Too busy to blog, so here’s some pictures of Raekwon instead. I know that’s meant for Tumblr, but I’m too old to be upping 1990s rap imagery on there. Why Rae? Because I see more and more adoption of the 1993-1999 hip-hop aesthetic across lookbooks and products means anachronisms galore plus I think this guy always edged Puba in the style stakes. Even when he’s in that Michael Douglas Basic Instinct knitwear on the beach in linen trousers for Vibe to promote that patchy second album Lex Diamond is still styling it. Motorola phones, Polo, Sertigs and shorts, fly medallions. The rest of the Wu were style masters too, but this guy always stood out. Shit, I’m hyped at the prospect of Corey Feldman as Mouth from The Goonies (no amount of tees worn by I.T. bods and dudes called Dan at design studios who get fully Movembered can kill my love of the film), Crispin Glover and Snake Plissken action figures made in a faux early 1980s Kenner style, but the appearance on Tumblr of this shot from a 1995 Rap Pages shoot (the coolest of all Rae shoots — to quote the man, “…soon to get an article in Rap Page“) that I’ve been hunting for a while has brought back some powerful memories of keeping a mental note of everything this guy wore and then trying to find something similar and wearing it badly. He wore the box before most other rappers too when he posed with his bodyguard for Kenneth Cappello in 2005 and since he rocked up at RapFix in head to toe Fila ahead of the release of this year’s Fly International Luxurious Art album (which promises to be a celebration of the gear he’s worn throughout the years), this guy still seems on it, even if the more eccentric outfits of his younger days seem to have been jettisoned for the F, the C and the man on a horse.
Do you know what’s hypocritical? Berating rap nostalgia and then losing my mind over a box set of a well documented hip-hop release from 1994. But considering I change my mind on most subjects at least thrice daily, consider whatever’s on here a screengrab of my psyche at that moment in time rather than any opinion with longevity. CNN just got excited about Nasir Jones’ output, I personally haven’t fucked with much of his work post-‘Illmatic’, bar guest spots, a couple of songs per album (‘You’re Da Man’ on ‘Stillmatic’ samples ‘Sugar Man’ by Rodriguez — the subject of the excellent ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ documentary), ‘The Lost Tapes’, that Mike Tyson bio track, and the newest LP. I attribute my own reverence to the running time — ‘Illmatic’ isn’t long enough to let my frayed attention span wane and that I purchased it alongside that bland Fugees tape when it first dropped, meaning it shone even brighter by comparison.
Get On Down‘s Akinyele set might have been canned (sample clearance hell), but their work on the classics amplifies the joy of gawping at sleevenotes in a digital era. The wooden case, audiophile CD, repressed and remastered double vinyl, hardback book, replica press release, poster and press shots, plus the reproduction of the earlier Nas logo sticker are all geek manna, but they’re as far removed from that launch priced Sony cassette with the distorted bass as it gets. There’s a handful of hip-hop albums that deserve the Springsteen-esque bombast, but when I can psychologically separate myself from the kind of rap fan-damentalists who leave “cool story bro” baiting essays beneath blog entries, this album remains largely (‘One Time 4 Your Mind’ still sounds inessential) unfuckwithable. Thank you Get On Down and Mr. Frank the Butcher for the hookup on this.
I’m hearing good things about the ‘Maniac’ remake and despite my love of Jay Chattaway’s score for the original, the mysterious Rob’s soundtrack for the redux is pretty effective. Before that film’s sweaty sadism wrecks your day, how about ruining your Sunday by watching the legendary Austrian serial killer flick, ‘Angst’ from 1983, with the innovative camera work (mentioned here before) that influenced Gasper Noé in a major way. Somebody’s kindly upped Gerald Kargl’s hard-to-find masterpiece onto YouTube. If you can tolerate things like this, you’ll love it and if it upsets you, it’s fucking meant to — it’s a kinetic but hyper real exploration of a serial killer’s antics in bleak surroundings. It kind of goes with the territory.
It’s tradeshow season and I’m anticipating a mass of prints on racks. Previews of Engineered Garments spring/summer offerings hinted at them executing that aesthetic better than most and the Nepenthes Osaka’s site’s images of the Anchor Baker Jacket, Paisley Ghurka Shorts and that insane oversized blow up of the more restrained floral print on another Lafayette Shirt from this season are all way more interesting than much of what I’ve seen elsewhere. These and the Hawaiian Print Microfiber Ground Jacket are all fun Ridicule is nothing to be scared of, but I bet I get too shook to get properly floral. Those that can will make that giant pattern look incredible while the rest of us resort to our drab wardrobe staples. More Engineered eccentricity. Just think of paisley as a form of camo — albeit, late 1980 indie club camo.
