Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Favorite Albums of 2009

Music nowadays might now be what it once was (especially hip hop) but there's still a lot of quality stuff coming out. I mean come on, you know there's still some heat left in the oven when two certifiable bangers, BP3 and OBFCL2, drop on the exact same day.

Raekwon - Only Built For Cuban Links II
Direct sequel to the 1995 classic which was one of the very best Wu-Tang solo efforts. Picks up right were the first left off and the Chef don't miss a step. My favorite hip hop album of 2009.

El Michels Affair - Enter the 37th Chamber
Wu-Tang inspired live instrumental album. I thought it might be stupid at first, but damn I keep playing this one over and over--gonna wear the vinyl out!

Ghostface Killah - Ghostdini, Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City
Pretty Tony gets a little bit RnB on us but doesn't cheese out. Maybe not as good as his last couple albums, but still a very solid effort. Spun this one a lot.

Jay Z - The Blueprint 3
The third installment of the Blueprint trilogy spawned one of the best NYC anthems in years. A bit long, but nowhere near as sprawling as the BP2 mess.

Lee Fields & The Expressions - My World
My favorite album of 2009 hands-down, and one of my favorites of the whole decade. Authentic soul that coulda been lifted straight outta the 1970s. Highly recommended.

Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement
White kid from Detroit channeled 60's-style Motown proper. Totally unoriginal, but that makes it even more perfect. I even cop'd the heart-shaped 12" single for my wife.

Mos Def - The Ecstatic
He dropped two classics early in his career--Black Star with Talib Kweli, and Black on Both Sides--and then fell off, seemingly focused on acting. He came back strong on this though, back in true form.

Drake - So Far Gone
This man seemed to come out of nowhere, caught me totally by surprise. This isn't the style of hip hop I typically listen to--it's definitely a softer, pop-ier sound--but I like it.

Wale - Attention Deficit
Another album that's outside my normal preferred style of hip hop. I admit I slept on this at first; glad I woke up tho, it's a solid album that caught me on the first listen.

Honorable Mentions:
These are some more albums and mixtapes I liked this year, but didn't quite make my top-9 list for one reason or another. Good stuff tho, definitely worth checking these out too.
  • Braille & Symbolyc One - CloudNineteen
  • Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood Ferguson - Suite for Ma Dukes
  • De La Soul - Are You In?: Nike + Original Run
  • Diz Gibran - Soon You'll Understand
  • Doom - Born Like This
  • Exile - Radio
  • Fashawn - Boy Meets World
  • Frank Ramz - Make The Road By Walking
  • Has-Lo - You Can Live Thru Anything If Magic Made It
  • J Dilla - Jay Stay Paid
  • Jabee - Must Be Nice
  • Jazz Liberatorz - Fruit of the Past
  • KiD CuDi - Man On The Moon: The End Of Day
  • Large Professor - The LP (originally recorded in 95/96)
  • Madlib - Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute To...
  • Method Man And Redman - Blackout! 2
  • Panacea - Corkscrew Gaps EP
  • Royce Da 5'9 - Street Hop
  • Saigon - All In A Day's Work
  • ScholarMan - The Pull Forward EP vols. 1 & 2
  • Waxolutionists - We Paint Colors
  • Wu Tang Clan - Chamber Music

Monday, December 28, 2009

December Record Dig

Here's a bunch of mostly junky vinyl records I bought for 50¢ each. Now, I've bought plenty of crappy records before, but most of this stuff here is just flat out unlistenable--but thankfully that's not why I bought em. You see, crappy records like these can provide all sorts of sounds suitable for sampling. One of the fun aspects of creating sample-based music is trying to flip a wack record into something good...and I got plenty to work with here. haha

The one real gem here is the Smokey Robinson album, A Quiet Storm. It's actually one of the great soul albums of the 1970s.

You know, this might sound weird, but I really love buying and playing vinyl records (click the vinyl records category tag to see all my posts about the subject) and even when they're total crap, I still love 'em. I'll hit the "next" button on an iPod or CD player in a heartbeat when a bad song plays, but on vinyl I just let it ride--and it doesn't bother me one bit when the music sucks.

Strange, huh?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fur Face Boy - Space Fur

Installment four of my official "Space Jams Week" features one of my favorite brands in the world, Fur Face Boy. Anyone who'd been reading this blog for a while no doubt already knows about FFB, but if you don't then go read these posts [one two three four]. This black "Space Fur" shirt was a hyper-limited, web-only run of just 18 shirts, with another 18 available in the Royal Blue colorway [here]. And as you can see, the Space Jam tie-in comes in the form of the black/royal-blue color and of course the sideways alien-esque Jordan type.

It doesn't quite come across in the photos, but the blue ink used on this shirt has a little bit of a shimmer to it. Is that on purpose? Or is it just the nature of the ink? Hell I dunno, but it's really cool in-person.

Now about that sideways type: back in 1995 when the Air Jordan XI first came out, the words on the tongue confused a lot of people (was it supposed to be an alien language?) until they turned the shoe sideways and the words "JUMPMAN - JORDAN" became clear. In the original 2001 Retro of the Space Jam, Jordan Brand modified the words a bit to read "JUMPMAN - JAM". Unfortunately, this new 2009 Retro uses the more pedestrian "JUMPMAN - JORDAN" on the tongue. That's a shame, but at least it does give OG Retro owners something to brag about (besides their more yellowed soles).

The way "Fur Face Boy" is set on the shirt is reminiscent of the sideways tongue type, but it's not quite a straight rip of it--and I think it might be stronger because of that. The design is obvious to anyone in the know, but strengthens the FFB brand better than if it was sideways and completely abstract.

Oh yeah, one more thing...

On the Fur Face Boy website, this shirt was announced with the headline "I believe I can (Fur)..." and no shit ever since then, that freakin' R. Kelly song has been in my head! I can't get it outta there. In fact I'm singing it right now--arrrg, so annoying! It's one of those songs that simultaneously makes me cry AND want to go piss on something.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Space Madness

Installment three of my official "Space Jams Week" is a post that can only be called Space Madness. Yep, that's right, we camped out all night for more Air Jordan XI Retro Space Jams [Read about those in installment one HERE]. Please forgive me if the writing sucks worse than usual because I'm really tired--oh my God is it 8:00am? Crap I've just spent all night camping out for sneakers that I already own! Hahaha!

Alright so here's the story: Terrance, Stan, myself, and Claudia all got to Town East between 11pm and midnight, set up camp chairs, and talked about sneakers. The weather was a nice dry 60º, we ate some burgers and junk from a 2am Jack-In-The-Crack run, Terrance made fun of a couple of scrubs, everything was cool. Then sometime around 3:30, while Terrance and Stan were on a convenience store run, *BOOM* everybody all the sudden bum-rushed the mall entrance!

Goodbye organized line, hello unruly mob.

Now realize, this rush made NO SENSE AT ALL because it was still gonna be well over 2 hours wait, and the mall doors were still locked! People started getting push, people started yelling, and the very irate Mall Cop threatened to send everyone home. After about 15 minutes of crowd hysteria at the front door, the Police showed up and kinda halfway got things settled down.

At 5:00am-ish, the employees from Champs came out and started giving away reserved 'hold' tickets for Space Jams; they had a little over 100 pair to sell and quickly ran out of tickets (almost instantly in the common men's sizes). After much more pushing, shoving, and crowding the front door, it finally hit the magic hour to allow people in to the mall: 6:00am.

Mall employees let four people in at a time, handing them off to waiting employees from Foot Locker/House of Hoops, Foot Action, and Finish Line. Terrance worked his way to the front of the line pretty quickly and got in the mall before the big crowd, hitting up Foot Action for all the pairs he needed. Stan, Claudia, and I were near the back of the mob--because come on, we're not crazy--but a few minutes later we got in. My hook up at Foot Locker/House of Hoops got my size order and ran to the back (totally bypassing the big line by the way) but unfortunately my size was ALREADY SOLD OUT. This was, like 6:20am. I quickly ran next door to Foot Action, where Terrance was at, but they were also out...however they did manage to get me a half-size off shoe (which will honestly be fine).

