BARACK OBAMA ::: Politician
Kenrya says…Barack Obama, who else?! Call him a celebrity if you want to, but I haven’t been this excited about a politician’s drive and potential in, well, ever. Did you see that ish (edit: Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech) last night? That man is a rockstar with a purpose!
Angela says…No, itâ€™s not just for the fine figure he turns in a swim suit, the barriers heâ€™s already broken, or even the incredibly fine woman on his arm, though all those things are pretty awesome. Instead, thereâ€™s something about the way his name continued to pop up in the conversations we had with all our BOS nominees, revealing a genuine sense of excitement that is in the air. Yup, Barack Obama has to be the ultimate Boy of Summer for 2008.
The whole thing smacks of a movement. For the first time in our lives, young people are going to the mat, and the booth, for a candidate we actually believe in. Obamaâ€™s candidacy has forced us to challenge our own cynicismâ€¦ Is this really happening in my lifetime? Yes, perhaps it is. This sense of movement is even inspiring artistsâ€”from Shephard Faireyâ€™s â€œProgressâ€ propaganda posters to Will.i.amâ€™s hyped â€œYes We Canâ€. For a generation that has thus far willingly defined ourselves by a carefully draped insouciance, suddenly weâ€™re all socked in the face with a dose of starry-eyed hope. And you know what? It feels good.
Mahogs says…A good 60 percent of my conversations this summer have been about this year’s political race and the magnificent force otherwise known as Senator Barack Obama. He IS the man of summer.
David Sedaris ::: Author
Ms. Skeptical says…No one says it better than he does. “Real-ish” or not. Check out the latest When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Admittedly, not his best, but nothing could beat Me Talk Pretty One Day.
Tim Russert ::: Broadcast Journalist
JBakes says…I admit, it took me FOREVER to write this…there are so many boys and summer is so short! But seriously, my Boy Of Summer was hard to decide. I literally went nutso trying to come up with a super-celeb type dude who could hold this title, and then it dawned on me that my BOS has been my Sunday, post-hangover wake-up call for the past 10 years. His name was Tim Russert and he HELD DOWN “Meet The Press” on NBC with honesty, dignity and grace. Tim kept himself down to earth for political novices like myself and could decipher through the bullshit like no other. As I waited for Barack Obama to deliver his historic acceptance speech and watched Wolf Blitzer and company deliver their takes on the evening, I wish that Tim could’ve be with us to offer his insight. I can’t wax poetic about how I knew him, nor how he changed my life or anything, but I bet that if he were still alive, he would drop a few classic gems about what we are witnessing right now. Tim died the past June, but thanks to YouTube and the wonders of the Internet, you can see for yourself why he is my Boy of the (Political) Summer!
Usain Bolt aka ‘Lightning Bolt’ ::: Olympic Phenomenon
French Kissed says…So this is why he’s hot….the entire world was talking about swimmer Michael Phelps’ Olympic wins. Then, in 9.69 seconds Bolt was able to steal the spotlight becoming the first man to set world records in the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay at a single Olympics. Not to mention, he did it with his trademark swagger and great smile!
Lil Wayne ::: Hip-Hop’s Greatest Surprise
Zoe says…This kid stayed relevant in an over saturated, boring music scene. Just when we you thought people had had enough of him, Lil Wayne sold 1 million albums in one week. I can’t stop listening to his masterpiece, Tha Carter III. Definitely top five of the year. “You thought Lil Wayne was Weezy, but Weezy is Wayne”-“DontGetIt” quoted from Tha Carter III.
David Oliver ::: Olympian
Says The Single Girl…Oliver is a track star and I would definitely sit on his face!
David Miliband ::: England’s Foreign Secretary
Miss London says…My boy of summer was a bit of a difficult choice as most of the boys I can think about are American. So I had to get the help of a few of my girlfriends to come up with a boy who we respected, admired and had the potential to be kinda cute. So we chose a politician, David Miliband. Heâ€™s currently our Foreign Secretaryâ€¦and one of the strongest possibilities to become Prime Minister if good ol Gordon Brown is thrown out of office.
