What If Marvel Studios Made Blaxploitation Movies?

By St. Paco

If you were ever a fan of Marvel Comics from, say, 1977 to now, then you've probably run your eyes through an issue or two (or twenty) of Marvel's long-running What If...? title. For those who aren't familiar with the book, the stories in What If...? explore themes that deviate from or alter completely the established norms of Marvel's literary canon. For instance, on the cover of What If...? #1, readers were asked to consider, "What if Spider-Man was a member of the Fantastic Four?" Then, over the course of eighteen pages the writer and artist explored that idea without it actually impacting 'real' comic book continuity.

It was with a similar concept in mind that I made a limited series of "Marvel Blaxploitation" mini movie posters. The process permitted me to do some serious "What if...?" imaginings of my own. The very first of these was, "What if there was a fourth Iron Man movie with Ghostface Killah in the title role?" For those of you who don't listen to much hip-hop, Ghostface Killah is a member of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan. In addition to his main kung-fu movie inspired stage name the rapper also uses the comic book inspired nicknames, Iron Man and Tony Starks (ol' shell head's billionaire alter ego). To illustrate how much of a fan the man is, his first solo album was even titled "Iron Man."

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In the bestselling book, The Wu-Tang Manual, author and Clan founder, RZA, reports that everyone in the nine-member crew grew up collecting comics. But it was Wu-Tang member Method Man who had, says RZA, "the most extensive collection...boxes and boxes of comic books." Like Ghostface, Method Man (another stage name taken from kung-fu flicks) also uses the additional comic book inspired nicknames of Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider. In the Marvel universe, for you who don't know, motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze is the true identity of the flame-headed Ghost Rider. And it should probably be said that Meth's well-known love of marijuana 'blazing' has as much to do with these other nicknames as does his love of comics.

"It's my testament to those burned, play my position in the game of life standing firm / On foreign lands, jump the gun out of the frying pan
into the fire, transform into the Ghost Rider"
– Method Man, "Triumph"

Due to my own diehard affinities for hip-hop and comics, and sincere appreciation of Wu-Tang, Method Man and Ghostface Killah were obvious choices for the first pieces in the “Marvel Blaxploitation” mini movie poster series. It was originally only planned as two-parter but after finishing the two, I felt the urge to keep brainstorming to see what else might come out of it. The blaxploitation movie concept seemed like a good concept for at least one more mini-poster, which would give me a triptych/trilogy. But it was actually good for two more.

Although it took a few days to come up with the theme for the third piece, I eventually decided on one that would put Blade on screen (so to speak) with Nick Fury. Much to Marvel's credit, the company was already firmly on the cutting-edge of zombie lovin' pop culture with their Marvel Zombies comics. I even give them credit as trendsetters, since well before the other now-popular vampire franchises had come about, Marvel had three Blade films in theaters.

Mindful of the fact that Blade was also Marvel's first successful film franchise, the third piece permitted me to see him--quite deservedly--linked to the existing film universe of characters for which he paved the way. I also think that seeing Wesley with Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson resurrects his character's image from the muck of those franchise killing "sidekicks" played by Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel in Blade Trinity, the last Blade film.

(That’s right. I said it.)

The last piece in the series is based on a fairly popular "what if" scenario that plays out often in the minds of many comic book fans: "Who would win the fight between Storm of the X-Men and Thor?" Because Thor is the 'god of thunder' and Storm's mutant super-power enables her to control the weather, this one's a natural match-up. Thor is generally thought to have the upper hand in the battle, though, the most frequent reason being because: "He's a god!" But this…basically non-argument has less significance than many seem to realize.

Like virtually every god of ancient lore, Thor isn't immortal. He can be injured and even killed. Thus, with his mortality squarely in mind, I designed my mini movie poster...and then began writing a fan fiction piece in which Storm, who was worshiped by the people of her native Kenya as a goddess, opens up a shocking can of 'whup ass' on the god of thunder. It's a story rooted in religious lore and science-fact that would've made the late Dwayne McDuffie (who tried to tell a similar tale during his run on Fantastic Four, before nay-saying editors shot it down) very proud.

