The internet just keeps spitting out gems. Kyle Lilly upped another chunk of NYC public access show Video Explosion’s coverage of a 1996 Vibe Magazine and Def Jam party. With DJ Finesse chatting with Mic Geronimo, Charles Oakley and the mighty DJ Red Alert (wearing this incredible Odd Squad promo t-shirt for a night out), plus (a grainy) umlaut-era Jaÿ-Z with Mary and Foxy live on stage (where did I leave my Nutty Professor cassette?), it captures a transitional point for hip-hop. Half a year later, Jay would command a very different status in the city.
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.
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.