Tag Archives: Writing

Art Technique Form

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.

 

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Mispelt Yoof Ch.06 Pt.2

Max led the way through the gap in the fence and Tommy followed him. The bottles clinked in the plastic carrier bag as they dropped off the low wall into the undergrowth. The two boys hesitated for a second with baited breath to make sure the coast was clear before heading through the pine trees and onto the path. Max had been to the park several times during the middle of the night and he had only ever met random stoners or the odd fox during his visits. One time Max, Tommy and Buster were hitting bongs on a bench somewhere near the rose garden when the bush next to them shuffled and came alive. They all jumped and yelped at the sight of a homeless man heaped in grubby clothes creeping out from under a bush. He grunted in their direction and shuffled back down into the shrubbery. The boys high had evaporated in an instant and been replaced with seeping paranoia as they left the scene staring at every bush along the way. Max thought it was pretty funny with hindsight but it freaked all of them out on the night.

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5 Verses

I listen to a lot of rap music. I even spent a few of my teenage years jotting down lyrics of my own and performing them at various open mic sessions. The thing that amazes me the most about rap music is the skill certain rappers have to describe everyday life, the extraordinary people they know or their superior skills on the microphone with melody and high definition clarity. I must quickly make the clear distinction between a rapper who simply lines up rhymes and catchy choruses along a beat and the emcee alias M.C. a.k.a. the Master of Ceremonies a.k.a. The Mic Controller who is more of an orator with a message that carries more importance and substance that a simple call to dance. A lot of people can use complicated metaphors and technical rhyme structures in their lyrics, but the true masters of the art form are the emcees that talk to you without you realising they are rapping. The descriptions and attention to detail reach a point where the listener almost forgets about bars and hooks and simply listens to what the mic controller has to say. Flow is critical for a good emcee, but the real skill is when they can match words so naturally that any other combination or syntax seems illogical. There is no need for repetition, ad-libs or proverbial mannerisms. The emcee talks and you listen.

On a side note, I remember having heated debates with friends about the real talent of 90’s duo Group Home. My peers adored their album Livin Proof, but I had difficulty listening to Lil’ Dap and The Nutcracker rapping their tales of inner city life because the lyrical clout just wasn’t there. That said, Lil’ Dap had one of the most recognizable nasal deliveries and DJ Premier’s beats and production are what really place Group Home’s album among the classics of a bygone era in Hip Hop. Maybe it’s because I wrote some of my own rhymes and felt I had an idea of how difficult it is to lace lyrics together, that I saw through the strength of a good instrumental.

Here are a few verses from the Nineties that still have me in awe. The rhymes, metaphors, delivery and flow come together to create some of rap music’s strongest lyricism to date. The first is Nas with New York State of Mind – the opening song from his debut album “Illmatic”.

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