Menace: A Multi-Part Sociological History (exhibits W-AA)

August 23, 2010

Before I get into this last part, let’s sum up:

Part One (exhibits A-G)

Part Two (exhibits H-L)

Part Three (exhibits M-Q)

Part Four (exhibits R-V)

Exhibit W: Axion

image courtesy youwillsoon

First of all, this exhibit was probably the most challenging to write. Why? Writing about the significance of shoes ain’t easy. Watson kills it at it though. Of course, there’s also that Made for Skate book, but that seems like more of a coffee table kind of thing (I may be wrong here). That dude Bobbito wrote a book that seems to focus more on the cultural implications of footwear, but I think I read it in B&N in like 15 minutes back in like ’04, so maybe it just had little blurbs or some shit like that.

ANYWAY, along those lines–sneakers and their socio-cultural implications–I recently had the following exchange with my brother, who doesn’t skate, never skated, wears Rainbow flip-flops most of the time, and is pretty much a total frat dude:

Me: [referring to the arsenal of blown out, semi-blown out, and newish shoes strewn about my room] I need a new kind of shoe storage system or some shit. I think Ikea makes one that’s like a drawer with a  bunch of shoehorn-type things–

My Brother: Stop being such a woman.

Me: Hey IDIOT, when you skate you blow out shoes fast as shit–

My Brother: Then stop skating.

Reluctant to explain the difference between cup and vulc, the intricacies of board feel, or even the mechanics of grip tape, I ended the conversation there. However, in addition to their technical import, shoes have always been somewhat of a philosophical component of skating. When dudes started fucking with shelltoes and Pumas, skating collided with the sneaker culture about which Bobbito wrote in the aforementioned work. This, of course, as Clyde explained in the 20 Shot commentary, led to the Menace dudes collectively keeping the X-Large store in business.

When World started Axion in 1997, the final piece of the menace tech puzzle fell into place. It is also notable as the second building block in Kareem’s entrepreneurial empire. The only Axions I really skated were the Aries, but the first Marianos, which looked like some kind of early Nineties Andre Agassi pro model or some shit, drew a line in the sand between everything that came before (sal 23s, halfcabs, etc.) and everything that would follow  until the vulc backlash that still continues.

Truth be told, I have mixed feelings about the new Axion 2.0. Although I back Nicholson, Maldonado, and Taylor, starting a new shoe brand is kind of a lost cause when shops aren’t even fucking with, for example, e’S–formerly the biggest shoe co. out.  I would try some if my shop carried them, though. Especially if they developed some kind of low-profile interpretation of the first Marianos. In any event, it looks like they’re fucking with some new type of Aries-inspired design, which is interesting. For whom besides myself? I know not.

Exhibit X: All City

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photo courtesy police informer (we miss you)

In writing this exhibit, the first order of business was pinpointing the switch from Menace. I am reasonably certain I skated Menace boards throughout 1997. I can also assure you that I purchased this windbreaker (which I still wear regularly) in 1998:

ANYWAY, All City evoked the urban skate life for which Menace was [in]famous, as if to say “these are the elite skaters in all of the fucking city.” The new moniker also synergized well with the athletic nature of Axion footwear. Unfortunately, Russell Simmons was thinking along similar lines, and due to a copyright clusterfuck, All City switched once again to City Stars (more on CS below), which seemed to conjure up images of dudes drawing stars in quotation marks, like, all over the fuckin’ city.

I conducted some RIR (Rudimentary Internet Research) on the whole affair, and discovered the following:

In 1998 [Russell Simmons} elected to again restructure the company, which he felt had been plagued by sourcing and production problems. Simmons now chose to follow a licensing strategy for Phat Fashions, and after meeting with a number of potential partners, decided to form a joint venture with Turbo Sportswear, a 20-year-old Perth Amboy, New Jersey, active outerwear manufacturer known for producing such brands as First Down, Triple F.A.T. Goose, and Phenom.