[Twirls mustache]

In addition to being just pure fun, the long process of making this mini-poster series caused me think a lot about power. More specifically, it made me think a lot about about the power of money and the power of images in American popular culture--as well as in traditional human societies. On a smaller and perhaps oversimplified scale, this series also allowed me to ponder what it must feel like to have the power to green light multi-million dollar movie deals, choose scripts, hire actors, directors, composers, musicians, and marketing & design firms.

Frankly, for a film buff like myself (yes, in addition to my many other obsessions), meditations on what it might be like to have movie mogul power was a wee bit intoxicating. But it also depressed the hell outta' me, too, recognizing even more now how very insular Hollywood is and how few have access to that world. Despite the fact that I may never get a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, for a little while at least the simple process of making these faux film promos enabled me to feel as if I had behind-the-scenes access (and front row seats) to some of the best superhero movies never made.


[Video On Demand] Kanye West - POWER

[Mixtape] Shaolin Soul Food

It had been in my head to make a compilation mixtape featuring many (or most) of the Ghostface Killah tracks that have old school soul samples. Then, after finally getting around to going through all of GFK's albums to gather the necessary songs, it occurred to me that there were also similar sounding tracks recorded by "Chef" Raekwon that fit nicely with the desired vibe. As Rae is also Ghost's main partner-in-rhyme, I think that it also works out quite well to have him as the second featured voice on the "Shaolin Soul Food" mixtape.

Come an' git it.


Ghostface Killah - Shaolin Soul Food

01 Intro [feat. Raekwon] - Ghostface Killah
02 Biscuits [feat. Trife Da God] - Ghostface Killah
03 Good Times - Ghostface Killah
04 Wallabee Champ - Ghostface Killah
05 Ms. Sincere - Raekwon
06 My Corner - Raekwon
07 Ason Jones - Raekwon
08 New Wu [feat. Method Man & Ghostface Killah] - Raekwon
10 Walk Around - Ghostface Killah
11 Holla - Ghostface Killah
12 Bathtub (Skit) - Ghostface Killah
13 Save Me Dear - Ghostface Killah
14 Dragon Style - Raekown
15 Shakey Dog - Ghostface Killah
16 Big Girl - Ghostface Killah
17 Let It Be Me (Interlude) - Linda Jones
18 Miranda - Method Man, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon
19 Dangerous - Method Man, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon
20 Wu Banga 101 [feat. GZA, Raekwon, Cappadonna & Masta Killa] - Ghostface Killah



Crisis in Electric Ladyland Revisited

In the satirical essay "Crisis in Electric Ladyland", I wrote about how in the past three-plus decades, super-hero characters of African heritage have been disproportionately given powers and/or names related to electricity. At the time there were as many as ten such characters in comics and cartoons. Only one, though, was a Marvel Comics creation (Storm), and she was the very first of the  type. The other nine (ten, actually) repetitious character types were all linked to the DC universe.*

So, in light of Marvel's track record, I find myself giving them a pass on Jaime Foxx's Electro in next summer's Amazing Spider-Man 2. This even though it will add yet another of this repetitive character type to an ignoble list. [Grimaces] Sure, it would be great to not be adding a 12th such character to the list at all (The Golden Blaze from the DC Comics-related Warner Bros. Entertainment was the 11th). But in fairness to Marvel, I have to give them the nod.

Even more bothersome, I find myself now interested in seeing Amazing Spider-Man 2. Prior to Foxx's casting, I hadn't a smidgeon of interest in the Spider-Man relaunch--because I love the Maguire Spider-Man movies. (Well, the first two. The last one wuzza' let down.) As for the SM relaunch, I have not seen the first one and won't trouble myself to rent it in the meanwhile. But when its sequel does comes out...on DVD, I'll check it out just to see the villain.

