written circa 2016 by Ireland Gibson
Originally posted on December 21st, 2009.
Welcome back to GFOM’s Friday Archive Series— this week I sought to re-publish a year-end list that spoke to the very specific sentiments evoked by this whirlwind of a year. 2020 has challenged me with uncomfortable uncertainty and stagnation– forcing me to dwell in my redefining of “normalcy”. Typically an auspicious soul, I have been more recently taking a critical look within and in my surroundings. In a (hopefully) not-so-corny way, Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” (off of Veckatimest), speaks to the sentiment of uncertainty– as the song is exclusively comprised of allusive questioning…Would you always?…Maybe sometimes?…Make it easy? … To be fair my questions are more like: How am I going to make rent? Who are my real friends? Where did I put my mask? (but you get the point). When I emerge from my introspective/pseudo-depressive Grizzly Bear hole, My Girls off of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion is next up on the playlist. Just like so many other songs, My Girls is tied to a very distinct memory of mine, a memory of a happier and healthier place. When listening, I can’t help but transport away– to the coast of Mallorca… in the passenger’s seat of a vintage BMW… with the sound of too-loud music escaping out the windows: There isn’t much that I feel I need…A solid soul and the blood I bleed. I long for the past and am uncertain in my present when My Girls drifts me away– a similar sentiment felt even when it’s time to take my headphones off. Having re-listened to GFOM’s Top Albums 2009 List, I have found great solace in rediscovering songs (and their meanings) in the greater context of now. Maybe those feelings have always been there… floating deep beneath the surface….untouched and unseen– and only now I am able to truly listen, feel, and experience in the ways that I should?
The Friday Archive – GFOM’s Top Albums 2009
01. animal collective – merriweather post pavilion
“It feels like one of the landmark American albums of the century so far.” -uncut
02. grizzly bear – veckatimest
“It’s like hearing the past few centuries of music playing in symphony, which sounds–thrillingly and reassuringly–like the future.” -onion
03. xx – xx
“The xx have made a debut that sounds utterly flawless; it’s the kind of album that bands take years to create” -doa
04. dirty projectors – bitte orca
05. sunset rubdown – dragonslayer
06. handsome furs – face control
07. bill callahan – sometimes i wish i were an eagle
08. flaming lips – embryonic
09. phoenix – wolfgang amadeus phoenix
10. camera obscura – my maudlin career
In addition to being completely unaware of time or space, I spend most of my quarantine days playing aggressively-loud lo-fi indie while daydreaming out my bedroom window.
I wonder about the people in my life — did they sleep in as late as I did today? Do they too go through waves of deep existential unease?
I wonder about the artists around the globe– do they feel a deep sense of urgency to produce great art during this uncertain time? Will this pandemic spark a radical movement of great music? Will Beach Fossils finally release a new album? (that one’s unlikely).
Surely, when the time comes for GFOM to gather and discuss our Top Albums of 2020 (or more likely Top Albums of 2021), we will be compiling a list of albums whose originality, artistry, and creativity alter the course of music forever. Until then, let’s wander back a decade and enjoy GFOM’s Top Albums of 2010…
01. beach house – teen dream
02. deerhunter – halcyon digest
03. the national – high violet
04. lcd soundsystem – this is happening
05. crystal castles – crystal castles (II)
06. the drums – the drums
07. kanye west – my beautiful dark twisted fantasy
08. twin shadow – forget
09. spoon – transference
10. sleigh bells – treats
arcade fire – the suburbs
local natives – gorilla manner
yeasayer – odd blood
ariel pink’s haunted graffiti – before today
break-it-down>> no.1 11% total points/top3 ~30% total points/8points separate 1-3/12points separate top3 from pack/18points separate 4-10/all individual no.1 in top4 (except fraggle)/
Originally posted on Dec 28, 2010.
One day after Inhaler announced that their first North American Tour has been rescheduled to September, Eli Hewson releases a “phone cover” of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” on Radio X.
Part of the GFOM team was due to attend the Philly leg of Inhaler’s first American tour later on this month. However, due to the global pandemic, venues have been forced to close their doors and tours have consequently been cancelled or rescheduled. My former employer and mentor describes in more detail the more intricate ways the music industry is being effected in the Rolling Stones article linked here.
