Every review I read about Ratking’s So It Goes album praising it for planting a new flag for New York rap makes me want to hock a negative comment on the site that is just one word—TOURIST. I imagine it was written by someone that was not born in NY, or hasn’t at least spent ten years entrenched in the city to feel the effects of its conflicted evolution. It takes a New Yorker to know a True Yorker. And I have to honestly say Wiki and Hak, the vocal members of Ratking, are the best narrators of a New Yorker’s joy and pain. Sporting Life, the group’s producer and DJ, from Virginia, now rooted in Bushwick, is a city insider too because of his creation of a frenetic sound that appears as big as the buildings it’s meant to bounce from, preferably at high volume. When you have two stimulated personalities in Wiki and Hak, absorbing their surroundings to tear through the days of their lives in a matter of 6 minutes and 53 seconds on “Snow Beach,” it’s easy to tell a native from a transplant. That’s not to say that Ratking discriminates against those who migrate to New York. Many of their fans are quite likely were born outside of a 212, 917, 718, 646 or 347 area code. I’m not mad at New York’s newcomers either. The problem is how New York City has allowed corporations to turn specifically Manhattan and Brooklyn into a mall. Gone are the characters who inhabit Gray’s Papaya or Max Fish in exchange for condos and Chipotle. The beneficiaries unfortunately though are those newcomers who see luxury rather than institution. If New York was ever in search of a new tagline it surely has one now for being “safe” and sterile.
Vote or die.
I experienced the art of deejaying last night in Miami. Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson of The Roots was the teacher and we were all his students during the relatively quiet start of the annual Winter Music Conference. Unlike South Beach, where the electronic dance music is aimed to numb your senses into a rhythmic stupor—whether or not you’ve already been sedated by drugs and alcohol—the scene at Bardot in the design district was more laid back. After two hours studying ?uestlove’s playlist, his scratches, and sonic reinterpretation of rap, soul, and pop records we’ve come to expect as the standard of nightlife soundtracks, I took away more than just three drinks and a brief ringing in my ear. No matter how long I’ve been deejaying, I can always learn something by observing another master at work.
We haven’t seen all there is to graffiti from the 1980s. Wild Style and Piecebook: The Secret Drawings of Graffiti Writers are definitive works about artists that gave the ’80s a visual identity through aerosol paint. And now, City As Canvas, a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, stands as a treasure trove of over 150 works of art, donated by former artist and collector from New York’s East Village, Martin Wong.
MCNY previewed the exhibit last summer through the release of the City As Canvas coffee table book, that features Wong’s collection. I deejayed the opening party for the book, which coincided with Red Bull’s Write of Passage event—a six-week program aimed at educating participants about the impact of graffiti on global culture. And recently, I returned to MCNY to deejay the opening reception for City As Canvas. See work by Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, LADY PINK, and FUTURA 2000 now, through August 24th, 2014.
The Lego Movie is a reminder that it can all be so simple. Rules, structure, instructions, these are the pillars of adulthood that create a rubric for our complex lives that need organization. But when you’re a kid, there are few borders on your life because it’s just starting to assemble, and that is AWESOME. This young, rebellious spirit is what drives The Lego Movie. Since the previews started showing last year, I basically planned my beginning of 2014 to seeing it as many times possible. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was the last time I really fanned out. I caught an early screening of the film—in 3D—last night before it was formally released today. There had to have been at least 7 people in the theater for the 10PM showing. None of them were toddlers, or adolescents basking in the mixture of CGI and stop-motion animation. To be as generic as possible without giving away details, my favorite parts were the way LEGO bricks were assembled on-screen, the explosions, the atmospheric wide shots, the comedy, the plot twist, and the end credits. Yes, the credits were works of art on par with the 1 hour and 35 minutes of action and adventure.
Between kids, parents, and grown-ups, there’s something for everyone.
