#OURCOMMONTHREAD Emcee, b-boy, DJ, and graffiti arts. These are the four elements that compose hip hop culture. Many would argue that fashion is not a significant element of hip hop, but when placed in comparison with any other culture, you will see the appearance of its people is what distinguishes them. Fashion is the 5th Element. We, as a collective of fashion enthusiasts, are here to provide you with an online magazine that bridges the connection of fashion in hip hop. Established 2010
Emcee | CyHi The Prynce | 7 DJ | J. Rocc | 15 DJ | Erok | 21 Graffiti | Meres One | 25 B-boy | Jabbawockeez | 45 Fashion | Melin | 57
Emcee | Chuck Inglish | 1
Emcee Editor Lindsey Linayao DJ Editor Marc Mangapit Graffiti Editor Janine Yoro Fashion Editor Nino Llanera Managing Editor Richard â€œReachâ€? Guinto Contributors Nina Tabios Sashana Macatangay Christina Kim Blog Contributors Ryan Teng Kaycee Rogers Bo Lee Rhoda Dizon Linda Domingo Devon Ward Art Director Phillip Cendana Contributing Photographers Karen Capalaran Alvin Dharmawan Don Cunanan Nico Arce Pauline Collado Community Manager Landon Pascua Public Relations Yewande Noah Advertising Rodolfo Saravia
SPRING | SUMMER 2014
Co-Founders / Editors-in-Chief Nino Llanera Marc Mangapit
EDITOR’S NOTE It’s been a good minute folks, but we are happy to be back bringing you the best in fashion and hip hop. Spring is in bloom and summer is right around the corner. As the temperature heats up so does the world of entertainment. From old school to new leaders of the cool, we’ve gathered the most influential in each hip hop element, adding that extra element of “fashion” which we have come to recognize as an important piece in this culture. On the cover we have the masked men of the Jabbawockeez Crew that have captivated the Vegas entertainment industry, beating out some of the top paid performers in the world. We also linked with bucket hat doning fashion aficionado, Chuck Inglish to discuss his current projects. J. Rocc of the World Famous Beat Junkies crew had some words to share from his many travels. Artist Meres One reflects on the history of the graffiti mecca, 5 Pointz, and its current state of pause. Rounding off the issue we have Melin, a niche headwear brand that isn’t afraid to push the envelope. We are excited to finally present to you what we have been working on these past few months. We hope to enrich, inspire, and share knowledge of this culture we call hip hop. Marc Mangapit Nino Llanera Founders / Editors-In-Chief “So chill...’til the next episode...”
THE DEFINITION OF COOL AN INTERVIEW WITH
CHUCK INGLISH BY LINDSEY LINAYAO
they dress. You give that off...it’s like the signature on my homework. You know it’s me.”There are plenty of ventures for the artist in fashion this year. Chuck has been working with Washington, D.C. brand Durkl, and will be releasing a summer ‘beach capsule’ through them under the name Original Sportswear. He has a collaboration t-shirt and package with Diamond Supply Co. for his album Convertibles as well, set to release in the fall.
On a balmy evening in Downtown Los Angeles, The 5th Element crew sat down with the undeniable artist Chuck Inglish. Serving as one half of the Cool Kids for most of his career, this rapper, producer, and DJ is making his name as a solo artist. Chuck has released several mixtapes on his own, but it wasn’t until the release of his debut album Convertibles that his status as a stand out solo act solidified. We had the pleasure of shooting the breeze with the artist where we talked about the album, his sense of style and fashion collaborations, his life as a DJ, and his plans for the future.
Convertibles is an ambitious album that consists of many different features and genres. There are a few jams that are reminiscent of Cool Kids’ boom bap stylings, and then a few ambitious joints like the electrofunky “Legs” featuring Chromeo, and the reggaeton influenced “Ingles” featuring Capangels. When asked if he felt any pressure to stick to his roots regarding the sound of the record, Chuck describes that he did not feel any pressure during the construction of the album. “I feel more pressure now, given that I’d have to out do what I just did... There is pressure to be had because 3
I challenge myself to do things.” Being a fairly new resident of Southern California, coming from Chicago, one would think that a few of the tracks on Convertibles may have been influenced by his new surroundings in LA. Chuck says on the contrary, “Being here doesn’t change the scope of the sounds I have...like ‘Elevators’, even though that’s the most California-sounding song, I didn’t make it in California. I made that in the snow.” Along with being a talented producer and rapper, Chuck Inglish is also a gifted DJ. Chuck currently holds a summer residency as the DJ at Lock & Key bar in Los Angeles. The emcee reveals that DJing is not just a gig for him. “As I make music and write music and produce music- as that becomes more of my career, DJing will always be my hobby. It will always be where I have the most peace.” Chuck Inglish has always had an affinity for dope gear along with rocking the mic nice. “Fashion, to me, this is a uniform. This is my jersey and shit. So, like how I get dressed- you can tell a lot about a person, what they listen to, by how
A tour is sure to be underway for Convertibles in the US as well as internationally, but there are no details just yet. When asked, Chuck is always a little reluctant to talk about projects that are in their early stages, and for good reason. “I don’t like to talk about things in the works, I like to talk about it when it’s done. That way I don’t sound like hot air all the time. Rap is full of ‘almost about to happen’ ass shit, and I just don’t want to sign up for that!”
Convertibles has garnered much acclaim since its release in April, and has three singles so far. Though the album is still hot off the presses, Chuck is already dreaming up his next musical endeavor. “I will want my next solo effort to be the best thing the world has ever heard. Like, this was the best thing I knew I could do right now. My next solo record will be like, standing on a mountain and saying “I’m THAT motherfucker.” Be sure to cop Convertibles on iTunes and keep your eyes open for that Durkl collaboration this summer and that Diamond Supply Co. drop in the following months. Don’t be left in the dark and be sure to follow Chuck Inglish on all of your favorite social media networks. Instagram: @OldInglish Twitter: @chuckisdope
“You can tell a lot about a person, what they listen to, by how they dress.” 3
“I feel more pressure now, given that I’d have to out do what I just did.”
Still buzzing off of the release of his highly-acclaimed mixtape “The Black Hystori Project,” is G.O.O.D. Music emcee CyHi The Prynce. This charismatic rapper from Stone Mountain, Georgia is steadily climbing the ranks with his staggering punchlines and expertly executed wordplay. We had the pleasure of sitting down with the lyricist and chopped it up about his new fashion line Ivy State, a little known fact about the 2010 BET Hip Hop Awards cypher, the inspiration behind “Hystori” and his vision for the future. When you look at CyHi, you’d know one thing’s for sure - the man has style. Much like his rap abilities, his flair for fashion is sharp, yet street. Ivy State is CyHi’s t-shirt line that features bold graphic logos and solid color ways. When asked
about the name of his brand, CyHi describes, “Ivy State is something that I put together because, you know, that was something that represented me. I always wanted to go to college, but I never made it. But at the same time, I went to the School of Hard Knocks, so I felt like Ivy State is just the highest level. If the School of Hard Knocks was like UGA, Ivy State would be like an Ivy League School of Hard Knocks.” He continues, “This is just the beginning, these (t-shirts) are just the branding pieces, and we’re working on a lot of other things that’s going to be even more amazing.” CyHi has been a signed artist for several years, but the event that catalyzed his fame literally broadcasted his lyrical prowess to the entire country. In a cypher
with his fellow G.O.O.D. Music label mates, the 2010 BET Hip Hop Awards provided a spotlight for the young emcee to shine. CyHi dropped bars that gained a massive amount of viral attention, resulting in him being one of the highest trending rappers of the program. CyHi recalls, “A lot of people don’t know I’m the reason why G.O.O.D. Music did that cypher. I was actually talking to [Stephen Hill] from BET, and he was in the studio listening to the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album, and Ye, when I first got signed, he made me rap for everybody.” He further explains, “I just rapped for Stephen for like five minutes straight. He was like, ‘Yo, can we get him on the BET Cypher?’ and Ye was like, ‘Of course. Why don’t we just ALL do it!?’” And so spawned the incredible lyrical display from the undeniable line-up of 8
Pusha T, Big Sean, Common, Kanye West, and CyHi The Prynce. Fast-forwarding to now,“The Black Hystori Project,” which has garnered arguably the strongest response out of his collective body of work, was actually inspired by a bit of unfortunate news. Last year, CyHi’s nephew was told by his teacher that he could not do a black history essay on his uncle because he was not “important enough.” The disappointing news triggered an artfully constructed conceptual album incorporating conscious topics, paying homage to key figures in black history, all while CyHi flexes his unwavering lyrical capabilities. When I asked what kind of stamp the emcee would like to leave in history, CyHi says that hip hop is just the start. The mark he’d like to leave is much deeper than that. “It’s really bigger than rap to me, but I have to start here. I want to save lives, I want to build schools, I want to be a motivational speaker, I want to be a non-denominational preacher that’s just like - all walks of life.” He adds, “I just feel like I’ve been through so many different things - not just from a street standpoint, but from a blue collar life as well. So I know both sides to be able to consciously relay it to individuals on each side. That’s why I just want to take my theories and everything and give them to the world. I feel like the first way I can do this is through music. So that’s where I’m starting.” CyHi The Prynce is now riding the wave of success from “The Black Hystori” mixtape right into his own Hystori Tour, which is currently in full swing. Be sure you check out his new music video for “Mandela” and peep his website IvyState.com. Look for concert dates in your city and keep up with this phenomenal emcee and visionary.