Triple F.A.T. Goose. Amazing. ANYWAY, my research led me to the following conclusion: Perth Amboy is notable not only for that pavilion thing that Fred Gall skated in that Tracker vid, not only for being Vida Guerra’s home town, but, in a way, the most underrated city* in Middlesex County also created City Stars.

Exhibit Y: L.A. County

It is almost impossible to verbalize the dopeness of L.A. County–the “We Are the World” of menace tech. Nah, too cheeseball. To riff off of an old Klosterman piece, one could call it the Zeppelin IV of menace tech, but that doesn’t take into account its jaw-dropping versatility. Continuing down that road, one could also refer to it as the Physical Graffiti of menace tech; both works of art function as progressive tours de force that take one on a journey into the Theatre of the Mind. Furthermore, both were probably created and primarily experienced in conjunction with weed smokin.’

From another perspective, imagine, if you will, that Nas and G Rap thought that “Fast Life” worked out really,really well and decided to create a whole album together. Premier is enlisted to produce, along with the Beatminerz and the RZA. Naturally, just about every Wu dude makes a guest appearance, along with some backpacker dudes like Aceyalone and Pharoahe Monche.

That’s what L.A. County feels like.

In all honesty, I can’t even remember where or when I first heard about it; Steve Fletch may have mentioned it in passing at Newport one time. My main venue for new videos was the sidewalk in front of Supreme, and I recall them running Heads and Peep This extensively at the time. Only when videos began to be available on the internet was I finally able to see it. In addition, another mystifying element that adds to its legend is the complete disappearance of Lost Dog Productions. A URL, http://www.postprodigital.com,  listed at the end of the credits as the only method of contact, no longer exists. If anyone has any info, hit me up. On the other hand, it might be cooler to just leave the mystery intact.

As for video itself, I recently sat down one summer evening and watched it in its entirety while scribbling notes on a yellow legal pad. Overall, L.A. County displays thematic unity by opening with menace tech 1.0–Joey, Billy and Fabian drinking a pitcher of beer, leading into Billy’s part–and closing with the preeminent example of menace tech 2.0.–Enrique Lorenzo. Similarly to Jean-Baptiste Gillet, the dude has quietly constructed a body of work as voluminous as just about anyone. A lot of it is in stuff like Logic videos, that one Monkey Stix promo, and some World promos, but still. He never switched; he’s like a Kalis in that respect.

Between those two bookends we see Chris Frantzen, whose part herein I have already called the most menace tech video part ever. I stand by that assessment. That line where he attempts nollie heel ns, then ns nollie heel is one of the most interesting ideas ever in a skate video. Sometimes dudes deserve credit solely for a concept; for example, in the credits, Frantzen (I think it’s him) tries ns nollie heel out on one of the Fairfax ledges, but he’s trying to nollie heel over part of a trash can. That’s fucking insane.

After Frantzen, the first montage opens with a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority bus arriving at the USC ledges, leading in to Dill’s section. Details like that are critical; they weave skating into the fabric of city life, a motif that becomes more and more valuable as actual street skating becomes increasingly impossible.

Following up Quim and Paulo’s shared part, Marco Romero does cool shit like f/s crooked 270 out on a Lockwood bench, displaying limitless potential. What the hell happened to that dude? He was like the turn-of-the-century West Coast Poppalardo. Next, the second montage includes just about everyone else in L.A. that was at all menace tech. In all seriousness, if you could kickflip and crooked grind, and you skated the USC ledges, you were probably in this video.

The Spaniards’ section comes next. If one looks at L.A. County as a narrative, Jesus and Alfonso’s shared part is the climax. If the original Menace team were the early Christians, getting eaten by lions and all that shit, the Spaniards were like St. Patrick and all those dudes**; they kept the shit going, and still keep it going. Lebron is still the world’s preeminent practitioner of the fakie ollie sw crooked, and no one is still really fucking with Jesus’ part in FF. If I had to select one video part to exemplify my favorite subgenre of skating, it would be this–low-impact, lines, ledges, loose-fitting clothing.

