Tag Archives: espo

ALWAYS ON THE GO

It goes without saying that a book compilation of the best of/every issue of On The Go is very needed. We’ll just have to keep wishing in the meantime though. Steven “ESPO” Powers and Ari Saal Forman’s graffiti/hip-hop/lifestyle magazine went from ‘zine to glossy between 1989 and 1997 — a Tower Records necessity alongside Ego Trip and Stress in its heyday — before vanishing from shelves and is always in need of a good retrospective. Like any good graffiti publication, they put out some videos too — 1993’s Eyeshocker Express is on YouTube via helio215 and — at time of writing — the follow-up, Repeat Offender has vanished from the internet again after a copy surfaced eight years ago. Some good music, excellent Philly footage and history from local legends like Cornbread makes Eyeshocker a great accompaniment to the magazine. Once upon a time, it would set you back $16.50, plus postage fees and an eight week wait, so it’s good to have it for free.

STYLE WARS THE MUSICAL

It’s almost a never forgive action that I had no idea that ESPO and REAS’s one-minute Style Wars the Musical short (which, for a moment a while back, I thought was actually a trailer for a full off-Broadway musical) was online via its production company, ApK. This video (on a slightly faraway screen in the Street Market 2 recreation) was one of the highlights of a trip to the Art in the Streets show at MoCa LA back in 2011 — now I want to see a full version of Skeme and his mum’s big number. There have been a lot of magnificent tributes to this iconic documentary throughout the years, but this is one of the very best.

BELTS

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Ari Saal’s work has long been an inspiration to me. As ESPO’s business partner, his work as co-owner of On The Go magazine made it one of the seminal publications of the 1990s (I’d kill to read the unreleased Jay-Z issue) and The Art Of Getting Over needs little description here (because I’m presuming that you already own it). While On The Go is long-gone, sitting in yellowing mini stacks alongside Ego Trip, Life Sucks Die, early Big Brother and Grand Royal in many a nerd’s paper armory, it’s good to know that On The Go Marketing is very much in effect. If you ever gawped at the Ruffhouse logo, that was Ari Saal Forman’s work. I still maintain that the Air Menthol 10 project from 2006 shits on nearly every shoe project in 2013 — it made its statement on the power of branding and addiction eloquently, but crucially the packaging is the greatest shoe packaging of all time, down to the hang tags and extra print material inside the cigarette-themed shoe box.

Nike issued a cease and desist, but Newport were apparently a little more demanding, meaning Ari can’t talk about that project any more. That approach to the project typified Saal’s work and the detail he employed highlights why shoe projects now are so insipid — an idea barely related, without message, shoehorned (pun intended) onto a tech pack. Everyone in that industry needs to look at the Menthols and study that execution. Scratch director John Carluccio filmed Ari working on the project in 2006 and spoke to him post legal talk in 2008 for Carluccio’s 17-minute documentary Cease and Desist aka. Ari Can’t Talk About It. It’s on iTunes right now for £1.49 and it’s a great little snapshot to add to the library of documents that capture that transitional time when sports footwear became uncool and formal footwear and Vans took over. Revisiting two of the kids who the director caught queuing for Ari’s creation, they pretty much sum up why things fell off the way they did. I know the shoe thing erupted again, but any semblance of cool that the mid to late 2000s industry awareness of collectors managed to erode is even more absent nowadays. I recommend watching that short for some extra insight.

Ari’s latest side-project is handmade belts that showcase the same preoccupation with the oft-forgotten art of finishing an object with finesse — those jars he puts them in are a nice touch. Hand sewn, hand painted belts with custom buckles and D-rings, different materials, some college colours well appropriated with some personal stories behind them elevates objects from the same old same. It also addresses the importance of the belt. This Vimeo of a belt making session (complete with a Steven Powers cameo) is better than most wearying documentation of a factory tour. The On The Go Ari site is a good source of old works documented (the adidas and Papaya King gear is particularly interesting) and it’s worth visiting.


While we’re talking Vimeo and magazines, the Magculture conversation with Gert Jonkers and Jop Van Bennekom of Fantastic Man from What Design Can Do is full of good advice for anyone planning to start a magazine. My friends at Goodhood let me do one of their tabletop selections from the store. Normally I wouldn’t engage in that kind of thing, but it’s Goodhood and it’s one of the few stores in the country with an original approach to retail and those Gasius shirts they’re stocking are a strong look. Salutes to Silas and the Soulland squad for this Hova moment last weekend.