Length of campout: 6-7 hours
Line-to-Mob conversion casualties: 1 campchair + 100% of the Mall Cop's wits
Number of cans thrown at Mall Cop's head: 1
Length of time spent making fun of Hulen Mall: approx 30 minutes
Number of people in the mob: somewhere between 300-400
Rumored number of SJs available: approx 1000 pair
Total number of Space Jams we cop'd: 8 pair
Success rate for our group: 99.5%
Camping out just for the fun of it: PRICELESS

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shogun + Space Jam

You read yesterday's epic Space Jams post, right? If so, you already know I've officially declared this "Space Jams Week" (and if not, go read that post) so here's the second installment of the week: a Space Jam themed t-shirt from the best streetwear/sneaker shop in Fort Worth, Texas: Shogun.

As you no doubt already know, Space Jam is the 1996 live action + animation movie starring Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny and pretty much the entire pantheon of Warner Bros. cartoon characters: Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester, Tazmanian Devil, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Pepe Le Pew, Granny, Charles the Dog, and of course Marvin Martian. Honestly, the movie itself ain't all that great and Michael Jordan is not a very good actor, but it did introduce something monumentally important to the sneaker world: the Air Jordan 11 (XI) Space Jam.

The Space Jam, which is being released this wednesday, is easily one of if not the most highly anticipated retro Jordan releases of the year. Hell to be honest, it's probably one of the most highly anticipated sneakers PERIOD of the year, not just Jordans. Consequently, there are a ton of Space Jam related t-shirts being made up by a wide number of brands and shops out there. I mean, since everybody's gonna buy Space Jams (you ARE gonna cop some for yourself, right? Right?) it makes sense to have some matching tees out there for people to rock with the sneakers.

Of all the Space Jam related tees I've seen, this one is easily my favorite. When I first saw it, I immediately knew it was Space Jam shirt but unlike most it doesn't rely on a black/varsity-royal colorway. Instead, it cleverly apes the movie's Looney Tunes inspired logo. I mean come on just look at how perfectly "Shogun" replaces "Space Jam". That's what's up! And then to top it off, the art on the back does it up even better: Marvin the Martian and two space guns to mimic the Shogun logo? Fire, absolute FIRE! In fact that design was also available on its own [see it here] and both shirts, along with everything else Shogun-related from what I understand, were designed by John Hoang (follow @johnAtShogun on Twitter).

I'll be wearing this shirt and my Space Jams for the campout tonight/tomorrow morning at Town East Mall. If you want to follow the Space Jam campout live, follow me on Twitter @dsicle should be Tweeting starting around midnight tonight.

If you haven't been to Shogun in Fort Worth, go check em out. Easily one of the best streetwear boutiques around and well worth the trip to Funky Town.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Air Jordan XI Retro - Space Jams

I'm officially declaring this "Space Jams Week" so to kick it off, here are the infamous Space Jams that are releasing this coming wednesday Dec 23. So alright, what's the big deal about these sneakers, anyways?

To answer that, you first gotta remember that Michael Jordan shocked the world when he retired from basketball in 1993, right in the prime of his career. By that point, he was already considered the greatest basketball player of all time. He'd won Rookie of the Year, back-to-back Slam Dunk contests, two Olympic Gold Medals, three NBA MVP awards, was an NBA All-Star every year, had the highest scoring average (32.3 PPG) in the history of the NBA, and of course had just lead the Chicago Bulls to a Three-Peat: winning the NBA Championship three years in a row--and then topped it off by winning the Finals MVP each time. As Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics described him, he was "God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Jordan retired from the NBA on October 6, 1993 due to a series of personal issues, including the death of his father, but he didn't exactly disappear out of the limelight. He chased other dreams, including playing baseball. But then on March 18, 1995 Jordan issued a two-word press release: "I'm Back"

The next day, a year-and-a-half since he'd last worn a Chicago Bulls uniform, Jordan scored 19 points in a game against the Indiana Pacers--and apparently, the whole world was watching as it earned the highest Nielsen rating of a regular season NBA game since 1975. Then a few days later, in just his fifth game back, he scored 55 points against the New York Knicks.

"God disguised as Michael Jordan," indeed.

That year, the Bulls didn't have much success--the season was half over by the time Jordan returned--but his return did boost the team to the Playoffs, where on May 7, 1995 Michael Jordan laced up what many in the sneaker world consider the Greatest Sneaker Ever: The Air Jordan 11 (XI).

The whole world was watching as Jordan came out on the court wearing Concords. Sneakers with shiny black patent leather? That'd never been done before. They were classy and sleek and elegant and futuristic all at the same time. They blew everyone's minds. Cue mass hysteria. High school kids wearing Concords with Tuxedos for Homecoming and Prom. Insane. Jordan was even fined by the NBA for wearing them (not respecting the team colors), similar to the fines he received for wearing the Jordan I in his first season.

And then in his first full season back, Jordan wore the 11s as he led the Chicago Bulls in most dominating season in NBA history, a record-setting 72-10 asswhoopin' of the entire league--and of course another NBA title (and the beginning of the second Bulls Three-Peat). People, we're talking about a dominance level never before seen in the NBA; hell sports in general. The accomplishments of the pre-retirement Michael Jordan were legendary; the dominance of the now un-retired Michael Jordan wasn't even fathomable. It was just flat out stupid. How could anyone be that good?

"God disguised as Michael Jordan."

As the next season began, Jordan mania was still in full effect as Warner Bros. released the feature film SPACE JAM starring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. Live action actors mixed in with the cartoon world, sorta like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but with a Basketball twist. Yeah okay, the movie kinda sucked, but every kid in America went and saw it...and saw those shoes. The Space Jams. What were they? An all-new colorway, never seen before? Well that's because there were only five pairs made, just for Jordan to wear in the movie. FIVE PAIRS.

So here you had the greatest player ever wearing the greatest sneaker ever in a brand-new color that no one had ever seen...and you couldn't actually buy em! Talk about pent-up frustration! They weren't available to the public until a Retro release in 2001 (which sold out quick) and haven't been available ever since. Until now, that is.

This wednesday, December 23, Jordan Brand is officially re-releasing the Air Jordan 11 (XI) Space Jam sneaker. As you can see from the pictures, I've already got mine (cop'd em last week) but I'm still gonna go to House of Hoops and stand in line starting tuesday at midnight to snag another pair, but mostly just for the fun of it. I'll post up afterwords about the event, of course, but if you wanna stay up late and catch it live, follow me on Twitter @dsicle or better yet, come out to Town East Mall and freeze your ass off with us as we wait outside Tuesday at midnight.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Uncommon Burners 2

Whoa, check this out: an album cover I designed is actually out there for real, like gracing an actual album! Sweet, huh? Yeah I know, I never really talk about graphic design stuff on my blog--I mean come on, this blog is supposed to be about stuff I like, not my day job. But this is different because I designed this project strictly for the fun of it; to do something other than the typical day-in, day-out corporate work I do .

Oh and guess what? This album is available as a FREE DOWNLOAD from Above Ground magazine (get it here).

About the cover art: Uncommon Burners 2 is the second in a series of compilation albums put out by the label Uncommon Records. When trying to come up with an idea for the artwork, I kept circling around the thought of using fire, but didn't have any concrete way of tying it back to "burners" or "burning". Then I ran across an image of a Chinese Fire Breather and it hit me: hot MCs "spit fire" on the mic. So then I went and found a photo of a Shure SM58 mic and Photoshoped it in there, painted up the background some, and added the dragon line art to represent how the fire comes from inside you. The "Uncommon Burners 2" text I struggled with a bit, finally ended up sitting down with a sketchbook and hand drew a mess of thumbnail pencils to come up with how to work the various elements together, and then finalized the type in Illustrator.

FYI here's the back cover that I also designed:

Notice how I credited myself with my Twitter screen name? I dunno why I did that, guess it's partly because I've been meeting so many people from Twitter in real life recently that I've repeatedly been hearing "Dsicle" said out loud--first time since San Diego really. So I guess it's kinda sticking in my head now. Thanks, Wade. LOL

All said, I had a blast designing the cover art for this album. Big ups to Tyler for thinking of me to design the project, and also to my homie Ross for the advice/critique.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nike "Spike Lee" Big Nike High

Actor/Director Spike Lee is a well known figure in the sneaker world, no doubt stemming from his 1986 movie She's Gotta Have It and the famous "you scuffed my brand new Jordans!" scene (video). After the film, Spike Lee directed and stared in several Air Jordan commercials in character as Mars Blackmon from the film (video) making the phrase "It's Gotta Be The Shoes" a household catchphrase. Seriously, I don't know if there was a soul alive in the early 90's who watched television and didn't know about Jordans and those black-and-white Spike Lee commercials. They were everywhere, and everyone knew em. Those commercials--along with the introduction of the III--are a big part of why Jordan Brand became the sneaker powerhouse they are today.