If Eli Hewson sounds this damn good on his phone, it’s going to be one hell of a show come September.
In the spirit of paying homage to the OG GFOM— every Friday we will be reposting an article from their extensive archive. Originally posted on Jan 7, 2013, here is GFOM’s Top Album list of 2012:
1. frank ocean : channel orange
2. beach house : bloom
3. twin shadow : confess
4. chromatics : kill for love
5. kendrick lamar : good kid, m.a.a.d city
6. animal collective : centipede hz
7. grizzly bear : shields
8. moonface : heartbreaking bravery
9. grimes : visions
10. dirty projectors : swing lo magellan
10. perfume genius : put your back n 2 it
11. wild nothing : nocturne
11. alt-j : an awesome wave
12. spiritualized : sweet heart sweet light
12. tame impala : lonerism
13. hot chip : in our heads
14. schoolboy q : habits and contradictions
14. bat for lashes : the haunted man
14. passion pit : gossamer
15. stars : the north
no.1 spot received 15% of the votes
top.3 totaled 149 of 390 points or 38% of the votes
top.3 albums appeared on everyone’s list
46 pts separated the top 10 albums
Comment below if you still jam to these albums… or if you think the OGs got it wrong, let us know what you think.
At NYU in 2017, the first version of this essay was written for “The Golden Era of Hip Hop”, a class taught by one of my favorite professors: Dan Charnas. I procrastinated the essay, which had to include an “artistic element”,– and so in panic, I enlisted my father to help me with this portion of the project. With 15 hours notice, he came up with this concept and executed an oil-on-canvas painting of the famous Run-DMC Adidas Superstar Sneaker with a lyrical backdrop of “My Adidas”. My professor gave the essay a B, and this painting an A+. He wrote me a letter of admiration for the art and noted that it would be on display in his personal office.
RUN-D.M.C. and the Birth of Sneaker Culture
“Society is founded upon…cloth”
Birthed out of the poverty-ridden streets of The Bronx, Hip Hop is a multidisciplinary movement comprised of five pillars of creative expression: Graffiti, MCing, Bboying, DJing, and Knowledge. Through these diverse creative outlets, the urban youth of New York developed a unique sound, style, mentality, vibe, and culture that would quickly spread to the West Coast, the South, Europe, Asia, and everywhere in between. With the vast and diverse fundamentals, and an objectively “cool” demeanor, the global adoption of the Hip Hop culture is seemingly inevitable. Specifically within the realm of fashion, Hip Hop’s influence has radically popularized—“sneaker culture” being one of the most fascinating movements to globalize as result. The scholarly research is extensive in the respective subcultures and appropriations that have come out of Hip Hop, however there is a lack of discussion in the ways in which Hip Hop may expand while still containing authenticity. This reflective and psuedo-optiministic stance is neither common nor generally respected amongst the academic field. Using sneaker culture as a case study, this research essay seeks to gather historical and academic context to understand how the understated “sneaker” birthed a cultural movement.
The sneaker, in and of itself, is certainly not a new style of footwear – dating as far back as the 1800s with the British Navy and becoming popularized in America by Ked’s first rendition of the modern shoe (Idle Man). However, it is clear that this simple item of dress has completely transcended its once solely utilitarian purpose to something much greater. There now exists an entire movement behind the fashion, novelty, exclusivity, mentality, and market of the sneaker – that which we refer to now as sneaker culture.
The origin of sneaker culture can be traced back to the late 1980’s in Hollis, Queens NY where Hip Hop legends, Run-D.M.C, were dominating the game. Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, the three members of the group, almost exclusively sported uniform Adidas tracksuits, gold “dookie rope” chains, black fedoras, and of course– white Adidas Superstars. Image A is synonymous to the “Run-D.M.C. style”, displaying the group posted up in front of Eiffel Tower. Their gold chains contrast with their deep blue tracksuits with opulent red striped accent. Most notably are Run-D.M.C’s, now signature, white unlaced shell-toe Adidas Superstars with the tongues pushed up. Released in 1986, “My Adidas” was the catalyst track on Run-D.M.C.’s triple-platinum album: Raising Hell.
