Posts Tagged ‘Talks’

Wiz Khalifa Talks Giving up Air Forces for Chuck Taylors

For this week’s installment of Sneaker Shopping, Joe La Puma linked up with multi-platinum rapper Wiz Khalifa. Wiz has always had a unique sense of style from his gear to his love for sneakers, both of which he discusses with Joe at Stadium Goods in New York City.

During the episode, Wiz talks about skating in Air Jordans growing up and how Curren$ y put him onto Air Jordans back in the day. He also talks about his son, Bash, and what sneakers he buys him, downsizing his personal sneaker collection and how he got into Converse Chuck Taylors. On top of that, he then reveals info about his recent workout and weight transformation and ends up buying sneakers for himself and his son.

With Rolling Papers 2 dropping on July 13th, see what Wiz is on sneaker wise in the video below.

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Cardi B Talks About Her Pregnancy & Making Money Moves On TRL

These days, it’s impossible to go anywhere without a mention of Cardi B—I barely remember what life was like before the entertainment world revolved around her! Last week, the rapper sealed her fate as a music legend with the release of her bombshell debut album titled Invasion Of Privacy. Following all of her groundbreaking success, it only seemed right that the Love & Hip-Hop alum take over the TRL studio for the day to celebrate her latest accomplishments.

Sway Calloway made his epic return to MTV to celebrate this monumental moment, also tapping Cardi’s sister Hennessy Carolina to co-host the show and count down her top 10 iconic moments. After they warmed up the show, Queen Cardi sat on her cushioned throne and talked everyone through her latest life updates, including her newly announced pregnancy, her engagement to Offset, what went down at the Invasion Of Privacy release party and the moment that she felt like she finally made it.

Cardi also reflected on the legacy of her viral video for “a hoe never gets cold” and then got super nostalgic with Hennessy in a round of I Did It that ended with her casually getting a brand-new Gucci bag. J Balvin and DJ Khaled also sent over some special shoutouts, which was too cute. Cardi is truly a character with a big personality, so it made sense that some fierce drag queens touched down in the studio and embodied a few of our favorite versions of her. On top of that, Cardi also got a custom cover blanket courtesy of collage.com, a one-of-a-kind painting and a gigantic cake. Just another day in the fabulous life of Cardi B!

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Busta Rhymes Talks Peter Dinklage & Janet Jackson On TRL

It hasn’t even been a week since the Super Bowl, but we’re all still thinking about the Doritos commercial where Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage skillfully lip-syncs Busta Rhymes’ iconic verse on “Look At Me Now.” As it turns out, Busta was seriously impressed with Dinklage’s rap skills, revealing that the actor even spit some bars of his own on set. Like anyone with a pulse, Busta is a HUGE fan of Thrones and may even have more in the works with the man behind Tyrion Lannister.

In honor of Throwback Thursday, the rapper reflected on some of his major career highlights, like performing with Eminem at MTV’s Spring Break in 1998 and collaborating on “What’s It Gonna Be?!” with Janet Jackson. His close friend and collaborator Bangladesh also made a surprise appearance to share some fun stories from the past.

Later on, Busta was joined on stage by R&B artist Ravyn Lenae, who recently finished touring with SZA and is set to drop her Crush EP tomorrow. EDM mastermind Steve Aoki also dropped in after just getting back from Germany, where he performed at the first-ever rave in zero gravity. After discussing the future of music videos, Steve also filled us in on his “Mic Drop” remix with BTS officially going gold before caking a fan in the face, because why not?

Ravyn closed out the show with an intimate performance of her latest single “Sticky.” (Fun fact: Ravyn’s “boo thang” is a member of her band!) Avoid FOMO and re-live the moment in the video below. TRL airs on weekdays at 4:00pm ET!

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Interview // Jalen Rose Talks College Recruiting, Fab 5 Retros & NBA Season

Running the point, standing 6’8 and walking to the beat to of his own Serato, Jalen Rose was a big guard like Magic Johnson, a style icon like Big L and a leader like Rakim Allah. These days? Well he’s just a damn good broadcaster that runs a free charter school.

Still outspoken, still outstanding, the fearless leader of the Fab 5 is two decades removed from Ann Arbor but not an inch more distant from Detroit. Breaking bread in Bristol as part of ESPN’s NBA Countdown crew and one-half of Jalen & Jacoby, #5 still packs a 313 phone number and has raised nearly $ 6 Million in scholarship funds in 2017 alone for graduates of his Motown-based charter school.

Fresh fade and fresh takes, we caught up with Jalen on the cusp of the NBA season to hear his Association sleepers, insight on the roles brands play in college recruiting and what music he plays when he DJs parties for his uncles.

Nice Kicks: Let’s start with style. Fashion wise on and off the court, who did you look to growing up?