There were rumblings this summer of ousting Gordon as PM, and David came out on top as a candidate and most younger folk respect him. So what makes him great? Heâ€™s got an American wife, theyâ€™ve adopted two children (almost unheard of in political office) and he took paternity leave when they received both childrenâ€¦ (a politician taking paternity leave?! Heavens no!!!!!!) Itâ€™s also possible that he may well inject a spot of life into what is otherwise a boring political landscape this side of the Atlantic.Heâ€™s also â€“ at 43 â€“ a lot younger than the alternatives. He can also carry off a suitâ€¦ which a lot of politicians in this country seem to be incapable of doing. Especially our PMâ€¦ Gordon always looks a bit like his mum dresses him every morning. Sadâ€¦.but true.
TOMOKAZU MATSUYAMA / 32 / BROOKLYN / ARTIST
You may know him as Matzu-MTP, the painter/muralist/installationist whoâ€™s blessed corners and galleries throughout the world. (No doubt our NYC readers will have noticed one of his more conspicuous works, the mural outside the former Triple Crown space on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg). Lately, the artist has let go of the moniker and is now signing his birth name, Tomokazu Matsuyama. This openness to reveal himself has fed into his latest work, a vibrant mish-mash of color that explores what it is to be birthed of two cultures. Tomokazu grew up between a small and largely traditional town in Japan and â€™80s-era Los Angeles, a teenage riot of skate and graffiti culture. He manages to marry both into his work beautifully. With a San Francisco show coming up this December at Frey Norris Gallery and solo show this spring at New Yorkâ€™s Joshua Liner Gallery, weâ€™re expecting to hear a lot more noise from Tomokazu in the coming year. We caught up with him over the phone from Tokyo, not even a thirteen-hour time difference can stop us!
Tomokazu‘s Summer Favorites:
SUMMER JAM: DJ Alex from Tokyo. â€œHeâ€™s a really good friend of mineâ€¦ Weâ€™re working on his new album thatâ€™s going to be released in half a year. Iâ€™m listening to it and doing a little drawing every day, which will then become a little booklet that will come with the album.â€
SUMMER SPOT: Eat Records, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
SUMMER CRUSH: â€œMy girlfriend Maho who is in Tokyo. Iâ€™m here for the whole summer so thatâ€™s my summer crush.â€
Angela is to summer what popsicles are to little girls (or Steely D)….yummy! Read more of her at angelacravens.com.
images via Gion and Yojiro Imasaka
JACOB VARGAS / 37 / LOS ANGELES / PLAYER
What do Mi Vida Loca, Next Friday, and Traffic all have in common? No less than the talents of one Jacob Vargas, who ignited our teenage fantasies in Gas Food Lodging as the dreamy bad boy Javier, who solely by the skill of his lovemaking, teaches the quirky, misunderstood heroine that â€œthe desert is alive!â€ (we could go on about our love for this film, but weâ€™d only continue to embarrass ourselves). Youâ€™re sure to spot Jacob in a decidedly less sensitive role next week, when he appears in Death Race, playing a badass member of a pit crew opposite Jason Statham and Tyrese. We caught the Mexican-born former B-boy by phone as he was driving to the gym. Such an LA actor, that one!
So, Jacob, we have to tell you that you were in one of our favorite movies of all time, Gas Food Lodging.
Oh wow! Youâ€™re going way back! That was such a good film. I really enjoyed that oneâ€¦ that was true independent filmmaking.
So it had a real DIY sensibility?
Totally. We were in a small town in New Mexico. We were staying at a cheap little motel there, just getting this thing done out of love.
How was working with director Allison Anders?
She was such a loving, nurturing person. Every morning she would greet our cast with a hug. I really like that way of filmmaking. It was such a great environment to work in.
It must be such a different environment from Death Race!
Well you know, itâ€™s such a Hollywood action movie. Thereâ€™s a lot of money being thrown [into production]. It was a great cast and crew, but it wasnâ€™t that nurturing environment where I was greeted with a hug every morning.
Yeah, instead youâ€™re blowing things up every morning.
