Strange Ways: Stones Throw Gets the Doc Treatment "Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton" traces an underground institution's unconventional journey

Strange Ways: Stones Throw Gets The Doc Treatment "Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton" Traces An Underground Institution's Unconventional Journey

Stones Throw's unconventional journey gets the doc treatment in "Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton"

From the opening minutes of Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton, a specific portrait of Stones Throw already starts to emerge. A-Trak talks about how Peanut Butter Wolf’s “quirks” have shaped the label’s sensibilities. ?uestlove gushes about the label’s tradition of “cultivating the underground” and “embracing the unembraced.” If you had teenage backpack days like mine, it’s likely you remember a time when an understanding of that trademark weirdness–pitched up, nasally vocals on Lord Quas records, Jeff Jank‘s shroomy cartoons, or the jump-cut masterpieces that make up Donuts–was its own kind of social currency.

For a kid like me, who spent hours flipping through Mass Appeals and lifting fan-made Pete Rock compilations off lightweight embarrassing rap forums, this was it. That shit. If you knew about it, you knew about it. The humor and originality that colored those early releases separated it from an ocean of forgettable, golden-era-fetishist backpack shit by a mile. It was all in the approach, and it all had this air of mystery around it. It was the kind of stuff you just kinda had to seek out.

A few hundred miles south, around the same time, Jeff Broadway was soaking up those same albums firsthand in his dorm room at USC. A little less than a decade later, after film school and few forays into documentary filmmaking landed him briefly on the festival circuit, Jeff followed his curiosity all the way to Wolf’s doorstep, and found himself with the opportunity to tell a story.

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SOFT SHOCK

Melbourne-based illustrator Susanna Rose Sykes makes feelings fun

Susanna Rose Sykes

In the deep, dark depths of the Instagram world, hidden in the cracks between morning Starbucks selfies and gym mirror shots, there exists a contrasting, authentic world of actual art. Though we know all too well by now that the internet is making us both more informed and more isolated (blah blah) it would appear that this paradigm works out well for artists and art fans alike. Today, young, even mildly tech-savvy creatives can enjoy their characteristically emo solitude while employing the good old IG to effortlessly share their work and process with the masses. That’s where, under piles of red-eyed bottle service snapshots, religious memes, and endless ego, I found Susanna Sykes. The 3-by-infinity digital grid revealed a pastel toned world of fruit, tears, and titties – and with just a couple scrolls and double taps, I was hooked.

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ENTER THE DISCOURSE

A glimpse inside the creative world of filmmaker Lala Openi

Photography by Max Gibson

It’s funny how you happen upon things. The bike makes it so easy to just check shit out. It was only recently that I was introduced to the art of Lala Openi. It was curiosity that brought us together first. Biking home, I saw the MOCO Gallery in Downtown Oakland filled to the brim, spilling out into the streets. “Lemme check this out,” I thought to myself.

Fortunately for me, the work being consumed was The Discourse, Openi’s exploratory look into the thoughts and lives of today’s youth. Centered in the Bay Area, the film tackles broad questions about society, oppression, consciousness, and growth. Comprised of over five years of footage, The Discourse features a variety of DIY interviews whose true value lies in the words being expressed. After peeping the film, it only seemed right to sit down with Lala to chat about the world, her artistry and the origins of The Discourse.

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SMALL TALK

SMALL TALK

Snaps from the first Wine & Bowties Talk

Photography by Intwovision

Wooooo. Thursday was special, wasn’t it? That one was a long time coming. For the folks that made it to Owl N Wood for our first Wine & Bowties Talk, many many thanks, it was truly a moment. With Wine & Bowties we’re in the business of win wins. Facilitating symbiotic relationships and experiences while doing cool shit. That’s the motto.