Now me and my Adidas do the illest things
we like to stomp out pimps with diamond rings
we slay all suckers who perpetrate
and lay down law from state to state
we travel on gravel, dirt road or street
I wear my Adidas when I rock the beat
on stage front page every show I go
it’s Adidas on my feet high top or low
A pivotal moment occurred at the Madison Square Garden show of the Raising Hell Tour in 1986, where tens of thousands of Run-D.M.C fans lifted their own Adidas in the air and rapped along to the song. “[Dressing] for the stage the same way they dressed for the streets” and uniting a crowd through both music and fashion, Run-D.M.C. landed a one million-dollar sponsorship deal with Adidas the following day, making them the first non-athletes to receive a sneaker deal. “The simplicity and consistency of the band’s self-identifying, quasi-tribal style of dress reflected the state of flux in New York and American society and beyond,” and thus, amidst a boom of musical clarity and revolution for Run-D.M.C., they also inadvertently created a modern sneaker culture (Mellery-Pratt).
The pioneering relationship between Run-D.M.C. and Adidas propelled the brand into a lifestyle. “The partnership pervaded every press call, every image and every association the band made,” and the success that spurred from their relationship not only paved the way for endorsement deals that saturate the music industry today, but single-handedly forged Adidas’ forever relationship with Hip Hop (Mellery-Pratt). Adidas has since collaborated with Kanye West, Missy Elliott, Snoop Dogg, Ciara, Pharrell, and the modern Hip Hop/fashion pioneer superstar: A$AP Rocky. Outside of Adidas, other lifestyle brands have developed Hip Hop artist/sneaker endorsement deals including: Rihanna and Puma, Kanye West and Nike, Wiz Khalifa and Converse, Swizz Beatz and Reebok and many more. These endorsement relationships paved way to the exclusivity, novelty, and trends that make up the modern day sneaker culture. The boom of signature kicks in this era provided all the necessary elements to birth a community where the goal was to wear the freshest, hardest to find, limited edition models. Sneakers became a statement piece and another vessel for creative expression. Fred Davis, in Do Clothes Speak? What Makes Them Fashion, he states, “that the clothes we wear make a state is itself a statement” (Davis). The statement a sneakerhead makes beyond the actual statement piece is that of immense significance. The sneaker, through these connotations with music and music icons, became a symbol—a means of coolness and inclusion to the community globalizing by the minute. For what began as subculture is now omnipresent.
As result of this rapid globalization, sneaker culture has evolved tremendously and, in turn, has moved away from the authenticity in which it was so deeply rooted. In Laidlaw’s Blackness in the Absence of Blackness, the author notes that the OG fans and artists of Hip-Hop music were obsessed with the “hood repped”, and the streets served as credibility (Laidlaw). The emphasis on “repping your hood” (or emphasizing your authenticity within the culture) in America paved way for an innate exclusivity. As Hip Hop was born in the streets of The Bronx, it’s initial purpose was to serve as a creative outlet for the young minorities whose opportunities for success became increasingly limited in the ghettos of the late 70’s and early 80’s. In turn, creative expression was a direct reflection of their lives lived. Is it not then serving the same purpose of its original inception?–surely movements and styles are bound to evolve in time and in globalization, but is it truly Hip-Hop without its authentic ties?
One example of the globalization of sneaker culture moving away from its authentic roots would be that sneakers have become another form of currency—the “shoe” being used as trade, similar to that of the stock market or cryptocurrency. As result, people have been able to make exorbitant amounts of money by trading, purchasing, and upselling rare sneakers. Additionally, through the advancements of technology, exclusive sneakers have become more accessible via specified applications and online purchasing/trading. The combination of these two factors has changed the ways in which fans participate in sneaker culture– in result, taking away from what used to be special and unique to the culture. And although Alison Lurie states “To chose clothes, either in store or at home, is to define and describe ourselves”, in Clothing as a Sign System, it’s important to acknowledge the shift in meaning within the culture as a whole via where the item was purchased (Lurie). After Run-D.M.C. and the explosion of Adidas, shoe brands began to release exclusive shoes at specific retailers in New York, with the only ways of knowing about a new release being through radio and word of mouth. In the late 90’s, the “golden era” (if you will) of Sneaker Culture, there existed a ritual behind copping the latest and coolest sneaker. This exciting process involved weeks of anticipation, schemes of acquiring funds, finding time to skip class, and standing in long lines with your friends without promise of actually receiving the new product– it was the art of the hunt (Koplewicz). Jeff Ng (stylized Jeffstaple), one of the most successful sneaker designers in the world, commented on this notion of “the hunt”:
Honestly, without sounding naïve or cliché, but without the story it just becomes stuff now. It’s just a commodity item. Whereas with the story attached, then it’s the culture. That’s what makes the culture: is the stories. Because of the technology and the Internet now, it’s removing the storytelling process of it (Ng).