What happened to the ‘Blue Gold’ denim documentary that did the blog rounds back in 2009? While we wait, ‘Warp and Weft: a Snapshot of Raw Denim in the United States’ is finished and out there with a Kickstarter cash boost (thank you Selectism for the heads-up). 70 minutes of denim fanatics talking proved pretty absorbing — Superfuture culture is prominent throughout, and the appearance by their denim Jedi, RingRing, with his face blurred, the interviews at Selfedge, the DIY jean making footage (via Roy Slaper) and the visit to the Levi’s archive (I once worked on a LVC project and had to get in touch with the archive who didn’t think some late 1980s Levi’s selvedge designs existed) are all highlights. The infamous Levi’s legal blitz of 2007 which changed the repro market is mentioned, as is the occasionally overlooked but pioneering Warehouse brand. The RED camerawork’s nice, but the sound doesn’t match that clarity, but it’s a minor gripe. If you missed the launch, you can still support it over here. This is the subject’s surface scratched — a sequel set in Japan is needed. A UK edition with footage of Robert Elms’ near lynching for goading Northerners over jeans after the December 1984 end of Levi’s selvedge production as the opener would be amazing.
I would love to thank the person who sent me this scan of a page from what I believe was a 1986 issue of ‘Runner’s World’ with the entire Steve Cram Nike collection (including the legendary Destiny — for kids who were too cool and monied to fuck with the Bongo), but I lost the original email to email or comment and I’ll amend this. This collection flopped at the time, but the uncommercial colours of the time look great in 2013. Bourne Sports in Stoke-On-Trent didn’t need a website — they just slashed prices and an order form. I wish I could use some kind of time traveling Diners or Access card and buy the lot. The Cram Range is very, very underrated. I know we’ve discussed it here before, but this is a clearer look at the scale of the line.
I made it. I’m officially a menswear blog. Shouts to Complex for spotlighting my nonsense though. It’s a highlight of this week, like finding out that Michael Cimino came up with the story for Heaven’s Gate while, “…researching the history of barbed wire in the West” (cattle barons used barbed wire to block off grazing land, but settlers cut it in retaliation), or R Kelly’s ‘Soulacoaster’ revealing that Kells watches ‘Avatar’ frequently (Aziz Ansari wasn’t too far off the mark), hits up McDonald’s for a coffee with 6-sugars when he’s feeling sad and had rose petals dropped from a helicopter as a romantic gesture (in fact, the WSHH of Kelly singing an unruly member out the crowd is proof that he may be the most interesting person to walk the earth).
It’s easy to sit from a distance and fetishise the gun posing and scowls of LA gang photography, but hard living makes for great portraits. While all eyes were on South Central, the ‘Rolling Stone’ piece on V-13 in Venice Beach’s Oakwood area from early 1988 (‘Death in Venice’) had some of the best photography I’d ever seen back when I was 10 years old. To accompany the story by Mike Sager (one of the greatest journalists ever), Merrick Morton’s black and white snapshots looked like the coolest thing ever — needles, hand ink (back when tattoos on your hand were a sign you probably weren’t to be messed with, unlike hand tattoos in 2012, which are pretty fucking menswear) and weapons. 24 years later, they seem futile and grim, underpinned by the assumption that everyone in them’s probably dead by now. This was reality, but Merrick Morton also acted as a still photographer for ‘Colors’ and ‘Blood In, Blood Out.’ Everyone loves the fancy cars, the fully buttoned Pendletons, the hand gestures and the locs, but take them to the barrio and they’d stain their Dickies. Strange to think how gentrified the area got in the decades that followed, even though gangs remained operational.
‘Pretty Sweet’s Gino quotient, all the Supreme AF1 hype this year and Julien at Nike reminded me of the perfect supplement to the skating in Timberland piece I upped here a few years ago. Skating in wheat workboots is defiantly anti-boardfeel, but Gino Iannucci rocking canvas AF1 Mids in his 1996 ‘Big Brother’ interview (around the time ‘Trilogy’ was released) photos is classic. I actually meant to make this a whole blog entry about skating in Uptowns, but I stumbled and flopped. I still love the quintessentially east coast act of deliberately handicapping yourself in an act of one-upmanship to prove you can.