With each experience and each event we have to stretch ourselves a bit, and Thursday was nothing short of that. One of the reasons we selected the panelists that we did was because all of them are on the way up. Fueled by passion and purpose these folks are continuously progressing at their craft, and that’s one of the many reasons that makes them dope in our eyes. To Lauren, Max, Daghe, Queens and Japheth, thank you for being part of the experience.

In the events to come we’ll get better at capturing these moments. For starters we’ll try recording the discussion next time (I know right? Floppin…) and we’ll also look to engage more with our online community during the panels as well. In the mean time, you can marinate on the images courtesy of Kyle D of Intwovision, who snapped a few pics from our first Wine & Bowties Talk.

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A VIEW FROM THE TOP

A VIEW FROM THE TOP

A conversation with Top Dog's most memorable employee

Photography by Scott La Rockwell

It was out of the corner of my eye that I noticed him. “Holy Shit, that’s the dude from Top Dog,” I thought to myself as I drove up Franklin Street through Downtown Oakland. It was almost like seeing a superhero out of character, like a quasi-celebrity sighting.

Beloved by many for its dedication to quality sausages, Top Dog has grown into a staple of the Bay Area since its inception. With four locations scattered throughout Oakland and Berkeley, by far and away the most notable, nostalgic and revered Top Dog establishment lies at the corner of Durant and Bowditch, conveniently nestled within the geographic sphere of UC Berkeley. One of the definitive go-to’s when it comes to late night food excursions, Top Dog holds a special place in the memories of most folks who came up in or around Berkeley.

Seminal to many Top Dog experiences are the interactions with the employees, but one such employee stands out over the others. Often polarizing and hardly forgettable, Top Dog’s most memorable figure chose to remain nameless for the purposes of our interview. But for the past 23 years, depending on the circumstance, most of the restaurant’s late-night patrons have felt either the charisma or the wrath of the man known most commonly as “The Top Dog Guy.”

When I saw him walking his two dogs as I drove down the street that sunny morning, I had to pull over. “I got to ask him for an interview,” I thought. “At the least show him love for serving me hot dogs for the last decade and a half.” As I hopped out of the car to approach him, I noticed that one of his dogs was relieving itself.

“Hey, my name’s Max,” I said as I got close. My timing couldn’t have been more off, as he crouched down to pick up his dog’s shit. We were both a bit flustered. Somehow, with poop in hand, and me grossly double-parked, we managed to exchange information, and set up a time for coffee. Having spent so many memorable teenage nights outside Top Dog’s doors, it seemed only appropriate to pick the brain of the man behind the counter.

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GREATNESS IN THE MAKING

GREATNESS IN THE MAKING

A look inside the career of professional footballer Jordan Spence


Illustrations by Danielle Schnur

At the age of twenty-three, Jordan Spence has made an admirable life for himself. He plays for one of the most recognizable football teams in the world, has played for stadiums of thousands and is engaged to this lovely lady. So what does it take to reach the heights that Jordan has? And what is it like living a life that so many people aspire to have?

But Jordan’s story has wrinkles in it too. Rather than the idyllic rise to fortune and fame, his story is marked by perseverance–making his a story that’s equal parts exceptional and relatable. I met Jordan two years ago while he as on loan to Bristol City Football Club. He came into Reiss, where I was working and we’ve been friends ever since. Fast forward two years and a plethora of life experiences and I’m sitting down with Jordan to interview him for the Bowties.

Since the day we met, whenever I meet up with Jordan I get the the unequivocal feeling that I’m witnessing greatness in the making. Jordan is seeping with potential. In the two years since our first meeting, that potential has led to some incredible things: a spot on East London’s storied West Ham United club chief among them. Now, Jordan’s got an opportunity to prove himself on a big stage, a challenge he’s navigating with a true sense of purpose. Today, around 2pm in London, Jordan, his fiancee Naomi and I are walking back from a bagel shop on Brick Lane, heading to Jordan’s studio to eat before our interview. After we finish up lunch, we settle in for a conversation, and Jordan catches me up on where he’s been, and where he’s planning to take things next.