As for Lorenzo’s final part, it doesn’t get much cooler than perfect sw frontside heels in Aries in Santa Monica. In conclusion, I was only being slightly hyperbolic when I stated that I would pay $500.oo for a remastered DVD with commentary from Lorenzo, Lebron, and Fernandez. That would most likely end up the best commentary since Boogie Nights, when Mark Wahlberg got progressively more and more inebriated for three hours, then said “Yo, why am I doing this? I gotta call my agent.”

When I actually saw L.A. County for the first time, the Spaniards’ section gained additional significance because, at the time, I watched all those Mexican films like Y Tu Mama Tambien and Amoros Perros religiously. It might be superficial, but just the lifestyle footage of them talking to that dude, combined with the flamenco guitar music, gave off this cinematic vibe, like an artistic foreign film skate video or some shit. Indeed, their saga, moving to LA, living a studio apartment with no furniture, selling product to survive, is cinematic and quixotic in and of itself. This line of thinking led to the following pitch idea–not a Fernandez/Lebron biopic, but a Kids meets Y Tu Mama Tambien character-driven road movie kind of thing. Million-dollar idea, y’all.***

Exhibit Z: Street Cinema/Paul Rodriguez

Finally–“soon” became “now.” The thing is, Street Cinema is a competent early 00’s skate video. A Menace video, and all that that entails, it is not. Nevertheless, I recently sat down one, yellow legal pad on desk, to watch it all the way through for the very first time.

Caine Gayle’s first part is predictably professional. Still can’t believe the dude went from ostensibly the “whitest” team–Prime–to CS, via a transitional period on Plan B. That’s like Mikey Taylor reverting to wifebeaters and flat brims and getting on DGK or some shit.

Speaking of Taylor, I find his Street Cinema part here more interesting than his Mind Field part. While Mind Field is all Etnies clothing’d out, super stylized bump-to-bar maneuvers, the rawness of his SC part is palpable. One can tell that, on his ender, for example, he had never done a crooked grind down a rail before.That’s interesting.

As for some of the survivors from the original squad, Javier Nunez, who continues to kill it to this day, pioneers the almost-extinct dancey almost-falling-off style. Pupecki’s swan song resurrects CBS ledge footage from the Trilogy era. Lee Smith is probably the only dude besides Smolik (or perhaps Daewon) to pull of f/s and b/s Sanchez grinds in a part. Along those lines, it warrants mentioning that Lee Smith was really fucking good. Those crail couch vids portray him as a flunky of sorts, but he switch 360 flipped California St. Nothing to sneeze at.

Overall, though, one can reasonably state that SC‘ ‘s main goal was to showcase the mindnumbing talent Kareen had assembled. Along those lines, Devine Calloway gains early Nineties cred for skating to a Heiro track, and Ryan Denman, a slightly-economically-disadvantaged man’s Creager of sorts, does some cool shit including a few NBD’s–the b/s noseblunt shove-it over that Chaffey wall thing comes to mind. However, the stretch hummer at the end is a bad look no matter how one looks at it.

Speaking of bad looks, had I viewed the video upon initial release, I would have probably considered using Guy’s song from Video Days to be A) a bad look B) heavy-handed C) condescending and D) a probable career jinx. However, Rodriguez has proven my alternate-universe self wrong. Back when I saw that sequence of him in sone Big Brother tour article, nollie heeling out of a nollie n/s on that EMB 2.0 ledge, it was obvious that some kind of paradigm shift was afoot.  It doesn’t get any more ironic than the most professional, career-minded, yet seemingly-devoid-of- personality skater of the last decade coming up via the most seemingly unprofessional, career-oblivious team out. Said team, however, added value to its brand by playing its position and focusing on its strengths. Character. Personality. Which leads me to the final exhibit herein.