The simple yet profound “story” is representative of a shared love of fashion and culture – birthed by accident. Although the sneaker may seem trivial, it is, in a lot of ways, the embodiment of what Hip Hop stands for: it is more than another trend, or revenue stream, or hobby—it is the ongoing contextual reinforcement of why the culture was born in the first place: to represent the inextricable relationship between urban youth and their creative outlets. Despite its innate value structure, the broader issue of globalization is inevitable and worthy of analysis to further understand the rise (and fall) of this cultural movement.
In addition to the changes endured through the development of technology and commodification of the sneaker, the adoption of sneaker culture by high fashion brands certainly shifts (and expands) the culture. With fashion brands such as Balenciaga, Acne Studios, Louis Vuitton, Golden Goose, and more, creating their own luxury renditions of the “urban sneaker”—the exclusivity expands from being “in the know” or “of the culture” to the upper financial echelon of society.
As sneaker culture gets more mainstream and continues to stratify into specialized markets, it’s important for its participants to respect the O.G.’s without feeling like they can’t put their own unique spin on things (DeLeon).
One way luxury brands attempt to “respect to the O.G.’s” is through aligning with Hip Hop stars. Designer brands have been name-dropped by Hip Hop artists for decades, however the reciprocation of acknowledgement has only more recently occurred. A$AP Rocky modeling for Loewe, Pharrell’s collection for Chanel, Thom Browne designing for Cardi B at the Met Gala, or Gucci Mane as the new face of Gucci— are examples of these collaborations. Additionally, it’s essential to acknowledge that many of these high fashion designers are themselves self-proclaimed sneakerheads. In this case, the designer’s themselves are innately paying respect to the O.G.’s. “When brands like adidas tap Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, Raf Simons, and Mark McNairy for special collaborations, it’s a win-win. Fashion heads get a more accessible, lower-priced designer creation, while sneakerheads get put up on some of the most lauded designers in the industry” (DeLeon). Arguably elevating the culture in many ways, the successes of Nike + R.T. Collection, Converse x Margiela, and A.P.C. Nike collaborations, and more have forged a new lane and bridged the gap between an otherwise vast disparity between luxury brands and the average fashion consumer. “Fashion is a form of imitation and so of social equalization” (Simmel).
Despite the shifts to and from its authentic roots, what remains true is that Hip Hop is everywhere. The movement is everywhere. Sneaker culture is everywhere— and certainly will not be going anywhere anytime soon. The sub-cultures of high fashion and trading only prove sneaker culture’s appeal to a growing demographic of people. These societies were undoubtedly founded upon and influenced by the sneaker.
My Adidas cuts the sand of a foreign land
with mic in hand I cold took command
my Adidas and me both askin P
we make a good team my Adidas and me
we get around together, rhyme forever
Davis, Fred (1992) ‘Do Clothes Speak? What Makes them Fashion?’ in Fashion, Culture, and Identity. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 1-18.
DeLeon, Jian. “How High Fashion Elevates Sneaker Culture.” Complex, Complex, 1 June 2018, www.complex.com/style/2014/04/high-fashion-sneaker-culture-menswear.
Koplewicz, Joshua. “A ‘Sneakerhead’ Growing Up In NYC.” Oct. 2019.
Laidlaw, Andrew. Blackness in the Absence of Blackness: White Appropriations of Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in Newcastle upon Tyne-explaining a Cultural Shift. Diss. © Andrew Laidlaw, 2011
Lurie, Alison (1983) ‘Clothing as a Sign System’ in: The Language of Clothes. London: Bloomsbury, pp 3-36.
Mellery-Pratt, Robin. “Run-D.M.C.’s ‘My Adidas’ and the Birth of Hip Hop Sneaker Culture.” BOF, July 18, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2017. https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/video/run-d-m-c-s-adidas-birth-hip-hop-sneaker-culture.