Although the one great thing about Death Race for me was Ian McShane [Al Swearengen in Deadwood!]. He was the best actor to work with on the setâ€¦ He was like a father figure to us. He would throw lines that he didnâ€™t want to say at usâ€”very much a team player. He created a great environment for everyone. Heâ€™s been around forever and he was just the funniest guy. Heâ€™d always order us poutine, itâ€™s a Canadian stapleâ€”french fries with gravy and cheese curd. Itâ€™s amazingly good, but horrible for you.
At the movies recently, we saw the audience just go nuts when the trailer for Death Race came on.
Itâ€™s a 16-year-oldâ€™s wet dream. Itâ€™s got action, tough guys, fast cars, great car crashes and hot chicks. What more can you ask for?
Youâ€™ve been in a lot of films, but youâ€™ve always managed to maintain this great balance between indies and blockbusters.
I think for an actor, the blockbusters are great. You get great exposure, and itâ€™s a nice payday. But the indies are where an actorâ€™s real heart is. You can really be creative and take risks. Also, you can work with new, on the verge, undiscovered talent.
When did you first become aware that you were good at acting?
Not until recently! I never really took acting classes. I always had this natural instinct and just kind of went with it. It wasnâ€™t until I did Traffic that it all kind of changed for me. I saw a whole different level of acting, and of commitment. Working with Benicio [Del Toro], Don Cheadle, and [Steven] Soderberg, I realized that I really have to commit a bit more to the art.
You just finished Bitter Grapes, a Mexican-American family drama. Did that have a special connection for you?
My family migrated to the US when I was one year old, so Iâ€™m pretty much American. I grew up eating pizza and watching The Brady Bunch.
Iâ€™m very proud of my heritage and I do love telling the stories of the immigrant experience. My familyâ€”weâ€™re all immigrants. But whatâ€™s interesting is that we shot in Tijuana and Mexico City, and I thought it would be a great homecoming. Iâ€™m going back to Mexico, the place of my birth. I thought they were gonna throw a parade for me, but quite the contrary! I felt a bit of resistance from Mexicans. They treated me as if I was an American, so it was a little shocking.
You grew up in LAâ€”what about the city inspires you?
I love LA. Itâ€™s just a great blending of cultures hereâ€¦ The one downside to LA in my mind is that everything closes at two in the morning. I think they should keep everything open until four like in New York and Chicago.
So do you still breakdance, then?
I do in my mind but my body doesnâ€™t let me anymore!â€¦ I did a bit in Jarheadâ€”there was a scene where it sort of took over me and I started breakdancing. I think once itâ€™s in you itâ€™ll never leave. Once a B-boy, always a B-boy.â€¢
Jacobs’s Summer Favorites:
SUMMER JAM: Lilâ€™ Wayneâ€”â€œLollipopâ€
SUMMER READ: Victor E. Franklâ€”A Manâ€™s Search for Meaning. â€œI donâ€™t know if itâ€™s a fun summer read, but itâ€™s what Iâ€™m reading.â€
SUMMER SPOT: Griffith Park. â€œIâ€™ve been taking the family hiking. Weâ€™ve got to be more spontaneous and healthy. I let my daughter watch way too many cartoons.â€
Like “C Angie C’s” work? She IS the Girl of the Summer! Read more of her at angelacravens.com
Jacob Vargas, shot by one of our favorite Los Angeles artists, Estevan Oriol.
REY VALENTIN / 29 / LOS ANGELES / ACTOR
Itâ€™s tempting to write actor Rey Valentin off as just another Hollywood hottie. Those looks. That name. But judging by the challenging roles heâ€™s been choosing lately, Rey is one up-and-comer whoâ€™s got more on his mind than the average player. You may have spotted the Puerto Rican (by way of Bridgeport, Conn) in HBOâ€™s current miniseries Generation Kill, about marines in the early days of the Iraq war and created by The Wire‘s team. Keep your eyes peeled for Rey this fall, when he appears in the explosive ensemble drama Crossing Over, an exploration of immigration issues in America, with Sean Penn, Harrison Ford, and Ashley Judd.
Tell me a little about Generation Kill. As someone who doesnâ€™t shy away from the political, this must have been an incredible experience.