Instagram: 1CYHITHEPRYNCE Twitter: CyHiThePrynce
“If the School of Hard Knocks was like UGA, Ivy State would be like an Ivy League School of Hard Knocks.”
WILL THE REAL J DILLA PLEASE STAND UP? BY NINA TABIOS
There’s no question that James Dewitt Yancey aka J Dilla has a place in the Mount Rushmore of hip hop producers, but where Dilla’s beats and production are placed upon some kind of golden pedestal (and rightfully so,) certainly it was the content of his lyricism that gave more insight on Dilla’s life as he knew it and the resulting person he was. Blood in, blood out, J Dilla was a Detroit cat and he made his music for Detroit cats, but what might have been misconstrued is this whole idea of J Dilla as some kind of angelic semblance for hip hop, when at the heart of it, shorty was just a thug as much as the next man coming out of Detroit’s rough streets. Not belonging to the lyricallyconscious Native Tongues East Coast brand nor the hard, mainstream Ruff Ryders type of hip hop, Dilla’s joints fell somewhere 11
in the middle because Detroit was somewhere in the middle: Motown’s birthplace was stricken with poverty, violence and police brutality and that’s what Dilla knew. Take into account “Fuck The Police.” Above Records was compelled to add in an intro separating the label from the song’s content, obviously preceded by its title. In an interview with Ma Dukes, she revealed that Dilla took the basement because he was tired of the random searches and run-ins he had to endure on a dayto-day basis for living three doors down from a police station and for being black. FTP was the end result and he took to chastising Detroit’s corrupt police officers:
“Yea, don’t they know its dangerous in these streets? Dont you know its gangs of us that roll deep? “Nigga!”
ART BY AMAR STEWART
We OG’s fill up the whole jeep, nigga Hell wit the flows,and deal with the beats nigga Hell in the Rover, its over homes we hold deez The reason we hold beans it’s no peace in the streets With the police in the streets, Yo, it’s cops that owe niggas dough for O’s and ki’s It’s more than a beef with five-oh In the streets with the 5-0 its a game of survival duke,” – “Fuck the Police,” J Dilla (2001) And that’s not to say that J Dilla was an outright gang banger, but that’s just how life was back in the streets of Detroit in the mid-90s, and that’s a natural key in any artist’s creative process, drawing on personal experience and giving something palpable for listeners to grasp onto. It’s just that in Dilla’s case, amid the innovative beats and
production that he was known for, his lyrics were overshadowed, and perhaps the person he was, was lost among them too. His brand of soul sampling drew automatic parallels with A Tribe Called Quest and Native Tongues, yet time and time again he revoked the Q-Tip/J Dilla comparisons in interviews, especially in his beginnings as Slum Village with T3 and Baatin:
“I mean, you gotta listen to the lyrics of the shit. Niggas was talking about getting head from bitches. It was like a nigga from Native Tongues never would have said that shit…It’s kind of fucked up because the audience we were trying to give to were actually people we hung around. Me, myself, and I hung around regular ass Detroit cats. Not the backpack shit that people kept putting out there like that.” (- J Dilla, The Lost Interview (2004), XXL Mag.) From the beginning Dilla wasn’t ’bout that backpack life, and time and time again he tried to reiterate that he didn’t want to be lumped into that world of conscientious boom-bap type of hip hop despite the rapid succession he saw with the collaborative efforts he made with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Madlib, Common, the Pharcyde, De La Soul, Erykah Badu, House Shoes, and even his own idol Pete Rock. His beats made him his fame, but his raps helped keep him grounded back to Detroit. Throughout his “Ruff Draft” project with Groove Attack Records – a direct result of his folded album with MCA Records – Dilla enters his songs with: “For my real niggas only, straight cassette shit,” And continues on to talk about
whoever and whatever, all likeminded in that it was straight from the ghettos and for his boys:
“Gotta go and get these nuts, Yes it reads cheese or bust, Dilla with the gangsta shit, Now let me say it again, and say it with feeling, Dilla with the gangsta shit, here to spit the flame here to get the bank and split here to twist the dank and hit it Here to twist the game, here to flip this change spend it,” – “The $,” J Dilla (2003) This isn’t to take Dilla down from any worshipper’s makeshift Dillathrone, but more of a place to take a step back and think about how fans consume their idols – their art, their habits, their mentality, their culture, and how those components shaped them and their creativity. But as a fan you have to remember that they are people too; they have flaws, they have histories, they have their own trials and tribulations that they just managed to transform into mediums that most of us aren’t necessarily capable of. For Dilla, his music wasn’t just a way to hone his environment but to also take him
out of it, turning Detroit struggles into music that only people that have lived in his world would fully understand; a world with no backpacks and boom-bap. To really listen to any music can require the ability to garner a certain depth of translation – whether it’s picking apart the lyrics and dynamics of an album or picking apart its creator’s brain, music will always remain subjective. That exact subjectivity hardly remains up for the artist or the self-proclaimed critic to decide, but to the consumers that determine what art can decipher. It’s the consumers that can make or break you. They can martyr you or condemn you. And depending on the light shed upon J Dilla, it can be both.
“Let’s do it worldwide, show that shine, Get the cash, and flash like Kodak blind ‘em, If I get the urge to splurge or bling I do it, It’s nobody’s concern, they ain’t got a thing to do with this,” – “Make ‘Em NV,” J Dilla (2003)
STILL ILL: 20 YEARS OF ILLMATIC Do you remember hip hop in 1994? Some key events may come to mind: Warren G heralded the G-Funk era previously established by Dr. Dre, with his West Coast anthem, “Regulate.” Southern hip hop flourished with OutKast’s debut and the release of Scarface’s The Diary. On the East Coast, a few momentous things were goin’ down with The Notorious B.I.G.’s quadruple platinum classic, Ready to Die, and New York’s boom-bap era was kept in excellent shape through legendary producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premier and Large Pro. At the same time, a young Queensbridge native turned hip hop on its axis with his penchant for storytelling, mastery of wordplay and trademark New York state of mind. This was, of course, the man who would later be regarded as the original street’s disciple, Nasir Jones, and his debut in Illmatic was the album that changed it all. The impact of Nas and Illmatic is evident in hip hop, even after two decades, for a few reasons. Lauded as the second coming of 13
Rakim, Nas trademarked a style of storytelling few could achieve. Illmatic was Queensbridge personified, with Nas oscillating between grimy realism, existentialism, and textbook rap braggadocio. His unparalleled lyricism, rhetorical precision, and quick-witted wordplay has made Illmatic one of the most insightful (and quotable) hip hop records of all time. But what’s even more impressive about Illmatic was its ability to bridge hip hop fans of all camps, whether they valued the stellar production, lyrics, or the impeccable execution of Nas’ wide range of emotions. To be sure, every hip hop fan has a favorite moment from Illmatic. Maybe it’s the sinister opening bars of “New York State of Mind,” or the jazzinflected, mechanical movements of “The World is Yours,” or even the reflective, almost nihilistic musings behind “Life’s a Bitch.” The album was as witty as it was dark and brooding, and as introverted as it was introspective, making the
BY SASHANA MACATANGAY
listening experience relevant to music fans of all backgrounds, whether you hailed from an NYC borough, or a quiet, suburban enclave in Cali, like me. As Illmatic continues to commemorate 20 years of influence, fans have been treated to a nostalgic influx of Illmaticthemed media this year. A short time ago, he performed some Illmatic cuts on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Kimmel, alongside Q-Tip and the Roots, in support of the album’s reissue, Illmatic XX, which dropped on April 15. Around the same time, Time Is Illmatic, a new Nas documentary, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. April was clearly the month of Illmatic. But even beyond all the excitement surrounding the album’s anniversary, it’s evident that fans will continue bumping his flawless work for many more months, years, even decades, to come. And with each repeated listen, we’ll continue to find newer, even deeper meanings.