[Kicks rocks]

*The Marvel super-villain Thunderbolt was not included in the list on a technicality: his actual powers aren't related to electricity.


The Secret Origins of Grandmaster Flash

    Joseph Saddler was another teenager from the Caribbean, raised in the Bronx, who shared Herc's obsession with music and electronics. But unlike the muscled Herc, the diminutive Saddler was a perfectionist. Saddler spent hours watching Herc in Cedar Park run his "merry-go-round," and saw that Herc was visually locating the starting point of the breaks, dropping the needle and hoping for the best. When he switched back and forth between the turntables, Herc never really stayed on beat.

    Saddler went home and worked at getting it right. Living in the South Bronx, he didn't know about the downtown DJ innovations that Hollywood had discovered, like "beat matching" (aligning the tempos of records) and "slip-cueing" (using headphones to audition and cue a record before releasing it into play). Saddler had to invent them himself. He came up with this own names for the techniques: the "peek-a-boo system," and "clock theory." In the elaborate setting of his bedroom, Saddler took the science of DJing further than anyone had. Before long, he could "cut" between duplicate copies of a record seamlessly, without dropping a beat. Since most breaks were agonizingly brief, the quicker the cut, the shorter the breaks he could use. Saddler got really fast. His friends called him "Flash," like the comic-book hero who possessed superhuman speed.

Source: The Big Payback, pg. 19


Stardate: Supplemental

Like many other Americans who don't speak Japanese, I still manage to listen to ridiculous amounts of Japanese music. Ridiculous amounts. So I wanted to make a compilation mixtape to share some of that listening experience here. Superflat State of Mind is full of the kinds of selections that I'd play for anyone who's interested in samplin' the sounds of J-Pop, but having absolutely no idea where to start--or who to start with. This mix, however, prolly isn't your stereotypical compilation, meaning one filled with the sugary sweet voices of all-girl pop acts. Most of the tracks are by soulful Japanese (or in some cases half-Japanese) r&b artists. There's also a fair share of hip-hop flavor, as well. And though most of the words are sung in the Japanese tongue, there's a smattering of English that might have you singing right along.

P.S. This mix was in heavy rotation during the production phase of several of my recent art pieces, hence the title and cover art.

Superflat State of Mind, Vol. One
01 Red & Blue - Aisha
02 Two As One [feat. Chemistry] - Chrystal Kay
03 Letter In The Sky [feat. The Jacksons] - Ai
04 We Standing Strong [feat. Jay'ed] - Emi Maria
05 Embrace - Boom Boom Satellites
06 Apple - Tam Tam
07 My Endless Love - Pushim
08 Come Back to Me - Chrystal Kay
09 575 - Perfume
10 Love Me After 12AM - m-flo loves Alex (Clazzieque Project)
11 One Way Love [feat. Verbal (m-flo)] - Kana Nishino
12 Shawty [feat. Synergy] - Chemistry
13 Who's Theme - Minmi/Minmi
14 I Wanna Know You - Pushim
15 23:30 - Perfume
16 Fly [DJ Mitsu Beats Remix] - Aisha
17 Road to Riches [ft. Cavalier & MeccaGodzilla] - Kojoe
18 Darkness World [Feat. 般若] - Emi Maria
19 Realize - Jasmine
20 サヨナラは言わなかった [ft.光永亮太] - mihimaru GT


Captain's Log: Stardate 11222013

Lost in Translation (Episode I), St. Paco, 2013 

" It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you without a strong rhyme to step to." – Rakim

YKFS has been all but abandoned over the past few months. It's for good reason, though. In addition to my writing and research for an essay collection I plan to publish, I've made a return to my art/graphic design roots. When I'd decided to do a zine show to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of KFG earlier this year (Time flies, right?), I decided to create other stuff for the show as well: limited edition decorative prints, a painting or two...or three, and even some  t-shirts. So, during this long leave of absence from the blog interwebs, thirty or so pieces have been made. In addition to all that, there are other design projects now in various phases of development. One of them will be blogged about in a couple of days, so check back for it. Oh, and please enjoy the next few posts--cuz it'll prolly be a while before I'm blogging again.

