Posts Tagged ‘G-Unit’

Zoomin’ And Rona-Free In The Product Drought (No Bubble)

August 16, 2020

‘The Hunger For More’ was Lloyd Banks’ debut album for G-Unit Records, released in 1986 around the same time label boss 50 Cent was consolidating his ownership of American entertainment following a life-threatening beef with Supreme. Back then, the album title referred to Lloyd Banks’ climb out of poverty and physical risk-taking via the power of music, while still possessing an ambition to wrestle into submission other sectors of the media world. It stayed at #1 for 59 weeks and gave voice to a generation.

And it still coveys an important message, ‘in these challenging times.’ At first, it was easy being a skateboarder in the Covid-19 era. Street spots were left unattended, people got over any remaining hang-ups about smart-phone propping, and certain others masked up to get cool ninja-themed clips. Reality, as it is wont to do, eventually performed a metaphysical puncturing motion. Citywide quarantines and stay-at-home orders that hit skateboarding’s low-cost manufacturers in Chinese wood product plants and West Coast forges have, as predicted, evolved into rolling product shortages that have shops sending up IG signal flares when a rare shipment of wheels or trucks arrives — often what’s available versus those the purchasing manager’s heart truly desires. Amid rumours of woodshop walk-outs following positive coronavirus designations, the scene’s economics, as ever, follow the lead set by Deedz’ pants, hurtling back toward the early 1990s when kids in California skate meccas benefited from easier access to product via pros’ trunk sales.

Judging from the socially bubbling fishbowl of Insta, though, professionals and widely followed amateurs so far seem relatively unimpacted by the coronavirus scourge. Aside from Josh Stewart’s presumed brush with the novel disease, celebrity skateboarders in the public eye seem to have broadly sidestepped the pandemic’s talons, at least for now — and this, without the help of a major-league bubble like in basketball or a or regional travel regime like in pro wrestling.

What is their secret? Like several other items, it can be found beneath the talented finger of Bill Strobeck. The long lens zoom technique, pioneered by Wm. Strobeck for the Supreme projects and these days aped by pro and bro filmers from California to Eastern Europe, for years has drawn criticism for badly obscuring critical spot context, muddling tricks and inducing nausea amongst casual viewers at levels not seen since the swinging fisheyes of the ‘Riddles in Mathematics’ period. But a properly muscled zoom finger, and sociable distance from which to post up and flex it, may be helping to keep both filmers and skaters Rona-free, provided they steer clear from hugs of the bro variety and otherwise after the trick or line has been completed. Disorienting, confounding and a stylistically dead horse it may be, the in-and-out-and-in-again zoom method could remain be the dominant style until biopharma conglomerates’ vaccine efforts make it safe for Beagle, Brian Panebianco and other Century MK1-wielders to cozy up downwind again.

Could a coronavirus-driven lull in fisheye angles lead to a buyer’s market on, and is now the appropriate time to invest in the shrinking supply of Century MK1 lenses ahead of the inevitable, if slow in the coming, zoomy filming backlash? Or will sporadic Covid-19 flare-ups ultimately render close-up filming obsolete? Could skatepark parking lot product hawking lift 99%er pro incomes above the poverty line, and help to avoid any coronavirus risk associated with food delivery work? As hardgood warehouse stockpiles dwindle, are team managers nervously ignoring “boards” texts from riders?

6. Tristan Funkhouser — ‘Baker 4’

December 26, 2019

Baker’s generational handoff over the course of its seven-year weekend since ‘Bake and Destroy’ has gone better than a lot of its old-guard board brand contemporaries, aided by the company’s more malleable and freewheeling character and recent, forceful returns of formerly wandering veterans like Kevin Long and Sammy Baca, who really came out of the wilderness to put a calf-socked Chuck onto 2019. As far as distilling Baker’s ethos for the Ross-shopping set, covering the late-’10s trick spectrum and general get-in-the-vanness, Tristan Funkhouser’s ‘Baker 4’ rave-up fired on all cylinders, combining a speedball crouch and the type of wild lower-body contortions that Baker spirit animal Ali Boulala shimmied across an alcohol-drenched floor in an earlier installment (see: pyramid ledge, backside smith frontside shove-it out). This is for sure the yung T-Funk’s best and most-developed skating to date, between shit like the wallride shove-its, the overpass 5-0 rollercoaser and the stomach-churning float after the last 50-50, but the screaming ollie out to frontside wallride — teed up by his friends hollering at gapers, a GX bomb while the crew loses their minds, and needle-thread through what looks like a TV film unit on lunch break — is basically a Baker video all by itself.

Ante Up, Human

March 21, 2010

After a few go-rounds on crutches and a couple times under the knife slam sections don’t do it for me the way they once did, when the thing to do was watch “Welcome To Hell” through the end of Jamie Thomas’ part and then return at the end of the night to press play again and revel in the bone crushing. There’s exceptions though and Mark Gonzales’ hunger for physical punishment in this Dan Wolfe-filmed Adidas clip is for sure one of them, just because it’s grimly inspiring to see a 41`-year-old man willing to repeatedly throw himself onto a curb without the roar of an X-game crowd egging him on. Maybe he’s into it too — a fast and fairly painless trip to the asphalt on a warm and sunny day sometimes can do more to clear the head than the prescribed number of warm-up kickflips. Dirt all over his shirt, he comes off hungry in this clip and it’s pretty awesome.