Crazy visionz. | Image via Brent Rollins
Last week I was proud to present one of the best things on the Internet—a series of interviews with art directors, who talked about their favorite rap album covers from the ’90s. Cey Adams (former creative director from Def Jam), Bill McMullen (designer/artist), Greg Burke (VP Creative Director at Atlantic Records), Kenny Gravillis (Creative Director of Gravillis Inc.), and Brent Rollins (Creative Director of Complex magazine) took me behind the scenes of the concepts and the artist’s logos. All the designers made me look at all of the artwork differently, from their own creations to appreciating their peers. Follow the links below for each interview.
Brent Rollins | Cey Adams | Greg Burke | Kenny Gravillis | Bill McMullen
Two of my favorite people, Richard Pryor and Danny Brown, converged in a work of art. They both are the greatest performers of their respective generations. In another lifetime, I would have been in the audience hysterically laughing at Pryor’s antics. And I’m lucky I’ve had the chance to actually see a Danny Brown show, and shake that man’s hand.
One of the first comedy albums I owned was Richard Pryor’s Craps (After Hours), and I used to drop his skits on a bunch of mixtapes back when I was recording stuff on cassette tape. Then when I came across Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s poignant comment about Danny Brown being the Richard Pryor of hip-hop in a recent interview, I pictured Danny Brown’s face on all of Pryor’s old albums. It’s really incredible because I think it’s quite possible that someone can and will photoshop Danny Brown’s face onto all of those classics. A simple Google search resulted in an amazing Danny Brown illustration by Gieaux Graphics. I had to put the two together, at least to start a meme that true fans can connect with. By no means do I own any of the work seen here. I’m just a fan with a slight knack for Photoshop, working off of impulse, eating a Momofuku corn cookie and drinking Earl Grey tea. Listen to Danny Brown’s interview with Microphone Check below.
My first personal computer was the Apple Macintosh 512K. I used to type my essays for English class on the black and white screen using the MacWrite program. For fun, I’d play Asteroids, spinning my spaceship in circles firing at the chunky space rocks until they’d break into pieces. It was endless fun that was simple, during a time of the more complex video gaming Nintendo offered. I wasn’t as up to date as a couple of my classmates that had Commodore computers because I owned the 1984 Macintosh model in 1993. What’s most important was that I was privileged enough to have technology in my household, without a fear of missing out. I’m thankful for my hard-working, single mom, who scraped together the funds to give me things like this.
This past Saturday, the Macintosh 512K celebrated its 30th birthday at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California. Most of the folks on-hand that historic day (Jan. 24th, 1984) the 512K debuted were in attendance again over the weekend, except for Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, current CEO, Tim Cook, and of course the late innovator, Steve Jobs.
Over the Christmas holiday, I was ogling the infamous Car Wash cruiser deck by ONLY NY. It was on sale for a mere $35, which wasn’t just worth it for the price, but also for the nostalgia. I mentioned to my friends on Instagram that the graphic dates back to ONLY’s Spring 2009 lookbook. Jason Scott Henderson, my homie and former manager, linked me with the brand’s creative director Micah Belamarich and ONLY’s photographer Julian Goldstein.
3D printed objects courtesy of MakerBot: (left to right) Cat No. 1 (30407), snowflake, Stretchlet bracelet (57810), and fish.
Maker Media is slowly changing the world. The company responsible for innovating MakerBot 3D printers and Make Zine has affected me in the best way possible since I attended the World Maker Faire last year. For about two days, I surrounded myself with inventors who are creating things simply out of necessity and curiosity. This was beyond building things out of LEGO. Although everything seemed technologically advanced, like small homemade robots with Arduino circuitry, venturing into this territory was easy enough that kids were doing it. The next generation was inspiring me to channel my inner five-year-old.
Maybach matches the M10.
Carmelo Anthony’s launch party for his 10th sneaker with Jordan Brand was the first party I attended in 2014. For many years I’ve toasted to the achievements of my New York Knicks, but this past Saturday night it was all about Melo. I watched the star of the Knicks play his heart out on the floor in losses against the Indiana Pacers, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the New Orleans Bobcats that left me disheartened. I wondered—as I watched the mob standing outside of Terminal 23 (also known as Café Rouge)—if Melo’s hope for a title in New York has faded. With that thought swept to the back of my mind, the plan was to celebrate this great athlete.