Thanks for reading.


Brought to you (Again) by the Number Five, St. Paco, 2013

I Saw the Mach 5 in Gold (After Demuth), St. Paco, 2013


Zen-La-Rock – New Jack Your Body ft. BTB

Been lovin' this one for a while, and can't believe that I hadn't posted it to YKFS before now. Pump up the sound and enjoy.


Mobile Mondays – DJ Darrell D Live in NYC

Two weeks ago, the homie Darrell D made another summer sojourn to NYC. As usual, he got a chance to rub shoulders with various legends of hip-hop at the park jams and elsewhere. Before breaking back to the Southwest desert, he brought the Arizona heat to the East Village as a guest deejay of Mobile Mondays at The Bowery Electric. Every Monday night, from 10PM to 4AM, Mobile Mondays unites local New York disc jockeys (Just Blaze, Misbehavior, Operatorz EMZ, Natasha Diggs, etc.) with visiting vinyl addicts from across the US and other parts of the groove-lovin' globe -- and they play strictly 45's all night. Now, I'm prolly a lil' biased, since Darrell D is my boy, but I've heard the MP3 of his time on the tables, and I think that he nearly burnt the Bowery down. You can hear (and judge) for yourself, though. Courtesy of The Bowery Electric, YKFS offers your lucky ears forty fiery minutes of funk, soul, hip-hop and Afrobeat grooves direct from Darrell D's Mobile Monday's set (click here)! To learn more about Mobile Mondays in NYC, click here.

DJ Darrell D & Mobile Mondays hostess, Gizmo


Distant Brothers – The Thai Connection

"Words with no apparent meaning, 
a Hindi script graffiti,
sprayed upon temple walls 
that have long ago decayed."
– St. Paco

There are no coincidences.

Really, it was only a few days ago that, while scrolling through the contacts in my phone, I briefly reflected on brutha' Damon when his name quickly passed under my eyes. I hadn't been in touch with my Afro coiffed partner-in-crime for some time, so a mental post-it™ note was made reminding myself to reach out and learn what he's been up to as of late. Three days later, before I'd even had a chance to make good on my intention, an e-mail arrived to let me know that Damon had shared a photo with me on his Flickr feed.

Spotted within the body of that electronic note, placed just above the link that would guide me to the image, was the title of my previously released poetry zine, Distant God Meditation. "What does...this mean?" I wondered, as my finger clicked the mouse to activate the link. Damon, a fantastic photographer and fellow designer, had already sent a snapshot several months back, showing the zine on his coffee table; his creative way of saying that the contents of my unanticipated envelope had arrived in the mail.

My eyelids widened and my jaws separated after his newest photo-telegram had loaded. Framed within its borders was the remarkable sight of my kung-fu-brutha-from-anotha-mutha, sitting in some time-worn temple -- with his now very travel-worn copy of Distant God Meditation in hand. "Didn't he just get back from Hong Kong not too long ago?" I thought through a widening fog of amazement. "How the heck did he wind up in...Thailand?"

After enlarging the photo, my pupils pored over the image, as I was still partly in disbelief that he had actually gone to Southeast Asia -- and that he'd taken the zine along with him. But, as my eyes panned from the bottom of a suede and nylon mesh hiking shoe, seen at the bottom of the shot, to the very point of a stone spire elevated high above his chocolate-colored Afro, it quickly became clear that this was not the work of Photoshop. Someone had been on a airplane.

