Tag Archives: fab 5 freddy

LONDON POSSE & FREDDY

fab5freddylondonposse

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.

RAGE

RAGEISBACKMANSBACHGRAFFITI

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.


sanesmithsyncopated

ladypink1981

stylewars1984canadiantv

graffiticomeback

graffitifuturafab5freddy1981

GIGER, TOKYO CLOTHES & HIP-HOP

As part of a recent Instagram conversation with those older and wiser than me on such matters, the subject of Tokyo’s legendary Let It Ride line emerged. Too many brands seem to be ignored in favour of lesser ones and just finding an old Japanese-made Let It Ride long-sleeve tee with what looks like bleached branding and a ’50s style back print during a clear out reminded me of the brand’s work. Established in late 1993, by former BEAMS and United Arrows employee Ken Sadomura and designer Kiichiro Kurata, the brand was a key part of the ELT (which I believe stood for Every Little Thing) store in Shibuya that also provided the foundation for a few more brands along the way (according to an entry on Pass the Baton, the store made Birkenstocks fashionable too).

Let it Ride made no secret of its inspiration from punk and Malcolm McLaren’s pre-SEX Let it Rock store, with the teddy boy style that imbued the Neighborhood aesthetic too. As the elder statesmen of the industry pointed out to me, Let it Ride was superseded a little by Unrivaled, as stocked in the mighty Goodhood — a brand with startling levels of attention to detail. It’s not that the brand ever declined, it’s simply that the minds behind it seemed to opt to avoid magazine and blog “celebrity” and just let the product talk. Kiichiro Kurata seems to be putting in some extra work on the Tuscany-made PRESIDENT’S line too (that Oddojob jacket is tremendous) but back in mid 1990s Kurata was an early partner with POST O’ALLS on a sub-brand with ELT called SPANISHCURVES, inspired by the rear view of Hispanic ladies during an NYC trip. This ELT site proves that Let it Ride is still very much an ongoing project.

Salutes to Let it Ride for opening my eyes to (cue up the ‘Aladdin’ soundtrack) a whole new world alongside GOOD ENOUGH. Out of interest (and I know some of you can answer this in a second), what became of Sarcastic post 2006? I’d also love to know more about another early POST O’ALLS collaborator — Shinichi Nakasone, who founded the LL Bean, New England style of Harajuku’s Labrador Retriever store in September 1988 with some vintage pieces, imports and dog-centric takes on rugged Americana way, way, way before the majority. I know it split into two companies with the same branding in the mid 1990s, causing a little confusion, but Nakasone’s contribution to the culture is deeply significant.

Did the YO! MTV Raps documentary leave anyone else as melancholy as it did me? That show changed my life back in the day and the mild sense of anarchy, title animations and even those white album and directorial credits affected me in a way that’s tough to describe. We got a weekly mashup of those daily episodes on a Saturday morning and I’m not mad at the MTV Europe insert of Marxman and Al Agami videos where US videos would have been either. Even the crappier elements are rose-tinted to me. What Ted Demme pushed for changed my life. R.I.P. Ted.



I still maintain that the Demme co-directed documentary ‘A Decade Under the Influence’, released posthumously and screened on IFC is absolutely necessary if you’re a fan of 1970s cinema — there are few better love letters to cinema’s most subversive period. While it might feel a little rushed, there’s several anecdotes delivered by some folks who’ve since passed on that make it a joy to watch in its three-hour form. It used to be on YouTube in its entirety, until music rights and whatever else led to it being alopecia patchy in the chapter stakes, but you can sample the first part below. During the final YO! In 1995, was that a Supreme sweat that Ed Lover wore or was it made by somebody else? (Edit: Sung from Clae, a former PNB founder member, confirmed that it’s not Supreme and it’s actually a 1993 PNB Nation sweat with a WEST FC handstyle) Bearing in mind that the good folk at Milkcrate Athletics upped some footage of Fab politicking with Stash, Futura and Gerb in tradeshow mode (I recall Fab presenting from NFC retailer Triple 5 Soul in 1990, but I’m sure this was from 432F a couple of years later), maybe Ed got tipped off — his clothes were usually on point anyway.



Some are struggling to decry ‘Prometheus’ as garbage, so they’re in denial, giving it ‘7’ and breaking it into two halves of differing quality. I just saw muddled rubbish that felt like a straight-to-DVD pilot to a show that never was. Despite falling asleep during ‘Robin Hood’ and the one with Russell Crowe and wine, the marketing had me fiending for a film that turned out to be as engaging as the appalling “AVP2: Requiem’ with that smartly executed TED talk.

