny. Trying to fictionalise it beyond tall tales of how up you were, or apocryphal tales of a prolific but barely-seen characters can be even worse. I’m a total toy when it comes to approaching the subject, yet I find myself drawn to anything relating to it, out of curiosity. Plus I have a few friends who are sick with it, so enthusiasm has been passed through conversations about oddballs, psychopaths and sociopaths with fumes on the brain and/or PCP habits. Whenever I hear about a fictional graffiti story, I think of Jon Chardiet as RAMO, a Golan-Globus sub-culture cash in, or Gleaming the Cube with fat caps rather than skateboards. There’s a lot of great graffiti books, but how much great graffiti lit is there without pictures? Nov York, The World Screaming Nov and Novurkistan by Nov/Loucious Broadway/Dumar Brown are autobiographical but lucid, troubling and brilliant, while Jonathan Lethem’s excellent Fortress of Solitude had a significant amount of graf in the plot too, which was assisted by Lethem’s brother being KEO, who has an insider knowledge of the culture’s folklore and then-unwritten rules. Salutes to Sofarok to putting me onto Alex Holden’s work in Syncopated with West Side Improvement‘s comic strip reenactment of the Freedom Tunnel’s development that includes the SANE SMITH story too (Holden’s site has previews of other graffiti-related strips like Stay Out of the Gorgon Yard, Take the A Train and Field Trip).

The aforementioned examples all succeed and Mansbach’s newest has a touch of the magical about it, like Lethem’s book, that sits with the addled, quasi-mystical (and yes, there is a RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ-alike) talk of the old heads the book’s narrator Kilroy Dondi Vance (the inspirations are overt) was raised around. At the core, the book is about fathers and sons, angry intelligent teens, demons, time traveling, corruption and politics, but the late 1980s and mid 2000s graffiti settings are the perfect places to fill those outlines. It’s well written too — eloquent and capable of juggling the many dialogues of this sub-culture, from straight talking, to adolescent dismissal of grown ups stuck in the past and the dusted metaphors of the old guard. Definitely recommended. For more on the subject, last month’s Brooklyn Radio with DJ Ayres talking to Chino BYI and Mansbach was superb, covering hardcore, graffiti’s existence without that hip-hop “elements” nonsense, book tours and other important matters.


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PAJAMA RICH

“These ain’t even real clothes/Homey, I’m pajama rich.”

Kanye West on ‘Start It Up’  Lloyd Banks ft. Fabolous, Kanye West, Ryan Leslie & Swizz Beatz)

Kanye done did it again. The master of the outlandish boast declared himself “Pajama Rich” recently, declaring his expensive attire to be nothing more than bedwear. That’s hip-hop in full effect right there. After some tactically executing bad behaviour  that afforded him PR for months, he seems to, as Jack Donaghy put it in a recent ’30 Rock’, be “Reaganing” —the phenomenon of succeeding in all his tasks and error-free living. You don’t need to read a single more sentence regarding the man’s new album—nor do you need to read any more about his Rosewood approach to dressing. That’s because the album is instant classic and not dressing as if you’re fourteen when you’re thirty plus is a given. But to taking pajama rich concept a little more literally, to be able to saunter around in bedwear without risk of sectioning is truly living the dream. I want to see bedwear become the next hip-hop style movement.

I’m thinking of something a little more structured than T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye’s vast swathes of unflattering fabric back in the 1990s. If you’ve felt a curious sense of liberation wandering to the local shop in pajama trousers, trainers and a tee for dairy products, media and tobacco products, that’s because it’s a feel good style. Band of Outsiders and Opening Ceremony’s cooler-than-thou collision resulted in some excellent sleepwear and Ralph Lauren’s Polo empire puts out some pieces at a pricepoint that veers towards luxury without breaking the bank. They’re my perennial loungewear of choice, offering the perfect mix of comfort and the faintly excessive. Do you really need the horse and rider on your PJs? Yes. yes you do. There’s a certain joy in it, even if it’s only impressing you, the wearer. Polo’s plaid creations are phenomenal and the very notion of a button-up pajama is gloriously old-fashioned and strangely decadent—a patterned suit specifically for sleep? It’s the kind of thing that fast-living should’ve—but thankfully hasn’t—phased out.

I’ma let you finish, but Turnbull & Assar’s Sea Island pajamas are the ultimate. Sea Island cotton, cotton piping and mother of pearl buttons in a selection of beautiful Bengal stripes is aspirational nightwear. It’s some regal gear for lazy behaviour and dandyish lounging. Despite their 24-hour openings, Cardiff’s Tesco store recently outlawed pajama shopping. It’s interesting that pajamas were never developed as attire especially for sleeping. They can be pretty effortless and elegant. I’d triple-dare them to eject me, red-eyed, from the instant noodle section in that kind of slumberland finery. Homer Simpson knew the score during Springfield’s first (and only) ‘Do What You Feel Festival’ sauntering down the street in dressing gown and novelty slippers—“This is great. I can finally look like I want and not get hassled by the man.” Damn right.