Because of the historic relationship between Spike Lee and Jordan Brand, a hybrid Jordan shoe called the Spiz'ike was released in 2006 combining elements of the III, IV, V, VI and XX shoes (the models Lee directed commercials for) but until now, all of Spike Lee's ties to the sneaker world have been through Jordan Brand. This fall, Nike itself finally created some sneakers honoring Spike Lee / Mars Blackmon with a Nike Blazer and this Big Nike High.

Obviously the big kicker here is the Mars Blackmon glasses icon on the tongue, but perhaps more important is the colorway of the shoe, which is done up as an original Air Jordan I. The overall profile of the two sneakers are similar enough that it looks a lot like the Jordan I from just the color blocking alone. While there are a couple of similar models of the same era (Dunk, Terminator) that could have pulled off the same general look, the Big Nike is probably the best choice Nike could have made in creating a Spike Lee shoe without actually using a Jordan Brand product.

Someday I'd like to own a pair of Jordan I highs in the OG colorway--and the black toe version as well--but until then I'll just rock these Spike Lee Big Nikes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Air Jordan XII Retro - White/Red

Jordan Brand released a slew of Air Jordan XII (12) retros this year, some of which were a slap in the face to collectors (Nubucks) and some that had some lame controversy around them (Rising Suns) and some that radically changed materials (flu games), but after a year of releasing 12s, I think they saved the best for last. This white/varsity-red/black Jordan 12 is a classic and they didn't screw it up one bit.

The Air Jordan 12 (XII) is the signature sneaker Michael Jordan wore in the 1996/1997 season when he led the Chicago Bulls to a 69–11 record, their 5th of 6 NBA Championship titles (the middle year of their second three-peat) and earned his 5th of 6 NBA Finals MVP award. Jordan was so dominating, so crushing during those years--and so were his sneakers. The shoes of the second three-peat era (XI, XII, XIII) are some of the best designed, most loved of the Jordan line.

The Air Jordan 12 was originally released in five colorways. The shoe, designed by legendary Nike/Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield, was inspired by 19th century womans' dress boots and the Japanese Rising Sun flag, which you can see in the style of the ribbed leather stitching. The design is even carried past the leather and into the rubber midsole, making it seem as if the lines reach all the way to the ground. The tongue features the Jumpman logo and the unique "TWO 3" text denoting Michael's jersey number, and the Jumpman is even integrated into the front of the sole. From a technology standpoint, the XII was the first Air Jordan sneaker to feature the Nike Zoom Air unit, a tighter and more responsive air system than the older air technology. Lotsa great details in this shoe, but it still retains a clean and uncluttered overall look.

One important historical note: 1997 is the year Nike launched Jordan Brand as a stand-alone subsidiary, so the XII was the first Air Jordan that didn't have a Nike Swoosh or logo visible anywhere on the shoe, including the insole. Since then, no Jordans have had a Nike Swoosh on them, and JB has even gone so far as to remove them from most older Retros, replacing it with the Jumpman. The only Jordan left with the Swoosh is the Jordan I which, of course has the Swoosh integrated into the design.

The Air Jordan 12 (XII) Retro white/varsity-red/black sneaker has an official release date December 19. Of course, as you can see here since I took these photos, I got mine early thanks to a hook up from a buddy. Thanks, T.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nike Zoom Hustle

Sure, the Nike Zoom Hustle is a new sneaker design for the 2009/2010 basketball season, but the story goes deeper than that: The Zoom Hustle part of the new Nike "Refresh" product line where they take classic Nike sneakers and "refresh" them for modern performance and aesthetic appeal. In this particular case, they refreshed the 2001 Nike Air Hyperflight--you can see it in the overall profile, the shiny patent leather material choice, the shape around the ankles, and on a more subtle note the adhesion to minimalism like the original Hyperflights exhibited.

There are several colorways available, but the yellow was the one I had to cop--these trip people out when they see me out wearing em because they're just CRAZY GAUDY. Are they my most attention-grabbing shoes? Yeah, probably so. Shock value to the max.

By the way, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs (you know, the guy married to Eva Longoria) has a pair of these in gray/black really, I'm not into P.E.s but come on--who wouldn't wanna be in Tony Parker's shoes?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nike x DQM Air Max 90 Current Huarache

There's a long story behind these sneakers, but before I get into all that, let me just say that these are without a doubt the most comfortable pair of shoes I own. The neoprene sock is soft and squishy and squeezy, the forefoot has incredible movement thanks to the Nike Free sole, and of course impact is minimized with the Nike Air unit in the heel. Honestly I can't believe how soft and squishy these are; they feel comfy like a pair house slippers more than they do sneakers.

I did buy a half-size larger (11.5) than I normally wear (11), which is actually a full-size larger than my feet really are (10.5) so if you're planning on buying Air Max 90 Current Huaraches, take that into consideration. I purchased these at Adikt Footwear in the West Village shopping district in Uptown Dallas. Darren, the shop owner at Adikt, also tried these on and said they felt like they ran a bit small too, so it's not just me.

Alright, so here's that long story:

About five years ago, Nike released a Air Max 90 sneaker nicknamed the "Bacon" designed by Dave's Quality Meat, a famous Nike Tier 0 sneaker shop in NYC (which I visited/blogged about here). Get it? Bacon...Dave's Quality Meat...bacon colored sneakers....butcher-inspired sneaker shop? Yeah, well the kicks were hot and a whole lotta people slept on em when they first dropped but nowadays they sell on eBay for $500/pair. It's a certified classic sneaker colab.

Now around two years ago, Nike released another Air Max 90 collab called the "HUFquake" designed by HUF out in San Francisco, another one of the rare Nike Tier 0 shops. Get it? Crackly lines....earthquake....San Francisco. Yeah, well these too became a sneaker classic.

So now, fast-forward to today.

Nike has introduced several sets of high-end, out-of-the-ordinary sneakers in what they've dubbed "Rivals Packs", usually focused on some aspect of an EAST-WEST rivalry. Lots of celebrity sneakerheads have been involved in the project like DJ Clark Kent and DJ Premier repin the East Coast, and Eddie Cruz and DJ AM (RIP) repin the West Coast. There have also been a few seemingly random EAST-WEST Rivals that have dropped without much name recognition behind them.

As part of this ongoing EAST-WEST "Rival Packs" series, Nike created a pair of rivals that take their inspiration from the original designs of the famous Bacon and the HUFquake sneakers--perfect "rivals" since both shops are Tier 0 and each rep a different coast. As an update, Nike switched from doing a straight retro of the shoes and instead applied the respective colorways to the new Air Max 90 Current Huarache.

As you can see, the new models are obvious descendants of the originals but don't just straight ape 'em; in both cases, the colors used are the same but they're applied differently and feel a bit darker overall.

As for the new shoes themselves: the new Air Max 90 Current Huarache is hybrid of two shoes: the overall profile and sole of the Air Max 90 Current (which itself is a hybrid of two shoes, the original Tinker Hatfield designed Air Max 90 and the Bruce Kilgore designed Air Current, updated with a Nike Free sole) fused with the neoprene sock, toebox, and rear strap of the 1991 Nike Air Huarache. Nike even went the extra mile and replaced the thick plastic strap of the Huarache with a thin and light Flywire strap. The end result is a supremely comfortable shoe built using modern technology but with a retro profile that's still very reminiscent of the original shoes they're modeled after.

The DQM Bacon-inspired EAST colorway was released as a Quickstrike on November 27th to select Nike retailers. If you're in Dallas, stop by and see Darren at Adikt Footwear to see if they've got any left in your size. Better hurry though, Quickstrikes are always limited in quantity and sell out fast.