First of all, when I found out I was working with David Simon and Ed Burns and that I was going to be doing a show about Iraq in Africa, I lost my mind. It was like the biggest call Iâ€™ve ever had, as far as my career, as far as my life. I always wanted to go to Africa and I never imagined it would be on this grand scale. It was really mind-blowing just to think about traveling to the motherland and then do a show that has such relevance to whatâ€™s happening right now.
You worked closely with real Marines who even put the cast through boot camp.
Those guys were there firsthand and they were an immense tool for any actor, because all we had to do was check our ego at the door, listen to these stories of what happened, and just embody the feeling that we would get just listening to these guys, being out there in the field. It was amazing.
We did a screening in Camp Pendleton and we were all pretty nervous. We did this show for these real soldiers watching. They laughed at every single joke, and they got quiet at all the times that there was casualties, and then we had a Q&A afterwards. One guy came up to meâ€”he thought I was [my character Cpl. Gabriel] Garza! He grabbed me by my shoulders and said â€œGarza!â€ I said, â€œNo, no, I play Garza.â€ He goes, â€œOh, fuck brother, fuck man, damn. You had him down like a T!â€
Here is a story that is not about some dead soldier, or some battalion that lived in the â€™70s. These are real guys walking around planet earth right now. As actors, we were concerned that we needed to get these guys right, because weâ€™re going to have a bunch of angry marines looking for us!
You all lived in Africa for seven months during filming.
I ended up staying an extra month. We wrapped in December and a lot of the guys were desperate to go home and see their families. I said hey, Iâ€™m in Africa, itâ€™s summer here, itâ€™s peak time and I donâ€™t know when Iâ€™ll ever come back. I ended up going back to Mozambique to continue my scuba diving. I went to Cape Town and tried to have more of a cultural experience as well.
Crossing Over is already generating a lot of buzz and controversy for the way it deals with immigration issues. Did this project affect you on a personal level?
Last year before I went to Africa, I was really a part of the movement that they had in downtown Los Angeles of immigration reformâ€¦ I go and drive around the richest areas of Los Angeles and I think, look who really takes care of this land. The so-called immigrants. They do so much for this state alone. And they do so much for the country. Thatâ€™s what was so interesting about Generation Kill as well, because there were so many Latino soldiers on the front lines. I think Crossing Over is really going to expose what is the nightmare of so-called immigration reform. I think theyâ€™re being strategic in releasing it before the election because itâ€™s another hot topic out here. Wayne Kramer isnâ€™t looking to entertain, heâ€™s looking to expose, which is really great.
I hear youâ€™re in a pretty intense sex scene in the movie.
Thereâ€™s no way I could be nervous or vulnerable or anything because I just kept thinking about what [my co-star] Melody [Khazae] had to do in the movie! I canâ€™t invite my mom to this. In fact, Iâ€™m gonna wait until I get a copy of the DVD to kind of edit it myself and then maybe give my mom and grandmother that copy. I donâ€™t know if my aunts are ready for this.
So do you have to kind of distance yourself to do a scene like that?
To me it was very exciting in the sense that this is the closest that Iâ€™ve come to being an exhibitionist. Iâ€™m not that way by natureâ€¦ Itâ€™s insane because hereâ€™s [Wayne Kramer] who is directing Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, and now heâ€™s working with us. Thereâ€™s a whole film crew, itâ€™s a closed set, Melody is fully naked, Iâ€™ve just got a little sock onâ€”itâ€™s just insane.
You totally have the perfect heartthrob name.
And itâ€™s really my name! Actually, my original name was supposed to be Ruben Valentin, but my father, whose name is Ruben Valentin, did not show up when I was born, so my mother named me Rey instead. She said, this is when my king was born.â€¢
Rey’s Summer Favorites:
SUMMER JAM: â€œNasâ€™ new album.â€
SUMMER READ: Noam Chomskyâ€”Interventions
SUMMER CRUSH: Alice Braga (the hottie from City of God – Parlour approves. She’s dope!)
Like “C Angie C’s” work? She IS the Girl of the Summer! Read more of her at angelacravens.com
More fire! Or rather, more Latino actors who make us go mmm… Next week, we’re up close and personal with Jacob Vargas of Death Race.