ABOVE ROYALTY CLOTHING SKATE/STREET WEAR
GET FAMILIAR WITH J.ROCC BY MARC MANGAPIT
On any given night in Los Angeles, you can hit up a bar, grab a drink, and listen to some good music. That’s the beauty of this city; entertainment is in its lifeline. People from all the surrounding cities will choose to party in LA because they are guaranteed a great time. During your nightly excursions to search for that latest function to get into, you may even run into some familiar faces such as LA native J.Rocc, who technically needs no introduction given his body of work and also being a long-standing staple in the West Coast DJ scene. If you follow The 5th and atte nd the events we have blasted on our site, then his name should ring a bell. If it doesn’t, then start paying close attention. It was an honor just to sit down and chop it up with him, considering his dynamic schedule might place him in a foreign city at any given time. The conversation we had was no less than crucial, as we touched on a number of topics ranging from the current state of the Beat Junkies crew, what he experiences in cities around the world, and what he thinks about streetwear. The World Famous Beat Junkies Crew As a kid, J.Rocc already knew he wanted to be a DJ, looking up to legends in the industry such as DJs Jazzy Jeff, Aladdin, Red Alert, Cash Money, and Dr. Dre. He’s been on the turntables since way before Serato but continues to embrace all the new DJ technology that has appeared in recent years. His resume reads like a who’s who in hip hop, DJing for notable emcees such as Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Madlib, J Dilla, to name just a few. The “rock” aspect of his name has always been in his many DJ aliases, until a friend wrote his name out as “Rocc.” From there, the rest was history. 17
“You’re the one that starts your perception of what people think of you.”
“My influences have been everything, just good music really, and someone that’s a good DJ.”
In 1992 he formed The World Famous Beat Junkies DJ crew consisting of 13 members from Southern California and the Bay Area. The crew were instrumental figures in promoting the art of turntablism, through which garnered the attention of many hip hop fans and emcees all over the world. They added “The World Famous” title themselves which has now been permanently embedded in their full crew name. Today they continue strong with nine members, with DJ Babu and Mr. Choc being some of the last members they added to the group. They still travel together when specific gigs need more than one of them, but solo outings pose no problem for J.Rocc as he’s been a marquee DJ on the line-up of many international events. International Beats Although J.Rocc loves visiting new places, it’s the process of getting there that he would probably like to simplify. He’s subjected to many of the headaches in traveling that we’ve all encountered at one point: lost luggage, missing flights, getting sick on the plane, and going through customs. When he finally does arrive at his destination, he’s most excited for the nightlife, new music, and culture that each city brings. Places like London, Belgium, and France, he says, continuously have new music that he’s never heard of, which for a music lover like him, can be very refreshing. Listening to music from around the world definitely inspires him and it’s one of the great things he enjoys about traveling. He adds, “You either like it and vibe, or get out.” What He Rocks On The Daily The first thing clothing brands have to know is if he doesn’t like
it, then he won’t wear it. Being photographed all around the world has J.Rocc constantly trying to change up his wardrobe and selections. He won’t wear shirts with blatant logos on the front, or wild designs that just aren’t his style. What he will rock are classic Polos that will never go out of style, basic black or white shirts, rock & roll tees (because it looks good any time of the day), and streetwear brands that he is close to, that of which being HUF, Primitive, Diamond Supply Co., Supreme, and The Hundreds. In addition, he might even rock some international brands like Patta and Nesta. Much like his choices in clothing pieces,
the same can be said in his unique DJ skills - he’s confident in what will work, knows the value of timeless classics and is open to international influences. Get ready to hear some dope work coming from J.Rocc, which include a project with Serato, new albums and some house and disco edits, on top of spinning at various events all over the world. Read up on his Twitter game by following his official account: @JROCC. And listen to his tracks at http://www.stonesthrow.com/jrocc.
GET TO KNOW YOUR LOCAL DJ: EROK BY MARC MANGAPIT
It’s been a few months since our last issue and we have had many great encounters with DJs around our area in Los Angeles either through chance meetings or being recommend by our close associates. The truth is there are a great number of DJs in this city, all with the same hustle mentality and gogetter attitude. You can get all the hype from the streets and nightlife scene but if you can’t retain that notoriety then you’ll be yesterday’s news. It’s crucial to keep up with the growing technology and the ever changing music culture to stay ahead, even if it means getting out of your comfort zone. 21
In the entertainment industry everyone knows you’ve got to hustle your way to the top. Everyone is looking at your next move, so keep the people wanting more. For entertainers who have their creative hand in multiple platforms, people will always be surprised at what you’ve got next. Take our next local DJ, EROK, for example, a man that has skills on both the turntables and behind the camera lens. You’ve probably seen his photography in some of your favorite streetwear brands, or even caught him spinning at the past Coachella Music Festival. The dude is busy, which is always
a good state to be in for creative individuals. We caught up with EROK to get some insight on his hectic lifestyle and what he’s been up to. Catch him spinning the jams at your next local function or maybe even see his photography while you browse a bevy of streetwear blogs. The 5th Element Magazine: Tell us who you are and what you do. EROK: I’m EROK and I’m a DJ, producer, photographer and cinematographer. 5th: How did you get your DJ name?
EROK: One of my old friends in high school just started calling me “EROK” out of nowhere and I just ran with it. 5th: How long have you been DJing and what made you want to start? EROK: I’ve been DJing since 1995. What really inspired me to DJ was listening to Friday Night Flavas hosted by The Baka Boyz on Power 106. When they used to play underground hip hop I would always listen to that show at midnight and record their sets and the next day I would make a pause mixtape of their mix. 5th: When DJing an event, whether it be a club or private event, what steps do you take? EROK: If I’m doing a guest spot at a club, I like to get there early and try to get comfortable and just feel the vibe of the room. I would do a walk through while the opening DJ is playing and befriend the staff (security, manager, bartender).
things. Now, (my former neighbor) Kai Streets and I are partners in Creative Aspects Media. 5th: How would you compare your photography to DJing? EROK: I feel like it’s all in the same creative field. Once you’re inspired, you just go with it, whether it’s a photoshoot idea or mixtape idea. The only difference is that I’m more confident with DJing since I’ve been doing it for so long. As for photography, I’m more critical of my work because I’m still new at the game. 5th: What are your everyday style essentials? EROK: I’m all about comfort especially in what I do. I’m always on the move or standing for hours doing my DJ set. I have been heavy on my Nike Flyknit game lately. I just throw in a clean basic shirt and black jeans and I’m good to go!
5th: What’s the creative process of putting a mixtape together?
5th: What can we expect in the future?
EROK: It’s really what I’m feeling at that moment. Lately I have been random on my mixes and not over -thinking it too much. If I’m feeling a certain vibe I roll with it.
EROK: I’m really excited to have the opportunity to be playing at Coachella this year for a second time. I’m currently working right now with another producer by the name of Wave Groove.
5th: What venue or which country would you want to DJ at one day? EROK: Haven’t really thought about spinning at any special venues, I’m just happy to do what I love. So really, I would love to play at any venues that appreciate good music. 5th: How did you get into photography? EROK: My girlfriend bought me a camera for my birthday and hired my neighbor to teach me a few
Look out for our group VOIDSHIFT www.erokthedj.com www.edmyr.com vimeo.com/erokthedj soundcloud.com/erokthedj
RIF LA 22
Go download the Future Soul mixtape at www.the5thelementmag.com Get more info on DJ Erok facebook.com/djerok twitter.com/dj_erok
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MERES ONE & 5 POINTZ BY JANINE YORO
Globally known as a “graffiti mecca”, 5 POINTZ has been a tremendous influence for the hip hop community. Originally meant to bridge the five boroughs of New York, its quickly united artists from all around the world. Giving street art a place to be freely expressed, Meres One stands as the brains of the entire operation. I personally met Meres One back in 2009, later reconnecting after five years to discuss 5 POINTZ in its entirety. The Beginning Meres One’s interest with graffiti was first sparked by an aerosol painted Smurf. Being introduced at a young age, he began practicing his own work early on. Over time, his craft steadily evolved and his career as an artist grew organically. Influenced by other artists and their logos, Meres One went on to create the logo he’s widely known for, his light bulb. Choosing the light bulb, Meres One wanted an eyecatching symbol, one that would stand out from the rest. Simply put, he wanted something that people would remember. At the same time, as a growing artist, Meres One wanted to continue pushing his boundaries. Looking for a spot to paint, he was introduced to the Phun Phactory in Long Island City, Queens and did work on a wall there. Originally serving as an outlet for legal graffiti work, the spot eventually closed down. In 2002, Meres One made the decision to take over and transform the space. Slowly working on the building wall by wall, the current art at the time changed and Meres One set a new standard. Finally blessing the building as 5 POINTZ, it set the mark to the beginning of a legacy.