Jalen Rose: Great question. Initially it was Don Cornelius on Soul Train, he was super clean. I used to like George Jefferson’s fashion because if you think about it he was a business owner, married and about family and entrepreneurship. I appreciated that. In sports, Clyde Frazier was somebody whose fashion I looked up to. Then Ron O’Neal with the zoot suits and the long coats! That was the Detroit thing. There’s also a different style we got from New York City with the PUMA suits and the Suedes with the thick shoe strings then later Run DMC with the leather bombers and adidas with no shoe strings. Boogie Down Productions had the bubble coats, then you had Slick Rick and Dana Dane with the suits and the Ballys. I put a gold cap on my tooth in high school to be like Slick Rick and Larry Johnson!

Nice Kicks: A lot’s made of the baggy shorts, shaved heads and black Nikes while at the Michigan. You always seemed like the leader swag wise of the Fab 5. What influenced those fashion choices and what was it like seeing peers imitate?

Jalen Rose: Initially it was all about camaraderie and I think that’s a thing that gets lost with the Fab 5. It was a one-for-all mentality. If we were going to the student union for a party, we’re all going. If something was going down at Eastern Michigan, we were all going. If one us was going down to Freaknik, we were all going!

Based on that, the style choices were a way to signify that it was a time to turn it up and get serious. While the world recognized that we had five special freshman, we still appreciated our veterans and teammates who allowed us to be who we are. That was just a sign of solidarity. It wasn’t that a couple of us were gonna shave our head bald or wear black socks, we were all gonna do it.

With the shaved heads, at that time it was looked at as a sense of rebellion like sagging pants. At that time, rocking a baldie was considered rebellious. Then it was considered super handsome and fashionable if you were Michael Jordan! [Laughs] But if you were Onyx it was considered the opposite. Being influenced by EPMD and Naughty by Nature, I was the kid who would walk around campus in the middle of winter with a piece of tissue in his nose like Redman.

Nice Kicks: Michigan became THE Nike school during your tenure. How much did brands play a part in picking your school then and what do you think of all the conversation regarding their roles now?

Jalen Rose: Recruiting for me had a lot to do with familiarity because you wanted to see people that you knew who were where you were from have success around the country. Fortunately for me, I appreciate my time with the Fab 5 but it might not even be the best team I ever played on! When you go to Detroit Southwestern, it wasn’t about me being a McDonald’s All-American it was about the fact that Perry Watson had a successful program a decade before I even got there. I was able to see Anderson Hunt go to UNLV and win Final Four MVP. I never would’ve thought that when I was in the basement rockin’ my Michigan shorts to me knees as a high school senior watching UNLV lose to Duke in the Final Four that I’d be playing against them in the finals the next year. Then watching Derrick Coleman at Syracuse — he’s a Detroit native. So, those were my visits. They were Detroit players that I had love for and had success. Coincidentally at the time, just like Detroit Southwestern, they were all Nike schools.

The thing that gets overlooked for a young athlete is that you’re not only signing a letter of intent, you’re actually signing an endorsement deal with a shoe company — it’s just that you’re not getting paid. I don’t see it changing in the future. Do I think that NCAA, a 501c3, is going to share some money with their players? I don’t think that’s going to happen. Remember, the shoe contracts aren’t with the players, they’re with the schools. So I’m not just signing to go to the University of Michigan, I’m also signing to wear Brand Jordan. I can’t go to campus and say, ‘I’m going to wear adidas.’ The school isn’t going to pay for gear ever, especially if they’re getting millions of dollars, so that business model works great for them and they’ll fight tooth and nail to do anything they can not to change it. It’s no coincidence that the shoe companies have branched off into summer camps, the trainers that work out multiple players, the high schools that are sponsored by brands, it’s no coincidence that the player now goes to a college that represents that same brand and then wears that brand when they get to the pros.

Nice Kicks: When you were coming up, Nike had their own camp, Converse had Five Star and adidas had ABCD Camp. Were those camps influential to players picking schools at that time?

Jalen Rose: Of course. It creates a relationship but a funnel is what it becomes. I was fortunate enough to be influenced by the godfather of all this, Sonny Voccaro. As somebody that went to Nike Camp, I didn’t go to Five Star. I got the chance to play in the McDonald’s Game, but I also got to play in the Dapper Dan game in the final year because Sonny put it on.

Nice Kicks: Sonny Voccaro is someone I’ve always admired and I feel like with the current dialogue regarding brands, schools and recruiting he could be vilified with all that’s going on. To be clear, it seems like you still highly regard him and speak of him with reverence, correct?

Jalen Rose: No question! That’s why I call him the godfather. I’ve got nothing but respect for him, and his lovely wife, Pam.

Nice Kicks: As an unofficial endorser, you made the Air Force Max and the Flight Huarache famous. How does it feel to see them come back and how do you feel about new colorways?

Jalen Rose: Initially I felt bitter. I’m the founder of a tuition free charter high school and you would at least think I could get them to sponsor my school, ya know?

Here’s what happens, usually collegiate athletes aren’t fortunate enough to have the longevity that we’ve had. The documentary, Chris and I working in television, Juwan coaching for the Heat and Ray and Jimmy still coaching in high school. We’re still alive, breathing and active. Normally the system gets the chance to take advantage of that once, we’ve allowed the system to take advantage of it twice.