RYAN LESLIE / 29 / HARLEM / MUSIC MAN
OK, so the guysâ€™s a prodigy. He talked his way into Harvard at the tender age of 15, and mastered the art of MySpace promotion when most of us were still using AOL. Though heâ€™s readying to release his debut, Ryan Leslie has been on the scene for a minute, having leveraged hits for Cassie, BeyoncÃ© and Britney into a signature sound and business. His spacey-synthy, pro-monogamy single â€œDiamond Girlâ€ proves thereâ€™ll be more to come when his self-titled album drops on September 16. But is there more to Ryan Leslie than whatâ€™s on the well-groomed (and well-documented) surface? We caught up with him as he was frantically prepping to shoot the video for his new single â€œAddictionâ€ to find out.
I heard youâ€™re just back from Milan Fashion week. Anything catch your eye?
There was quite a lot that caught my eye. Iâ€™m a custom guy so I usually go to the shows to get inspired for my own individual styleâ€¦ Being a guest of DSquared and getting to see the Armani show, hanging out with Donatella Versaceâ€”I had a great time.
People know you as a producer, but youâ€™re also an artist, filmmaker, businessmanâ€¦
I really just enjoy being able to be creative in all the different media I have access to. Nowadays itâ€™s so cool to be able to jump online and IM the best team of young talented folks from wherever.
Youâ€™re like the consummate MySpace generation artist.
Thanks a lot. I definitely had to in the beginning because clearly my first major success [Cassieâ€™s â€œMe & Uâ€] was a result of the phenomenon of social networking and online video. I couldnâ€™t get on television or the radio because Cassie was a new artist, but we controlled her Myspace profile and we controlled her distribution channels. People basically chose her and made her into the star that she actually became. I went on to share those trade secrets and techniques with Puffy and he went on to have the fastest scoring MySpace profile in the history of the site.
So whatâ€™s the deal with the self-documentation? Do you still employ a videographer full-time?
Yeah, heâ€™s actually filming this interview now. When we first started working with Cassie, Tommy [Mottola] suggested that maybe this was the stuff that a reality show was made of, and we had a camera crew following us for a bit. We didnâ€™t end up doing a reality show but we were able to capture some really incredible memories on tour. I thought since I can afford it, Iâ€™ll have somebody with me all the time. We now probably have over 1500 hours of footage from my life since 2005. Itâ€™s really incredible when you sit down and look at the archives, to see how far Iâ€™ve come and the pivotal moments in my life and my career. To have them documented is really priceless.
Can you share any details with us about the â€œAddictionâ€ video that you are currently shooting?
Itâ€™s a nod to George Michaelâ€™s 1990 â€œFreedomâ€ video. The â€œAddictionâ€ chorus features Cassie and her schedule doesnâ€™t allow her to be in this video. So I thought creatively, with a nod to George Michaelâ€™s historic video, we would cast some of the emerging models that were featured in the latest Italian Vogue Black Issue. I was able to retain the services of Bethann Hardison, a very influential agent, to do the casting for the girls and sheâ€™s picked a cast thatâ€™s just amazing.
Weâ€™re really excited about the potential of this video. Itâ€™s making a statementâ€”providing alternative examples of how women are portrayed, and of how black women are portrayed. Iâ€™ve been sort of pigeonholed in this R&B singer category but having the academic pedigree, traveling the world in the way that I have, speaking the languages that I do, and being raised in the manner that I was raisedâ€”I want this video to be an expression of that. I want to celebrate beauty.
The new album tells the story of this doomed relationship. Was it inspired by real life at all?
Kind of. Any relationship right now, with my career, is doomed from the beginning. Because thereâ€™s sort of the initial allure of this is interesting, heâ€™s kind of got this singer-songwriter rock star thing going on. Then through time theyâ€™ll get to understand that Iâ€™m pretty obsessive about the creative product that Iâ€™m putting together, and I can be pretty self-absorbed and selfish about my craft. That usually leads to feelings of neglect, a lot of canceled dates, and usually thatâ€™s the pathway to a breakup.
So youâ€™re looking for one good girl whoâ€™s gonna break the cycle?