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SPIKE LEE AND PHARRELL TALK CREATIVITY

A conversation between the greats about their life and work

Pharrell Spike Lee

If you’re like me, you live for these interviews. Just being able to observe this conversation is a treat. From one great to another, Pharrell Williams and Spike Lee’s resumes are varied and vast, yet have also remained relevant against almighty father time. While we’ll save their achievements and accolades for another article, for the immediate future let us draw your attention to the video below.

“I didn’t choose film, film chose me,” remarks Spike when speaking with Pharrell about his work and career. As part of his ARTST TLK series, Pharrell sits down with creative minds across the pop culture landscape, picking their brains about their experiences and creative processes. It’s a trip to watch, like-minded spirits from different generations connecting, and undoubtedly there are gems for the dreamers to pick up throughout. We’ve got both segments of the hour-long feature ready for you below. Might wanna gather some friends around the screen for this one.

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THE FREEMAN FILES

THE FREEMAN FILES

Taking our time to contemplate the photographic journey of Jonathon Freeman

Jonathon Freeman

As we’ve discussed before, we are all photographers. Put that trigger finger to the clicker baby and, ba-blam! That’s all you. In taking a picture, we essentially take a moment out of context, from the world we know it to exist in, and create a space for sitting and reflecting on it in hindsight. Maybe that picture is destined to get lost in the shuffle of likes and comments. Maybe it’s developed and hung on a gallery wall. Maybe it sits idly and comfortingly on a nightstand next to our bed. But whatever the case, these photos are captured so we can engage with them. Some of the photography I’ve been engaging with hella much lately can be found in the expansive and effortlessly impressive portfolio of San Francisco photographer Jonathon Freeman.

What attracts me to Freeman’s work, specifically, is his ability to capture intimacy. While for some, intimacy is a concept that evokes considerable anxiety, Freeman’s photographs lend the viewer a comfortable dose with a gentle hand and a skillful eye. I first stumbled on Freeman’s work through his female portraits that I later learned were part of his publication collection The Freeman Files: [Fer-uh-mohnzs] – which is the title of his soon-to-be-published print magazine. The series captures women of the fantasy-girl-next-door variety, accompanied by a similarly dreamy tone. The images are beautiful, whimsical, and effortlessly sexy. “I’ve had a girlfriend throughout my photography career,” he tells me, “and it’s kind of fucked up, but… if she gets mad about my shots, then I know I’m doing something right.”

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IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY?

IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY?

Michel Gondry's latest film illustrates a conversation with Noam Chomsky

Is the Man Who is Tall Happy

In what feels like an insanely dope Interview magazine-type scenario, Michel Gondry’s latest film is centered around a long conversation with the legendary linguistic theorist/philosopher/towering pop intellectual Noam Chomsky. In between shooting more Hollywood-centric fare, the visionary director behind Eternal Sunshine and classic videos from Daft Punk and Beck found some time to explore the vast troves of wisdom and insight that live between Mr. Chomsky’s ears.

Listen to Chomsky explore different ideas is all well and good, but Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy goes a little beyond that. For the film, Gondry’s chats with Chomsky are set to retro-inspired, neon animations, like something you might see in a trippy ’70s education film or science textbook. I can’t even say I know what the core of their talks are about, but the prospect of being visually dazzled while these two chop it up is enticing to say the least. Peep the trailer below, and read an interview with Mr. Gondry about the project here, from the actual Interview magazine.

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OH ARIS…

OH ARIS…

A look inside Aris Jerome's growing collection of gorgeous portraits

Aris Jerome

It’s been quite the journey for Aris Jerome. When we first met, he was shooting music videos for Kreayshawn and Bobby Brackins. Today he’s still shooting videos, but his photographic work has taken precedent. Creating lasting images through his lens, Aris’ Tumblr looks a lot like a casting call for Nasty Gal, with dozens of wonderfully composed female portraits. But wonderfully composed doesn’t quite capture exactly what’s going on here. To put it bluntly, calling the women Aris photographs attractive would be an understatement. But he hardly seems phased. When asked how he’s happened to come across so many pretty women, Aris took the high road, simply telling me, “I just capture what I see as beautiful.”