So, when I see Nike bringing back the Huarache and when I see the Brand Jordan Fab 5 shoe with the logo that we came up with in South Quad dorm on the back of the shoe, I’ve gotta get on my grown man and get on the phone with these people now. We’re not 19, 21 year old kids anymore. We want to be viewed as endorsers, we want to be used as partners. Send us some boxes, I don’t wanna see this stuff online!

Nice Kicks: In regards to the Fab 5 Jordans, were you sent a pair?

Jalen Rose: I’ve been in contact with them and I now have a relationship with someone there who hopes to work with us. If I would’ve had this conversation three months ago I would’ve been a lot more flagrant than I’m gonna be right now [laughs], but I will say it’s in motion. But again, think about what you said? One pair of shoes? It’s not a lot. I’m not a 19 year old college student in the dorms anymore, c’mon now! [Laughs]

Nice Kicks: So when celebs were getting the Fab 5 Jordans the actual Fab 5 was not?

Jalen Rose: Initially, correct.

Nice Kicks: That’s messed up but I’m glad it was rectified. Hopefully a free pair here and there leads to sponsorship of your school from a brand.

Jalen Rose: You know what I mean? Tuition free public charter high school. I entered that fingers crossed, but I did enter all that stuff with the Huarache remakes at the mall and the Fab 5 Jordan shoe with a level of frustration when you’re not treated like a partner or endorser. They get multiple bites of the apple and what allows them to do that is not only what we did 20 years ago, but that we’re still current right now.

Nice Kicks: Transitioning to the NBA, they just switched to a Nike deal and got new jerseys. Looking back at your pro career, was their a uniform that sticks out as the one you felt freshest in or conversely the most swagless?

Jalen Rose: Oh, pinstripe Pacers! Those were cold. The crazy thing for me is that my high school colors at Detroit Southwestern — blue and gold. Michigan — maize and blue. Pacers — blue and gold. So JRLA is blue and gold also.

Nice Kicks: I remember your Pacers team with Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin and Rik Smits rocking black shoes and black socks for the playoffs.

Jalen Rose: Yup! And bald heads, this stuff travels don’t it!

Nice Kicks: It’s hard to imagine in this day and age with all the swagged out haircuts and individual marketing that a team would ever shave their heads for a playoff run.

Jalen Rose: Right, and that’s a strong statement: I’m not able to give up me for we.

Nice Kicks: Much is made of the shoes you wore in college but not always when you were in the league. For example, you were one of the select players to rock Jay Z’s Reebok S. Carter BBall shoe on court. How did that come about?

Jalen Rose: Basically you go through different periods as a player. There was a period where I was adidas, a period where I was rocking Nike and a period where I was rocking Reeboks. Usually, whatever I was rocking was what was comfortable for me and what I thought was fly. Hov came out with that kick when I was with Reebok, I was a fan, and they looked good so it was only right. If I’m out here getting buckets it’s only right I do it in the S. Dots.

What a lot of people may or may not realize is that the NBA was truly the first league to embrace hip-hop. A lot of people don’t remember when it happened, but it truly happened with MC Hammer and “U Can’t Touch This” with the Pistons.

When the Pistons were winning championships in ’89 and ’90, MC Hammer was the #1 artist in the world. He did his “They Put Me in the Mix” video at Joe Louis arena in downtown Detroit. That created a kinship that Detroit and Oakland still have to this day, though it initially started in the ’60s and the ’70s with the Civil Rights Movement and a lot of outspoken inviduals that were passionate about change in our country that happened to be from Detroit and the Bay Area. So, when you transfer and remix that relationship to the ’90s, the tagline for the Pistons became ‘U Can’t Touch This’ and if you look back at those Bad Boy Pistons shirts that’s what they say.

Even back then when Too Short was saying Detroit was just like Oakland, that’s because we were out there at KKBT Summer Jam in the ’90s! Hanging out with him, Mark Curry, Spice-1, all of those cats. The great thing is I really got lucky because that was the hottest concert and I went back to back years and all my favorite artists — EPMD, Naughty by Nature, The D.O.C. — all were there.

Nice Kicks: Getting into broadcasting, you’re working now with Chauncey, Paul and previously T-Mac, who you all would’ve checked during your pro career. How’s it been working with them as teammates now and as a trash talker turned broadcaster whose on-court demeanor is the most different from their TV tone?

Jalen Rose: First off, wow, I’m the oldest one of all them, oh man! I consider all of them brothers. I’ve been working at ESPN now ten years and each of them have made a really nice transition to television and I’m really happy with all the progress they’ve made. One thing about the league is you have a kinship with all of them and you never know how it’s going to transform. When Paul got drafted, I was staying in LA and had a spot so we were working out everyday back when he got drafted to the Celtics so we’ve been homies for that long. With Chauncey, when I got drafted to the Nuggets he was in college at Colorado so we had friends and then he played for the Pistons. With T-Mac, he got drafted by Isiah and you know how I feel about him and he does a good job trying to keep everybody together. We were always connected.