Who isnâ€™t looking for that one good girl whoâ€™ll make you feel like itâ€™s time for you to slow down for a second? Maybe Iâ€™m sort of self-destructive because I also understand that failed relationships make for great records. â€¢
Ryan’s Summer Favorites:
SUMMER JAM: Stevie Wonderâ€”All I Do
SUMMER SPOT: â€œThereâ€™s still so much to conquer here in New York City.â€
SUMMER CRUSH: â€œIâ€™m so self-absorbedâ€¦ Filmmaking is really the crush.â€
Like “C Angie C’s” work? Read more of her at angelacravens.com
Hollywood’s got a new Valentino in town. Next week we’re getting to know all about actor Rey Valentin of HBO’s Generation Kill.
BLU / 25 / LOS ANGELES / MC
Remember when crushes on rappers were still kind of cool? We think it mustâ€™ve been around the time that the summer soundtrack shifted from Q-Tip, Tupac, Butterfly, and Nas to 50 Cent, Lilâ€™ Wayne and, um, â€˜Ye that crushes on rappers became kind ofâ€¦ eh.
Enter West Coast MC Blu, who has the power to make us believe again. Since releasing Below the Heavens with DJ/producer Exile last year and C.R.A.C. Knuckles collabo The Piece Talks in â€˜05, Blu has been renewing an emphasis on lyricism and solid beats, all with a healthy dose of charm. We caught up with Blu, aka Johnson Barnes, the day after he shared the SOBâ€™s stage in NYC with Wale and Talib Kweli. It was a night when heâ€”seemingly effortlesslyâ€”shook up a crowd of genuine hip hop heads and rendered us, yep, putty in his hands.
So Blu, a lot of people have been comparing you to the great â€™90s lyricists. Does that bother you?
I love that! Thatâ€™s my era right there! Thatâ€™s what I listen to, even to this day, because I missed that whole era growing up. I wasnâ€™t allowed to listen to hip hop growing up.
Why werenâ€™t you allowed to listen to hip hop?
My stepfather was a reverend and hip hop wasnâ€™t his forteâ€”or anything on the radio, for that matter.
So what was playing around the house when you were growing up?
Theyâ€™d play Al Green, gospel tapes, cassette tapes of preachers preachingâ€¦ When I was in 9th grade I moved in with my real dad and from there I was allowed to listen. I caught up on a lot of hip hop history in a quick time span. By the time I got out of high school I was a huge fan of Native Tongues. I was rocking my Wu sweater every day. I started the hip hop club at San Pedro high and organized battles between other schools with MCing, DJing, graffiti and breakingâ€”the four elements. I used to jack a lot of CDs then, so I would give the winners CDs that I would jack at Wherehouse or Tower. (Laughing) And it would be the new hot album, like Redman and Method Man.
What does your family think of your career now?
I was over at my momâ€™s one weekendâ€”Iâ€™ve got a grip of siblings over there. I woke up in the morning and they had my CD playing ultra loud! They still canâ€™t really listen to hip hop over there, but I just gave my mom the album so she had it all turned up in the morning. My mom doesnâ€™t really trip on me. She loves everything Iâ€™m doing. She just wants me to keep God close. I try to tell her my main thing in life is God, but itâ€™s hard for her to understand that when Iâ€™m cussinâ€™ all the time and shit.
So much of rap music has always been about putting on this mask, boasting about money, cars and girls. But your music rather blatantly talks about the failures and the daily grind.
Iâ€™m really just talking about my everyday struggle. And thatâ€™s why itâ€™s relative to everyone else, because everyone does struggle. Even if itâ€™s not the same struggle, people relate to it.
What do you think drives you to bare it all out there?
I just really donâ€™t care anymore. At first it was because I didnâ€™t think people would hear me the way they are hearing me now, and I was just making music for myself. Now that itâ€™s come to fruition, I do have a responsibility to uphold as an MC, but itâ€™s still for myself at the end of the day.