The Height Through the revitalization of this new space, 5 POINTZ quickly made its presence known within the community. With walls like a blank canvas, it attracted artists from all over the nation and the world to visit and leave their tag on. Catering to thousands of fans, appearances have been made from legendary writers like Stay High 149, Tracy 168, and members of Tats Cru. Being such a hit, 5 POINTZ soon became a New York tourist attraction. Maintaining a collection of permanent and ever-changing murals, 5 POINTZ consistently brought a flow of visitors throughout the years. Visitors ranging from members of universities, TV shows, movies, and even Morgan Freeman, proved that 5 POINTZ appeal had no filter. Through the course of a decade, 5 POINTZ has housed all four elements of hip hop. With walls of graffiti as the backdrop, DJs, emcees, and b-boys have been incorporated into the space through numerous events that bring life to the culture. All free to the public, these functions have attracted not only fans, but also a wide range of celebrities the likes of Doug E. Fresh, Mobb Deep, Joss Stone, and Usher. The Fall During the past year, there was a lot of buzz looming over 5 POINTZ. With tension coming from different angles, 5 POINTZ faced some major battles. Important to understand, the property owners stood separate from the creator of 5 POINTZ. Without concrete plans over the years, last year marked the beginning of the end as the
property owners made a decision to change the space and develop residential buildings. As a result, plans were submitted to the city for bearing and zoning changes. In the plan came higher variance and more units for occupancy. At this point, not only was 5 POINTZ battling with the property owners, they were now challenged by the city. In time, the city finally approved the zoning laws to change. Concurrently, efforts were being put forth to keep 5 POINTZ alive. Standing as an unofficial landmark for years, an attempt was made to certify 5 POINTZ as an official landmark. Accumulating thousands of petitions from the public, only a few thousand made the submission process. Based on the submissions, the landmark request was unfortunately denied. Still putting up a fight, the supporters gathered in a rally to show the city how valuable 5 POINTZ was to the culture. More than a building, and beyond graffiti itself, the fight was about preserving a priceless piece of history. Unable to see this truth, the city and the property owners continued with their plans and brought 5 POINTZ to its descent. The Pause Officially taking down 5 POINTZ, the walls of the building were painted white overnight. As this news spread quickly, the death of 5 POINTZ started coming to the forefront. Immediately canning this idea, Meres One explains that it’s not dead unless we decide it’s dead, giving birth to the movement “Rest in Pause.” In the state of “Pause,” the message is clear - it is not yet over and we should anticipate a coming.
“It’s not dead unless we decide it’s dead.”
As we wait for the re-awakening, Meres One has been continuously working to keep the lights on. Throughout the city, he’s been involved in pop-ups and has blessed walls with his talent. Trying to elevate art at a gallery level, Meres One has been concentrating on several shows. Between March 16th and April 27th, in the village of Great Neck Plaza, Long Island he paid homage to 5 POINTZ via a photographic flashback featuring its storied art pieces at the Gold Coast Arts Center. Starting April 5th until June 8th, another exhibition will feature 5 POINTZ at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery. With nine graffiti 29
artists, including Meres One, and two other photographers, “Whitewash” explores their reactions to the overnight white paint job. Dropped in conversation, Meres One mentioned pushing 5 POINTZ towards other buildings and possibly other neighborhoods, with Brooklyn serving as an option. Not knowing exactly what lies ahead, the future still shines bright for the fate of 5 POINTZ. Staying true to the history of New York hip hop graffiti, the people will continue to persevere. First
popularized by “bombing” subway trains, graffiti artists eventually lost their most important canvas. However, this loss never stopped artists from creating. They found other canvases and continued to push the envelope. From one movement to the next, it paved the way for the creation of 5 POINTZ. Through 5 POINTZ, it has pushed and developed graffiti as an art form - no longer perceived as vandalism, but a testament to the hip-hop culture. Carrying this spirit of 5 POINTZ to the future, we must continue to remember our history while preparing for The Coming.
5TH POINTS x THE 5TH 5 POINTZ x 5TH BY JANINE YORO
Right before the blasphemy of it being shut down, The 5th Element Magazine’s co-founder Nino Llanera and media contributor Karen Capalaran, got to visit 5 POINTZ one last time. Sharing their experience with 5 POINTZ, they take us through to the final moments of its glory. Hearing about 5 POINTZ through different sources, Nino and his friends would always talk about it. Karen first heard of 5 POINTZ through her cousins that were big hip hop heads. On a hip hop tour through the city, her cousins visited 5 POINTZ and encouraged Karen to do the same. So when the opportunity presented itself for Nino and Karen to be in New York for a week, they made sure 5 POINTZ was included in the itinerary. On the day Nino and Karen would visit 5 POINTZ for the first and last time, they could already see the vibrant colors of art from the subway train they rode on. Getting off and walking towards the landmark, Nino then realized it wasn’t just an area - it was an entire building. Filled with excitement, Nino wasn’t sure what to do next while Karen went trigger-happy on the camera. In awe, they could feel the energy and good vibrations of everyone who has ever been through 5 POINTZ. It was a powerful place, resulting in an impactful moment to be a part of. Continuing their tour through the complex, the entire building was filled with art from top to bottom. With every turn, there was always 31
another brilliantly eye-catching piece. The building and its art were seemingly endless. With such fine attention to detail in every piece, 5 POINTZ couldn’t be called anything less than amazing. Finally making it all the way around the building and approaching a huge 5 POINTZ piece painted on the ground, a kid came up to Nino and Karen letting them know that a huge rally was going to take place later that day to keep 5 POINTZ alive. Unfortunately, they missed the event, with further disappointment felt after finding out later that the entire building was whited out. From the local news to social media, word spread like wildfire that an important piece of culture was lost. As a result of 5 POINTZ sad outcome, Karen also felt a piece of her was taken away. Reflecting on what could have been done to save it, Nino suggests that they should have allowed the art to be auctioned off instead of erasing the walls so sacred to many. Looking at the aftermath, even through the white paint, the vibrancy of colors seeped beyond it. The people’s strength to fight and resolve to keep the hope of 5 POINTZ alive is a testament to the hip-hop culture, despite the efforts of those who try to eliminate or keep our community “contained”. Taken on a roller coaster of emotions in a matter of 24 hours, Nino and Karen were still glad they got a chance to see 5 POINTZ. It brought inspiration and motivation to keep going in their own creative hustles. With reassurance that 5 POINTZ is not dead, but in pause, we’re looking forward to the moment ‘play’ is pressed.
5TH CONCRETE GALLERY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Graffiti can be interpreted in many different ways. As history shows, the general public has given graffiti a reputation of being disruptive and abrasive. While itâ€™s presumed to evoke defacement, todayâ€™s hip hop culture redefines the meaning of graffiti. What used to be a form of marking territory has now transitioned into a forum of storytelling. Artists have taken their talent to the streets demanding society to listen. In cities filled with 35
gray slates and concrete buildings, graffiti artists bring life to the streets with their colorful palettes. In turn, it enriches the culture and brings life back to the people. Directly consuming our space, street art has become part of our daily routine, making it impossible for people to turn the other cheek. No longer can we just glorify art encased in museums and indoor galleries. We must make room and
give credit to the artists who deliver our society a sense of belonging. Here at The 5th Element, we believe art residing in the streets deserve their own exhibition. Resultantly, the 5th Concrete Gallery comes to fruition. In true fashion, our team took to the streets to bring you some of the dopest murals throughout Southern California.
5TH CONCRETE GALLERY CONTEST
Carrying our 5th Element tradition, weâ€™ve reached out to our followers to share their own street art findings. From the submissions weâ€™ve received, our 5th Element team got to choose their favorites. Check them out and thank you for all those who participated. Keep tagging #5thConcreteGallery and you could be in the next issue!
Posted by - @veratimes Artist - Sahra Vang (@veratimes) Location - New York City
Posted by - @veratimes Artist - @peterhoacs Location - Brooklyn 43
Posted by - @shaneywhanie Artist - @bloejow Location - San Francisco
AT THE LINE HOTEL 3515 WILSHIRE BLVD LOS ANGELES CA 90010 T: 213-368-3030 W: E A T A T P OT .COM T WI T T E R / I NST A GRA M @E A TATPO T
my KOCHU in your JANG!
