Tag Archives: heavy d

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM A 1990 NYC

Continuing the holiday theme on here, this four year old upload of some 26 year old footage needs some shine. The Video Music Box episode filmed from Elektra’s Hard to the Left release party — an incredible promo tape of the label’s future stars — was recorded in December 1990, and DJ Iran dug the raw footage out of storage. That footage included some unedited seasonal shoutouts that features a young Apache, Dante Ross, Clark Kent, Nikki D, De La, Funk Flex, Bönz Malone (looking very sharp), Zev Love X (aka. MF Doom) and his wife, plus many many more faces. Carhartt levels were extremely high and that Heavy D & The Boyz promo jacket is powerful, but keep your eyes peeled for some other excellent garments in that crowd. Salutes to Digital Hustle Films for that one.

COKE BOYZ

“I’m in the ’88 Candidates, paisley’d out, in them Coca-Cola rugbys, two bitches, with a front in my mouth” Ghostface Killah, ‘Wicked With Lead’

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of Heavy D’s untimely passing, so, given his early association with Coca-Cola clothing, it felt right to look at the origins of that brief craze for sugary liquids repped on rugby shirts as a tribute to the big man. Salutes to Simone for reminding me of the Coca-Cola vest sighting in ‘Paris is Burning’ too. With the Brazilian Coca-Cola Clothing company pushing some high-end catwalk looks that are a long way from the brand’s 1980s clothing output, they’re still pushing their brand from beverage to wardrobe item, striving to be more than a promo item sent in exchange for a fistful of pull tabs, but there’s only one moment in time when Coca-Cola apparel felt right, and given that the original recipe contained coca leaf, they’re not the only clothing brand to have been founded on yayo money either.

Coca-Cola gear, alongside Benetton (seriously, why hasn’t that brand capitalised on its rugby shirts and glasses and their role in street style?), is a curious moment in style that’s not explored enough. There’d been plenty of Coca-Cola merchandise; promo tees, hats and plenty motor, but nothing that you wouldn’t pass onto an elderly relative or only wear wash the car in. In the early 1970s, they made some even more curious sartorial decisions like afro wigs (with a styrofoam head form and vinyl case) for $8 with proof of purchase and $2.98 beach pants (which are actually kind of excellent). None of it was a particularly serious proposition.

In 1985, Mohan Murijani’s Murijani Corporation (responsible for the Gloria Vanderbilt denim line) unleashed the fruits of their licensing deal with Coca-Cola — a full collection of clothing that made no secret of the brand affiliation, screaming it across apparel and bearing the familiar colours. The head designer was one Tommy Hilfiger — the Murijani corporation was a backer of the new Tommy Hilfiger signature line after Tommy’s tenure at Jordache, and it launched around the same time as Coca-Cola apparel did. In the early 1990s, bold rugby shirts bearing Tommy’s name rather than a soft drink would become a hip-hop staple.

There was no soft (drink) launch here — Coca-Cola arrived as a fashion line with shirts, jeans and plenty more, but the hats, rugbys and sweatshirts seemed to sell the most units. “Coming soon to a body near you” “It’s popping yellow” and “It’s bubbling blue” were the teaser taglines on Peter Max illustrated ads (Max was a frequent Coca-Cola collaborator, but he also worked on a famous 7 Up campaign — a drink owned by arch rivals PepsiCo outside the U.S.) and to buy the clothes at the Fizzazz Columbus and 73rd Coca-Cola Clothes shop buyers chose their clothes on a monitor from “videodiscs” then had their clothes delivered by conveyor belt.

If the description of the flagship Fizazz store setup isn’t the most ’80s thing you’ve ever heard, you obviously never caught the launch promo for Coca-Cola Clothes — a music video for a singer called Barbara Hyde, who disappeared as quickly as she arrived, called ‘Creatures of Habit,’ which acted as an ad for the brand. It was recently taken down from YouTube, but it’s directed by the man behind Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram’s ‘Somewhere Out There’ (shouts to Fievel the mouse) and is the most 1985 thing you can possibly imagine.

Despite plans for over 50 Fizzazz stores globally, that rollout never happened, but a Tokyo store opened in late 1987, with smaller sized gear for the Japanese market. A Fizzazz opened on London’s Oxford Street too. Strong sales were reported and in 1986, Apple attempted a similar line (complete with Patagonia and North Face collaborations) that bellyflopped. By the end of the 1980s, after craze status for several years, Coca-Cola Clothes went flat.