I think each of them does a good job of resembling what they do on TV. Because as players, especially T Mac and Chauncey, they weren’t much of talkers they were more about business. I’m happy for T Mac because he got signed to be a special assistant for the Magic. Paul signed with ESPN and he’ll be not doing only Countdown but also The Jump. I think each of them have done a good job of staying true to who they are and to me that’s how they could have long careers in TV if they choose to.

Nice Kicks: In a sport like football, preseason or Week 1 doesn’t mean a thing but I feel like in basketball it can be a bit more telling. Who’s impressed you or surprised you so far?

Jalen Rose: I think a surprise to the casual fan will be Minnesota. People sleep on the fact that Karl Anthony Towns averaged 25 and 12 last year and they still have Wiggins who averaged over 20 and they brought in Jimmy Bulter. A real sleeper as a player is Nikola Jokic from Denver. He’s only 22 and a lot of people don’t realize that he was fourth in triple-doubles behind Russ, Harden and LeBron as a center!

I love seeing what OKC did this offseason, I like CP3 with James in Houston, I like Kryie and Gordon Hayward in Boston, I like the super teams in Cleveland and Golden State and the Greek Freak is gonna go off again this year.

Nice Kicks: You were about twenty years ahead of your time in regards to being a big guard/hybrid player and bringing your love of hip-hop to your style on the court. In an evolved game and a 360 marketing space, how do you think you’d fair in the game and the endorsement space today?

Jalen Rose: You look at all the major sports in America: there colors are red, white and blue. But the NFL is a flag, a shield, and the NBA is a player in Jerry West. The NBA has done a better job of marketing its players and individuals as the encouragement of building the game which has now allowed what you say has happened. The Forbes list is hoopers, the most followed on social media are, too. The new Madden commercial has James Harden and CP3 on it…no NFL players were available? We’re talking about storylines going into the NBA season and the breaking news for the NFL is the protest, Ezekiel Elliot and what happened to Cam recently.

I hope, that as I talked about for years and I talked about it on First Take, that the game has evolved to positionless basketball. Positions were truly created so that a novice could follow the game. It use to be point guard, now it’s lead guard or as I say ‘primary ball handlers.’ These guys like John Wall, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas are now giving you 25 points. Just because you’re a power forward doesn’t mean you’re a physical presence playing in the paint the entire game. That guy now is Draymond Green spreading the floor.

I would think that at my size, playing multiple positions but drafted as a point guard, I would hope to flourish. I’m happy to see big guards back in the game like Lonzo Ball.

Nice Kicks: When watching today’s game whether it’s swag or playing style, is there anybody particular you watch and say, Man, he reminds me of me?

Jalen Rose: I used to feel like that with players that played three positions. And by no means do I think I am a trendsetting player, but normally there aren’t guys that play point guard and also small forward. There are point forwards like Paul Pressey, Grant Hill or LeBron James and then there are tall point guards like Magic Johnson, Steve Smith and Penny Hardaway. But, it still in theory doesn’t exist today where a guy is running the 1 and guarding the 3. That again goes towards positionless basketball. I like that KD can play the 4 or the 5, Melo is gonna start at the 4, Kevin Love is gonna play the 5 and Porzingis might play the 5.

Nice Kicks: Sticking with the youth, you do a lot to help kids in Detroit with your school. Could you tell us about how that started  and what you and the kids have gotten out of it?

Jalen Rose: Anybody that’s followed my trek as an athlete or a public figure: I’m just like you. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d mature to the point where I’m the founder of a charter high school, I didn’t see that either. It wasn’t my goal, it wasn’t my plan, I didn’t need protesting in the NFL to happen or things to transpire for me to give back to my community. JRLA was really just a graduation of a mission to give scholarships to local kids through charitable donations. We were giving five students scholarships for about eight or nine years. I sat back from my seat and noticed that we were closing public schools but opening prisons. I wanted to do something more to motivate young people and truly give back and make change and I felt no better way was through education.

We’re open enrollment, we’re tuition free, we’re public charter and we’re a 9 through 16 model. So our goal is not only to graduate our young people from high school but also graduate them from college as well. This is our first year where we have both high school seniors and college seniors and I’m really proud of it. We’re looking to bridge the education gap and make our students successful in college and the workplace and make their dreams come true. As an adult you don’t get as far with a high school diploma as you used to so we have a board that monitors our students and makes sure they’re going to schools that are not just high school but four-year universities, trade school and the military, just putting themselves in the position to have a secondary opportunity after high school.

And we get zero state funding for our facilities, how about that? Please go to http://www.jrladetroit.com/ for more information about what we’re doing. These are the type of outcomes that are really game changing in our community and I’m really proud of our parents, our students, our staff, our deans and our board. Now for us to have the progress from being an expansion team in 2011 to now a contending team in 2017, I’m really proud of that progress.

