It’s easy to wish you were somewhere that you never were and engage in some fake nostalgia, conveniently ironing out the fact we’d probably be total victims, but late 1970s New York always looks like a culturally fertile place to be. The downside being that it was probably terrifying. After getting turned away from some fabled nightclub for being aesthetically displeasing, there’d be a kicking when you tried to hop on the hip-hop scene early in boroughs that didn’t want your culture tourism. Factor in a stifling heat wave, a blackout and the risk of David Berkowitz shooting you in the head, and it’s probably better left to the residents who were built for that shit. The Kino Library just upped some 1977 NYC footage from that summer that I’m sure I’ve seen extracts of in a variety of documentaries. Seeing as it’s silent, I recommend supplying your own soundtrack: Jimmy Sabater’s This Is Love, Rufus and Chaka Khan’s At Midnight, Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation or anything off Destroyer by Kiss might work well. Continue reading SUPPLY YOUR OWN SOUNDTRACK
After my friend Charlie lent me Brookynite Nov York’s self-titled 2002 book my imagination was fired. The stream-of-consciousness intensity in that first person prose was infectious, even if that take no prisoners confrontation and the outsider over thinking was going to send me over the edge beyond the final page. As a topic, graffiti takes well to words over pictures when it’s visceral tales of beefs, chases and anti-authority ranting. I’ve read a few pieces by Nov since and all I’ve ever seen of the author is that State Your Name section that just added to the mystery. But here’s the man himself on OG Huskey Radio a few months ago, making a 20 minute appearance to promote last year’s What Do One Million JA Tags Signify? I would have preferred to hear him answer deeper questions on his work rather than having to engage in an earnest conversation about hip-hop’s elements, but Nov York, who now resides in Europe, is as intense and very, very Brooklyn as I expected him to be. Interesting guy, interesting books.
We’ve covered this here before, but I buried it with a load of other strange topics. You can see JA and friends’ throwups and tags in a lot of NYC films, documentaries and TV shows from the late 1980s and early 1990s based on their sheer ubiquity, but it’s the other curious on-screen places they’ve ended up that are mind-boggling. If the quest was to find that visible, hard-to-reach spot, an alleyway in the Shrek the Third‘s computer animated Kingdom of Far, Far Away or the questionable future ghetto of Elysium‘s 2154 Los Angeles were pretty impressive seeing as they don’t actually exist. Continue reading XTC MEETS ROCKY
Can I repeat myself? Martin Jones’ 1988 interview footage with Goldie on the topic of graffiti was taken from YouTube a while ago, but I never realised that it was back up. I’ve posted it before, but with a few dissenting voices on his recent MBE acceptance, it seems relevant to remind people that Goldie repped this nation hard back in the day, getting up in NYC and returning to recount some tales of the tunnels with Jones while wearing the ultimate turtleneck, gold Mercedes pendant and lavish jacket combination. Continue reading ULTIMATE OUTFIT
News clip library channels on YouTube are as good place to waste some time as any. I occasionally spend an unholy amount of time trawling places like Getty or Corbis to see the good stuff in static form, but after browsing the AP Archive channel, I found some more recent, subtitle-free footage based around vintage denim and old shoes in London and Japan (where Bing Crosby’s denim tux by Levi’s was part of an auction). I hadn’t seen the footage of ageing writers like Zephyr and LA ROC (with some commentary from Henry Chalfont) before either, even though it’s only a couple of years old. Provided that there’s working Wi-Fi, I can’t fathom how anyone can get bored in 2015.
There are plenty of better things to be doing instead of reading this blog. You could watch the first three parts of Noisey’s There Will Be Quiet — The Story of Judge documentary, or you could read Paul Gorman’s blog and get excited about the fact he’s following up a retrospective of The Face with a biography of Malcolm McLaren that releases next year. A few interesting Futura 2000 oddities have emerged on YouTube too — after seeing his work on the opening credits of Spike Lee’s 1983 film school debut, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop I wondered what other film projects he’d worked on. Dale Cooper from Mo Wax Please (who also upped this RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ interview) uploaded the painted opening credits of 1983’s In the King of Prussia — a film by Emile de Antonio (who co-directed the excellent Underground about the Weathermen Underground Organisation) that depicts the trial of the admirably ballsy “Plowshares Eight” in a hastily shot, ultra-real way using the real participants and the real court transcripts. I have no idea what the provenance of this short video, entitled “Thaifood in Thailand” and uploaded by BUILDESTROY, was — is it part of something bigger? Was it a short shot for TV? But with a 1990-era Futura, Daze, Doze and Toxic, plus a handful of soundbites on the state of the scene 25 years ago.
These are strange times. I’ve got love for Hov, but the bad start for Tidal is nothing compared to his adoption of the banter-brigade’s beloved Hype brand while ‘Ye is wearing Soloist — he’s gone from getting his grown man on to getting his sport science student on. The only thing odder is Hus Kingpin’s video entirely dedicated to being SuperDry down that shouts out the “orange label.” Even Canibus —who busted out some distinctly Warsaw nightclub garms a few years back — once proclaimed “With no fear like them clothes white boys be wearing,” back in 1998. And what are these brands if not a No Fear for a new generation?
I’m impressed with what my friend Thibault Choay has been creating for his fine CLASSIC imprint. With a company name like that, the pressure to create greatness comes pre-loaded, but the CHIAROSCURO book project is pretty damned good. To create a graffiti book that doesn’t slip into the trappings of earnest graf book formulas is an achievement, but the subject of this book, Parisian tattooist and former writer Cokney, is an interesting character. For starters, he’s a huge fan of Cockney Rejects and has a case over his head that comes complete with a 228,000 Euro fine. Two years after they started planning this project with writer and curator Hugo Vitrani, they’ve completed this two-volume set — the Scuro book is the light side, a collection of photos from the artist’s perspective taken from undeveloped film given back to Cokney by the police in a good cop moment. To my knowledge, at least until the publication and launch of the exhibition at Sang Bleu last week Cokney hadn’t seen the imagery yet — a deliberate action to homage the pre-digital days of waiting for imagery to develop, and the inevitable unfiltered flaws in the mix. That photography is accompanied by the artist’s own texts.
Light comes with a darkness and the black book is synonymous with graffiti, and, at fear of sounding like Nigel Tufnel, it’s really, really black, with a lot of ink used to give it the Chiaro section the requisite matter-of-fact look. As well as photos, Cokney has access to a lot of his police files, and case N° 1203264038’s evidence against the writer — in the form of images, cleaning quotes and complaints — opens up the age-old art/vandalism debate. but gives an unorthodox perspective — through legal eyes, the critics of the piece — to the work that contrasts and complements the white chapter. There’s some translations in the book too, and it completes a real labour-of-love. It’ll be online soon via the CLASSIC site, priced at 45 Euros and limited to 500 copies.
Thibault kindly invited me to take part in a CHIAROSCURO themed Know-Wave show last Thursday alongside Cokney and Hugo where we talked about topics loosely pertaining to the book, fumbled after a sudden decision to find a Goldie track and played a Booba record loudly.