In the film Amelie, the father of the title character has one of those vintage-looking garden gnomes that stands on the front lawn of his middle-class home. Early on in the film, that white-bearded figure gets gnome-napped and within days, Amelie's father begins to receive mysterious envelopes in the mail. Each one contains a photograph of the ceramic ornament, taken in the various spots around the world to which it had, somehow, journeyed. Studying the photograph sent by Damon, I began to feel a little like Amelie's father must have felt.

Last year, when the making of Distant God Meditation had been finished, I'd also felt something else, something that I really hadn't felt with the other publications I'd produced. The feeling emanated from a recurring daydream that I had about of this particular zine. To me, it just kinda' seemed like something that a reader could take with them as a not-too-heavy distraction on their crosstown bus ride. Or, even better, while aboard a long flight to some far-flung destination.

I'm not completely sure now if that musing of mine had been mentioned to Damon. Whether it was or not, he still managed to do my imagination one better by taking that work into the discolored ruins of a 12th century Buddhist temple in Thailand.

To see the photograph that inspired this post, click here. To see more photos by Damon (aka Super 巧克力 Chocolateur), click here.


RZA on the power of imagination

  I was playing with my son and he goes "shoo-shoo"––making like he's shooting powers at me. "I'm sending my powers at you!" he'd yell. And the first time he did it, I said, "You know, that really won't hurt anybody."
   But the second time he did it, I didn't say that to him. Because I thought about it and realized that if you really have that will and that chi energy, and that understanding, who knows? Maybe you can fuck someone up that way. That thirty-sixth chamber in martial arts, that's the one where the fighter just forces energy at his opponent and knocks him across the room. So I don't want to take that away from a child.
   It's imagination. To imagine means to image. And once you make an image, you can make flesh. It's power upon power. And it's real. That power, that force--if you let it, it can move mountains.


Source: The Wu-Tang Manual, pg. 87


The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu – Collect 'em all!

One thing that every collector realizes early on is that there will always be something new (or old) on the horizon that will trigger the desire to covet  hoard collect. My present guilty pleasure is the Marvel-affiliated magazine Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. Published during the kung-fu craze of the 1970s, this eye-gougingly good mag ran for 33 issues, between 1974 to 1977. In addition to serialized black and white comic strips starring a rotating cast of characters like Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, White Tiger, Daughters of the Dragon and others, each issue of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu also offered great interviews, articles, pop culture reviews, and so much more. How it was that not a single issue of this series was represented in my collection is worthy of a Scooby Doo Mystery. But the oversight has been corrected. Thanks to Ebay, I now own five of the seven or so issues that have piqued my interest: Since the Iron Fist comic book runs of Marvel Premiere 15-25 is complete, and Iron Fist 1-15 is one issue away from being complete, I'm focusing on the Deadly Hands issues that feature this kick ass character. I've got some classics, true believers. Check 'em out.

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Jim Kelly – Requiem for a Fighter

Jim Kelly, who passed away on June 29th, was the star of Black Belt Jones (1974). It was the first martial arts movie that I ever saw up on the silver screen. Although only five-years-old at that time, I still easily recall many of the details of that evening. Uppermost among them was the excitement that I felt walking out of the theater into the night with my parents and four-year-old sister--and how she and I launched little kung-fu kicks into air on our way to the family car.

Like so many other African-American children who grew up in this country in the immediate aftermath of the civil rights struggle, the gulf between movie heroes and heroines within whom we could regularly see our brown faces reflected was both deep and vast. But along with actors like Diane Carroll, James Earl Jones, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Billy Dee Williams, Teresa Graves, and a smattering of others, Jim Kelly was one of the proudly watched, though rarely visible few.

Admittedly, for me in those very formative years it was Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee who were my two biggest pop culture idols. But Jim Kelly was placed high among them on very short list. And though he had only appeared in a few films -- even fewer of which were actually good films -- the impression that he made on me, and so many others like me, was positive, strong, and long lasting.