But there’s more to Aris’ resume than slender figures and pretty faces. Shadowing fashion photographer Solmaz Saberi on her test shoots, Aris transitioned into photography, taking on shoots of his own over time. Also working alongside Joseph Tran, Aris picked up perspective from a few talented teachers and channeled it into his own distinctive style of portraiture. “Having them as mentors changed my whole perception of photography,” he remembers. Today though, Aris is showing us how it’s done with his own work, and by the looks of things, there’s plenty more up his sleeve. We spoke with Aris about his career, his successful transition from film to photography, and where he’ll take it next.

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AN OG TOLD ME…

AN OG TOLD ME…

Gleaning wisdom from the elders with Pendarvis Harshaw

Few folks really know how to navigate Oakland like Pendarvis Harshaw. It’s really a sight to see. Following him on bike feels like a mini parade; whole lotta head nods and peace signs as we cruise. I call him the Mayor of Oakland. “I gotta hit the office, hit a cafe, then head to this lil’ event tonight,” Pen mentions as we ride. His days are often strategically assembled like this, with stopping points sprinkled along the way.

There’s a deliberateness to Pen’s moves that borders a bit on the obsessive. Pen’s steps are calculated, as if he never wants to waste a moment. Perhaps it’s out of necessity, as a second year pursuing a graduate degree in Journalism at Cal tends to occupy most of his time.

But despite these responsibilities, much of Pen’s passion is poured into his ongoing photo essay, OG Told Me, a continuous collection of interviews with representatives of Oakland’s wiser generation. “It’s an ode to the elder men in the community who gave me tidbits of wisdom as I moved through society as a child,” Pen states. “They taught me what to do and what not to do. Sometimes it’d be a neighborhood big shot standing in front of his car. Sometimes it’d be a homeless person at a bus stop.”

From ex-convicts to teachers, recovering drug addicts to world-famous figures like Bill Russell and Danny Glover, Pen’s interviews are wide and varied. And while personal relationships have led Pen to a number of OG interactions, chance situations also tend to turn to interview opportunities as well. The result is a diverse collection of stories, perspectives and experiences from those that have been here longer. Situating himself within the fabric of Oakland’s past, present and future, Pen’s contributions to the community are immense. Set to release a book of essays in the months to come, Pen spoke with Wine & Bowties about the evolution of OG Told Me, the lessons he’s learned, and his aspirations for the future.

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CAN’T BLAME THE YOUTH

Bay Area collective Youthful Kinfolk are building a platform for art, music and creativity

Youthful Kinfolk
Photography by Max Gibson

In a new media landscape where the barrier to entry is some hard work, vision and an internet connection, new movements come and go by the day. There are over 71 million blogs on WordPress alone and Tumblr’s got over 100 million. How do you stand out in this sea of expression, and what does it take to endure? Recently I had the chance to chat with Kris, Yared G, Yared K and Spencer of Youthful Kinfolk about all the above. Forming their collective in the Fall of 2010, the group came together around their love of music, creating an outlet for all the things they were into it. Over time the site has evolved into a platform, connecting like-minded creatives, and materializing in real life in the form of one-off functions and concerts.

Though they’re playing in a busy lane, Kinfolk’s got a knack for popping up in all the right places, around Oakland and around the interwebs. Not to mention, they’ve got time on their side. With their oldest members having just hit 21, Youthful Kinfolk’s name relates a sensibility that’s a little ahead of their time. Citing authenticity and good communication as the pillars of their movement, Kinfolk’s evolution is one we look forward to watching in the days to come. Below, an interview with Kris and the two Yareds of Youthful Kinfolk.

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