“Everything is good,” declared a grinning Cortez Bryant as he clamored into his time-traveling space Delorian hours after his star client, Dwayne Carter, Twittered his displeasure and angst towards longtime employer Cash Money Records and by proxy father figure Baby/Beatrice/Birdman. “I wouldn’t be out at the club right now,” Cortez Bryant beamed, assuring YouTube viewers that nothing was amiss within the house that the Hot Boys built, despite what persons may have read elsewhere.
Was Cortez Bryant lying? Last month it emerged that Lil Wayne had sued Baby to the tune of $51 million, suggesting that everything was not good after all. Rap music is a topsy turvy business for sure, but you wonder whether Cortez Bryant figured people would listen to him rather than what they read on the computer internet, or if he was playing for time in a high-stakes game of financial and legal Stratego against Birdman’s lawyerly halberders, or if he was speaking in some far more general and cosmic sense about the human condition given Turk’s recent comments that BG’s prison sentence could be miraculously cut short by an as-yet unknowable ‘legal loophole.’*
Powers that be in the hard-n-soft goods biz would perform a similar dirt-off-my-shoulders oldster routine when it comes to the Slap Board, that ever-churning cauldron of YouTube links, hearsay, harsh truth-telling and pure id that oftentimes is livelier and more insightful than that month’s issue of your favorite big-4(3[2?]) magazine. Disclosing and painstakingly dissecting beefs, career choices, wardrobes and various industry flotsam before it can be packaged and shepherded to sponsor-approved instagram accounts, oftentimes in the most splintery and unvarnished terms capable of QWERTY filtration, is a freewheeling public service that seemingly goes little-loved in many team managers’ offices, as per Ride Channel’s recent industry survey item:
Vernon Laird, team manager, Bones Bearings:My impression of the average message boarder is a disgruntled never-has-been or never-will-be old, bitter man. Somebody who was mad that there were never sponsored or never pro and sits around and talk shit about everybody and everything in the skateboard industry because they have too much free time on their hands.
Mike Sinclair, team manager, Tum Yeto: Most hide behind their account name, and they usually want to pry, poke, and jab, which they have the right to do, at me or the brands I work for. The only difference is that I get paid for my opinion, and some of these guys just want to take their bad day out on me or others anonymously.
Before alt.skate-board and later the Crail-board provided early venues for distributing Kareem Campbell drive-by obituaries and nurturing the legend of a yung PJ Ladd, Big Brother magazine represented a forum for the attitudes and angles on skateboarding that tend toward the tasteless, puerile, and a certain mirror-gazing irreverence toward the industry itself that often seems bizarrely missing in a pastime ostensibly reared up to question authority and everything else, but that a lot of times veers dangerously near to preening sanctimoniousness. Videos got roasted, pros and industry heads were called out in interviews and editorial copy alike, and the likes of Gino Iannucci, Josh Kalis, Andy Roy, Ronnie Creager and Daewon Song were raised up on high before the publication succumbed to the same injurious stew of intoxicants, corporate ownership and general burn-out that have corroded pro careers. While there’s some truth in the rose-tinted view of a past when the general public didn’t bear witness to favorite pros profanely shouting down tweenage trollers via social-media pages of choice, the flipside has to have been the relatively few outlets and companies that controlled information flow and curated the industry’s self-image, which Big Brother never much seemed concerned with.
The internet’s halls are swabbed by anonymous mouthpieces whose currency too often is valued by loudness of opinion, and Slap’s forums are no better or worse. But the Slap message-boards too easily are brushed off as a den of venomous haters, caricatured over the years as armchair skaters in garb only, uniformed in white tees/brown cords/half cabs or more recently a Polar/Dickies/Cons ensemble that prizes wallies and reviles tricks that may rate high-single-digit Street League scores. Similar javelins surely were hurled at the Carnie/Canale/Kosick contingent back when, similarly aimed at an easy-target messenger rather than entertain the idea that, for instance, it’s possible to acknowledge the prowess of a Nyjah Huston whilst criticizing his apparent approach to tricks and skating in general.
James Craig in the Ride-Channel survey talks bluntly about recognizing when the Slap board got it uncomfortably correct:
[F]or me the biggest one was going on there early on and I just went under my middle name, Cliff. I starting seeing all kinds or random hate on me: “James Craig has the worst style in skateboarding.” Haha! It was pretty brutal, but everyone has an opinion. All I knew is my style is what it is-—not fake, it’s just me—-so it didn’t really bum me out, but it didn’t change the fact people were hating on me. You know what I did? I said, “Fuck it! I’m just going to take it in and flip it into a positive!”
It motivated me to not settle for bullshit sketchy makes but to have a little more pride in my footage and skating. This worked for me at the time, and after that I had some of the best, [most] proud years of my skateboard life. I’d look at footy from What If? (2005) and be pissed that I ended up with some seriously out-of-control arms, and in my next two parts I was super hyped on the way it all looked after putting in the effort to make my shit better. Some would say that’s wack, because I wanted to prove [the message boards] “wrong,” but motivation can be found anywhere. You just have to be willing to deal with the reality that “they” might be a little bit right, and [be prepared to do] whatever it takes accomplish what you want.
The irony shouldn’t be overlooked that in a golden age of DIY companies and spots, when even housing complex building projects are willing to take a knee before Burnside’s concrete, the longest-running and most-vibrant online web community continues to draw such ire and eye-rolling disdain from the industry. At one time skateboards were issued with an optional chip-on-shoulder and latent sneer toward powers-that-be that deemed it a loser’s pursuit, and rescinding that is one risk lodged inside six-figure contest purses, multinational sneaker endorsements and the class/coach dynamic where the dollars-earned or click-views end justifies most any means.
Jason Rothmeyer, New Balance sales manager and SPoT competition vet, remarks at one point in the Ride Channel item that “[t]he judges’ stand is a microcosm of the Slap message board. Just a bunch of dudes talking mad shit, mostly.” James Craig likens it to a skateshop breeze-shooting session, which you could extend further — a shop where anybody can be an employee, customers never interrupt the discussion to ask for new D3 colours, and closing time never comes, allowing the strength of the argument to prevail, or not, over days and weeks and years as brick-and-mortar locations cede their meetup-and-conversation functions to this aromatic and frenetic realm of text messages, embedded videos and digital Bigcartel baskets.
*For those keeping score Turk now also has sued Cash Money