Cover of Jamel Shabazz's Back In The Days published in 2001
Counter-cultures are always spawned from the outskirts, the ones that don't fit into the mainstream, the risk takers, the true rebels. History shows eventually those counter-cultures get bastardized by Corporate America in one way or another, good or bad, and lose their truth and innocence.
My particular story is birthed in the golden era of hip-hop, as a youth being lucky enough to hang out at sessions at D&D Studios with Premo, being on the sets and edits of music videos for Afu-Ra, and directing videos for the living legend DJ Roc Raida.
For whatever reason I was lucky enough for those moments to be a part of my life at such a young and impressionable age.
The times have changed and much like a lot of the kids today have a reverence for that (early to mid-nineties) golden era that I was able to be a part of. I will always have a really strong love and respect for the (late seventies to early eighties) birth era of hip-hop that I only know from books, films and stories.
Like every counter-culture, when it's born and the purist we see some of the most original and creative styles that will be copied, reappropriated, and bastardized for generations to come.
For me Jamel Shabazz's "Back In The Days," Martha Cooper's "Hip Hop Files," and Johan Kugelberg's "Born In The Bronx" serve as capsules for a moment in time that didn't know any better but to be who it was...
The most exciting book about modern filmmaking is the soon to be classic Cinema Now by Andrew Bailey from Taschen. Covering all continents and all genres of film, it's a definitive source for inspiration. I often look to it for inspiration for my own work... Framing, color compositions, concepts... And if you're not that into reading or looking at pictures it also comes with a DVD.
The section on Alejandro González Iñárritu is reason enough to purchase it. "I don't care about the chronological order of the facts but rather the emotional impact of the events, because after all is said and done, cinema is just a fragmented emotional experience."
The term cool has been used and misused since its inception to mean a wide array of things to a wide array of people. Something might be cool to one person but not another. For a history lesson on the word in not only a linguistical fashion but also a social and cultural one check Lewis MacAdams' Birth of the Cool.
It also features some great style from the likes of Miles Davis, Juliette Greco, Jackson Pollock, Jack Kerouac, Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, William Burroughs, and Jean-Paul Sartre (photographed on the left in his trademark sheepskin jacket and bottle-thick eyeglasses in Paris, late 1940s.)
The philosopher, novelist, playwright, and hero of the intellectual underground was a proponent of existentialism: the idea that "God is dead. Therefore the universe is absurd. The only thing we know is that we exist. We are responsible for our own destinies."
Jazz greats of the time Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk picked up on his teachings and appropriated the Left Bank cafe-intellectual style to their own fashion.
I'll admit heavy stuff for a style blog but you have to know where you're from to know where you're going. And since it seems cool is one of those things everyone wants, we should at least know what it actually means. For a truly fascinating work check the link below...
"Give away everything you know and more will come back to you."
- Paul Arden
This little bible has been around since 2003. Maybe it's because of the recent death of the author, Paul Arden that it has gained popularity. I now see it for sale in a lot of fashion boutiques, which I've always thought of as a really interesting place to purchase a book. All of a sudden a piece of literature takes on much more of a cultural identity than a literary one. If I ever write a book I'd love to see it for sale next to a pair of pants, sneakers or candle. For now I'm cool with buying other people's genius work and keeping it in my jean's back pocket...