Nice Kicks: Moving to music, we know back in ’92 it was EPMD, Naughty by Nature and others blowing up your headphones. What’s in heavy rotation for you today?

Jalen Rose: One of my hobbies in my spare time is DJing. I could go with my favorite break beats…man lemme hit my Google Play. I could go old school with Mantronix, Sam Cooke, Kraftwerk… Then I could go to R&B Soul with Rod Stewart “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” people sleep on that! I’ve got my Bill Withers, I’ve got my Kano “I’m Ready,” then we could fast forward to KRS-One, Rakim, Public Enemy, NWA, that whole era, Outkast… then you could graduate even further to of course my Detroit homies! Marshall, Nickel Nine, Sean Don, my guy Tee Grizzley, and then obviously I’m a huge fan of bars so Kendrick, J Cole, Pusha T, I could go a lot of different ways from R&B to pop. That’s one thing being from the Midwest as you know: we weren’t married to one sound. So I got exposed to everything from P-Funk to Hall & Oates to MoTown. I didn’t get a strong techno influence being from Detroit, but it was more just the songs like “Egyptian Lover” or “Tour de France.”

I’ve done DJing as a job and for fun. When you’re a DJ you play what the audience wants to hear. If I’m playing for my uncles I’m gonna play Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, if I’m playing for a more universal crowd I’ll play Michael Jackson and Prince. It all depends on the audience really. As for records at the moment, I like Cardi B.

Nice Kicks: Just the same, it was black Nikes on the feet back then. To close it out, which kicks get the most burn from you in 2017?

Jalen Rose: On my feet, man it’s hard to find some PUMAs in a size 15! For me, as I got older I wanted to buy a lot of things that I couldn’t afford growing up. I catch myself wearing Gucci Lace Ups, Cartiers, Cazals, adidas Top Tens and Forums… the motivation!

Catch Jalen on ESPN all NBA season and for more on Jalen’s charter school visit http://www.jrladetroit.com/

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Interview // Willie Esco Talks COOGI x PUMA Clyde Collab & What Biggie Would Be Wearing in 2017

Product photography by Ray Polanco

Willie Esco has been in this game for years. Working on lines for the likes of 2Pac and Nas, the New Jersey native is back at the helm with COOGI and collaborating with his favorite brand, PUMA, on none other than the Clyde.

A fitting tribute to the Notorious BIG, we caught up with Esco on the anniversary of Big’s death and the drop date for this limited edition collab to hear about not only the sweater sneakers but also what Big would be rocking if he were alive today.

Nice Kicks: To start, tell us a little bit about your history with Coogi and roots in the hip-hop fashion world.

Willie Esco: My history with Coogi is a long one. In 2004, I was put in charge of reviving the brand. Around that time I was ending the relationship with Nas and the Willie Esco brand was coming to a close. I also acquired the global licensing rights to Makaveli — 2Pac’s namesake brand that I created. Creatively I wanted to do more. Being the face of Willie Esco on the Latin side and Nas being the face of the brand on the hip-hop/celebrity side sort of took some wear and tear on me. Coogi was unique as well because I could just design clothes and revive a brand that had some legs. The ironic thing was that I was with Coogi and it had the association with Biggie and then I was working with the 2Pac estate! Both were sort of the East Coast version of Elvis and the West Coast version of Elvis in the hip-hop world.

With Biggie, the sweaters were not as popular in ’04 so the connection just wasn’t there yet like it is now. I left my partners in Coogi in ’06 and they took the brand to about $ 80 Million or maybe $ 100 Million and then around 2012-13 they told me to come back in to help with Etonic. I didn’t know footwear as well as my son does, but I told them I’d only come on if they allowed me to also work with Coogi.

I saw Coogi as the premier, luxury streetwear brand. They sort of kept their position because everything is sort of frozen in time because of Biggie. I knew the collaborations would come. We started with Rag & Bone and then my goal was to go for the top three — adidas, Nike and PUMA. Selfishly I wanted to attack those brands because my son is heavy into footwear and the collaboration process allowed him to see how to solicit the big brands. I worked with Dwayne Edwards in mentoring my son and a former colleague of mine was at PUMA. We started talking, I hooked him up with Dwyane and I knew 2017 would be a big year. His timing was perfect. I think they understood timing and footwear cycles and being able to capitalize off this space and let me translate it into a shoe. The PUMA Clyde program was originally going to be focused just on Brooklyn, but as we started talking it morphed into a bigger thing because of how celebrated Big is. The one thing that I was super specific on was that every pair had to be different — the left and the right — so that every pair is unique. They ultimately used it in the marketing and every pair is different which is a hard thing to do in footwear these days.

Nice Kicks: When you look at the collab, the Clyde represents NY in the ’70s and the COOGI represents Biggie in the ’90s. How does this shoe appeal to the modern day New Yorker?

