What’s up good people welcome to the New York Said podcast.
Today’s episode is very, very special to me. Today’s guest on the show is Phade of the Mighty Shirt Kings.
If you’ve a been a long time listener of the show then you’ve heard me speak about Phade and the Mighty Shirt Kings about a dozen or so times in previous episodes.
Before I even knew I was a creative or before I was into art like that, I was into the the work of Phade. I remember really taking to the Shirt Kings when I was in High School. I wasn’t a collector because I really didn’t have it like that but whenever I saw their work, I stopped and really took it in.
Other than seeing Phade’s work on celebrities like Audio Two, Biz Markie and Bell Biv DeVoe, they used to have a booth down in the Jamaica Colosseum Mall. The Jamaica Colosseum Mall was the name of the building but me or anybody I knew never called it that. We just called it The Colosseum for short. To me, it was the heart of the Ave. It’s still there but to be honest, it ain’t what it used to be. The vibe, the mystique and the tension of that place is long gone.
The energy I remember about The Colosseum is that it could go down at any moment. I’ve seen quite a few fights in there, I was there for the small Rodney King riot and heard all of the tales about what could happen to you if you went to the bathrooms or the parking lot rooftop.
What really set the tone for your visit to The Colosseum was the two or three security guards that stood inside once you got past the super heavy brass and glass doors. If you had a hat or a hood on they would yell at you with the utmost authority to take it off. They sounded like that corrections officer on Biggie’s first album that yelled “C74, Smalls!” But they would look directly at you and yell, “Hats off!” or “Yo take that hood off !” After while you just knew to do it. The security at The Colosseum was notorious but that’s different story all together.
Yeah, it was kinda nuts in there for a few years, I’m talking 1992-1999. I don’t remember anything after that because I was out of town.
In it’s heyday, The Colosseum was the best place to get sneakers (honestly it still is), it used to be the place to get the best mixtapes (honestly there is still a mixtape spot, I hit it up every time I’m in town), and of course if you had it like that, you’d go to the Mighty Shirt Kings booth to get a customized airbrushed t-shirt, denim jacket/jeans or one of them all black snapback hats with your name or crew on it. Those black hats were clean with just white airbrushed paint and usually accented with rhinestones.
I couldn’t afford all that. I was a super broke kid from the hood but what I could afford was a picture in front of a Shirt Kings airbrushed backdrop. If I’m not mistaken they charged like five bucks for a Polaroid picture.
These backdrops were the precursor to all of the street art murals you’re now seeing around the world. I’m not saying there weren’t street art murals back then but SEEN or Keith Haring wasn’t coming to South Jamaica Queens to paint big walls and they weren’t doing characters the way Phade was doing characters. The backdrops were pretty big. They were alway super colorful, full of characters from the cartoons I loved like Bugs Bunny and Bart Simpson but the characters where decked out in truck jewelry that resembled something I’d see on a Rakim or Slick Rick album cover. This resonated with me deeply.
I always wanted Shirt Kings denim jacket but I never got one. I’ve never told anyone this but I remember asking a creative kid from my block to make me a denim jacket like the Shirt Kings. He said he’d do it for $25 and I was like, “Bet!” Well, he made it and it took months but when I finally got it, it sucked. It didn’t have that “je ne sais quoi” that came with the hand painted work of the Shirt Kings. Plus he did the jacket in acrylic paint and not airbrush so the back of the jacket was heavy like an actual painted canvas. It was quite disappointing to say the least. I’m sure that kid is somewhere killing it right now, I wish I could remember his name.
If I really think about it, my love for street art and art in general probably came from visiting the Shirt Kings down in the Colosseum. They may or may not have known it but it was like an art gallery down there. You know what, forget that, it was an art gallery. It was the first and only art gallery at the The Colosseum to my knowledge. The Shirt Kings gallery just so happened to be blasting the latest hip-hop, with a few arcade games and had a wall of pictures of all the MCs and actors who had stopped by in the past.
So yeah, to tell you that I was happy to kick it with Phade for a few hours in an understatement. It was like talking to a big brother from the block or an OG that didn’t mind pulling my coat to the key to longevity.
In this episode we talk about how Phade got his name, not selling out, his hundred year plan, Larry Love, the impact of Jam Master Jay and legacy.
This conversation was recorded in the Marcus Garvey Park out in Harlem.
- Shirt Kings: Pioneers of Hip Hop Fashion by Edwin PHADE Sacasa & Alain KET Maridueña (Book)
- Shirt King Academy FaceBook @Shirtkingacademy
- Instagram @shirtkingacademy @shirtkingphade
- Harlem, NY
- Dapper Dan- The Fashion Outlaw article by The New York Times
- Own your craft
- Own your intellectual property
- Insure that you maintain your rights
- Importance of patience
- The High School of Art and Design
- Tagging 77
- PHASE 2 – Wide Walls Bio
- Style: Writing From The Under Ground by Phase 2 (Book)
- Phase 3
- F & PH
- Phade 1 and Phade 2
- Ol‘ Dirty Bastard
- When there is no internet you do a ghetto search
- You have to show and prove
- No hiding behind a camera or phone
- Code of the streets, moral codes, keys to life, & legends.
- No selling out
- All money ain’t good money
- Criminal Minded
- Criminal Minded YouTube
- My Philosophy YouTube
- Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Everybody
- Fashion House
- Designing and manufacturing culture
- Partnering and selling
- The Hundred Year Plan
- The Brooklyn Circus
- The Airbrush
- Nation of Graffiti Artist N.O.G.A.
- Doing art
- The Reup Game
- Grandmaster Flash Larry Love (Youtube)
- Going Viral
- Jam Master Jay
- Fresh Gordon
- Prince Markie Dee
- The Fat Boys
- Can You Feel It by The Fat Boys (Video)
- Jamaica Colosseum Mall
- Jeff Staple talks Streetwear Ambassador, 20 Years of Staple Design and Reed Space– New York Said Episode
- South Jamaica, Queens
- A brand manager of Jordan’s
- Sit under some masters
- Marc Ecko
- Unlabel Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko (Book)
- Style Wars Documentary
- Skeme in Style Wars
- “I do it for the people who understand.” PHADE Quote
- George Clinton
- “There is no down time.” PHADE Quote
- Most important lesson: In order to achieve and grow you have to let learn how to let go of certain things and patch relationships back up.
- Exhibiting love in a loveless society.
- The ability to be able to hire.
- 16 Skirt Kings
- Bigger than yourself
- How bad do you want it?
- What the Trains taught me
- Jerkface: Chaos from the Ladder New York Said Episode
- Cey Adams talks Def Jam, Logos, Album Covers, Giving Back, Paintings and Murals New York Said Episode
- King Kasheem- Rest In Power
We would love to hear your thoughts on the episode. Leave a comment on the Apple Podcast app and don’t forget to rate the show.
This episode is sponsored by Timothy Roquemore.