When I was 19, I used to record a lot but I hadnâ€™t found myself lyrically yet. Labels like Interscope were interested in some of the songs that I was cutting. Itâ€™s funny because if I would have gotten put on then, I probably would have ended up like Chingy. â€¢
Bluâ€™s Summer Favorites:
SUMMER JAM: â€œDance Dance Danceâ€ by Lykke Li
SUMMER READ: â€œNative Sonâ€ by Richard Wright
SUMMER CRUSH: â€œI got a lady, so I canâ€™t really have a summer crush [Laughs, then considers]â€¦ I got a crush on all the girls that are doing it in hip hop right now. They got me going crazy. Itâ€™s very inspirational to see them.â€
Like Angie’s work, read more of her at angelacravens.comAbove Image: Jati Lindsay
NEXT WEEKâ€¦ could you be his Diamond Girl? Ryan Leslie revs up for summer.
GABRIEL URIST / 29 / NEW YORK / METALSMITH
To spend an afternoon at Gabriel Uristâ€™s downtown studio is to get a glimpse at contemporary pop cultureâ€”sports, music, and artâ€”melted down and re-presented as a few precious, yet heavy, pieces of gold. There are ideas scattered about detailing new works for the NBA, press clippings from his New Era pendants, and in a prized position behind a glass case sits his recent commission from the New Museum, a collaboration with Mexican artist Daniel Guzman. Flip through Gabrielâ€™s photo album, and youâ€™ll glimpse familiar faces like Nas, Kanye West, and Baron Davis, all well-accessorized. Even accomplished author (wink) Jenna Jameson smiles flirtatiously for the camera, wearing one of Gabrielâ€™s new womenâ€™s chains, bearing a delicate stiletto heel dangling at her famous cleavage. But despite our excitement, itâ€™s just another day at the office for the don of downtown bling.
So how does a sports fanatic from Ann Arbor, Michigan get into the jewelry trade?
I was a painter in high school and took a metalsmithing class my last year out of high school. I started making jewelry for my friends. I got a job at a jewelry store and kept learning techniques and the jewelry trade, but I didnâ€™t really have any idea of what fashion was all about. I just made t-shirts and hung out with a lot of skaters and musicians.
So the jewelry trade found you?
Yeah. When I first started, I wanted to make jewelry for rappers.
You seem to bring an artistâ€™s sensibility to the craft.
I didnâ€™t really get into it for precious materials, or high fashion, or high price point items. I just like working with my hands.
You work on so many different collaborations and personal commissions. How do you choose your projects?
I have a lot of different things that I take into account when I try to prioritize all the different projects that I work on. Iâ€™m working on tons of stuff at the same time. Video games, basketball, making jewelry for video director Chris Robinson, Claw Money, Adidas. Iâ€™m doing a collabo with Rob Walker [from The New York Timesâ€™ Consumed column]. Itâ€™s gonna be a big bird, an albatross.
Thatâ€™s kinda heavy. Is he gonna wear it?
I dunno. Iâ€™d wear it.
Youâ€™re creating an Obama chain. Is that a different sensibility, using politics as your point of inspiration?
Thereâ€™s politics in sports, and thereâ€™s sports in politics. This is the most exciting election Iâ€™ve ever seen. I figured it would be a good opportunity to apply metalsmithing to a political campaign. I want Obama to win. I know other people would want an Obama medallion, just to represent that they want him to win, too. Itâ€™s exciting. People like to display their excitement for things on their body.
You make everything by hand here in New York. So few American goods are made here now.
I think if Obama wins, weâ€™re gonna start to see a lot more local businesses become successful. I think thereâ€™s a direct relationship between the arts and retail and the economy.
Do you design differently when creating a dudeâ€™s piece as opposed to a womanâ€™s?
No. Women can wear anything. The pieces just have to be smallerâ€¦ Iâ€™ll wear a small piece. I think subtle jewelry is nice.
I notice youâ€™re not wearing any jewelry today.
I do sometimes. Just not when Iâ€™m working. I throw around everything that I wear. Iâ€™ll ride my bike and go play basketballâ€”I break everything!
Gabrielâ€™s Summer Favorites:
SUMMER JAM: â€œComfortableâ€ Babyface and Lilâ€™ Wayne
SUMMER READ: â€œBuying Inâ€ by Rob Walker
SUMMER SPOT: The Park
Like Angie’s work, read more of her at angelacravens.com
All Photos Courtesy of Gabriel Urist
Ladies, get ready for next Friday’s post. Your new favorite west coast MC tells us why he’s so BLU...