Willie Esco: I think the two speak for the two times and I sort of fill the gap. I’m the ’80s and I don’t think the PUMA people believe me, but my favorite shoe actually is the Clyde. Every year around Final Four time I get a pair of all-white Clydes for my birthday to watch the Championship Game. That’s total ’80s to me. Growing up, I didn’t want to be the guy wearing adidas because that was Queens. In turn, let me claim PUMA for Jersey as a breakdancer which was a hard thing to do.

So when working on the shoe, I looked at the experimentation from Missoni and Converse was doing, which nothing was mismatched, so I wanted to bring uniqueness because the footwear game is in a place where it’s really hard to get excited about shoes. So, understanding what was being done with the he Missoni x Converse collab which is brilliant, us doing it at the street level brought a new twist. The millennial wants to be taken back to the ’90s and somebody wants to indirectly channel Biggie. This is a cool way to do that just like buying a pair of Jordans makes you think you can jump higher or putting on a Coogi makes you think you’re from Brooklyn or you can rap. I think we achieved that and I think PUMA did an excellent job of that. Now Diddy is posting about it and it’s a really great day.

Nice Kicks: When looking back at Biggie, what made him the fashion guy we still love and respect today?

Willie Esco: At that time, there were not too many brands servicing the urban consumer and going up to 3x and 4x in apparel. Designers that were ready to do that had success with their own brands. The savviness of Biggie to be aspirational and go into the store and go, “What makes this sweater expensive?” Simply, labor and knitting time. The boldness of a designer putting it out there and saying it’s not a mistake is brilliant. So Coogi putting it out there and Biggie finding a brand that fits his colorful nature and his size? It’s pretty unique in that if you wear a Coogi sweater people know you spent money on that thing. It’s similar to what Dapper Dan was doing, but Coogi was unique in that you could see who was wearing it from a mile away. Coogi was unique and I think Biggie picked up on that.

The gifted nature of his ability to rap made him standout as well and be able to be depreciating about himself and make that a positive. Rap has always accepted being chubby and then you had a rapper that was bigger, fatter and not scared to talk about it and explain how he liked to splurge on himself in the most expensive of things like Versace, Coogi and Moet. Those things still have to be attainable by the culture and not everything was attainable at that time.

Nice Kicks: We’re both mourning and celebrating Biggie’s life as he passed 20 years ago today. If Biggie was still around today, what do you think he’d be wearing?

Willie Esco: I think he’d age gracefully. The closest thing we have to Biggie today is Jay-Z. They both influenced each other, so if you look at what Jay’s wearing and what Jay’s wearing I think that’s what Big would be wearing and doing. I think he’d get on a health kick like Rick Ross and slim down. So a lot of the elements of the guys that are doing it big now, you take those pieces and that’s what Big would do. If he got to that point, I think he’d be a little more conscious about his health, he’d probably be looking at brands and art and developing his empire. As you get older you naturally gravitate to more classic things — it’s just the nature of the beast. He wouldn’t being wearing leggings, he wouldn’t be wearing tight stuff and I don’t think he’d be wearing Yeezys. I think he’d have a deal with Timberland, he’d have collaboration deals and he’d be celebrating 20 years of his Life After Death album. I think luxury brands would have a ball with him and he may be spearheading the resurgence of Coogi or Iceberg. I definitely believe Brooklyn Mint would’ve been a big brand, too. They would’ve gone away and then they would’ve had a resurgence. I think ultimately he’d be a billionaire and growing his empire in the way Jay is.

Nice Kicks: Every weekend a ton of sneakers drop and collaborations are more frequent than they’ve ever been. What makes the Coogi x PUMA Clyde a piece of history and a fashion statement today and here on out?

Willie Esco: The patience and timing that went into this project. The intimateness of who we rolled it out to and how selective we were about who got it and why they got it. They’re very limited because at Coogi we can only rollout X amount of product over X amount of time. I had to warn PUMA about how careful we had to be to make this happen. I want the consumer to know how much that went into planning this thing to make it come out on the day that it came out.

I’m a very lucky designer because I’m a designer that has worked indirectly with Biggie and Pac on their collections and collaborations. I think the consumer needs to appreciate why I did this, the connection to Brooklyn and the storytelling. That’s one important thing in collaboration and storytelling is that we’re losing what’s taken for granted. Collaborations just aren’t special anymore but this one is special because my son is involved in the project and we’re digging deep with pushing the concept of Biggie and a Coogi shoe. Knowing that knit shoes are being done nowadays, but this is a throwback to the ’90s with bulky sweater material on a shoe. It’s not an easy thing and one bad move and we could’ve missed the whole thing. It’s really exciting for me because I just had the idea and it went to my favorite brand and that’s what makes it special for me. When it’s special for the designer it comes out that way to the consumer.

The COOGi x Puma Clyde launched today at select retailers such as at PUMA Lab powered by Foot Locker, KITH, Jimmy Jazz, Barneys and Nice Kicks LA. Keep up with Willie on IG.