Nearly four years ago this month, while attending the San Diego Comicon in 2009, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Jim Kelly. And though I've never been much in the way of anybody's fanboy, I found myself that day temporarily awestruck. But then, for me, there was actually so much more involved with meeting Jim Kelly than just meeting Jim Kelly.  

In the theoretical principle of six-degrees of separation, it's said that a connection between any two people located anywhere in the world could be established through the identification of five or fewer shared acquaintances. You know such-and-such, who knows so-and-so, who knows blasé-skippy-woo-woo. Well, because Jim had known both Lee and Ali, being in his presence for that brief moment made me feel somehow much more closely connected to all of my boyhood idols. 

Yesterday, in the wake of Jim’s passing, my buddy Joe Doughrity (Akira's Hip-Hop Shop) gave a touching remembrance on his Facebook page. There he mentioned that he'd also met Jim at a comic convention. But this meeting was much more recent than mine, having occurred just in the past few months. Fortunately, due to the growing popularity of such conventions, people like he and I will often get a chance to shake the hands of some of the pop culture figures that we looked up to as kids. Master Jim Kelly was one of them.

Feeling a tad bit overwhelmed at the moment, and losing my way on just how I should close this post, I’ll defer to Joe, who I think summed it best when he said of Master Kelly that: "He fought the good fight."

That he did, true believers. That he did. 

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Set Adrift on Chocolate Memory Bliss

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Not that there's any reason to even recall this, but I forgot that Chicago's Beatrice Foods was once the home of some of America's sweetest candy treats. These include Milk Duds, Slo Poke and Black Cow suckers. As early as the 1920s, these cavity causers had been made in Chicago by the Holloway Company. In the early 1960s, Holloway was bought by Beatrice Foods. Around that same time, the Clark Company of Pittsburgh (maker of Clark and Zagnut bars) was bought up by Beatrice's expanding candy empire.

By the end of the following decade, it was a familiar sight to find text-heavy centerfolds in the pages of comic books that advertised Beatrice & Holloway's "Infamous Milk Duds Superduds Sweepstakes!" First place winners were awarded with an all expenses paid trip to New York City. While there in the rotten apple, the winner and their guests (limit 4) would be given a tour of the offices of either Marvel or DC Comics. Even better, an artist would draw the lucky winner's sweet-toothed likeness into the pages of their favorite comic.

Well, as happenstance would have it, while on my break at work yesterday I found myself noticing the Clark candy bars perched in the spiral rings of the snack machine. I'm still not sure as to why they caught my eye, I was never particularly a fan of Clark bars. In fact, as far as crunchy peanut butter bricks covered in milk chocolate went, the Butterfinger (another well-known candy originally made in Chicago) was always so much yummier.

But then today, with the Clark bars in the snack machine at work still hovering at the back of my brain, I happened across one of those old Superduds Sweepstakes ads. After focusing on a small image of the Clark bar's blue and red wrapper at the top of a cut-out entry blank, I had a realization: Save for Milk Duds and maybe Zagnut, I never see any of Clark's fellow candies anymore. Are any of 'em still even made? And as my thoughts reached for the remnants of sugar sweetened memories, I found myself gripped with a gnawing pang for the tastes of days gone by.


The Bread Ties that Bind [Excerpt]

By St. Paco

As Billy (aka Upski) talked, I handed him a mock-up of the graffiti magazine Reminisce that I had dreams of publishing. He interrupted himself to gush over the colorful laser printed pages contained in clear plastic sleeves, and enthused support of my desire to publish the photos of Chicago graffiti art that I’d taken over the years. His almost boyish enthusiasm quickly called to mind my early impression of him the day we met at an art show hosted by our mutual homeboy Dzine. This was four years earlier at the Hot House, a bar on Chicago’s North Side.

On that day, Upski flipped thoughtfully through the large black photo album that I’d brought with me. I stood nearby chatting with West Side graffiti artists Answer, Casper and B-Boy B. Standing a few feet away from us, Slang, an old school homeboy from the FEDS crew (and an 'enemy' of Upksi’s) stood chatting with Dzine about one of several large paintings hanging around the room.