The HUFquake-inspired WEST colorway supposedly hasn't hit the streets yet (originally should have dropped in October), although it's rumored to be coming out as a Christmas release, so it could potentially drop any day now. Or later, who knows. Guess I'll try to pick that one up if/when it drops, too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wu-Tang Dekline sneakers

If you know anything about my taste in music, then you know I'm a big Wu-Tang clan fan, easily one of my favorite groups of all time. And of course if you know me at all, you know I got this sneaker thing, right? Ha ha. Yeah so here's the best of both worlds: Wu-Tang sneakers! This obviously ain't the first time the Wu have done up a sneaker (Wu Dunks, anyone?) but it's the first ones I've been able to put my hands on. Truth be told, I actually almost missed out on these. When they dropped a month ago, I decided not to chase them but then when my buddy Tom mentioned he cop'd em, my jealously kicked up to high gear and I had to go chase down a pair. Ended up snaggin 'em from Active Ride Shop outta So Cal.

These Dekline Belmonts are a limited collab of just 500 pairs between Dekline sneakers, Rival Skate Shop in NYC, and the Wu-Tang (through Oli "Power" Grant, one of the Wu-Tang managers). Oddly enough, I found out about these sneakers from following the RZA on Twitter--don't ever say Twitter is pointless, LOL. Dekline is known pretty heavily in the skate scene, but they don't really make sneakers just for skaters; that's just who they seem to be the most popular with. Guess that's why I didn't know anything about them till these were announced since I ain't connected to the skate scene at all.

The colorway of these sneakers is called "Killa Beez, Black and Yellow" which, come on, could they be any other color? The detail work on these are incredible; black leather with yellow accents, including inside the perfs which is just sick as hell; the Wu-tang logo on the tongue and on the gold lace locks; the Wu-Tang name on the heel; the Ws on the insole; even the gold embossed Dekline logo adds to the look. They even threw in a Dekline keychain.

All in all, these sneakers kill, and they'll go great with one of my favorite tees, that Wu-Tang Manifest shirt that I blogged about way back when. Seriously, I get more comments from random people on that shirt than any other tee I own.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fur Face Boy NYC Exclusive

It feels like it's been Fur Face Boy week on my blog--I've made a string of posts about 'em lately. Hey what can I say? I like the brand. Anyways, this is probably the last one of these posts for a while; I'm not gonna post about every FFB shirt I've got otherwise this would just turn into an FFB blog. LOL! But I just had to post about this shirt because it's got a cool story behind it.

In case it's not obvious to you (should be to anyone who's ever watched basketball) the design of this shirt is a homage to the great Patrick Ewing, #33 of the New York Knicks (1985-2000). But what's special about this shirt is that FFB made five different city exclusives in limited runs of 48 shirts, this one for New York City. These shirts were availably only in New York at FFB retailer Vault in Harlem (read about that here) but I was able to cop one of the 10 that were made available directly online.

I wasn't sure I was gonna like it because, let's face it, the Knicks suck right now and I thought it might feel silly to rep them. But it's Patrick Ewing, so I can get over it. I mean the Bulls ain't exactly been hot since Jordan's days, but I'd rock a Jordan Bulls jersey in a heartbeat. Lemme just say tho that I'm glad it's a Knicks colorway instead of the other orange and blue NYC team.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fur Face Boy + SHOGUN Collab

So I just posted about the SHOGUN store last week (here) and Fur Face Boy twice already (here and here) but now it all comes together in this awesome and highly exclusive FFB+SHOGUN collab tee. Only 36 of these were printed up--and after the FFB hooked up the Sho crew and keept one for himself, only 30 were made available to the public at the Fur Face Boy Series 2 release party held at SHOGUN earlier this month. Needless to say, this was a hot item destined to sell out in just minutes (which is exactly what happened) so I made sure I got to the event early--three hours early in fact, and I was still the third person there. The FFB made it easy for us early birds tho by handing out a special blue ticket, complete with a hand drawing on the back, to people as they arrived to ensure they got the shirts without having to suffer waiting in an actual line.

Some interesting details about the shirt: notice that the tag is from SHOGUN, not FFB, but there's still an official "Inspected by" and logo flag from FFB. Also, on the back, check out the Fur Face Boy and Shogun names. And of course the artwork integrates elements from both; the FFB face is part of the mecha robot's chest, and the robot's head is actually the same as a design that Shogun uses on their website (which looks to be an interpretation of the Japanese anime super robot Mazinger Z). Even the gun in the right hand of the mecha is connected to Shogun, one that's used in some of their other materials. This shirt is a great example of collaboration done right, on every level.

Another cool thing about the shirt is the rest of the robot; the body is a sort of homage to arguably the most important Japanese anime mecha robot, Mobile Suit Gundam. I've actually posted about Gundam before (here) which is really kinda trips me out. I mean, I grew up in Japan with Mazinger Z and Gundam cartoons/toys/models...makes me feel a little like the FFB was reading my mind and reaching directly into my early childhood when designing this shirt. Weird.

So yeah, it's a wicked cool shirt, but no you can't get one. Too exclusive, and basically sold out before they even went on sale. But hey don't cry, you can still buy tons of other awesome--even limited edition--shirts from Fur Face Boy, and of course a wide range of cool streetwear from SHOGUN.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


SHOGUN is a premium streetwear and sneaker boutique in Fort Worth, and in my opinion is easily one of the finest street fashion stores in the DFW Metroplex. Hell for that matter, it's one of the finest in the country. It's actually better than a whole lot of stores I've seen in NYC, and that's really saying something since New York is probably the epicenter of streetwear fashion.

SHOGUN carries sneakers, caps, apparel, and accessories from some of the biggest brands in the business like 10 Deep, Clae, Crooks & Castles, Freshjive, Fur Face Boy, Mishka, Stussy, Undefeated, Undrcrwn, and Upper Playground. That's an impressive lineup for such a new shop--they only been open about six months. They've also got a killer location on University, the main shopping district by TCU.

Dallas has a handful of streetwear fashion boutiques, but SHOGUN is really the first of its kind in Fort Worth. Do yourself a favor and go check out what Keith and the gang are serving up over in FunkyTown, you won't be disappointed.

One final note: does SHOGUN have the best damn logo, or what? So clever, so deep.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fur Face Boy - Astro Fur shirt

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you already know that I'm a big fan of the Fur Face Boy brand. It's one of my three favorite brands out there, along with Benny Gold and Staple--all three of which are run by graphic designers, which is endearing to me since I'm also a graphic designer.

This Astro Fur shirt is a limited run web exclusive with only 48 shirts made. It really hits me hard because I'm half-Japanese and grew up with Astro Boy. I mean come on, you can't grow up as a kid in Japan and not idolize Astro Boy; he's pretty much the equivalent of Mickey Mouse in Japanese pop culture. FFB flips the script on Astro Boy here by combining it with the Fur Face Boy logo and colors. Such a sweet design that seems so obvious once you see it--a hallmark of great design.

Monday, November 16, 2009

House of Hoops - Mesquite now open

Previously I mentioned that House of Hoops was opening in Mesquite, a suburb on the east side of Dallas. Well as of this weekend, it's open--but the big Grand Opening Event with Dallas Mavericks players isn't until next weekend, Saturday the 21st.

If you're into Nike (and sub-brands Jordan & Converse) basketball sneakers--both current styles and retro releases--then House of Hoops is tailor made for you. Even though HoH is really just a Nike basketball-specific division of Foot Locker, you will find some things there that won't hit the shelves at most mass merchandisers. The Dallas 214/972 Hyperize are a HoH exclusive, and really you're probably not gonna run into that Lebron VII China Moon at your typical mall store. Of course being a quickstrike, you probably won't find the Cassette Playa Dunk at most places, either.

I really think there's something for nearly everyone at HoH, from casual sneaker fans or general basketball fans, all the way up to hardcore sneakerheads. No it's not the greatest store in the world, but it's pretty cool and definitely well focused, so I'm glad to see one here, especially so close to my house in East Dallas.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Benny Gold Doughboy

Just cop'd the new fall 2009 re-released Benny Gold Doughboy New Era 59Fifty fitted cap. This second release is a follow up to his fall 2008 release which I stupidly passed on that I'd been trying to chase down ever since, so I was glad he decided to re-release them.