LEGENDS OF MOVEMENT
THE JABBAWOCKEEZ BY RICHARD “REACH” GUINTO
Ever since capturing the title of America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV back in 2008, the upward trajectory of The Jabbawockeez’ career rivals that of meteoric standards. In what’s seemed like a constant roller coaster of performance and entertainment, the master dance crew has committed to a strong consistency in providing wildly creative and genre-bending dancing. Along the way, their penchant for gaining fans of all types through their un-paralleled style has garnered the attention of Pharrell Williams, the NBA, and even the MGM Grand, where they secured their first show, “MÜS.I.C.” in Las Vegas. Continuing their successful tenure in Sin City, the Jabbawockeez offer a fresh experience in, “PRiSM”, a brand new show that takes viewers on a 47
dynamic trek through dance, music, and inspiration held at the Luxor Resort & Casino in a specially designed, custom-built theater. With nothing but the stratosphere stopping them from ascending heights never-before-reached by a group of hip hop dancers, the Jabbawockeez remain locked in on their quest to continually inspire and entertain the masses through a style of dance that’s proved its worth the world over. Despite their hectic and continuously eventful schedules, we were able to chop it up with two of the Jabbawockeez, Rynan Paguio and Phi Nguyen, to discuss how it was to share a Coachella stage with Pharrell, their recipe for success, and of course, what they’ve got cooking up for fans in the near future.
When the Jabbawockeez first began, did you guys set any goals as to where you wanted to see the crew in the future? Rynan: Honestly, when we first started the group in 2003, we were just a group of guys who wanted to dance together. A lot of us were from different dance crews at the time. We were just an elite group of dancers and we saw each other at dance events, always vibed with each other, and liked the way that we danced. So we decided to start a crew up because we just wanted to put together an amazing show. There weren’t really any huge goals, probably until 2008, when we won (America’s Best Dance Crew). It was very organic the way the crew came together and at the end of the day, we just all wanted to dance together.
Knowing that it began so organically, I’m sure working with one another was a lot easier, with tons of creativity flowing really well throughout the crew. Rynan: It definitely did, just because when you’re with a group of dancers that want to dance with each other and know each other’s vibes, then you really know how to work together. It wasn’t like some director put us together and then were told to go learn our chemistry. We were already dancing with each other in other crews, so we already knew that this chemistry was going to work. With Jabbawockeez there is no leader, there is no director. It was actually an older member who brought us all together, Gary Kendall. He passed away, but he was the one that pretty much said, “Hey, let’s all meet up. Let’s all hang out.” He was an amazing dancer, we all looked up to him. Now you mentioned earlier about having huge goals since winning ABDC in 2008, did you guys ever imagine for all this success to happen this way? Phi: In a sense we kind of did. We were just a bunch of kids dreaming really big. We never in a million years though we would headline our own show in the entertainment capital of the world. We really didn’t think of having our own Vegas show. We thought we’d tour after winning (America’s Best Dance Crew), do a couple other things here and there, living the traveling dancer lifestyle. But it became being more than just a dancer, it became more about being and artist. And the public started to give us that artistic credit. We weren’t background dancers anymore; people would come and pay for tickets to actually watch us dance out there without anybody singing. Actually, we did
talk about having a show in Vegas back in 2003. Gary Kendall was the one that had said it, though very loosely. He said “Man, there’s no reason why our show ain’t in Vegas.” It was almost like he knew it was going to happen. Now fastforward and we’re humbled and blessed enough to have an actual show out in Las Vegas. Now speaking of even more success, you guys were just at Coachella this year, sharing the same stage with Pharrell. How did it feel and how did you guys link up in the first place? Rynan: Well, it was through one of our good friends, Herman Flores, who’s always supported and been with us since we won the show in 2008. He was always the type of guy that would connect us with different artists. Being that he was really good friends with Pharrell, he told us that he wanted to work with us and that he’s been a fan of ours since America’s Best Dance Crew. And that’s really cool to know that someone like Pharrell would be a fan of what we do as the Jabbawockeez. Now usually when you’re on stage, you are background dancing for an artist. The cool thing that Pharrell did was tell us, “You guys take the stage. I’m behind you guys.” Wow. Rynan: Yup. So he basically gave us a whole three minutes of stage time to make up our number. And all he wanted to do was stay in the background and watch us perform. So for him to give us that recognition, that was – like he was basically giving us the same level of introduction as Busta Rhymes, as Jay-Z. And even when we left the stage, the last thing he said was, “Give it up for the Jabbawockeez, the legends of movement!” So we
were like, “Whoa, Pharrell said that?.” I mean, we’re all fans of Pharrell. Basically it was a blessing and an honor to be on stage with that guy. Let’s talk about your guys’ dance backgrounds. What was everybody’s and are there any specific styles that each member is great in? Phi: Everyone’s background was in hip hop culture. Everybody dabbled in a little bit of everything. One member might be stronger in certain styles of hip hop dancing than others, but we all kind of started out learning everything, which lead us to another genre of hip hop dance – freestyle. We were kind of like masters that would travel to different villages to spar with their masters. So it was like that how we picked up our styles. And you know I’ve heard people come out and say that we have our own style – a “Jabbawockee style”. It’s not any one style that makes us a crew. We’re not going to go out and call ourselves a popping crew. We’re not going to go out and call ourselves a b-boy crew. We’re Jabbawockeez. We are an all element crew. And you know, we’re all big fans of Bruce Lee. In his book, he stated that we have no style, there is no such thing as style. So we are not our own style, we just move. Whatever the music tells us what to do, we just moved. We’re like slaves to music; we don’t dance to the music, the music moves us. What was your guys’ recipe for success back when you won America’s Best Dance Crew back in 2008? Phi: (Laughs) Um, joking around? Rynan: (Laughs) Yeah, there actually really was no recipe. 48
For one, we all had respect for each other and there really was no leader. It was really all about a group of us coming up with different ideas until one stuck. Or we would even mix and match ideas. That’s the one thing about the Jabbawockeez, we were really good at that. Not only that, we were also really good under pressure. Because in that show, you really only have three days to come up with and learn one minute to two minute routines. They don’t really give you a lot of time to work on the mix, because they do the mixes themselves. So you really don’t have any creative control on music, the only thing that you have control over is what you do as an artist and how you move. Another thing was that we always wanted to make sure we stood out. We were always good at thinking out of the box. So yeah, there really was no leader, there really was no recipe in winning the show, and honestly, what really kept us going at the time was knowing that we were doing this for our fallen member Gary Kendall. We still perform for him to this day. A lot of the times you see us point in the air after our pieces – and it’s not that we can’t come up with an ending – it’s because we always wanted to pay tribute to Gary. Phi: And to elaborate really quickly, it’s really quite simple; we didn’t go into it with a “recipe.” I think it’s a really simple formula and if a lot of crews caught on to it, it would be so easy for them. For a lot of crews, there always has to be a leader, there has to be a director, and there has to be a guy that has to have a pat on his back. I mean, we are a true crew. There was no recipe and as a crew, whether we won or lost, we were going to do what we did best. And by doing that, it shows how passionate we are, it shows how much we love our 49
art form and culture, which is what America saw. It wasn’t like we had to do this eight-count to this song, or do this move into this move. We were the only crew wearing masks on that show, so already you saw that we were different. We just wanted people to see our movement, not just one director, or one guy that choreographed it. There was no Justin Timberlake in our group. It’s quite a simple recipe – we just did it because we
were passionate about it. Post-America’s Best Dance Crew, the demand for you guys was just insane. How did you guys adjust to such a hectic, on-the-go lifestyle? Rynan: It came quick to us. As soon as we won the show in 2008, it was honestly like next day we got to fly to New York, now we got to do this, now we got to go to San
Ph i: To be honest, I don’t think we really had time to adjust. It literally was like from the day we won, ‘Alright guys, grab a ride on this rocket and hold on’. Now that we have a little bit more down time here in Vegas, we’re slowly adjusting to things a little more. But I think we’re even still trying to adjust to Vegas. But for me personally, I don’t think we’ll ever completely adjust to it. It’s still new to us. To me, if you start getting adjusted to it and you start getting comfortable – I don’t know. I kind of like it that we’re not fully comfortable, because we’re always changing, and learning, and moving, and growing, and creating. We’re slowly adjusting, but even in this year I feel that there’s some crazy good stuff that’s going to happen that we’ll have to slowly re-adjust to as well. It’s always a growing process. That’s a great way to always look at things. Now for your first show in Vegas, how did you guys come up with the concept for “MÜS.I.C.”?
Jose, now we – you know, since 2008 up until now, our life has not stopped (Laughs). To get used to it? There really is no one way to get used to it. I mean even to this day, I’m still not super used to it. You go through periods where you’re like, ‘Uh, okay, you know things are getting better. I’m understanding it.’ But I don’t think anyone ever truly gets used to all this in their life. Now that we have a Vegas show, it’s a little bit better
because now we’re grounded. So it’s not like how it was before where we were all truly living out of our suitcases; now we could actually rest, we could actually take a break, we could actually be with our families, and I think that’s been very helpful. But in the very beginning it was super hectic. I know I didn’t get used to it, I know we didn’t get used to it – we were just going with the flow and letting things happen, you know.