Powell, Ricky. “Run DMC.” Https://Www.1xrun.Com/Exhibitions/Ricky-Powell-Run-Dmc-Paris-1987/.
Simmel, Georg (1904 / 1957) ‘Fashion’ in: The American Journal of Sociology. Vol.62(6), pp 541-58.
“The History Of Sneakers.” The Idle Man, https://itheidleman.com/pages/the-history-of-sneakers.
The New York City subway is a particularly dismal place to be while commuting in the early hours of the day— I typically cope by leaning into dark-dream pop, moody early-2000’s alternative, and emo-rap. However, this particularly cold morning called for the unfamiliar— something new, melodic, and sexy. Self-proclaimed “synthetic soul” collective Chiiild’s newest track “Hands Off Me” blessed my headphones just as I hopped on the packed D-train at 8am. I was instantly met with intrigue as the smooth vocals glide over deep bass and octave fuzz. It’s as if the guitar is dancing with the vocal, spasmodically jumping through frenetic phrases and acting in response. Both stringent and jarring, in many ways the guitar seems out of place within the atmosphere of the song (though it succeeds in demanding the listener’s attention nonetheless). “Hands Off Me” is a song that transports— intoxicating you with a sense of psychedelic ease. If you’re looking to break out of the winter blues and escape reality (even for just a moment), I strongly suggest you dive into Montreal’s emerging talent Chiiild.
Suddenly, crowded rides and long delays don’t seem so bad.
*Originally posted on VaShift on January 26, 2020*
Fresh off of the debut of his solo career with standout project “Marabout”, Belgian artist Swing has no plans to take 2020 leisurely. “Gris,” the first single off Swing’s forthcoming sophomore project “ALT F4 EP”, wholly encapsulates the veteran talent’s range of abilities. As a key member of L’or du Commun and recent support for Roméo Elvis’ Morale 2 Tour, Swing’s experience equally matches his natural-given talent. “Gris” displays his vocal abilities with elongated words and a vocal-heavy outro– acknowledging the fact that beyond rapping, Swing can sing. It’s quite special to feel drawn to such a song without fully gathering the meaning, and “Gris” certainly resonates regardless if you speak French or not. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself humming “tout est gris… tout est gris… tout est gris…” for the rest of the week– sorry in advance.
*Originally posted on VAShift on January 29, 2020*
As San Mei gears up to play her second SXSW later this year, the Australian breakout artist has released her first single of 2020: “Hard to Face”. The combination of heavy-hitting lyrics and “alt-pop” composition are eerily reminiscent of Purity Ring or Phantogram. Though her voice, sweet and up-beat, glides pleasantly over drum and guitar– you can’t help but focus on her deeply sincere lyrics.
I wanna feel alive the way you wake
And I’m not happy, is this a mistake?
One more day is hard to face.
“Hard to Face” evokes a lyrical resonance of an early Stars’ “Five Ghosts”— unsettling yet hauntingly beautiful. Amidst disruptive times, it feels almost innate to lean into the darkness. I urge you to lean hard with “Hard to Face”– and invite San Mei’s voice to linger hollowly for a while.
Follow San Mei:
*Originally Posted of VaShift on January 30, 2020*
In this heavily-saturated world of content that we find ourselves in today, I fall into a smaller demographic of music-enthusiasts who typically feel too overwhelmed to effectively scour the internet for the newest/poppin artists. Thankfully, I have a trusted few who keep me current on the scene– and when my go-to hip-hop source reached out today via email with the subject: “fire philly talent!!!”– I knew it had to be good.
After only one listen through lojii’s his newest project “lo&behold”, I am completely enthralled by the Philly rapper. Enlisting producers Absent Avery, Swarvy, Jacob Rochester, and more; lojii’s talent shines brightly amongst an eclectic array of beats and sounds. “Patience” opens up the 16-track album, an equally confident and vulnerable introduction. If you’re a first-time listener, trust that “Patience” will wholly encapsulate the pure talent and technique of lojii– and if you’re like me, you likely won’t stop there. Let “lo&behold” play through and get lost in lojii’s world of lo-fi jazz, infused-soul, conscious rap, and beyond.
Listen to lojii’s “lo&behold” below!
*Originally Posted of VaShift on February 2, 2020*