Farewell Peter Falk. Forget Burberry’s smart ‘Art of the Trench’ initiative — Peter made ruffled look aspirational. Who wouldn’t want to get one up on smug, murdering company CEOs, landowners and wealthy philanderers and their villainy at the last moment? Detective Columbo wasn’t like the rest of the feds — he did his thing with a shambolic veneer that concealed a mastermind. It’s unlikely that Falk would be too annoyed at being typecast in that role with the whole nation commemorating his passing by pausing by doorways hunched and saying that line in a gruff voice — he was grateful for the Columbo role because he’d been in a succession of TV mobster roles prior to the 1971-2003 run of mysteries (only 68 episodes in 32 years).
Still, Peter’s work with Cassavetes —1970’s ‘Husbands’ (which was the subject of a post here a while back on Ben Gazzara) is a classic and the 1969’s trashy greatness of ‘Machine Gun McCain’ (where they met),1974’s ‘A Woman Under the Influence’ and 1976’s ‘Mikey and Nicky’ is equally notable, mixing b-movies with John’s uncompromising sense of the real. That mix gave Falk’s career a real depth, but I’m glad he got to work with another of my favourite directors — Mr. Walter Hill — in 2002’s overlooked ‘Undisputed.’ While many of Falk’s final roles were mob figures, Mendy Ripstein is the best of them — all world-weary menace, and his language during a particular outburst stays classic.
With Master P, Silkk the Shocker (who’d made Columbo reference on CD six years prior), C-Murder and Boz performing in ‘Undisputed’ as the Gat Boyz and Puff Daddy in the far weaker ‘Made’ the previous year, in which Falk was equally mobbed out as Max, Falk had some brushes with hip-hop heavyweights. That allows for a mildly tenuous segue way into references to Columbo on rap tracks. Most rappers pepper their lyrics with the televisual pop culture references, but Columbo seemed to be a popular one – unusual to see ‘the man’ celebrated like he was, but there’s a fair few negative references to sneaky cops using the fictional character’s name. Nowadays only elders like Malice make reference to things like “…avoiding the Kojak,” but once it was no real surprise. After all, Theo Kojak and Frank Columbo were hardly Rampart-style douchebag types while they were doing their jobs — Columbo barely even carried a gun.
It’s fitting that Prodigy — a man who once released a street album appropriately called ‘Return of the Mac’ has the best ‘Columbo’ reference on the title track of ‘HNIC’ but in hastily concocting this list I had to omit the presumed references to New York’s Columbo crime family, of which the Mobb were occasionally prone. LIFE’s images of Falk, Cassavetes and Gazzara at the latter’s 1982 third wedding (to Elke Krivat) are excellent, while Falk’s solo appearance on a 1975 ‘Rolling Stone’ has a certain slovenly elegance that’s pleasantly at odds with Bryan Ferry’s advertised dandyism. Fuck an iron.
(Note the sheer volume of ‘Jumbo’ and ‘Gumbo’ rhymes)
“Met this girl at the party and she started to flirt/I told her some rhymes and she pulled up her skirt/Spent some bank — I got a high powered jumbo/Rolled up a wooly and I watched Columbo…”
Beastie Boys ‘The New Style’ 1986
“I roll into the party as if I was Five-O/Book investigation biters like Columbo/Pushing rap for some info in exchange for a jumbo/And when I find a sucker it’s time to play Rambo…”
EPMD ‘Get Off the Bandwagon’1988
“If you’re on a drug tip, don’t be a Dumbo/Police investigate like Columbo if they think you’re sellin’ jumbo…”
Kool G Rap ‘Rikers Island’ 1990
“Stupid ass nigga, sewed your ass the raw/Cause the bitch in the ride ain’t nothin’ but the Law/Attached with the wire, Columbo for hire/So now the Law was on their way/Stupid ass nigga had the burp in his tray…”
Above the Law ‘One Time Two Many’ 1994
“Y’all niggas soup, I’m gumbo, ready to rumble, ready to tumble/Yo’ girlfriend outta line, I’ma catch her like Columbo/Tongue twistin’ like an Uzi, y’all niggas can’t do me…”
Silkk the Shocker ‘How We Mobb’1996
“I scope like Columbo/Pose like Mutombo/And blaze MC’s with rumblo…”
Show & A.G. ‘Put it in Your System’ 1998
“I drive up and down Harlem blocks, iced out watch, knots in my socks, cops think I’m selling rocks/Pulling me over to see if I’m drunk but I’m sober/They wouldn’t fuck with me if I drove a Nova. Listen Columbo, you’re mad because your money come slow…”
Big L ‘Da Enemy’ 1999
“Too hot to hold, too hard to handle when I unload?Still knockin’ jumbo watchin’ for Columbo/Rock it to the top of the pot like gumbo…”
Rame Royal ‘Stick Wit Her’ w/ B-Legit, Niki Scarfo and Richie Rich 1999
“Dunn, I catch you while you shoppin’ for kicks/Surprise bitch/Shoot outs is spontaneous and oh, from now on call me Columbo/’Cause I come through wrinkled up, think I give a fuck?”