Exhibit AA: Fabian Alomar Appearance on Skatetalk

Metacognition. Reflectiveness. These are not qualities that one associates with Menace. However, they are the two words I would most associate with Fabian Alomar’s appearance on Skatetalk.

Truth be told, I had watched Skatetalk a few times prior; I even called in to ask Ethan Fowler what he wrote on that napkin at the end of his Visual Sound part. To my dismay, he could not recall. This episode, however, deserved  some kind of skournalism Pulitzer or some shit. Furthermore, Fabian’s ability to convey his narrative–as visceral a tale of modern-day American Life as one will probably ever hear–and compellingly reflect upon and evaluate his life for two hours meshes perfectly with my thesis. How so? At face value, I concede that Menace was not the most progressively mindblowing skate team. However, contextually, they were the most interesting skateboard company of all time.

I have long believed in process over product. Taking the time to, as Fabian did on Skatetalk, engage in a summative moment of reflection is an often-overlooked element to any process or journey, regardless of product. Menace was 100% process. Video Coming Soon.

*It might be the only “city” besides New Brunswick; I’m pretty sure most every town is classified as a “township.”

**That analogy didn’t work out too well, maybe because I am a big Jew and don’t know that many saints. Nor do I know of any famous Rabbis, or whatever. I am not super on point with the Judaism.

***After I thought up this pitch, I did some RIR to find out if , as per the trend, someone was making an English version ot YTMT.  To my astonishment, Eva Mendes was reportedly “in talks” to star in such a production. However, that was like two years ago, and nothing else about such a venture has been added to her IMDB page, so I doubt that ever got off the ground. Phew.

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9 Responses to “Menace: A Multi-Part Sociological History (exhibits W-AA)”

  1. smorales said

    Fuck, so good. Would have liked some more conclusive/summative stuff but what was there was rad.

  2. thecarbonite said

    ^Yeah maybe could have done some more of that. I kinda just wanted to end it and move on with life, haha

  3. jahk said

    I’m gonna miss reading Menace: A Multi-Part Sociological History.
    C’mon just a little extra conclusive/summative post plz!
    I would add the mongo pushing as part of it. As switch tricks were a prerequisite, you would see a lot of Menace (and related skaters) pushing mongo. Of course at that time pushing regular on your opposite stance was not yet an option, but anyway those guys wouldn’t have done it even if able to.Pushing mongo was a statement. You would push mongo because you were to do a trick switch. And it had to show. You were pushing the boundaries and everybody had to know. This was taken even further by people like Keenan makin it look G style as fuck. (as said on CBI: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7969196656166890081&postID=5864699867836182405)
    And like I was saying, this and a proper pulling the front leg baggy technique 🙂 Check Jesus again for a good example.
    On a Jesus note, I spent 3 months in ’95 with the guys in Colón (Madrid Emb.). The Cé-eL-éNé (CoLoN) crew was already legit as fuck. Alfonso was sporting the Coolio dreads hairstyle with windbreaker all day, Jesus was hanging around all time spaced-out on weed and barely skating (still everybody would tell you how the kid owned the place when actually skating it), and Danny was blaring full length/full speed feeble on top of the metal bench that Jesus nollie hard-flip crooks(?) in LA County (the bench would usually be moved in the middle of the plaza).
    Fuck, I miss those days, I miss those guys.
    Peace.

  4. jahk said

    Oh and I almost forgot, Enrique deserves but Javier Sarmiento too – from the ‘Dopados’ video, Javier + Jesus keep the Menace vibe alive in ’08:

  5. […] brilliant Frozen In Carbonite recently published the final part of his Multi-Part Sociological History of Menace […]

  6. […] 5, 2010 The other night, My frat dude brother and I watched the Street League finale.* This is what happened. Coming soon–end of the week […]

  7. […] you know that–with a few exceptions– I back a very specific subgenre of skating: menace_tech, low-impact ledge lines/ schoolyard type shit. Along those lines, Money Mike’s part herein is […]

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