This time around, Benny updated the satin paper airplane plaid liner on the inside a bit as well as introducing a new green & gold Oakland A's inspired colorway. There's also a sweet khaki "Dickeys" colorway, but I opted for the classic black color.

The original inspiration and namesake of the cap comes from the classic John Singleton film Boyz in the Hood in which Ice Cube's character, Doughboy, wore a black Detroit Tigers baseball cap. Benny flipped the blackletter "D" into a "B" for his brand. Genius.

Honestly, this is one of--if not the--finest caps I own. The embroidery is a super thick metallic silver and the silver plaid satin liner covers the entire inside of the cap, not just the underside of the bill. Naturally Benny popped that paper airplane logo on the side, opposite the New Era logo, and instead of the MLB logo on the back there's a simple wordmark that reads "GOLD".

I've mentioned it on my blog before, but I'll say it again: Benny Gold is my favorite brand out there today. He's a graphic designer, as am I, and I really dig his design work. Doesn't hurt that he went to the art school (SCAD) that I desperately wanted to attend myself. There are a handful of graphic designers out there producing apparel who's work I really admire (Jeff Staple and Fur Face Boy for example) but Benny Gold is tops in my book.

I picked the cap up friday at Adikt in the West Village shopping center in Dallas, one of my favorite shops here in town. They didn't have many, so if you want one you'd better hurry. These are selling out all over the country.

Monday, November 9, 2009

October sneakers

October was a weird month. I didn't really buy much because we just spent all that money in NYC last month. In fact I originally said I wasn't gonna buy any shoes for the entire month...but well, ya know how that goes. See some sales on kicks ya wanted to pick up but passed on, but now are dirt cheap. Pretty sure I didn't pay more than half-price for any of these. So basically, I ended up with some fun everyday beaters.

I think the best pickup is the first sneaker here because it was made to match my Adidas + Def Jam t-shirt.
  • Adidas Forum Mid Def Jam collab (black/silver)
  • Adidas Forum Mid Def Jam collab (cardnial/gold)
  • Adidas Goodyear OS (white/green)
  • Nike Dunk Hi (white/black/blue)
  • Nike Zoom Phenom (black/white/varsity royal)
  • Nike Air Force 1 (white/orange peel)
  • Stan Smith Adikids (white/pink/green))
  • Stan Smith (black/black)
  • Superstar 2 Adikids (black/blue/white)

Oh yeah and obviously those ones at the end are my wife's--she likes cartoons on her sneakers.

Monday, November 2, 2009

House of Hoops - Mesquite

House of Hoops, the basketball-specific Nike + Foot Locker "high concept" store, is coming this month to Town East Mall in Mesquite, Texas (eastern suburb of Dallas). From what I hear, it's supposed to open November 14th. Nike, Jordan and Converse (a Nike owned brand) are the only things you'll find at HoH, since it's half put up by Nike, but that's not a bad thing since Nike and Jordan pretty much rule the basketball shoe market anyways.

Now in case you didn't know, the first HoH opened at the end of 2007 in NYC, and in 2008 two additional locations opened in Chicago and LA. Earlier in this year, a store was opened in Cherry Hill, NJ and then last month two new stores were added in Houston (and yeah, two HoH in one city pissed a lotta people off around the rest of the country) as well as one in Hyattsville, MD.

DFW is next on the line in the HoH expansion. I'll be there on opening day, that's for sure, if only for the frenzy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rugged Sole

Rugged Sole is a sneaker shop I visited deep in the heart of Brooklyn--Crown Heights to be exact. Wait a minute, the Crown Heights where the 1991 riots took place? The Crown Heights where Biggie and Jay-Z grew up in? Yup, that's the place.

The store is located on Utica Ave just about a block south of Eastern Ave, the big tree-lined main street that runs through the neighborhood. To get there, we took the B line outta Manhattan, over the East River on the Manhattan Bridge (great views of the city) and into Brooklyn, then transfered to the 3 at Atlantic, and finally got off at the Crown Heights - Utica station. Musta taken us 45 minutes including the wait at Atlantic. Once we got up to street level, we realized just how different this part of the city is from Manhattan.

This is the New York that tourists don't see. Dirty, decrepit, forgotten. Trash everywhere. People just hanging out on street corners, going nowhere, doing nothing. Every restaurant--except for McDonalds--seemed to operate their cash registers from behind a protective glass wall. The hustle and bustle of the Manhattan shopping, all those tourists spending money, none of that is anywhere to be found in Crown Heights. Just the people who live in the neighborhood, trying to make it. That's it. We actually bought a fresh cut mango in a Ziplock baggie off a woman on the street corner who was sitting there with a box, a knife, and a cutting board. What the hell? You'd never see that in Manhattan. LOL

But on the corner of a small three story building, behind a bus stop and an overflowing trash can, is this great little sneaker shop, Rugged Sole. I think just about every brand was represented: Nike, Jordan, Adidas, Puma, Vans, Alife, Asics, Converse, DC, Clae, Creative Recreation, Keds, New Balance, PF Flyers, Dr Martens, Timberland, Sperry, Red Wings, Clarks--damn I mean, it's hard to come up with a sneaker brand they didn't have. On top of that, the entire back wall of the shop was covered in New Era 59fiftys, including some unique Brooklyn collabs.

What really made the place stand out, though, was the prices--and the random old deadstock they had laying around. So like, there's these pair of Jordan 1s in the metallic red Do The Right Thing colorway that I'd had my eye on the whole trip. Every single sneaker shop in Manhattan had them, and everyone was selling 'em at full MSRP of $110, but Rugged Sole had them for $80 bucks. You know I had to cop em right then, didn't even blink.

Then, while I was looking around at other stuff, I found a pair of Jordan 5s in the original colorway from the 2008 Countdown Pack--the ones that came with the 18s no one wanted. But they were selling the 5s alone, split outta the CTP without the 18. They only had two pair left, and one was in my size. But the icing on the cake was the price: they were originally marked $310, marked down to $260, then $150, and finally were tagged at $100. WTF??? I'd literally held the exact shoes in my hands the day before at Flight Club for $195--and had considered buying them. At $100 it was a no brainer. Cop'ed!

I don't know if it was because of their location, or clientele, or what, but they had tons of older sneakers that they just hadn't sold, colorways that other shops had run out of months or even years ago. So many Air Max 95s and Dunks and Blazers that you haven't seen anywhere else in forever, and at killer markdown prices. This place was a gold mine!

NOTE #1: Rugged Sole has another location in Manhattan in the West Village, which I also stopped by. Even though it's smaller, current brands and products were well represented, but the crazy good deals and the old stock were nowhere to be found. You know those $80 Jordan 1s I bought at the Utica location? They were $110 at the Manhattan shop--and it was the same day.

NOTE #2: In the month since I was there, the Utica location and phone number has been removed off their website. When I called their old number, it was disconnected, so I was afraid the location had been closed, but I called their Manhattan shop friday and they said the Utica location was still open. Dunno why the info is off the website; maybe they're gonna close it or maybe move in the future? Who knows. Probably worth giving them a call first before you head down there tho, just to make sure it's still open.

Recommended for adventurous sneakerheads

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Alife Rivington Club

Alife Rivington Club (A.R.C.) is sneakerhead heaven. Flat out, there's no better place in NYC to buy hot new kicks than the Rivington Club. Damn, let's not limit that to just NYC; it's the best place in the entire world. Seriously, this is the pinnacle of high concept sneaker shops.

First off, you'd better know the address of the shop is 158 Rivington Street because that's how you gotta find it--there's no big sign outside like you'd find at any normal store. Other than the address, the only external marking you'll find is a small bronzed plaque on the wall between two locked doors. Locked? Yeah, that's right, locked. You gotta press a button to be buzzed in.

Once you're in the door, you'll find the richest looking shop ever. On the right is a long leather bench along an ostrich-skin wall, and across the plush green carpeting is a wall of individually illuminated dark wood cubby holes showcasing each sneaker like a work of art. Above the cubbys, locked behind glass, are rare Air Jordans. Hanging from the ceiling is a lavish chandelier. At the back is a wooden podium with an old time red telephone. Then out the back is a large open air courtyard to chill in. Spend one minute in the shop and you'll instantly know why it's called the Rivington Club.

