A number of years back me and a buddy of mine engaged in an epic argument, spanning a few hours and two bars, over whether Paul Rodriguez was in “the top five” or not. Think this was post-“Yeah Right,” around the early days of Plan B. My whole thing was: this dude is heavily gifted skill-wise but not pushing the envelope in terms of innovation or doing things in new ways. The buddy’s view was that I was a fucking idiot. Years later I like to think we were both right.
Hangovers fade, winter turns into spring and injured feelings are soothed with the balm of liquor. But generally my feeling on Paul Rodriguez hasn’t shifted a great deal, as the video parts and corporate sponsorship deals have piled up. Here you have a dude who immediately attained Next Big Thing status upon his arrival on the rosters of super-teams and TWS vids, but even snagging milestones like designing the first among several disposable Nike SB pro-models and posing for the only TSM cover to make Dave Carnie feel like a child molestor, it seems like something on-board has been missing, sort of like he’s yet to really arrive.
Fairly or not P-Rod more than probably any other hot-shoe am has had to evolve under near-constant comparisons to/oversight of the legendary ones like Kareem Campbell, who ensured the rolling of more than a few eyes by purposely scoring the kid’s “Street Cinema” stepping-out to “Want You Back,” with all the subtlety of an “Enter The Pu-Tang” ad. Or, Eric Koston making a PRJr-shaped spot on Girl/Es/Four-star, which you can’t say he didn’t deserve, but set up a certain amount of backlash when he inevitably left to do his own thing.
Ten years after his switch heelflip inspired hushed wonder from Atiba Jefferson, and he’s got a beard and a kid and an ill-advised foray into acting under his belt, Paul Rodriguez apparently still is toiling under the same ol’ comparisons to the Kostons and Tony Hawks (see: new Transworld). Not that he seems to mind, and his ode to Ronnie Creager comes off endearingly genuine, but I look at somebody like a Chris Cole who’s got at least as much skill and achievements over a similar time frame, and people generally don’t present him through this spectrum of greats that’ve gone before.
Tony Hawk invented numerous tricks and named one after Madonna. Eric Koston ran with a decade-long string of blockbuster rail sorcery (nollie noseblunt-backside noseblunt-nollie heelflip noseslide-nollie backside noseblunt-360 flip noseblunt) that justified de-facto closer positioning in most of the big productions where he featured. Getting back to the epic bar argument, this is where you could draw a line between the crop’s very creamiest versus the pros that can just do every trick and add a couple more stairs or an extra kickflip.
Which all leads up to Paul Rodriguez’s $3 iTunes part with the Kanye West song, because amidst the usual ridiculous skills the guy displays there are a few — chiefly the switch b/s noseblunt, a real live cover worthy move at a name spot, but also the nollie flip 270 switch b/s tailslide* and the fakie varial heelflip nosegrind — that threaten to set up shop at that tip-top tier of ultimate board bros. Not sure if all this puts him on par with them what he gets compared to in interview intros or if he’s still next up, but switch backside noseblunting a sizable rail does go some way toward glossing over the whole Target deal and Nascar fitted.
*labeled properly dudes?