Burton, Alien and the curse of plenty

May 12, 2008

Didn’t take long, did it? Less than three months after DNA Distribution confirmed their deal to be bought out by snowboard behemoth Burton, Arto Saari, who signed on with Burton’s clothing company Analog only a year or so ago, jumped to Alien Workshop, and any day now the press release presses will release another press release about him “officially” joining Burton’s hiking, er, lifestyle, errr, skate shoe company Gravis (unless they did this already and I missed it, totally possible). It’s interesting to watch the corporations at work as they take different parts of skateboarding and put them together in new, ostensibly more profitable configurations. Hallelujah holla back, etc.

Setting aside 10 years of Rowley bro-ness and whatever company loyalty counts for in 2008, it’s hard to fault Arto. The El Toro days are behind him, SOTY trophy in hand, place in history assured, and now he can kick back to spend time with his vintage scooters and mobile saunas. As far as skating, for the last few years he’s been in a more contemplative place, or whatever it’s called when you get old and have knee problems and spend most of your time skating ditches. At this point getting a call from Jake Burton, a Wall Street-ready snowboard mogul who wants to build his foray into skating around you and your ideas, it probably sounds pretty good. Those rumors about Jeremy Fox selling Flip to some Billabong-esque conglomerate keep coming up, so what the fuck, right?

Either way Arto’s enjoying the benefits of that big Burton wallet. Fuck, I would too, I guess. From the jump it looks like Burton inserting their poster boy into their new skate acquisition, a la Dr. Dre putting the Game into G-Unit. But you know the Alien guys are probably jumping up and down over the Arto move as well, and it might even have been their idea, which is really too bad because it’s the type of thing that could kill the company.

Since around 2000 Alien Workshop’s Johnny-and-Ed duo of Carter and Hill have developed a taste for the power move. Before that they dabbled a little bit—Jason Dill was long established from his 101 days, but after 23 he was farming his hair, skating DC flow and finding himself. Putting on Danny Way after Plan B folded the first time might count, if it wasn’t such an oddball matchup and if Way would’ve contributed more than a handful of tricks over the better part of a decade. I always wondered how much they paid him. Even when Habitat started their big acquisitions were Kerry Getz, during the Toy Machine exodus, and Tim O’Connor, at that point still known more for his skating than his mouth. It’s not like they were wooing Peter Smolik away from Shorty’s or something similarly earth-shaking.

But Alien’s strength is really its farm team, finding kids who would turn into fairly iconoclastic skaters way before anybody else figured it out. Around the same time they put Jason Dill on they also got Anthony Van Engelen from 23, and not long after they signed up a couple East Coast kids called Brian Wenning and Anthony Pappalardo—who together would put out three of the top five parts in Photosynthesis. Later they got Floridian troublemakers Danny Renaud and Ryan Nix, along with Canadian malcontent Ted DeGros, and more recently Alex Carolino, Grant Taylor, Steve Durante, Jake Johnson and Kevin Terpening. And they’re good at finding overlooked am kids like Danny Garcia, Silas Baxter Neal and Guru Khalsa.

Whether it has to do with DNA’s Midwest HQ or the influence of the rest of the team or Carter and Hill’s general weirdness, all those kids developed into great skaters who were interesting to watch. Some of the pros they signed up clicked with the whole Alien/Habitat motif pretty clearly, like Janoski’s soft-shoe tech and Salazar’s balls-out speed, but other times the team moves ranged from perplexing to inexplicable. Danny Way was an early indicator here, but the addition of Steve Berra and Heath Kirchart in 2002 came way out of left field. Kirchart’s status as a shadowy rail virtuoso made him a logical guy to add, but then there was Berra, whose Hollywood pretentiousness and plain vanilla gap/ledge skating didn’t add much to the equation except sweet backside flips and a name that was already over the hill. Even without the much-ballyhooed fake spots in his DVS part, the skating was boring as fuck.

These were two big California pros though, and in the years that followed DNA would sign up marquee names like Colin McKay, Mike Taylor and Stevie Williams (briefly), and hot shoe ams like Dylan Rieder and Omar Salazar. Then there were all the pros they chased unsuccessfully, like Leo Romero, Darrell Stanton and Devine Calloway.

It always struck me as bizarre. Why would a company that’s so good at finding new talent and bringing on dudes that weren’t getting much shine elsewhere waste its time throwing its hat in the ring with every big-name pro whose contract is up? Do Carter and Hill, now about 20 years after starting the company, still feel like they have to prove something to Southern California? Like a Midwestern inferiority complex? Do they think it sells more boards to sign up a big-name pro rather than the kids they brought up from obscurity? Maybe it does. But wasn’t the whole idea of Alien based on weirdness and conspiracy mythology and grainy film footage and comic-strip ads where kids turned into moths? I.E., not what everyone else was doing? What’s the point?