Upski & Slang

To the amazement of everyone in-the-know, just minutes before I had convinced Slang and Upski to pose together for a picture. Within that photo's edges, Upski’s discomfort is forever framed. As far as I was concerned, though, whatever 'beef' had existed between those two should have been squashed years ago. And, as I vaguely recalled, the problem was actually between Upski and Slang’s crew mate Orko anyway. 

Back in the late 1980s, when we were all teens, Billy had foolishly initiated an ill advised battle between himself and Orko. This done by defacing one of Orko’s recent pieces with a 'diss' regarding--of all bloody things--Orko’s mother. Orko’s reply to Billy’s challenge, when he finally caught up to him, was a blast of spray paint into the face of the cocky young challenger. Long after the paint had been washed away, the act would leave a different kind of stain.

My photo album held snapshots of pieces dating back to 1987, the golden age of graffiti art in Chicago. Billy laughed aloud when he saw the pages that featured photos of the “Fuck This Noise!” piece that he and his partner-in-crime Raven had painted on the south side of the Beatrice Foods building at 16th and Wentworth, a few blocks south of the Loop. He was clearly flattered to see his work included there, but perhaps even more flattered to see how, under the last of those photos, I had transcribed his infamous epilogue that had been tagged out in lavender paint on the right side of the mural:

Fuck this noise! Fuck everyone that says this is a crime! Fuck them! Fuck all you suckers who like to talk about me! Word! Fuck you backstabbers! You know who the fuck you are! Fuck this noise! Fuck Sgt. King...and the graffiti squad! Fuck them dicks! Word!!! Special love to Preach, who died for the art. RIP...and to Warp and Lola and the crew: Crone, Kep, Agent, Rest... Peace. -- The Union


It was a teen-angst tantrum leveled against the forces (both real and imagined) that Billy felt opposing him from within the city’s hip-hop subculture--and the finger-shaking parent culture at large. The mural itself was a 5-ft by 30-ft masterpiece with that oh-so-colorful phrase applied to the yellow brick wall of the Beatrice Foods building in Raven’s innovative wildstyle. Never before or since had a more beautifully profane work of art graced a wall in any city anywhere.

Admittedly, it was a something of a shock to me when I first saw the piece. Neither I nor my homeboy Seth, who I painted with then, had ever seen the word fuck used so many times in a single paragraph--let alone on a public space! Even more shocking, we would learn shortly after seeing it that Upski was actually just a 14-year old punk kid at the time.

Though Billy and I had seen each other at various hip-hop gatherings like jams at Hyde Park’s Blue Gargoyle, he and I hadn’t met until the day of Dzine’s art show. He was curiously dressed that day in blue jeans, black t-shirt, backwards turned King Sun baseball cap, and a reflective orange and yellow visibility vest that he had somehow acquired. It was the very same vest worn by Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) employees when working on or near the train tracks. He boldly claimed to have worn it during a recent bombing run; a few quick pieces on two buildings across the tracks at 16th street, less than half a block from the Noise mural which, at that time in 1992, was faded with half a decade of decay.

Around the same time, on another late night bombing run, Billy returned to the Beatrice building and actually scrawled out in black spray paint an unedited version of his article, “Chicago: The City That Revived Breakdancing” on the remaining space to the right of the fading "Fuck This Noise!" mural. According to Billy, he didn’t appreciate the editorial liberties that The Source had taken with his work, and wanted to make it available--in its unedited entirety--to the hip-hop kids of the Chi-town underground.

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Excerpt from "Upski & Me: The Bread Ties that Bind" by St. Paco, published in Kung Fu Grip! #3


Funky Flyer King – Regnoc of Dem Dare

In the boogie down Chi-town, between 1990 and 1994, the legendary urban fraternity known as Dem Dare had most of the Windy City's party scene under padlock. This multifaceted crew was made up of deejays Twilite Tone (aka Ynot), X-Ray, Reno, and the funky flyer rocker known as Regnoc.

