Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Puma x YO MTV Raps: Forever Fresh Indeed by Dee Wells

Confucius said, "A journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step."  Those words could not be more true when you take a style of music that was gaining cross-over popularity and add glitzy videos that took viewers on a metaphorical ride was igniting fascination all over America and eventually the globe.

Rap music is said to have gotten its start in the Bronx, New York and to this day I haven't had anyone try to convince me otherwise.  The South Bronx, to be specific, is where the music and the culture emerged as a grass-roots (ghetto) movement that gave young and hungry cats an opportunity to speak about what they saw on their streets and in their 'hood.  Instead of simply writing poetry like a Langston Hughes or Miguel Algarín, the men and women of the Boogie Down kicked verses that gave us a glimpse into their soul.

In the late '70s, jams were held in various city parks or empty lots where the DJ hot-wired a street lamp to supply the electricity.  Disc Jockeys such as Kool Herc, DJ Hollywood and Afrika Bambaataa, were the main attraction but with the emergence of the MC, cats like The Chief Rocker Busy Bee, The Furious Five and The Cold Crush Bros, they flipped the script and it became a contest as to who could make up the most outlandish stories.

With the stories becoming more grandiose and its popularity growing because mix tapes began to pop up in some of the most obscure places-outside of the Bronx, Brooklyn and uptown Manhattan- such as Montana and Arkansas, the television networks began to pick-up on the appeal of rap music.  Black Entertainment Network (BET), which aired in 1981, didn't embrace rap as one would think it would have.  The first out the gate was Video Music Box on Channel 31 (WNYE) on UHF by the pioneering duo of Ralph McDaniels and Lionel "the Vid Kid" Martin. 

When MTV decided it had sat long enough on the outside looking in, they called upon the quintessential hipster, Fab Five Freddie Braithwaite to serve as host.  Fab Five Freddie was known in the community to bring exposure to graffiti artists and figured out how to get them paid-in-full by moving their graffiti art from the subways to the art galleries.  Because of his persona, Freddie was a natural for television.

When YO! MTV RAPS debuted on Saturday, August 6, 1988, I recall watching in amazement as Freddie introduced video after video, the first being Eric B. & Rakim's Follow the Leader, with the thought that rap music was finally getting it just due and the exposure would prove the naysayers that it wasn't noise, rather an art form that was started by the people and was meant for the people.  On a personal note, the pilot aired for 2 weeks and featured RUN-DMC and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince whom had both performed concerts in the US Virgin Islands earlier in the year.

It comes as no surprise as YO! MTV RAPS and PUMA team-up to celebrate 25 years of The Clyde- a sneaker that pays homage to Walt "Clyde" Frazier, known for being very flamboyant in dress and whose on court game was defined as "super cool" because of his cool, calm and collected demeanor. 

The collaboration is a star-studded one that applauds rap music, risk taking on MTVs part and fashion sense to combine the use of a sneaker- The Clyde- that is embraced by sneaker lovers the world over.

The choice of sneaker makes sense because every b-boy and girl can recognize the sneaker- it's a Clyde after all; one of the most recognizable sneakers.  Break-dancers of today and of yesteryear see it and immediately associate it with poppin' and lockin' and tabletop back spins.  Do you recall searching for large cardboard boxes to use as you floor for breakin' or going to your local appliance store and asking for the cardboard box that the refrigerator was packaged in?  Well, those days are few and far between for this homeboy, but breakers do exist and annual breakdancing competitions are held, some with large corporate sponsors; just search for 'breakdancing' on and you'll find over 6,000 videos.

PUMA continues to Push-It like Salt-N-Pepa (1988) and allowed MTV to act like a Tramp and get wild with The Clyde.  Is there anything better than hot pink and black or lime green and black on a suede Clyde?  Its like butter baby, like butter!

So, grab your old-school toothbrush, fat laces and, if you're daring enough, find some Gazelle frames and rock them without lenses.  You, too, can be FOREVER FRESH and still do the Ed Lover Dance!