As for the kicks, what you'll find is the absolute best selection of the newest sneakers available. Being one of only six Nike Tier Zero accounts in the entire country, the Rivington Club gets the hottest and rarest new Nike kicks. Of course, being consistently rated as one of the best--and often THE best--sneaker shops in the world, they also get the new hotness from other manufactures like Adidas, Reebok, New Balance, Fila, and more. Watch out tho; they sell out of sneakers fast, and they don't restock old joints (gotta keep it fresh) so if you see something you want, you better jump on it fast because it'll probably be gone if you wait--and then you'll be stuck slummin it at your local mall searching for leftovers hoping to find the heat you seen and shoulda bought at the Rivington Club.

About the staff--I met Chris and Jesse, and they were two of the coolest doods I met in NYC. They treated me like I was their best friend, talked about sneakers, music, made fun of some rude dumbasses, just all kinds of shit. I happened to be wearing my Wu Tang shirt and Chris asked me if I was going to the Raekwon show @ Santos that night (which unfortunately I wasn't) and we got to talking about the music video that was filmed there that summer; it was for a Dilla song featuring Raekwon and Havoc that of course I'd already seen. Chris mentioned that the dude in the video that gets tied up was Jesse--that's cool as hell. Who wouldn't wanna be in a music video, and a Wu + Dilla one at that? Damn.

In addition to the Rivington Club, you'll find two other Alife stores in the vicinity. Next door--through the other locked door out front--is the Alife brand store where you'll find sneakers and apparel from the Alife brand themselves. Across the street is their third store, A.R.C. Sports, where you'll find the Alife collaborations with companies like Nike, Fila, and other major brands. I ran over there to pick up some of the limited edition Black, White, Gum & Bang! A.R.C. Nike Dunk High Supreme TZ sneakers--and as luck would have it, I bought the next to last pair of size 10.5 they had.

Yeah okay, so can you tell I liked the place? Ha ha! What's not to like for a true sneakerhead? Freshest kicks, rare heat, unique collabs, best atmosphere imaginable, and the coolest staff. Absolutely without a doubt, Alife Rivington Club is the shit. If you're going to NYC, you absolutely must hit this place up.

Highest possible recommendation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Academy LPs

Academy LPs in the East Village is one of three stores run by Academy Records, each with its own unique focus. The Flatiron location sells Classical and Jazz LPs and used CDs, the Williamsburg annex sells rock and jazz LPs, while the East Village shop specializes in Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Hip Hop. Naturally, that's the location I was most interested in.

The selection at the shop is extensive--in my opinion, one of the best in NYC for diggers looking for sampling material. The dollar bins are deep and full of gems. I bought an armload in there, more than any other shop I hit on my vacation.

There's also a very respectable selection of classic hip hop joints and even some new reissues. You may not find exactly what you're looking for if you're hunting for something specific, but you certainly won't have any trouble finding lotsa good stuff to buy. There's also a listening station where you can check out your potential purchases.

Nice spot for diggers. Recommended.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reed Space

Reed Space is store that sells--well, cool. That's the best way to describe it, really. They carry such a wide range of street lifestyle goods that it's hard to pin down exactly what they specialize in, except to say that it's all really cool shit.

Shirts, jackets, caps, sneakers, books, magazines, mixtapes, toys, jewelry, watches--man you name it, if it's part of the streetwear culture, Reed Space probably sells it. Brands represented include 10 Deep, Acapulco Gold, Crooks & Castles, Burton, The Hundreds, Stussy, Rogue Status, Alife, Benny Gold, Diamond Supply, Freshjive, Kangol, In4mation, Mighty Healthy, it just goes on and on and on.

Of course the star attraction--at least in my mind--is the brand Staple, purveyors of the Pigeon (complete with poop). Staple is one of my very favorite streetwear brands--probably because I got a soft spot for pigeons, comes from living downtown I guess--which is the brainchild of graphic designer Jeff Staple, who also happens to own Reed Space.

They literally put a picture of shit (pigeon shit) on clothing people step all over themselves to buy it--including me! If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what else is.

If I could only shop for streetwear at one store in the whole world, Reed Space would be it.

Highest possible recommendation.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Sound Library

The Sound Library is a great little vinyl record shop located in the Lower East Side neighborhood of NYC. The selection seems to be focused on Hip Hop with a bit of Funk, Soul, and Disco as well--which pretty much describes the kind of records I buy, so needless to say I was impressed.

The vast majority of their well-organized and extensive selection is used vinyl, and there are a couple of listening stations so you can drop a needle on most everything you might be interested in to see if you really wanna buy it. That's a good thing since the prices--while very fair--are exactly what you'd expect them to be; that is to say, they know what they got and they price accordingly. Most LPs seem to be in the $5 to $15 range, but there are some classics and rare joints that command more. If you wanna do some diggin, there are plenty of dollar bins to sift through as well.

All in all, I'd say this is one of the best hip hop centric used vinyl record shops I've ever been to. If this place was in Dallas, I'd be broke as hell!

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Russ & Daughters

Russ & Daughters Appetizers is another place in the Lower East Side that I found out about from watching Anthony Bourdain’s Disappearing Manhattan episode of No Reservations.

This tiny family owned storefront is a New York landmark that's been in business since 1914 seving the quintessential New York dish: lox on a bagel with cream cheese. Until you've tried it, the thought of cured salmon with cream cheese might not sound appealing, but once you take a bite you'll understand why it gets so much hype. Very unique flavor that I can't quite describe better than "yummy".

If you're ever in New York, do yourself a favor and get a bagel with Lox at Russ & Daughters. Sit on the bench outside, watch the city, and enjoy.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Katz's Delicatessen

At first, I felt like such a tourist whore for planning to eat at Katz's Deli in the Lower East Side, but after I watched Anthony Bourdain’s Disappearing Manhattan episode of No Reservations, I just knew I had to go. One of the many reasons I was going to NYC was to eat like a pig, and what better way to do that than stuffing an old school New York pastrami on rye down my gullet?

At $14.95, the sandwich ain't cheap, but it was large enough that my wife and I split it--and we were both stuffed. It's a sloppy mess of a sandwich, but it's friggin' delicious. Hell, I didn't even know I liked pastrami--maybe that's because until now, I'd never had good pastrami.

Thankfully our Hotel was only 3 blocks away because after that meal, I needed to take a nap.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ninth Street Espresso

I found out about Ninth Street Espresso from a blog post on Gizmodo--and after reading about the one-of-a-kind, hand-built $15,000 La Marzocco espresso machine, I just had to check the place out.

Their main location is on 9th street in the Alphabet City neighborhood of the East Village, just a few blocks east of Tompkins Square Park, but they have two other locations as well, including one on 10th street on the other side of the park--but I wanted to see the La Marzocco machine, so we went to the main location.

It's surprisingly large for a coffee shop in NYC; so many others I saw were tiny in comparison. Ample seating indoors and a large front patio. The place has a nice independent vibe.

Of course, the real star here is the espresso. Holy shit is it good--I ordered a macchiato and honestly, it was probably the most perfect cup of coffee I've ever had. My wife had an espresso, which was dead on perfect with the most beautiful creama ever, but I personally feel a macchiato is a better balanced coffee drink than straight espresso. But that's just my opinion--drink whatever floats your boat, because I believe everything they serve is just about as good as it gets.

Highest possible recommendation.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Turntable Lab

I was really excited about heading down to the East Village and checking out Turntable Lab--and the TTL Annex next door--because I order stuff from them all the time. Hell, I check their website everyday for the new goods.

Turntable Lab sells music, gear, and related accessories while the TTL Annex sells clothing, caps, bags, books & magazines, gadgets, toys, sunglasses and...well pretty much anything they deem cool. You never know what's gonna be popping up for sale next.

The stores are really pretty damn small, even by NYC standards, but they seem to pack a helluva lot of product in there. I imagine that if you have a need for something turntable or DJ related, they can hook you up. And if you just want to see what's new and cool in the scene, they got you covered there, too.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

McSorley's Old Ale House

McSorley's is and old pub--really, really old. Founded in 1854, it's the oldest continuously operating bar in New York City. It even operated through the Prohibition era, albeit secretly in the basement. This little bar in the East Village is just dripping with age; absolutely everything about the place seems ancient. From the tables to the walls, the photos and newspaper articles on the walls, the original bar taps, even the front doors, everything seems to have an antique yellow patina to it. Stepping in McSorley's feels like going through a time warp.