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Keith Richards Talks New Album, Fatherhood, and (Of Course) Mick…

Keith Richards Talks New Album, Fatherhood, and (Of Course) Mick Jagger

Read the entire interview here. 

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Donald Trump talks to GQ about the economy, nuclear weapons, and…

Donald Trump talks to GQ about the economy, nuclear weapons, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Read the entire interview here. 

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Jaden Smith Talks to GQ About Pyramids and Galileo Read the full…

Jaden Smith Talks to GQ About Pyramids and Galileo 

Read the full interview here. 

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KAWS Talks About the Shanghai Times Square “CLEAN SLATE” Exhibition

Erected earlier this week in Shanghai’s bustling Huangpu district, Brooklyn contemporary artist Brian Donnelly, better known as KAWS‘ latest undertaking takes him to the heart of Middle Kingdom. Following the showing of “CLEAN SLATE” last year at Hong Kong’s Harbour City, KAWS brings his concept to the mainland, debuting the project to the Chinese audience for the first time. Partner with fashion mainstay Lane Crawford and curating company AllRightsReseved, “CLEAN STATE” features a mammoth rendering of the Companion holding two smaller counterparts. “In the past, my sculptures have been mostly a one-to-one relationship with the viewer, this time I think the conversation moves more inward.” KAWS said. Having built a loyal following for his contribution in the realms of vinyl toys — working closely with MEDICOM TOY — and streetwear  (founding the now defunct label Original Fake), KAWS continues to reinvent his mascot the Companion in various shapes and mediums, taking to global landmarks across the world. Here, KAWS lets us in on the meaning (or the lack of) behind his latest presentation and speaks on how “CLEAN SLATE” came to fruition.

This will be the first colossal piece to be featured in Shanghai. Why have you waited until now to showcase a work of this size in China?

It’s not that I waited, it’s just now that the opportunity came up so I’ve done that. It’s my first project in Shanghai and in 2017 I will actually have an exhibition.

In “Passing Through” the companion was sitting, and as you’ve previously mentioned, he isn’t a proud character, so the face in the hands pose was fitting.”CLEAN SLATE” finds the Companion standing tall holding two smaller Companions. What’s the meaning behind this presentation?

There’s no meaning. Whatever makes it work and you know, think in different ways. At the time I did this double figure character called “At This Time” before “CLEAN SLATE,” I just liked the way the two characters interact with each other. So this time I decided to take the idea further on a different scale.

“CLEAN SLATE” refers to wiping out the past and starting over again, stepping into the next stage of life. What is your next stage in life/career?

I like to think I have a clean slate every time I finish a project. Asking me what my next stage in life is sounds a little heavy, I don’t really think like that, I just try to appreciate the moment.



What are the challenges of organizing a public art exhibition in an open space such as Time Square in Shanghai, any difficulties you come across?

For me, there is no challenge.  But for SK (founder of curator agency ARR), there might be tones of challenges. The project here with Lane Crawford was organized by AllRightsReserved and SK. They did a lot of work and I just show up.

Understanding that your public art display will reach an audience both familiar and unfamiliar with your work, what are the certain factors you consider before exhibiting?

I always seek to use art as a vehicle to communicate with people. I thought it’d be great to have a public work in Shanghai, and reach people I haven’t before.

What are your thoughts on the future of China’s contemporary art scene? Is it promising?

Of course. As long as people are alive, art is promising. I think art is important to any culture.


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Futura Talks Instagram Photography, ’80s Street Fashion and Working With Converse

“I’m encouraged by the future. I find myself wondering what the ‘20s will be like.” says Lenny McGurr pensively, as he gently fiddled with his Canon EF 300mm down gently. Nearing 60, McGurr’s optimistic demeanor matches his enthusiasm for the years to come, as it perhaps should, since he is widely known as Futura 2000. Having honed his talent painting New York subways in the early ‘70s, Futura is considered one of the godfathers of graffiti. Often mentioned in the same sentence as legends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura has consistently pushed the contemporary art envelope with his abstract aerosol strokes. His signature tag has appeared on the buildings of Alphabet City to the crisp, minimal walls of Parisian galleries. Moreover, his designs — such as album artwork for The Clash and James Lavelle’s Mo’Wax record — have bridged the gap between subcultures in art and music. It has also gained traction in other sectors, such as the urban vinyl toy craze of the early ‘00s.

In fashion, collaborations with streetwear heavyweights like Supreme, UNDERCOVER and A Bathing Ape are some of his most coveted works. Yet in recent years, Futura has reverted to his roots for inspiration, choosing to work with Converse — a brand he’s long resonated with — on an art initiative dubbed “Made by You.”

“Before streetwear brands hit the market, Cons were the sneakers of my high school years. I wore Chuck Taylors to Woodstock during the summer of ‘69. My default back to Cons is just an approach to the overkill of brands I’ve worn or worked with in my time,” notes Futura. In this segment, the graffiti icon tells us why working with Converse is a “no-brainer.” He also let’s us in on his own style staples from the ‘80s and explains how Instagram has allowed a new wave of art-making.