It was through Regnoc's skillfully made flyers, that most of the young party people in Chicago were introduced to the productions of Dem Dare. Each 8.5" x 11" or 11" x 14" handbill carried his trademark blend of graffiti writing, black pidgin English, and comic strip-style cartoons--complete with slang-filled word balloons.

Unlike a lot of party pluggers circulating in the "Chi" at the time, Regnoc's flyers always offered a clearly defined aesthetic and a signature theme. Depicted on each of the black & white handouts were scenes of cool urban youths rockin' fly clothes branded with the embroidered logos of Polo, Adidas, Timberland, Nautica, and others.

In addition to providing interested parties with the requisite information one would expect from a flyer (who, what, when, where and how much), the recipients got a little something extra, too. From each sheet, cool hunters got a glimpse at a very bourgeois lifestyle from the nicer parts of the hood, as well as some its accompanying philosophy.

Like so many other hip-hop heads in the late 1980s and 90s, the Dem Dare posse was on that Nation of Islam-inspired “god body shit.” As such, the hella condescending view that the Five Percent splinter sect holds towards the ignorant 85% of humanity ('cause they lack knowledge of self) was right up in the esoteric mix.

Observing the lessons of the Percenters, black women were adoringly referred to as "wisdoms" and "Earths," swine or pork eating was forcefully rejected, and the books of Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam in Chicago, was recommended reading. And on at least one flyer, folks with woolly curls (or dreads) atop their heads were said to have "hair like Jesus."

And speaking of the anointed one...

In one of Kanye West's typically candid interviews, recorded in 2002 while seated in the barber's chair of Ibn Jasper, the "Jesus Walks" rapper refers to Regnoc--well-known in Polo worshiping circles for his fabled Ralph Lauren sportswear collection--as the "god of Polo." Even more, the Louie Vuitton Don enthusiastically calls him the "god of Chicago hip-hop."

Now, while this journalist prolly wouldn't go as far in his praises of Regnoc as "Yeezy" does, he cannot help but recall here the not-so-old adage that God is in the details. And this because Regnoc's celestial body of work is all about the details.

From 1994 to 2000, a period that would see the quick end of one creative era and the start of another, Regnoc (now Reggieknow) moved the marketing of hip-hop to a whole 'nother level. While working for Chicago's Burrell Communications, he masterminded a highly successful series of hip-hop flavored Sprite commercials--Yes, those Sprite commercials.

It was Reggie who oversaw those dope hip-hop "Obey Your Thirst" spots. For anyone who missed ‘em, the 30-60 second ads featured rappers like MC Shan & KRS-One, Grand Puba, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Nas, AZ, and others. As the brainchild of one of hip-hop's own, the thoughtful spots touched the hearts and mind's of the generation. But the best of those ads was still yet to come.

In 1998, Reggie's five-part Voltron spots, featuring Common, Fat Joe, Mack 10, Goodie Mob, Afrika Bambaataa and Jazzy Jay, rocked both the small screen and the domes of old school cartoon fans. The following year, he assembled the clan of the "Five Deadly Women." This second campaign, based on a Shaw Brothers celluloid classic, featured Roxanne Shante, Lady Bug Mecca, Eve, Mia X, Amil, Angie Martinez, Millie Jackson, Swizz Beats and Kool Keith. 

If you were watching Soul Train, Rap City, or even Dragon Ball in the mid to late 1990s, by way of the commercial break you'd actually come to know some of this master's later and greater works. But since everything great starts somewhere, this YKFS retrospective is goin' all the way back in the day to spotlight a classic time in Chicago hip-hop when Reggieknow was the city's flyest "paper king"

Submitted for your approval: the Dem Dare flyers of Regnoc.