The Coca-Cola Clothing venture should have been a laughing-stock — a relic of an excessive time, but that visual excess and pop cultural blend (are we allowed to use Warholian, or has that term been revoked due to lazy use in every A$AP Rocky broadsheet feature ever?) was undisputedly hip-hop, worn in the ‘Mr Big Shot’ video by perennial early adopter Heavy D and his crew and operating in tandem with the explosion of Polo at street level — the Puba-esque uniform of a block coloured rugby and blue denim spent several years as a rap video staple. Coke on the streets and Coke on cotton too. The brand also gave Tommy his break too. It’s a story of enterprising branding and a new approach to retail (shades of Apple Store to the experiential aspect) — that late 1990’s relaunch as Coca-Cola Ware doesn’t count.

Here’s to athletic-themed apparel based on a soft drink with vegetable extracts.

NB: As a sidenote, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the brand rivalry, but Pepsi attempted to launch a Pepsi clothing line in 1987 that wasn’t nearly as good as Coca-Cola’s apparel output.

RECOMMENDED READING

My time management is weak this evening, so this is a blog update for the sake of blog updates. I had something to throw up here, but an embargo deaded that plan. There’s plenty on the internet at the moment that’s better than this blog. First up, this Wall Street Journal piece entitled ‘Made Better in Japan‘ is very good — it did the rounds the other day, but the talk of Spanish napkins at a tapas bar, baristas barred from foamers or espressos due to inexperience and Hitoshi Tsujimoto of the Real McCoy’s owning around 100 Warhols makes it amazing. My friend (and one of the reasons I have the job I have now) Mr. Chris Aylen’s Trash Filter site has an excellent interview with Futura 2000 to coincide with his ‘Expansions’ show in Paris. It feels like a well-executed sequel to the old Spine Magazine (I really, really miss that site) interviews from the early ’00s that made me want to enter this whole miserable subculture in the first place. Now it’s considered remarkable to offer up content that could be in print online, but back in 2000, Spine was doing that. I think a proliferation of cornballs (and in a preemptive answer to any “Was that aimed at me?” emails or Tweets, yes it was) dumbed things down to the point where it seemed novel to offer real writing. Salutes to Spine and props to Chris for resurrecting that style on Trash Filter.

On the Futura subject, was I the last to notice his work in Heavy D & the Boyz’ ‘Now That We Found Love’ video from 1991? I knew Lee Quinones was involved, but Ernie Paniccioli’s snapshot of Lenny with some video vixens on set and watching the video again reveals a substantial input from him too. I’m also late to the party in studying Steven Hagar’s (who wrote ‘Hip-Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music and Graffiti‘ which trounces David Toop’s revered ‘Rap Attack’ and ‘Art After Midnight‘ on the East Village art and music scenes) blog, which contains some fine hip-hop trivia. Mr. Hagar is selling both those long out-of-print tomes as ebooks for $2.99, and they’re worth your time. What’s even better, is THE ENTIRE FUCKING SCRIPT TO ‘BEAT STREET’ FROM WHEN IT WAS CALLED ‘LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT BEAT.’ That’s the script Hagar sold that was altered significantly, resulting in the much-loved but tacky cinematic rap classic. I’m assuming that might be of interest to a few of my fellow nerds out there.

I’ve let you down on the word count today. Two other things of interest are a UK Blu-ray release for Monte Hellman’s sparse and deeply influential road movie, ‘Two Lane Blacktop’ courtesy of EUREKA!s Masters of Cinema series. It isn’t as extensive on the extras as the Criterion DVD was, but it’s Blu-ray and you need to admire Warren Oates’s knitwear (my second favourite selection of Oates outfits after his inappropriately light suit for the dirty duty of severed noggin retrieval in Peckinpah’s ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’) as well as a beautiful scenery. ‘Drive’ proved that there’s still mileage in unnamed drivers — word to James Taylor. This 1970 ‘Rolling Stone’ article is another recommended read. I don’t own it, but I’m deeply jealous of anyone that recieved the (camera phone image retrieved from Soldiersystems.net) Arc’teryx LEAF V.I.P. pack at the SHOT shooting, hunting and outdoors trade show a few weeks back. Arc’teryx Moleskines look good, but the Cordura Brand fabric t-shirt, made from the same material that lines the Talos Halfshell jacket and the Arc’teryx LEAF GORE-TEX camo iPad cover are my kind of giveaways. Mr. Charles Morgan put me onto this action figure of firearms instructor Chris Costa that’s got a scaled down Arc’teryx Hyllus jacket (and an Arc’teryx hat on one variant) in addition to his other brand-name garments of choice.