The only thing they serve to drink (not counting sodas) is their McSorley's Ale, available in either light or dark. Each has their strengths, and while the dark is more my taste, I'd suggest having both. They're served in small glasses, two at a time, but they're dirt cheap. Everything's on the honor system, so keep track of what you drink. And be aware: cash only!

There's a little kitchen in the back serving a nice selection of bar-style food. It's certainly not a restaurant, but you won't have any problem getting something to eat if you're hungry.

Sure, place is a definitely a novelty, but it's a good one.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dave's Quality Meat

Dave's Quality Meat has the weirdest shop name (there's a story behind it with this name-changing meat/veal shop in the Meat Packing district, kinda funny) but there's no denying it's one of the coolest shops in NYC. Sneakers, streetwear, and skater gear in all its glory. Skaters sitting on the stoop smoking cigarettes talking about where to score some weed. Unique sneaker collabs with the biggest names in the sneaker industry. Sneaker exclusivity at it's finest, being one of only six Nike Tier Zero accounts in the entire country. Dave's Quality Meat is fresh, no doubt.

Of all the places in NYC that I wanted to hit up, DQM was near the very top of my list--I was not disappointed. Like most other sneaker and streetwear boutiques, the shop is very small, so they're limited in how much they can possibly carry, but what they do have is dope as hell. Prices on t-shirts are very affordable (as low as $15 on sale), but some of the pricier outerwear can run into the hundreds of dollars. Sneaker prices are in line with most other places, but what really sets this place off is the DQM-specific products, both original and collaborations. Some of it is very affordable, some not, but that's the nature of unique shop-specific collab products.

One extra cool thing about DQM that they carry my favorite streetwear brand, Benny Gold. Anyplace that rocks his gear is golden in my book.

Highly recommended.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bleecker Bob's Records

Bleecker Bob's is a famous vinyl record store in Greenwich Village; it's one of the oldest record shops in New York and has one of the weirdest and most eclectic collections of music you'll find anywhere. There are categories for every music taste imaginable, and probably entire genres of music you've never heard of. There are plenty of rarities behind the counter as well, one of the better selections I saw for collectors.

Unfortunately, while I was able to find some interesting stuff, there really wasn't a lot there that really interested me. The hip hop section had plenty of odd, off the wall records, but nothing I'd really pay money for in order to listen to that I didn't already own. Their dollar bins might have been fun to dig through, but I didn't have the time to do that right then.

There's a strangely large selection of water pipes for the pot heads--in fact from the outside, the places looks more like a head shop than a vinyl record collector's store.

I'd go again if I was looking for something oddball, especially if I wanted something outside of my normal genres, but it's not really my kinda shop.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fat Beats

Fat Beats is a vinyl record shop in a second floor walk-up on the edge of the West Village in Greenwich Village, NYC--and it's the best hip hop centric vinyl record store I've ever seen.

I've been ordering online from their website for several years now, so it was sweet being able to hit up their actual brick & mortar store, but even though I knew sold new vinyl I had no idea just how extensive their selection really was. I mean really, it's crazy how much shit they got--I kept hearing myself say, "damn I didn't even know this was available on vinyl!" And on top of that, every one of my favorite classic hip hop albums was there, available for purchase, on shrink wrapped virgin vinyl. It was like heaven, but it hurt the hell outta my wallet. I spent more at this record store and any other in NYC.

You know that this place is for real when you see the lineup of folks who do album signings, promos, releases, and other events here: Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Talib Kweli, 88-Keys, EPMD, J. Rocc, Large Pro...and then the day after I was there, Raekwon was gonna be doing a signing event for OBFCL2 that dropped that week. Damn.

If you're looking for hip hop on brand new vinyl, either classic releases or new joints, then Fat Beats can hook you up better than probably anywhere else on earth.

Highest Possible Recommendation

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Era Cap Flagship Store

If you're into streetwear, or baseball, then you know what the New Era 59fifty cap is: the original fitted ball cap, and the official on-field cap for all MLB teams. New Era only operates a handful of Flagship stores in the world, and only three in the US: Buffalo, Atlanta, and NYC.

Located in the NoHo district near a few blocks east of NYU, the New Era Flagship Store is practically a museum dedicated to the iconic flat billed 59fifty cap. In addition to every on-field MLB cap, the store also sells licensed NHL, NBA, and NFL caps as well as collaborations with a diverse range of streetwear brands--and even licensed DC and Marvel Comics caps. They also sell other New Era hat styles and some apparel, but the store mostly deals with the 59fifty.

People ask me all the time why I wear fitted baseball caps, especially since most folks seem to wear adjustable or flex-fit golf style caps. In my opinion, wearing an adjustable/flexible cap is like wearing stretchy pants. I mean come on, I wear shirts, pants, socks, underwear, and shoes fitted to my size; why wouldn't I wear a cap that's fitted as well?

Recommended for fans of the New Era 59fifty.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Flight Club

No doubt, Flight Club is a hardcore sneaker collector's heaven. There are three locations in NYC: Green St. in NoHo; Nassau St. downtown just outside of Tribeca near the WTC; and Lafayette St. in SoHo. I did hit the Lafayette shop (which mostly has apparel and used sneakers) but the real heat is at the main Green St. location next to the NYU campus.

Unlike most sneaker shops, Flight Club sells consignment shoes, but that doesn't necessarily mean used; at the Green St. shop, everything on the walls are all brand new (but there are a few highly collectible kicks in a display case up front). What this means is they have shit in stock that you probably cannot find for sale anywhere else outside of eBay.

I went in looking for a few specific pair, and to their credit they had them in stock on the shelf, available in my size. Unfortunately, they were priced way outta my league. That's what I get for wanting highly desirable and collectible sneakers. Ha ha!

One surprise I found was the new international-only Jordan III in the True Blue colorway. That shoe flat out isn't available for sale in the United States--but if you want em, they got em in stock for just $275.

If you're a Jordan sneakerhead, Flight Club will blow your mind. I think they had every relatively recent release and tons of various colorways of just about every Air Jordan ever released, including many premier releases. Most were priced between $175 to $400, but the rarer releases went up as high as $2000 (maybe more, but that's the highest price I saw). They even had the 2009 Jordan XI Space Jams in stock--and that shoe don't even come out for public release until this Christmas!

While their strength is probably in Air Jordans, they had plenty of Nike Blazers, Dunks, and Air Force 1s as well as many Adidas, Puma, Converse, Vans, Reebok, and others. Basically, if you're a sneakerhead, then Flight Club on Green St. is a must hit.

Highest Possible Recommendation.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Bathing Ape (BAPE)

A Bathing Ape, or BAPE, is an ultra-hot premium lifestyle brand based out of Tokyo, Japan founded by a designer, DJ, and music producer known as "Nigo". BAPE is popular with many hip hop artists like Kanye West, Pharrell, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and Kid Cudi.

Exclusivity is the word with BAPE, as their products are notoriously difficult to find. They only operate five stores outside of Japan, located in Hong Kong, London, Taipei, Los Angeles, and New York. Other than their company-run shops, your best bet to getting BAPE apparel is from their website. BAPE shoes are, thankfully, more universally available at a variety of boutique sneaker shops.

The exclusivity doesn't come cheap; their popular Bapesta shoes typically run from $180 to $225, shirts range from $73 to $175, jackets and hoodies from $275 to $500. In certain cases, some extremely limited apparel items are rumored to run well over $1000.

The BAPE store was one of the very finest merchandised shops I saw in NYC--feels more like an art gallery than a store. Apparel and accessories are downstairs, sneakers upstairs. The place is incredibly well designed; it's straight up hot shit, y'all.

I had my eye on a Baby Milo t-shirt that I'd seen online some time ago, and I got lucky that they had one left--and in my size, too. Of course, that's if you think paying $73 for a t-shirt is "lucky". I keep telling myself that it cost so much because it's imported from Japan. Ha-ha!

