The mid-Nineties was undoubtably a golden era for rap music with so much amazing sound coming from New York (and elsewhere). Emcees were hungry and and producers were on point to make major musical statements that surpassed time and still sound fresh 20 years later. Here is a small selection of debut albums from artists who shone so bright yet burnt out too fast. Due to their premature careers, this a brief reminder of music you might have missed or forgotten about from that wonderful era.
I wrote this short essay for my friend’s zine because I know he loves skateboarding and art and the two are one and the same. Sort of.
“It’s art. It’s technique. It’s form… It’s what looks good!”
J. Dill, On the topic of skateboarding
Skateboarders are naturally creative. They need to be. The world is their canvas and their boards are their tools to express themselves as they wish. No rules. No limitations except for their minds. From the wooden frames of the ramp to the unpredictable nature of the street; from the expressionism of poured concrete to the abstract spirit of freestyle, every skateboarder finds their place and perfects their skills.
The artistic integrity of professional skateboarders depends entirely on their ability to respect and defend their ancestors. Street skateboarders flock to the vast workshops of San Francisco, New York, Paris and Barcelona to redesign and refine the techniques their predecessors mastered in the multiple plazas and schoolyards of the city.
Sometimes the modern skateboarders draw inspiration from opposite ends of the artistic spectrum. For example, Ricky Oyola’s minimalist use of Philadelphia’s innercity architecture placed in juxtaposition with the surrealism of Japan’s Gou Miyagi has spawned a new genre of expressionism in Bordeaux, France, where powerslides are no longer limited to four wheels.
Even though skateboarding is a creative art form, it also embodies the qualities of a martial art with clearly defined technique and skill needed to perform tricks of the highest standard. The culture respects the skateboarder who has a response for every game of S.K.A.T.E. just as much as it respects the skateboarder who performs a singular trick perfectly.
Federations and corporate entities attempt to harness the creative force of skateboarding and use it to their own profit. However, core skateboarders have a sixth sense for authenticity and are quick to disown and condone any party that tries to benefit from the art form’s marketability. In the advent of globalization and free markets the popularity of the skateboarder identity has grown to the point that it has become difficult to recognize who is a true artist and who isn’t.
To distinguish between artists and imposters, analysis of equipment, health and posture are vital. The use and wear of a pair of shoes, signs of bruising on elbows and shins, or the manner in which a person handles their skateboard when walking are clear indicators of integrity. Grip tape thumb and mall grab are two benchmarks of the skateboard culture that separate the real from the fake.
Thirty six years of age
Starin’ at this blank page
I just wanna say ‘Wassup!’
To all my friends from back in the day
Some of us were rich
Some of us were poor
None of us gave a shit
All we wanted from life was more
Slumber parties wake up on the floor
Parents kicking us out the door
Before we raided the fridge
Got the munchies for your biscuits
Just kids livin’ this life for free
Little did we know how hard this life could be
If you didn’t pay attention
Spending more time in detention
Than concentrating on those grades
We were F-this and F-that
Ignorant to the significance of straight A’s
Watching skate videos and listening to mixtapes
Studyin’ the slang of Mobb Deep and Wu Tang Clan
It would be untrue to say gang life was something we knew
Even though we liked to act tough with our little crew
Lookin’ handsome in our Helle Hansens
Kickin’ back in class whilst all the other kids advancin’
To bigger and better things
We traded college halls for concrete walls
Painted by graffiti kings
Hours spent in the streets
Claiming allegiance to the underground
Then at night we’d creep home
To sleep in our flats Uptown
Life was so easy back then
If I had to do it I’d do it again
Same flow, same clothes, same trends
I dedicate these memories to all my friends