ALL CONDITIONS PT. II (SON OF ALL CONDITIONS)

For something I assumed to be ultra-niche at this point in the 21st century, the ACG-themed post from here late last year proved pretty popular in terms of feedback. There’s evidently more All Conditions fanatics out there than meets the eye, so here’s some more visuals. I’m not entirely sure what resonates so hard with this sub-range of functional oddness — maybe it was the co-sign from climbers and Grand Puba alike, the inner-city re-appropriation that led to the Nike Boot movement targeting that consumer directly with shoes for them under the guise of ACG and the fact that this line created some of the best Nike shoes of all time, built to take on off-road challenges, meaning extra value when you broke open a beige, recycled box.

I’m currently appreciating the Meriwether and previously mentioned Air Max Prime GTX that were created under the Nike Sportswear wing – proof that there’s still mileage in hiking themed sports footwear when it’s not a case of chucking D-rings on an existing model or last to feign Viberg and Danner status. The latter Nike shoe is a Peter Fogg creation, and I’m saddened that during a recent submitted Q&A to the man, I didn’t ask at least 50 questions about the Terra range. While they’re frequently assumed to be ACG, due to their rugged looks, Fogg’s Terra Humara, Terra Ketchikan, Terra Minot and Humara weren’t ACG — I assumed this was because Terra was its own ’97 trail running division that had nothing to do with the early 1980’s Terra T/C concept, but as mentioned here before, the existence of the ACG labeled Terra Tor from 1996 ruins my theory. Unless the Tor was the point when Nike decided to make similar rugged running designs Terra rather than ACG. Bored yet? I need that mystery solved. The Terra Ketchikan is the best Nike ACG shoe that never was.

While the colours implemented across the barely christened All Conditions Gear line were strange for shoes with a swoosh, they followed the crazed-out, hi-vis makeups that outdoor wear manufacturers had been playing with for a while. In the hands of Nike designers, those wild shades and willful contrasts highlighted the best of each shoe, but the little eccentricities — the “lawnmower man” on an outsole, the jagged labeling that bellowed the name of a shoe and the excellence of women’s makeups that were just as good as the men’s variations. Those who know, appreciate these products. At its core, the collection harks back to a certain hippie idealism, where the worlds of running and a boom in backpacking carried a certain romanticism, and with those Oregonian roots, there was scope for both activities (other than the fact the two words rhyme, it explains the ‘NIKE HIKE’ sticker from the 1970’s.

The original Nike hikers pre-date the Nike ACG line by almost a decade, when the Magma, Approach and Lava Dome appeared in 1981 ads with a 1978 image of John Roskelley and Rick Ridgeway (who went on to become a vice president at Patagonia) at base camp on K2 during their dramatic 1978 expedition that made them part of a group of the first Americans to make it. Both men are wearing the LDV (the shoe formerly known as the LD-1000V) during camp time, and you can see cues from that shoe in the Lava Dome. That same runner at base camp concept seemed to be imbued in Sergio Lozano’s lower profile 1998 Pocket Knife design. I’m a big fan of the later B&W image of the amassed group too, with plenty of battered Magmas in the mix.

After the passing of Heavy D last year, I documented some of the Nike obsession that runs through his early work, but 1989’s ‘Money Earnin’ Mt. Vernon’ video is notable for him and the Boyz rocking what looks to be matching Lava Highs, plus a scene in a sports store, with stacks of red Nike boxes, vintage ads and a serious Reebok diss when the Overweight Lover openly casts a Union Jack topped box aside – the most grievous rap video brand diss since Doug E. Fresh’s Bally’s destroyed some Superstars. Lava Highs pre-date ACG, but if they dropped today, they’d be blessed with the triangle. I still can’t get enough of Tinker’s Mowabb sketches either — “Outdoor Cross Training” sums up that design nicely, but the fishy Rainbow Trout inspiration for that midsole speckle and proposed Pendleton blanket lining are interesting elements. I still can’t get enough of those advertisements either.

HEAVYWEIGHTS

Two of my heavyweight heroes have passed this week, and it breaks my heart. The retrospective reels depicting Joe Frazier’s greatness are a stark contrast to the sorry state of the heavyweight division these days (though Kirkland and Angulo’s Super Welterweight bout at the weekend was a throwback to a happier time). Anybody blinded by Ali-mania and some salty exchanges of words is a clown. Frazier’s vicious style and heavy hitting makes him a god. It’s a tragedy that he seemed to spend the last few years of his life in a different place to a formerly demonised Ali opponent like George Foreman who came out the other side (after a period of depression) a happy human being. This 1973 Playboy interview is worth a read ahead of any eulogies and the forthcoming documentary ‘When the Smoke Clears’ about Joe, Philly and the closure of his gym is promising too.