I don’t want to know how those curious HR Giger designs came to exist, especially when the Space Jockey looks as though it’s basketball player height compared to the reclining behemoth in ‘Alien.’ The only piece of Giger mythology I wanted answered is how he and Chris Stein from Blondie became buddies, but apparently it was just a meeting at a gallery after ‘Alien’s release, resulting him creating the cover art to ‘Koo Koo’ and directing the videos for‘Backfired’ and ‘Now I Know You Know’ being full of his work. There’s some good photos of Giger’s house on Chris Stein’s site that don’t disappoint — the baby faces on the garden wall are a nice touch. The ‘Now I Know You Know’ video is better than all of ‘Prometheus.’





ON THE BUSES

I’m on holiday, so I’m taking a holiday from even attempting to make anything in this blog entry particularly cohesive. I forgot it was Wednesday, so I’m just chucking the contents of the tabs on Chrome and what’s in my Gmail up here — I hope it’s sufficient. Anyway, you shouldn’t even be here — you should be on Egotripland reading this piece on the making of the ‘Lil’ Ghetto Boy’ video.

One of the most interesting things I’m currently looking at is Will Robson-Scott (the man behind the lens on ‘Crack & Shine’ 1 and 2) and James Pearson-Howes’s ‘Top Deck’ project with Mother and London clothing brand Utile (all London everything) of images shot from the top deck of London buses. Having spent more hours than I’d liked to have spent gawping from double deckers down at London, the traffic choked leisurely pace has given me some interesting perspectives of the city and the behaviour of those who dwell in it. It’s a shame that I’m usually too irate to appreciate them, but Will and James’s images should resonate with any of us who aren’t stupid or rich enough to attempt to navigate it by car.

Launching as an exhibition downstairs at Mother (Leonard Street) on Thursday and being printed and collated in a newspaper format, ‘Top Deck’ celebrates a ubiquitous but oft-squandered view. Two years of dreary journeys documented is proof that we take our surroundings for granted and if I didn’t only use buses over the underground in a hapless attempt to save time, meaning I’m too agitated to relax and just absorb the overhead view. At least the Routemaster (and the new reworking of it) offers more scope to get lost in a flight of fantasy than the curious tension — of wild-eyed fidgeting loners, screwfacing women having to stand with a pushchair and sweating fare dodgers — that’s present on each and every bendy bus. Go grab the publication here or attend the exhibition and grab it while you’re there, but make sure to check out the tie-in Tumblr.

What could be more British than staring from a bus? How about a mug made to commemorate a UK hip-hop favourite? Like a ‘Fat Lace’ joke made physical, the ‘Serve Tea Then Murder’ mug from Style Warrior sees the makers of tie-in Brit rap merchandise with the nod from the referenced artists and labels shift from cotton to glazed ceramics. It started as forum banter, but now Style Warrior is taking pre-orders on them. Brilliantly at odds with the po-faced, harder than hardcore content of the record, the 1991 Music of Life release provides the no-nonsense imagery and lettering here. Consume enough caffeine from it and you too can be a No Sleep Nigel. While plenty of Britcore releases leave me a little cold in 2012, creations like this hot drink receptacle remind me of the kind of mad merchandise I’ve seen in Tokyo hip-hop outlets over the years.

In fact, the quest for the Sophnet Nike ACG Mt. Fuji jacket from ’07 in an XL led me to hero and all-round nice guy, DJ Muro’s King Inc. site and its Diggermart pages again. But I’ve blogged about them a couple of times before. What caught my eye was the bizarre key charm from Lil ‘ Limo in association with Muro and for Warp Magazine’s birthday last year. ‘Sesame Street’s Elmo in multiple colours with a ‘King of Diggin’ tape and 45 attached? Why the fuck not? Only in Tokyo could something like this exist, yet it sits alongside the Elmo that Raekwon cradled for Supreme, or Agallah’s ‘Crookie Monster’ as a strange piece of Jim Henson hip-hop tie-in. Anyone else remember the official Cookie Monster DJ Muro sweat with the crazed creature munching on vinyl. Nobody got quite as sick with the hip-hop imports as Japan did, and I’m preoccupied with the footage — from the ‘Wild Style’ tour to that eye opening 1994 Yo! episode where Fab 5 Freddy returned and did his awkward language barrier thing to look at amazing record stores, and beyond.



While we’re talking YouTube videos, every Onyx video between 1992 and 2002 is on there as a compilation in cleaned-up quality, plus the Bad Brains CBGB show from Christmas Eve, 1982 in better quality than the hundredth generation VHS look of most hardcore show documents from that era.



And for the sake of it, here’s a Shawn Stüssy interview from ‘Spin’s December 1991 issue. It’s not the most enlightening feature, but it was available and this blog entry’s lacking, so I upped it.