Rynan: The music is the thing that moves us. The reason why we named it that, was because music was our muse that we see as Jabbawockeez. The first show we came up with was pretty much our introduction into Las Vegas. A lot of the numbers we were doing were just stuff that we’ve been doing since 2008, and some since 2003. It just ended up getting longer and longer and we ended up having over 90 minutes of material. It came from doing one to two minute routines on America’s Best Dance Crew, to doing five to six minute routines at corporate events, to doing 15 to 20 minute sets to close out shows, to even us doing our own concerts of 60 straight minutes of dancing out in the Philippines. All of that 50
helped prep us for Vegas. Las Vegas really came out of nowhere. We had another connection through our friend Herman again, and we ended up doing an audition for the people at the MGM Grand. One of their daughters was a big fan of us, so we just did a 20-30 minute set, they loved it and said, ‘Hey let’s do two weeks at the MGM Hollywood Theater.’ It was awesome; we put together a whole 90-minute show. Through the help of Nap and Tabs – great choreographers, great directors – they’ve been helping us out until this day. They helped us to come up with a storyline to all our numbers, all our material. Through our creative minds, through their creative minds, we were able to put something great together. And it ended up becoming a hit to where it was two weeks in Las Vegas, to every other two weeks every month while they were finding us a venue, to being there for six months, to being there for a year, to them giving us two years, to them giving us three years, to them being like, ‘Okay, we’re going to give you six to ten years at the Luxor.’ It was awesome. Who knew, you know? And it was all because of our passion for creating and come up with more stuff, like Phi said. When your body isn’t adjusting to what you’re going through, you’re going to keep on creating. That’s the main thing. That’s what sets us apart. Since we always have something new to be working on, we always keep creating and coming up with great ideas. So what do all the fans of the Jabbawockeez have to look forward to in the near future? Phi: We just released a short film, directed by a good friend of ours actually. He used to be a dancer actually out of LA. His name is Kevin Tancharoen. We released this short film called “Regenerate.” 51
And we’re looking to soon elaborate on that short film. We want to expand on our merchandise, we want to expand on our DVDs and dance videos, and we’re just really trying to be the Jay Z’s of dance pretty much. We just want to create this dance world where the Jabbawockeez are a household name. And we’re starting to see that from the 60-year-old grandma to the 5-year-old that’s sitting in our audience at our PRiSM show in the Luxor. We’re starting to see a wide range of demographic at our shows and it’s a beautiful thing. We just want to keep inspiring the world through our movement, through our music. Everything is endless. We never thought we’d be in Vegas so why not? Let’s do our own dance movie next. Rynan: I also want to add, too, we hope to work with more artists, like the thing we did with Pharrell at Coachella. We just finished a video with Tyga called “Senile.” Also, we’d like to reach the dance community a lot more. Just getting back into the dance scene and giving back, because that’s what really gave us our platform to first jump off from. We’ve been in contact with World of Dance, whom hopefully we’ll be doing more projects with. Hopefully through World of Dance, we can go to different cities, different venues, and just meet the dance community again. It’s like re-meeting the dance community again and being introduced to new dancers that we haven’t seen yet or haven’t met. There’s a lot of what we’re trying to do this year as far as what we want to do dance-wise. At the end of the day it’s all about being happy with creating things and letting things work out organically. www.jbwkz.com/prism/
WORLD OF DANCE LOS ANGELES
BY CHRISTINA KIM
PHOTOS BY: PETER HENSON VALDES II
World of Dance LA, sponsored by Paul Mitchell, brings in people from all spectrums of the hip hop dance loving world. From famous dancers, to YouTube singers, to well-known unknown rappers, to breakers, to hip hop gear enthusiasts, the LA Convention Center is packed each year with anyone and everyone from the hip-hop world. World of Dance is an all day event, starting with a junior team division competition and ending the night with the adult division. From practicing in parking lots to studios, competitive teams prepare for hours on end to perform for six minutes on stage. Within this time they have to please the audience, get them excited, and show the judges as well as the community their own personal style. We saw plenty of teams that are regulars in the community, such as Team Millennia and Pac Modern, as 53
well as national and international teams, such as Colorado’s Academy of Hype and Japan’s King of Hype. This year, GRV came to defend their title, but by a small margin, came in second to San Diego’s Cookies, with King of Hype coming in third place. It’s not just style that the teams exemplify through dance; it’s costuming as well. Cookies sported some excellent galaxy-print leggings (males and females alike), while GRV took on the thematic approach, fancily clad in black, leather, and gold. You will see team uniformity, such as Hall of Fame’s shiny blue jackets and khakis, or costume-like oneness relevant to the theme, such as GRaVy Babies’ nerd approach. The costuming is incredibly important to the dance set, though, as relevance and cohesion are necessary for overall success. Now, for all of the noobs, I know
what you may think about dance competitions: “Oh, it’s a dance competition where I sit in a chair and watch teams dance to cool music by Tyga or something and then somebody wins something.” Dance competitions, especially hip hop competitions, are a whole new world (of dance, haha); you are surrounded by people who have either been dancing for hours on end for those six minutes of stage time, or people who love putting their gear out there and supporting the dance community, or people who just love watching their favorite teams compete. World of Dance is one of the dance competitions in the community that is not just a competition, but also a conglomeration of the whole scope of hip hop in itself. The event
tours around the world to different cities and locations, but brings out the best of the best in all of its entirety, from team competitions. to breaking, to fashion. When you go to a hip hop dance competition, let me warn you that you must dress to impress. No, we’re not talking about clubbing gear or business casual, we’re talking about getting the clean faded sides with a samurai ponytail. We’re talking about that button-up buttoned to the top. We’re talking about snapbacks on guys and girls alike. And as a whole, we’re talking about whatever the latest trends are in the dance community. When something is released into the dance world, it spreads like wildfire. It’s almost scary; it infiltrates through social media to every person overnight and by morning, everyone knows / owns / masters everything. From Urban Empire sweats, to Contour Hooligan swacks, to kendamas, to vapes, dance community trends are like regular trends…on steroids. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a famous dancer to endorse your brand, and all the dancers will flock; i.e. Jawn Ha and Contour Hooligans. Even if you don’t have someone endorsing you, you’ll still be successful in the dance world if you provide something unique and addicting – kendamas are currently kenDOMINATING every dancer’s hand eye coordination. The hip hop dance community is definitely a community you’ll want to dabble in at least once in your life. Just make sure you look sharp; if you’re concerned with what to wear, you can’t go wrong with a clean button-up and some swacks, with a kendama in one hand and a vape in the other. Just make sure you research some teams on YouTube so you know what’s up, and you’ll be set! 54
HAT GAME PREMIUM
MELIN BY RICHARD “REACH” GUINTO
When assuming the task of diving head-first into starting your own niche brand in a streetwear and men’s fashion industry that’s already bursting at the seams in mediocrity and banality, the inspiration that serves as its foundation needs to be as unique and succinct as the target market you’re aiming for. With the heritage trend being as passé as the embellished and quaint colloquial backstory that seems to become another brand’s mission statement, the idea of letting the products speak for themselves is finally starting to make headway into being an initial requirement. Letting the actual gear shine as the focus of your brand? Shocking, I know. But the presence of the internet has created an increasingly savvy consumer that can smell a new brand fronting from a few open browser tabs away. Enter Melin, a brand that specializes in luxurious headwear that can equal the quality of your 57
favorite rapper’s car’s leather detailing or a high-end men’s suit. To them, refined details and premium results are their hallmarks. Check the recipe for a variety of their headwear: a leather travel box that looks to cost as much as the hat itself, a certificate of authenticity, a hidden stash pocket, moisture wicking interior and premium materials such as cashmere wool sourced from Italy, silky pig suede, and buttery smooth Nappa leather – so you know its real. What’s more, the inspiration behind Melin’s inception is just as unique and appealing as the very hats they’re offering. For co-founders Brian McDonnell and Corey Roth, and VP of marketing Mark Mastrandrea, creating and sustaining a brand like Melin, which feeds the long-standing need for ultra-premium headwear, has been as authentic and one of a kind an experience as the opulent products that they officially certify.