Then there’s Heavy D.

It was surreal watching the onetime Overweight Lover on Westwood.tv, pondering the excellence of ‘Blue Funk’ and thinking about how ‘You Can’t See What I Can See’ was up there with ‘Dwyck’ in the b-side stakes, only to hear of his passing. Hip-hop loves to wail and shout “whyyyyyyy?” to the heavens via social media and rap tribute during any passing, but Heavy D deserves a substantial mourning period — see that Drake album that’s been weeping salty tears from your iPhone screen since monday? That mix of macho bars and the soul stuff is the byproduct of the big man’s work, where a Teddy Riley production settled alongside the hardest of Premier beats without a single murmur of complaint. And that was during a time when Wreckx-N-Effect’s boys got vexed at Phife’s anti swing sentiments and EPMD were decrying R&B crossovers. Heavy helped make Puffy the man his is today, and Puff’s influence — regardless of your opinion of the Ciroc wielding ego — on pop culture as a whole is gargantuan.

Heavy D knew early on that there’s no such thing as selling out, provided that you do it right and that Sprite campaign pre-dates a slew of multi-national flirtations with hip-hop. Better that that, ‘Nike’ on the ‘Living Large’ LP in 1987 is an early ode swoosh with a Teddy Riley on co-operation that’s so shameless that Heavy even apologises at the end before angling for a promo deal. On the ‘Chunky But Funky’ cover, the Jordan IIs quantities are on the level of Heavy D’s scrawny opposites, the Skinny Boys. It’s a shame that one of the Boyz forgot his Italian-made classics on the morning of the shoot.

On a loosely related nostalgia note, Trevor Jackson and Richard XL’s live Ustream video construction of a UK rap mixtape the other day plus this 1986 DJ Mek footage of London Posse in Dublin as highlighted by the Hot As Balls crew brought back some memories of Mr. Jackson’s Bite It! work under the Underdog alias. Had his Playgroup album dropped in the MP3 blog era, the world would have collectively ejaculated tweet plaudits about it and the new generation of quasi-artistic MCs would hop on the productions for their Mediafire mixtapes. But the world wasn’t quite ready for that one and his Output imprint closed in 2006. Under his Underdog guise, Trevor dropped some bangers, at a time when the UK re-rub was a reason to skip a track. It’s interesting that he frequently downplays his musical ability at that time, indicating that treating the sonics the same way as graphic design, with a patchwork approach was the key to his sound.

While some Underdog work might have been lumped with the post-Muggs, THC-haze there’s an ambience and knack for psychedelia in the mix that could be fully appreciation when it was free from the distraction of comparison with beloved originals. On the Brotherhood’s ‘Elementalz’ it was out there. Some of the album might sound a little naive now, but the little gothic touches and lavish yet abstract art from Dave Mckean indicated that someone had taken their time putting it together in contrast to the graffiti fonts and barely Pentel tag fonts of rival British releases. It never set off a movement and as a nation, few lessons were learned and UK rap moaned and stagnated. Now the real appeal is in a hastily recorded road rap sound that’s too agitated to bother with lavish inlays.

This interview with Jackson is brutally honest at a time when many swagger around as one-man brands on a Klout score mission. He downplays a little too much of his work, but it’s clear that the graphic design and typography is still his first passion (check out Cynthia Rose’s ‘Design After Dark’ for some sleeve and clubland designs that typify the late ’80s to early ’90s, including some of Jackson’s Champion and Gee Street work). His site has a good cross section of his works so far, but Bite It!s street-level take on the Suzuki rhino and the attention lavished on some otherwise forgotten 12″s with Donald Christie’s photography.



Little Pauly Ryan EP’s been on here before, but it deserves a second appearance alongside Scientists of Sound and 100% Proof releases too. Who else was doing anything like that in 1992? He still works with Donald on video projects like this. That sloganeering should be memorable to ‘Phat’ readers too. I can’t help but think that that one-man, money’s-no-object (rarely the key to longevity in the recording industry) crusade against mediocrity deserves inspection from a wider audience as we champion some right old sh…actually, to honour Hev’s ‘Don’t Curse’ plea, it can get censored…shameless rubbish.