Why are Converse Chuck Taylors nostalgic to you?

There’s just something authentic about Chuck Taylors. You see all walks of life wearing Chucks no matter what age, genre or subculture they belong to. That’s what “Made by You” is all about. Converse is not only highlighting recognizable names like myself, Andy Warhol and Patty Smith, it’s also showcasing local creatives and talents — the community that supports them. The campaign is a cool, clever way to highlight an individual’s creativity through their own adaptations of the Chuck Taylors.

What were the wardrobe staples during your heyday as a graffiti artist?

Prior to the arrival of the Air Jordans, adidas Shell Toes and Pro-Keds were the shoes of our culture. More recently, graffiti writers have been known to wear [The] North Face jackets, but back in the day they wore Golden Bear varsity jackets. The latter were really the shits. Kangol hats that were also a staple in the ‘80s. We also used to wear ridiculous pants with sewn-in creases. I admit now, I probably looked a little silly. In the ‘90s, the trend got sportier. Then there was the streetwear boom in which companies such as Ecko, Triple 5 Soul, and the like populated the market.

Which designs would you stay clear of? 

PF Flyers were what we would call “Skippies.” Just low-end whack shoes. You didn’t want to be seen in PF Flyers.

Previously, street culture was only synonymous with hip-hop and its various elements. These days technology has created newer avenues of creative expression. Instagram photographers are also considered street cultural figures. How do you view Instagram as a modern creative tool?

Whether it’s taking photos or painting walls, it has always been about creative expression and how you can get your name out there. Traditionally it was the streets – you wanted to be seen, and make an impression. Whether we’re from the East Coast or West Coast, we used our own symbolism to represent our culture. But for a short while, I felt that creativity for art-making was stagnant.

We almost needed another cycle of art to come through. It wouldn’t be until the millennium that a fresh wave would take place again. Instagram is one of these waves. Social media allows you to be creative. It’s a constant balance of images and community interaction. If someone “likes” your photo from 58 weeks ago, there’s no denying that they browsed through your profile to get to that image. There is no fooling the application. It’s saying, “Oh he took the time to look through my stuff.” It’s a compliment in its own way.

Who do you follow on Instagram?

I’m only following my son Timmy (@13thwitness) on Instagram, but at the same time I’m liking from a large pool of people I don’t follow, yet I lurk in all the time. Back then, there was a website called Art Crimes, which was the number one platform to view cultural art from around the world. The fact that today we can do so much from a little machine in our pocket versus sitting down at a desktop is kind of crazy.



Both your son and daughter have made careers out of the loosely coined term “street culture.” Having been active in this genre for over 30 years, what advice do you give them?

To their credit they are doing different things from me. Timmy isn’t a graffiti writer. His ideas have led him on his own path as a photographer. Everything that I know about photography and cameras I have learned from him. I have raised my children with the access and opportunity to understand things, but never had any specific mandates regarding what they could and couldn’t do. I just guide them in the right direction and hope they can do their best. I have a great relationship with them. Tab’s more of a writer, and Timmy has visual talents.

Is there a certain way that they work, whether it is writing or taking photos, which resembles your approach?

No, I don’t think so, but some of Timmy’s exploration work has broken the law at some point to get photos. And it’s like, “Wow, OK. Thirty years ago I was doing something else – going into those systems to put my name on a wall, and now people are doing the same thing, but getting these amazing photographs.” It is a weird similarity, but completely different. I believe Timmy’s adventurism is a legacy of who I am as a person – my DNA. I’m very proud that he’s made such a story without having to be a criminal. I was once an outlaw, who somehow got legitimized along the way. That is why it’s crazy for me to see Converse’s ad at my subway stop in Brooklyn. Forget the sneaker, for me what really translates is the tag. All I see is the tag, and I can’t believe the transition it’s been through. As an extension of something that was once taboo, graffiti has been fully legitimized.

These days, information is readily available just a click away. Are conventional systems like art school still necessary for aspiring artists? 

You can pick up a lot outside, but nothing can compare with actual experience with materials and the availability of tools in these institutions for aspiring artists, who may not be able to afford such luxuries. I didn’t go to school, and I always regretted not having access to certain resources. Technology has changed the game. Any relevant skills I may have, such as Photoshop expertise, I have learned by navigating it myself or being around someone else who’s a master. At the same time I don’t want to come across as advocating bypassing art school. Degrees still have value, but maybe there is a new approach to that as well. Instead of four years, you can do two at your community college.

Having accomplished quite a bit in your career, what’s left? What still motivates you to create?

A ton. My son and daughter Timmy and Tabatha are big inspirations. My own mindset which drives from a balance of adaptation and evolution. I believe if you put me in a room with my peers, I will be the outlier because I think differently. I’m a bit strange in that sense. I’m encouraged by the future. I find myself wondering what the ‘20s will be like. I have a pretty cool job, so there’s everything to be psyched about and grateful for.


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