Prodigy ‘H.N.I.C.’ 2000
“Slang rocks and snort coke, we cook keys like gumbo drops/We chop O-Z’s to jumbo rocks, pay off Columbo cops…”
Yukmouth ‘Spitz Network’ w/ Brotha Lynch Hung 2001
Lately I’ve been working on some copy writing and despite attempting an avowedly anti-1993 stance here, a recent research mission (more to follow later) unearthed one of my favourite ad campaigns for a record – the brave Blood of Abraham LP on Ruthless with the ‘JESUS WAS A BLACK JEW’ line. It caught many a Source reader’s attention, but alas, that didn’t translate to sales. I never was a Crazy Town (a group that Brett “Epic” Mazur was a member of) fan, but Mazik’s role in starting Conveyor at Fred Segal is well worthy of note — as is the subsequent music video direction. Few groups would have the balls to run this ad and it’s a confrontational classic.
I’m still bugged out to see my writing anywhere, but to spot it on the point-of-sale for the Free Run+ 2 City Series, the 1948 iPads installed in the new Nike Sportswear east London store and on the wall of the mezzanine section upstairs was strange. Not as strange as seeing your work reflected in a pool of water, but strange nonetheless.
My MacBook just died. It contained some things I was going to blog about, so I resorted to a backup plan. When in doubt, just recycle an old article that isn’t already on the internet. I see movements accelerated by online outlets to the point where they burn out in mere months and while it’s easy to chuckle at what’s no longer on trend (and we’re currently in a realm where 48 hours after anything arrives online requires some form of self-conscious “late pass” talk), there’s victims in any defunct element of a declining subculture.
Skateboarders love gossip as much as rap fans and graffiti nerds. They love tales of fatalities, misbehaviour and “where are they nows” more than most, and a key catalyst for misfortune was the transition from vert to street. Superstars plunged from grace as a new breed emerged, and the old guard had to evolve or die – of course that was meant literally in terms of diminishing careers and funds, but in the case of Texan skate legend Jeff Phillips — a childhood hero of mine —
the change in the culture’s physical landscape and personal problems led to his suicide on Christmas day, 1993.
We all know how Gator and Hosoi dealt with their problems in the early 1990s, but whereas Mr. Rogowski was afflicted with a douchebag streak, Jeff just came across as a guy who loved what he did for a living.
That enthusiasm was infectious. I recall meeting Joe Lopes (with my dad actually, who constantly made reference tour meeting with Joe until he too passed away – I think he was either trying to embarrass me or impress me with his memory. In the former, he failed and in the latter, he succeeded) in 1988 during a Circle-A tour of local skateparks. He seemed like a good guy (I’m sure he and his team mates were handing out pornography) and I was saddened to hear that he died in a car accident in 2002. I also remember a thinly veiled tale that pertained to the man in an issue of ‘Big Brother’ too, but this isn’t the time or place.
I’ve seen few truly progressive movements in my lifetime beyond skating, so I guess those left behind during its most significant leap. For that reason, stories like Jeff’s affected me a little more than the macabre tales Google frequently spits at me. I haven’t bothered with ‘Rolling Stone’ in a long time. Does it still take itself seriously, ’Almost Famous’ style? The last good article I read was a piece on straightedge gangs a few years back and before that the “bugchaser” piece in a 2003 issue. In 1994/5 they were still publishing some great material.
Kevin Heldman’s JA and GHOST trailing ‘Mean Streaks’ in the February 9th 1995 is a classic, but there’s a few more notable non-music assignments from around that time too. Peter Wilkinson’s ‘Skate Till You Die’ — a six page piece on Jeff’s last days — ran in the September 8th 1994 issue. It was sensitively handled and enlightening too, exploring the complexity of his depression. I miss excellent journalism.