When I was told of Melin’s inspiration being that of the antiquated craft of millinery, it made perfect sense; the detail and care put into their hats equals the thoughtful process they took when conceiving the brand’s name and building its purpose around it. “It’s been a grind,” admits Corey, referring to the long road he took with Brian four years ago to create Melin. Having extensive backgrounds in the apparel industry, Brian and Corey decided to take their knowledge and apply it to a niche market that embodied high-profile trendsetters and tastemakers. “We started looking at guys like Jay Z, Lebron, Kanye – guys that really have that global star power. These guys have the best of everything they drive the best cars, they drink the best champagne. Then you look at their wardrobe, they’re wearing limited edition shoes, $300-400 premium denim, $200 tees, $50,000 watch, $100,000 dollar chain. Then
they’re always pairing that with just a standard, stock, average, runof-the-mill baseball hat.” Corey explains that such an assessment lead them to question how can such a high end outfit make sense when linked with an average cap. Knowing wholeheartedly that individuals with an appreciation for the finer things in life need to be supplied with headwear to match their high standards, Corey and Brian set out to create that market and demand for it. “It was important to us to plant the flag and create this market segment,” states Corey, with a tenacity that could easily have placed me on the receiving end of the same sales pitches that he and the rest of the Melin team perfected when trying to secure financial backing. Perceptive to how instrumental that process was going to be, their marketing campaign took on a grassroots approach with a bit of a remix in the form of a 40-foot bus wrapped in Melin graphics. “We targeted out the top sneaker, street and skate boutiques across the country and basically spent four months on the road on a bus in every major city across the country, going to the top shops and top boutiques.” Corey continues, “We were trying to open up Melin and show them that there was a new evolution and new category of headwear. For the people that didn’t want to meet with us, we just rolled up to the shop and mobbed in with the samples. Even if they were avoiding our calls or whatever, we’d just come in with the samples and hype the customers. When you’re out there in Louisiana, Ohio, Boston, and you’re from Southern California, you’re not going to take ‘no’ as an answer.” What’s important to note here is that this veritable US tour perfectly 58
served its purpose of letting clients and customers witness in person the high-end quality that Melin’s hats displayed. Though each meeting didn’t translate to a sale every time, the seed was already planted with every shop they encountered as they moved from city to city in the span of four months. Being out on the road at such length helped them to find new appreciation for bathrooms, home-cooked food, and of course, a reliable source of internet. With such a fresh perspective on things, such appreciation fortified Brian, Corey, and Mark’s resolve to make Melin a known and trusted product throughout the country by way of these specialty shops and boutiques. Mark adds, “It was super interesting to see the guys behind the shops, the brand assortment, the merchandising, the ups and downs - all the stuff like that. We were in states that we’d never expect to go to, so it was really unique to meet all these different people.” “A picture didn’t really do it justice so we had to put it in front of these people. The other side of that was we didn’t feel like anybody else could tell the story or explain the vision and passion of Melin better than ourselves.” As determined as Corey was in not taking a loss as a result, he drew the same conviction in showing anyone and everyone all the exceptional materials and details that made up a Melin hat. With a lineup of retailers the likes of True in San Francisco, Tradition in Los Angeles, UBIQ in Philadelphia, and Family Affair in Denver, amongst others, the craftsmanship of Melin’s hats can now be experienced by the myriad of folks that appreciate quality and premium; the same ones that Brian, Corey, and Mark knew would be out there when first transitioning the brand from dream
to reality. When you’re getting co-signs from the likes of Dwyane Wade, Juicy J, and Victor Cruz, it’s safe to say that you’re doing more than one thing right with your brand. And that’s exactly what Melin has been doing and looks to continue as the brand forges on in distancing itself from the rest of the market. Having come a long way from a mere idea sparked four years ago, to now having a full line of highly valued, premium headwear, Corey’s end-all answer to all the doubters they experienced in the
process manifests into Melin’s very own slogan itself: “Because We Can.” In the same enduring will that he and the rest of the Melin team displayed during the infantile stages of creating the brand through endless investor meetings and lengthy marketing tours, Corey explains, “The only way to fail is to quit and we’re never going to quit. So when people started asking us these questions and doubting us, we just said, ‘Just watch. Because we can.” www.melinbrand.com 60
JUST ANOTHER MONDAY WITH ANNABELLE LEE BY CHRISTINA KIM
Although it was a Wednesday, I drove out to See You Monday’s factory warehouse and got to interview the HBIC: Annabelle Lee. I pulled into the parking lot and walked right into the huge warehouse, greeted a worker and asked where I could find Annabelle, and was led upstairs to the office full of racks on racks on racks… of clothes. A few minutes later, Annabelle walked in, clad in a plaid button up (extremely similar to the one I was wearing), leggings, and metallic platform-y oxfords. We shook hands, we shared a few laughs, we walked into a room, we sat down, and we just had a casual conversation. Okay, so here’s the general beginning question: describe your line in one sentence. I can give you about 12 seconds to think about it. It can be a complex sentence if you’d like. Let’s see, one sentence. *sigh* 61
I can give you some random vocabulary. Ok, umm. A See You Monday girl is confident, bad ass, a trend setter, independent; she’s a boss lady. Speaking of a boss lady, how does your staff run here? Are you the HBIC (Head Bitch In Charge)? I’m the owner, designer, creative director, head marketing person, head of publicity; I oversee all the production, and I do all the sales for the biggest accounts. I believe, as a boss and as the owner, if you don’t know every little aspect of your business from shipping all the way to sales and to production, you can’t tell anyone what to do. I have to be all of their replacements; I’m everyone’s back up plan. How did you fall into this? I mean, coming from a Korean American background myself, I know that fashion isn’t usually the first thing
that we ‘should’ pursue. It’s all being that doctor, that lawyer, you know? I went to USC, and my major was in broadcast journalism and communications. I never went to fashion school, but growing up, my mother was actually an artist herself and my father was a business man. I’d like to think of myself as having half of a creative person and half a business mind. It’s not easy because you have to turn off one thing in order to have the other at times – it’s having a dual personality for sure. I’m still trying to master that though. I never meant to come into this business. A lot of girls who want to come into this for a living, and go to school for it will hate me for saying this, but this came so…organically for me. Don’t get me wrong though, it didn’t come easy – there’s a gap
between first generation and second. The ideas, the business minds, what is acceptable; I had to fight that. Even me wanting to print marijuana leaves on clothes because of my Snoop Dogg collaboration…I mean my parents are totally cool about it now, and we can laugh about it. “Yeah those are just leaves, you know, whatever,” and I’m like, “No mom, it’s pot.” It’s fine, but I had to prove it to them…with sales. The fact that I took their business and turned it around, even the style, the branding, telling them, “Let’s not just look at today and tomorrow, but let’s build a future by building a brand.” A lot of first generation doesn’t believe in that because they want to focus on the masses, the private labels: that’s where the money is at. But I had to stop that for a while, and we argued a lot about it. They didn’t get why I was trying to change the methods that had been working for them for years. Even through all of the arguing and the generation gaps that you had to bridge, would you say that your family supported your dreams and ideas? Yes, I think I got really lucky. I grew up in a very creative background, and even though my dad was a business man, my mom was like this hippy; it was okay to be creative – it was almost weird if you’re not. This is my family business though, this is our U.S. history.
We take a quick pause as I chuckle and point out the fact that she is saying this with such pride, looking off into the distance and into the souls of those who also were proud of their fulfillment of the American dream – but the image is fantastic because there just so happens to be a vintage American flag behind her.
But I did have a lot of lonely times, and I had to learn a lot, and my parents weren’t handing things to me. They wanted me to start for myself and give me a clean slate, they wanted me to pick myself up first. When I came here, I was like, “Dude I don’t know fashion.” I mean I love clothes, who doesn’t love clothes? I collect vintage and all of that but I don’t know specs, I don’t know these fashion terms. I don’t know the fabric content of polyester to rayon to viscos like…what are you talking about? And being the owner’s daughter, people didn’t give it to me easy,
because they were like, “Ugh, you’re just the daughter, you think you’re privileged right?” But no, I don’t, I’m hungry, and I honestly learned from my factory workers. They took me in and they taught me how to understand pattern, how to cut and sew, understand different techniques of sewing. Then, my father taught me different fabrications, and my mom taught me the designing process, and then my father went back and taught me all of the sales things, and it kind of just…came together. I knew enough, but I wasn’t confident, and I knew I needed to learn more. 62
prove myself. That was an intense learning experience. To be honest, this is how I put it: USC was my undergrad, my grad school was Warner Brothers Records. I guess my, I don’t know, my PhD program is See You Monday. That’s a summary of my path so far, and I don’t know where it’s going to take me from here, but who knows? I finish my PhD, I might go to law school. But having that question mark…is a great thing.
