Slick comes home to celebrate
It's been a while since the artist and clothing designer known as Slick has actually lived in Hawaii.
Still, the 1985 Aiea High School graduate feels a close connection to his home state through regular visits, and hopes the rock that raised him will support the eighth anniversary of his successful label, Dissizit.
"The thing with Hawaii right now (is) there's that push for supporting Hawaii artists and music," Slick said last week via telephone from his current residence in Los Angeles. "So I think it's important to get it out that I was born and raised in Hawaii. I'm always a local boy at heart, so hopefully people will see that and want to support me, too."
Even if you've never heard of Dissizit (or any of Slick's previous brand efforts, like Third Rail, Shaolin Worldwide or Fuct), the lineup assembled for the anniversary at SoHo Mixed Media Bar this Friday, Sept. 9, is a must-see for any self-respecting hip-hop fan. Digital Underground founding member Money B will perform, with the Dilated Peoples' Rakaa Iriescience and DJ Babu also making the trip to Honolulu. Local hip-hop will be represented on the bill by Monarx.
But the biggest name to bless this birthday party is undoubtedly Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of the legendary hip-hop trio Run DMC. Slick collaborated with him on a line of T-shirts, and the partnership quickly turned into something much bigger.
'Dissizit 8th Anniversary'
With special guests DMC, Rakaa Iriescience, DJ Babu, Money B, Scott Knoxx, Phoreyz and local openers Monarx
» Where: SoHo Mixed Media Bar, 80 S. Pauahi St.
» When: 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9
» Cost: $40 ($28 advance tickets available)
» Info: Click here for info and to purchase tickets online
» Note: DMC will participate in a meet-and-greet session at Prototype in Pearlridge at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9
"It was a trip when the whole thing went down," said Slick. "I always wanted to do a collaboration. … The Run DMC logo is so iconic. Everyone rips off that logo … but I wanted to do it legit, so I went straight to the source.
"And so, I threw a hail mary — and he was into it. We did a T-shirt, and then, when we were making our mixtape, we went and asked him … to say a shout out. But he liked the track we sent him so much, he said he'd do the whole song. And then he was like, why don't we do a video for it?"
Slick was gracious enough to answer a few more questions before our conversation ended last week. Check the Pulse tomorrow for an interview with Darryl "DMC" McDaniels.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little more about your partnership with DMC. What does it mean to be working with a living legend in the hip-hop community?
ANSWER: When I get around him, it's like little kid time. When I started b-boying, we started to breakdance on cardboard with Run DMC. This was our music, so it was a trip. We were stoked to get him to say a shout out on our mixtape.
How many times do you have to work with the king himself? So I kicked my staff into gear and we made this sick video on a shoestring budget. It looks like a million bucks. I just looked at the finished product today, and it's amazing. I still trip on the fact that it's DMC.
Q: Why is it important to you to have this anniversary party in Honolulu?
A: Hawaii is where I'm from, and I grew up with hip-hop and b-boying. I always want to come back to Hawaii, eventually. That's my goal, to move back. So anytime I can include the islands in something, I feel like it's my hometown and if I'm gonna celebrate, I want to celebrate at home. Especially when we found out DMC was on board, I thought it was important to put on a good show in Hawaii.
My family still lives there. In Aiea.
Q: Would your life and career have turned out the way it did if you had made the choice to stay in Hawaii?
A: No. I had to grow as an artist. Not to say you can't grow in Hawaii, but not the way I wanted to.
The path I chose, Hawaii really wasn't the place to grow. I was moving more towards the city with my street art. But like I said, I want to eventually move back. I want to raise my family in Hawaii. Right now we're doing our thing in L.A.
Q: How long do you plan to ride things out with Dissizit? Would you attempt to launch a new brand or product if the opportunity presented itself?
A: Dissizit was the last brand I was going to do. That's how the name came about. I've been in the game for a minute. And the whole thing was, this is it. This was the last time I was going to do it. I was giving it my last crack. And it's a double meaning too, after that line in "Style Wars."
It wasn't until maybe the last four and half years or so that it began to take off. The first four years were tough. And then things started to turn around. Even with the economy and everything, we're still going. I'm really happy we're able to make it this far. But I'm pretty firm that this is it. I'm not trying to start any other brands or projects, clothing-wise. We have some possible plans to expand the Dissizit brand. We have some other channels we can expand into.
But as far as starting something totally different? Nah. If I'm gonna do anything, I'd want to get back into my art. I love just creating images and things. And when I see people wearing it, I get happy inside. The money makes it possible for us to continue to do it, so that's why I appreciate the fans' support.
My long term plan is that I want to just come back to Hawaii and focus on my art. To make that happen, though, we're going to have to take our brand to that point where it can run itself. And that's difficult because we've never sold out, and it's kept us kind of underground. I always resort back to whether or not I like something I produce. And it gets difficult at times because I'm not the demographic we sell to … but the graff thing and the music keeps me young. That graff mentality of trying to keep it hot and on the edge keeps me going.
And then the street wear (industry) is so competitive. A big problem we have is that we try and come up with the cool stuff, and then it's almost like the bigger companies watch what we do, and then if it hits, they jump on it and exploit it. Being the smaller guy, sometimes it's hard to capitalize on that hype. But we do what we do and keep plugging away.
Q: Any suggestions for Hawaii-based artists trying to make a name for themselves?
A: I don't want to give them bad advice and tell them to get off the rock, but you have to leave at some point to get out and explore and see what's out there.
I'm not saying that's the only way to succeed, but for what I did, I had to leave and find myself and figure out that I wanted to come back. Just follow your dreams as long as you can and try not to let reality slap you in the face. Everyday life and bills and things that bring you down eventually start to control your life. When we were young, we never had any of those worries or concerns. I was really into finding myself as an artist. And that's when my most interesting work happened, in the late 80s and early 90s. I didn't have the pressures of running a company.
So, I'd say chase it while you can, while you have your youth. And then align yourself into a position where you can keep doing it when you get older. I'm lucky, no matter how old I am, I can always keep creating. It's not like an athlete, where there's a window.
To the kids: stay true. It's okay to imitate different artists, but at a certain point you have to pull away and develop your own style. I'll be the first to admit, when I first started, I was jocking Futura and them hard. But you have to keep evolving. Don't get stuck.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.