Highly recommended, even if you just wanna windowshop.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Adidas Originals - SoHo

The Adidas Originals store in the SoHo shopping district of NYC is much like any other Adidas Originals store--they carry nearly the same product as the one here in Dallas, although they seem to have much more product in stock. Perhaps that's just my perception though, since the store is merchandised so differently than the Dallas store, which strangely seems more cosmopolitan with its gallery-like design than the SoHo location.

One unique difference of the SoHo store is the pair of barber-style chairs connected to Internet kiosks that allow you to design your own customized Adidas sneakers via the "Adidas Mi" program. Yes, you can do this from your own computer on the Adidas website, but the advantage of doing it in the store is that you have access to actual samples of all the available materials and colors as well as a wall of other Mi sneaker examples to look at. Plus, it's just kinda cool to be able to sit in the store to design your own sneakers--it's just not quite the same doing it at home.

One more note: we went to the store twice, the second time during the city-wide Fashion's Night Out event kicking off the NYC Fashion Week. Adidas went all out for the event, clearing a large space in the middle of the store for an old school B-Boy group to showcase their breakdancing skills, and an artist on-site to custom paint sneakers for you. On top of all that, they were giving out a one-time only limited edition Adidas t-shirt that was only available during the Fashion's Night Out event. My wife picked up a pair of baseball-inspired Adidas Superstar PTs celebrating the 60th anniversary of Addidas and copped the t-shirt.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Premium Laces

Premium Laces is a highly regarded sneaker and apparel shop in the SoHo shopping district of New York. It's actually a fairly simple looking store compared to the rest of the typical high end boutiques in SoHo, so much that it almost seems a bit out of place for the district. If it wasn't for the cool art on the walls, it'd be completely devoid of decoration. That's actually cool tho; you know the focus here is on the product--and they ain't playin!

There's a stellar selection of Nike sneakers along the left side of the shop, as well as other brands like Puma, Reebok, Vans, New Balance, and Alife, but it's obvious their forte is Nike. If you like Blazers, Dunks, SBs, Air Max, Air Force 1, and of course Jordans, you'll like this shop. There's also a very nice selection of shirts, jackets, hoodies, and caps on the opposite wall. They have a particularly nice selection of LRG brand clothing. It seems most things are priced at MSRP, but there's plenty of sale items scattered about for those seeking a good deal on some kicks.

One of the best things about Premium Laces is the location relative to the subway; you pop up out of the 6 line directly in front of their front door.

It's not the fanciest sneaker store in NYC, but it's well worth the trip.

EDIT - October 5th
Pete from Premium Laces recently posted on their blog that the shop got a little renovation. The plain white walls are gone, replaced with a wicked purple paint job. Big improvement, good looks Pete.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ray's Pizza

If you've ever been to New York, odds are you've seen a Ray's Pizza. As the New York Times reported way back in 1991, there are well over 30 different pizzerias using some form of the name Ray's: Famous Ray's, World Famous Ray's, Original Ray's, Famous Original Ray's, Ray Bari's, Real Ray's or One and Only Famous Ray's. I've eaten at several of these, but until now I'd never been to the oldest one, Ray's Pizza on Prince Street in Little Italy.

The Prince Street Ray's, which opened in 1959, is actually split into two parts, an Italian restaurant on the left and a tiny pizzeria on the right. They serve half a dozen different types of slices in a tiny space about the size of my dining room at home. Needless to say, the slices are typical New York style thin crust pizza with generous portions of fresh mozzarella, ricotta, fresh tomatoes, basil, spinach, beef, and of course pepperoni--and they are all delicious.

Famous Original Ray's, one of the other competing Ray's pizzerias I've been to, is also quite old, founded in 1964, but I didn't think the Pizza was anywhere near as good as the older Prince Street Ray's. So be warned, just because a pizzeria in New York is called "Ray's" doesn't mean it's worth a damn.

But the 50-year old Prince Street Ray's is well worth the trip. Recommended.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NYC vinyl purchases

While in NYC last week, I hit a whole slew of record shops and bought quite a bit of vinyl. Most of it was cheap 50¢ and $1 records for sampling, but I bought a few things just for my own listening pleasure:
  • Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988; reissue)
  • De La Soul - is Dead (1991; reissue)
  • De La Soul - Art Official Intelligence 2: Bionix (2001)
  • Common - Resurrection (1994; reissue)
  • El Michels Affair - Enter the 37th Chamber (2009)
  • Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab (2007)
  • Blu & Mainframe are - Johnson & Johnson (2008)
  • Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement (2009)
  • Mayer Hawthorne - Maybe So, Maybe no 12" single (2009)
Except for De La's AOI:Bionix (top right), all these were brand-new, shrinkwrapped virgin vinyl. I don't know if you've ever had the pleasure of slicing open vinyl shrinkwrap with a pocket knife, but there's just something about it that makes me so much happier than fudging with a CD jewel case and a bunch of dumbass security/ barcode stickers.

And then whew, playing that fresh virgin vinyl? It sounds so sweet, ain't nuthin like it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NYC Vacation

Okay, since so many friends have asked "how was your New York vacation?" I figured I'd post up about it here. So basically, my wife and I spent a week in NYC on vacation, mainly to do some shopping, go to a few little events, and just chill. Here's a recap of the trip.

We stayed at the Hotel East Houston because it is affordable, modern, in the right location (Lower East Side) relative to our planned shopping, and because it has a kickass outdoor rooftop terrace that we could drink and smoke cigars on. The rooms are small, like most others in the city, but it was very nice with a damn comfortable king size bed. I heard some of the smaller rooms have chintsy bathrooms, but ours was great with a huge shower, much bigger than the one I got at home. I highly recommend this hotel, especially considering the rooftop terrace and awesome location.

The hotel is right in the middle of the areas we were planning on checking out: Lower East Side, East Village, Little Italy, SoHo, NoHo, and Greenwich Village--which are basically the areas where most of the big time vinyl record stores and sneaker/streetwear shops are located. We pretty much spent Monday through Wednesday just shopping. I'll be blogging about those places over the next few weeks, so keep reading this blog to check them out.

Also in the area around the hotel are several famous old timey restaurants and pubs. In fact, right before we left, I caught the Anthony Bourdain's “Disappearing Manhattan” episode of No Reservations, and two of the places are just a couple of blocks east of the hotel. Also, Little Italy is only three blocks to the west, so there is plenty of food around.

Speaking of Little Italy, every September the streets transform into the famous Feast of San Gennaro where you can eat yourself to friggin' death on Italian food. We've been before on past NY trips, so we knew to plan this trip to coincide with the event. The "Holy Cannoli" gelato from Cha Cha's alone is worth the trip.

The SoHo shopping and fashion district is just two blocks west of Little Italy, and the Fashion's Night Out event was taking place on Thursday night, kicking off New York Fashion Week. The streets fill up with taxis and a bunch of really tall, skinny women drinking champaign and shopping their asses off til 11pm. It's a complete zoo, for real, really neat to see in person.

Speaking of taxis, we spent a week in the city and never took one! Instead, we bought week-long MTA passes at LaGuardia airport and got around exclusively via subway trains and city buses--even back and forth to the airport. By the end of the week, we had a firm grasp of how the subway works, and I gotta say, big ups to the MTA for making that shit easy to ride. I don't think we ever walked more than 6 or 7 blocks at a time; anything more than that and we just hopped on a train. The iPhone subway maps make it real easy to figure it all out.

The best ride we took was probably the B train out to Crown Heights in Brooklyn to hit a specific sneaker shop. It was a totally different experience than the touristy shopping in Manhattan--and the coolest part is that the train goes over the river on the Manhattan Bridge, a really scenic (if somewhat seedy) little trip.

Another subway trip we made was on Friday, September 11th, down to the World Trade Center site. The place is mostly a giant construction site right now, but being there on the anniversary of 9/11 was pretty surreal and somber.

Friday evening, we rode the subway up to midtown to visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which was having Target Free Fridays. It's a real tourist trap, way too damn many people to properly enjoy the art I suppose, but hey, it's hard to bitch when it's free.

Finally, a music related comment. On Tuesday, two significant new NY-based albums came out: Raekwon's long awaited Only Built For Cuban Links II and Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3. For real, it seemed like every single record and sneaker shop we hit all week was playing one of those two albums. Everywhere we went in the city, those albums was playing. New York was most definitely representing.

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