When I got comfortable and could feel it, it came so natural, and at that point, I could call myself a designer and provide my input. Do you think education was important, like going to college? There are a lot of people these days that say that going to college is unnecessary; follow your dreams, cliche cliche cliche, the most successful people in the world didn’t go to college, etc. But were there things that you think you learned from school that you just can’t learn through experience? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge educational believer, and I went to a great school. I do think that starting something and finishing something was learned from school. Everything else in between was self taught through observation and never giving up. The bone part, the structural part is from school. You really have to learn how to start something and really not give up and graduate and learn to finish something. But you can only learn so much from school, as cliche as it sounds; you have to throw yourself into 63
corporate settings. I interned for years in music settings, I grew up in the punk scene, going to (Vans) Warped Tour and being an emo/ screamo kid, so being around that and being hungry and passionate about what I love became the meat in between the bone. I used to work at Warner Brothers Records, so when I came in here from the music industry, I gave up something that I loved and worked hard to get. I mean I had a kick-ass job. I was the youngest publicist at Warner Brothers Records, doing what I love. Being in the music industry is like being a kid all day listening to music and giving your opinions. But when I got there, I didn’t even work in rock. I was in hip hop; urban publicity. Mike Jones, E-40, a little of Wiz Khalifa. I was young… and I was Asian. *chuckles* But the worst part was that people would tell me, “Oh I heard you got hired because you dress well and you’re the Asian girl,” and I was like, “What the hell.” So I would wear baggy clothes, jeans and t-shirts, not dress up for work; I actually went to USC, I have brains, this was my major – I needed to
To me, there are two kinds of designers. There are those who like to design things that they would wear, and there are those who like to design for other people and for visions that they have. Do you think you fall under either category? There is the designer that is the front runner, like “Look at me, I am this, I am that, this is the Annabelle Lee collection.” But honestly, I want to be the one behind, and to be honest, for the last 7 years or so, I’ve never really put my face out because I didn’t feel that I deserved it yet. I feel like the public should decide it, and if it were to happen, I would want it to happen naturally and very organically. I want to create a lifestyle for the girl; I want her not to be afraid of being ‘the man.’ Every girl needs to feel that she doesn’t have to be the pretty, quiet one. I know there’s a lot of female empowerment within fashion, and those are my peers and friends designing for their friends, and it’s great to be part of that movement. But I also want to create See You Monday. See You Monday is not just about one girl, one type. Yes, there’s an underlying theme of independence and confidence and the bad ass and all of that, but on the surface, we’re fickle. Let’s face it. We want to be pretty one day, and then hardcore,
and then we want to be bad ass and then we want to be…I don’t know, free flowing hippies. And then we want to be business oriented and throw on a blazer. We could be all of that, and so I wanted to create a line that represents every side of every woman. If you study my line, you’ll see four to five different girls within my line. It’s okay to be any label; I like to give that freedom, the freedom of style. How did you come up with “See You Monday”? My parents came up with it actually. During the heyday of the downtown fashion district, like 20 years ago, it was really booming. Anything that was clothes, special or not, would just sell because the economy was that good. Back then, my father actually started with a textile business, so he would sell fabrics to people like myself. And he saw how Mondays were so busy; phones would go off after the weekends because retail businesses do better on the weekends, so when the weekend was done, the retail owners, the buyers, would call the wholesalers and reorder. The
root of it started as a name for the buyers, like, “Hey, have a great weekend of sales, and we’ll see you Monday.” Is there a piece of clothing or an item that every woman should have? Like a little black dress or a nude bra? Shoot, this is…okay. I’ll say it. You’re going to agree to this, because I see you wearing it. Everyone needs a boyfriend fit plaid shirt. Like good plaid. Not a cheesy “Made in China” plaid, but legitimately vintage, good color combo plaid. Oversized. Every woman needs one. Let’s try doing like, three words to describe things. It’s like a test. It’s like college. We’ll start off easy. Three words to describe “See You Monday”. Crazy, sexy, cool. Your first kiss. *small chuckle* Silence. Wow… Oh my gosh. It was dark. Um. Awkward, awkward, awkward.
Your personal style. Boyish. Business…with a…rock and roll / grunge. Your parents. Lovable. Open-minded. Beautiful. Describe your everyday. Patience. Courage. Endurance. Anything else you would want to add? Any advice for a young and bustling kid trying to make it in life? Or any last thoughts? There’s so much beauty in going through ups and downs, and it makes you humane in a way where you’re not cold-blooded. Having a human factor in business is important, because not everyone is perfect. People say to separate business and personal, but I don’t agree with that: your business is personal, your personal is business. You can’t separate the two. I haven’t found balance, and I don’t think you can find it to the T, but I’m always seeking it.
BY NINA TABIOS
Bucket Hats: Unbeknownst to him, ScHoolboy Q may be the one hip hop pioneer to resurrect the bucket hat as a headwear necessity, but whether or not he agrees, what we can agree on is the TDE rapper can rock it to death. Cool for keeping the sun off that beautiful mug, bucket hats are crucial for the summertime vibe.
Eye Gear: We know you’re trying to be summertime fine and all, but that’s not happening when that beautiful sun sends glares out causing scrunched eyes and a wrinkled nose - nahh son. Sunglasses are crucial, and Stussy got you covered for summer with their new line of vintage eyewear paying homage to their very first collection.
Grills: Nothing says hood rich like eight-all gold bottoms or the
platinum and diamond-encrusted top fang-and-molar combo. Fit to match your pimped-out Gucci suit and gator boots, you gon’ stay fly.
Throwbacks: It’s musical festival and NBA playoff season, and the
basketball jerseys come out. Throw on your old ass jersey from eighth grade that somehow still fits you, and your playoff good luck charm and day-party fit comes on correct. Hit Tried & True on Fairfax to check out their collection of ill jerseys.
TECHNOLOGIC | INCIPIO Incipio’s Spring ‘14 Collection perfectly meshes style and fuctionality. From vibrant colors, bold styles and select cases with waterproof protection, Incipio is the perfect choice to keep your tech accessories fitted and ready for some fun in the sun.
“DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK...” BY RICHARD “REACH” GUINTO
For most hip hop heads out there, such words ring a bell of familiarity so clear, the ensuing words to finish the lyric come rolling off their tongues as smoothly as Steph Curry’s jumpshot. And though you more than likely completed the bar in your head even before you came to this point, what still stands out are the string of five words that proved to be the catalyst of action to finish. Whether finishing it resulted in completing the actual lyric itself, or beyond that, echoing its sentiment by delivering a brand of excellence that only serves as a reminder that you’ve been on this level of it for a minute now, trust that LL Cool J’s indelible line has resonated within most of us at some point. See what James Todd Smith wanted to remind everybody at the time was that critics and cynics need not apply to his re-assertion to relevance back in the early 90’s, when the emergence and ensuing popularity of “gangsta rap” boxed him into a corner that would only give him a puncher’s chance to work his way out of. And per the belief and simply direct advice given by LL’s grandmother at the time, penning a certified gold single and hip hop classic in “Mama Said Knock You Out” became the uppercut to the collective jaws of his naysayers and doubters at the time. The remedy to the ills of any doubt and reminder to those that must have forgot about what he could do on the mic came in the form of putting out virtuous material, the kind of which survive into the realm of memorable. With a significant amount of time passing by since our last issue, some heads may have wondered where our presence on that front went. Some loyal subscribers may have even come to the conclusion that that extension of the The 5th Element was one of past tense, where future issues hung in limbo and the potential of continuing what was always our main focus became another victim to the challenge of producing compelling content that’s plagued many a publication within the vast blogging landscape. But besides mama advising us to knock out our opposition and doubters, she also taught us a crucial lesson in how to serve up quality helpings. Let’s hop back in time for a second, back to when you were just a youngin’; specifically to when you’d find yourself periodically walking into the kitchen while ma dukes was cooking up some of that good good and asking her when the meal would be ready. “When it’s ready” is how she’d reply every time, even as the urgency in your query became gradually more intense to the point where even defcon levels of hangry were quashed each time with the simple reply of, “When it’s ready.” And what happened when the meal was finally ready? You already know. So for every one of our readers who have poked their heads into our kitchen asking when that next batch of goodness will be ready, your patience, vigilance, and loyalty to our cause has been rewarded with this latest issue of ours. The quality of content is still locked in, the brand of unique material that we provide still the same as it ever was. So don’t call this issue a comeback, nah, we’ve been doing this. And to those that deemed our inactivity as a white flag of any sort, we’ll let the results of our hard work - not mama’s advice - knock ‘em out.
SOURCES KDC Photography Ivy State Erik Kabik Photography Don Cunanan of BluBot Studios Incipio SPECIAL THANKS Emcee // Chuck Inglish, CyHi The Prynce DJ // J. Rocc, Erok B-boy // Jabbawockeez, World of Dance Graffiti // Meres One Fashion // Melin, See You Monday, Incipio SOCIAL NETWORKS Website // the5thelementmag.com Facebook // facebook.com/The5thElementMagazine Instagram // @the5thelmntmag Twitter // @the5thelmntmag Tumblr // the5thelementmag.tumblr.com