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YOU NEED ‘CRACK & SHINE INTERNATIONAL’

“It’s a graffiti book presented like a Louis Vuitton catalogue.” That’s a 10-word pitch that had my attention from the early stages.

Normally Sunday is a day for easily distracted blogging, with multiple topics in a single post, but today the subject is singular because ‘Crack & Shine’ went in with such gusto and have created something that justifies a certain level of babble

I always feel like a charlatan when it comes to writing about graffiti-related matters. At least I recognize my toy status — plenty of blogs take a tumble when the paint and markers come out, falling over themselves in a mass of hapless outsider analysis that rings false. I just enjoy looking at destruction and find it insane that anyone would risk their wellbeing to get their name on a wall, overpass or train. Glorious acts of ignorance are the best gestures. Sometimes hearing the writers talking about their motivation is the only way to go, and ‘Crack & Shine’s debut in 2009 gave some London legends an aesthetically beautiful but defiantly uncensored voice.

The BOZO DDS recollections in the first volume were phenomenal and Will Robson-Scott’s photography was stunning. If you have even the faintest interest in any “street” related matters and didn’t pick up that hardback volume, you made a grievous error. We’ve all amassed the core texts — the ‘Mascots & Mugs,’ ‘The Art of Getting Over’ (a huge influence on ‘Crack & Shine’), Nov York’s streams-of-consciousness and ‘Also Known As Vol. 1’s elegant presentation of total damage, but too often, the image-heavy train-centric European tomes that are (quite rightly) for bombers by bombers go over my toy-head.

I rely on word-of-mouth for the real book recommendations. On the Run’s output is extremely consistent, but the second ‘Crack & Shine’ with an international theme has been something I’ve been waiting on for a while now. If you don’t pick up ‘Crack & Shine International’ (named after the publisher’s preferred mode of no-frills, British approach to getting up) when it drops, then you’re making a grievous error. This is more hardback, high-end presentation of the hardcore, this time with a tasteful fashion magazine style art direction that makes it an even more compelling artifact.

The task of getting writers to submit their inner-thoughts for a deadline isn’t something I envy, but after several years of work the team have come through. As a sub-culture that’s prone to moans and online debates, talk of notable omissions is inevitable, but for Fred and the team to come through with the book they’ve been promising since part one was released in a world that’s a conversational elephant’s graveyard of product, writings and brands that never materialize is immensely heartening.

Themed on the wanderlust of artists with a hunger to paint, connect and develop a greater understanding pre-internet, there’s a focus on folklore and deeper meanings that’s not silly and romanticized, nor offering any sugar-coating or flawed sociology on why the scene’s kings do what they do.

The likes of ESPO, NOXER, TOMEK, SEL ONE, ROID, KATSU and NASTY are strong subjects as the book shifts from NYC to Amsterdam via Paris, before Berlin, London and Los Angeles. The squint-worthy lists of every street in each spotlighted city hint at a masochistic production process. Mr. Powers’s “If you can’t describe what you do in 10 words or less, then hit the reset button” quote is something to live by, ROID is a dusted genius and NASTY submits one of the highlights as he explains that he might have developed a “Spider Sense” against being apprehended and bookends that thought with plenty of common sense. Every piece of submitted writing is strong, with the obsessive-compulsive nature of writers ensuring that their message is lucid, with anecdotes to top the original.

But this is all giving too much away. 288 pages of premium content makes this one of the best books on the subject matter to date, and it drops in a few weeks. Expect plenty more promo around the time it arrives, but shouts to Freddie and company at Topsafe for creating something that tops a standard that they went and set.

By all accounts, the ‘Crack & Shine’ project ends with this one, but in an era of 140 characters and homogenized blog content, a project like this is even more essential than ever. Each image is gallery standard (the amount of photos that never made the final edit is staggering) and getting Stephen K. Schuster involved is a wise move too. Buy local and support ‘Crack & Shine.’ Did the paragraphs above read like an advertorial? Pick up the book and I triple dare you to tell me that my enthusiasm is unjustified in any shape or (letter)form.

There’s too much bullshit out there — I hope this body of work influences people to cut the crap across-the-board. Keep an eye out for the imminent launch of www.crackandshine.com for further information. There’s big things planned.