(Steely D & Angie C and JBakes will be attacking him @ SOBâ€™s over the weekend).
GBENGA AKINNAGBE / BROOKLYN, NY / THESPIAN
Though heâ€™ll no doubt be hounded by calls of â€œChris!â€ forever more, regardless of the accolades future roles might bring, whatâ€™s striking about actor Gbenga Akinnagbe (Ben-gah Ah-kee-nah-bay) is a certain ease and lightness in conversation. He reveals himself as a direct opposite to his breakthrough role on The Wire as an assassin, where he was just a little too good at scaring the bejeezus out of us.
Since bringing life to TVâ€™s shadowy psychopath with a taste for Dem Franchize Boyz, Gbenga has made interesting choices. He took a thoughtful turn in The Savages with Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Heâ€™s also just wrapped next summerâ€™s popcorn hit, playing opposite John Travolta and Denzel Washington in a remake of 1970s cult favorite, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Oh yeah, and in his downtime? Campaigning for Obama and organizing for All For Africa, a charity that â€œhelps establish systems in Africa where small economies can be built and self-sustained.â€ We always appreciate a man with a plan.
So Gbenga, we have to tell youâ€”we sat across from you on the train one day during a time when we were watching The Wire obsessively, and for a split second we were honestly scared!
(Laughing) Yeah, I get that a lot.
It must be pretty incredible to be dealing with people on that level all the time. Just the reactions you must get as youâ€™re going about your day.
Thereâ€™s a wide variation of reactions from people. With some, initially thereâ€™s fear, some people envy this character, some are turned on sexually by this character. Itâ€™s given me a glimpse of the human psyche.
You went from The Wire, which has a very sort-of male sensibility, to working with these incredible women Laura Linney and director Tamara Jenkins on The Savages. Was it a different energy?
Absolutely, and male and female is a good way of putting it. The Savages was such a well-written script and from this womanâ€™s perspective, she wrote these really good roles for men. Oftentimes when youâ€™re writing from a certain perspective, itâ€™s easy to make one group or gender the bad guy or good guy. Tamara was very specific in not creating stock characters, and making people live.
Itâ€™s also not too many young actors who can say theyâ€™ve made out with Laura Linney.
(Laughing) Rehearsals were wonderful!
What was it like on the set of Pelham One Two Three?
Most of my scenes were with John Travolta and he was very kind to all of us. Just seeing him work was great. Heâ€™s such a good bad guy.
Did he give you advice?
He was carrying such a great deal of the work, so I didnâ€™t want to interfere with his process. Whenever he wanted to joke around or hang out, we were open, but otherwise we let him prepare and do his thing. Working with [director] Tony Scott was one of the pinnacles of my career. Heâ€™s so meticulous about what he wants from everyone, and heâ€™s warm when he carries it out. Heâ€™s not what you think a big-time powerful director would be like.
One thing that people might not know about you is that youâ€™re quite active, politically.
These things have always interested me, especially with my background. I know it sounds clichÃ© but itâ€™s true, I appreciate being able to give back and realize that my life and everything Iâ€™ve been able to do is a gift.
Iâ€™m also very excited about this election year. Itâ€™s an amazing time. Everything thatâ€™s been happening in this country the last eight years, the complete omission of the Constitution and our judicial branchâ€¦ Nothing is going to be fixed in one administration, probably not two administrations, but thereâ€™s a chance for real change, and thatâ€™s unprecedented.
Gbenga’s Summer Favorites:
SUMMER JAM: Wale
SUMMER SPOT: Bread Stuy (BROOKLYNNNNNN!)
SUMMER CRUSH: â€œI wouldâ€™ve loved to have met Cleopatra. She held it down, from what I understand.â€
Like Angie’s work, read more of her at angelacravens.com
[Photos: Kevin Amato]
Kevin Amato shot Gbenga at his summer spot, Bread Stuy cafe. As far as Boys of Summer go, Kevin is no slouch himself. Check out more of his work at www.kevinamato.com
LLOYD / AGE 22 / ATLANTA / CROONER
We love a guy who can surprise us. Take Lloyd, who inspired some serious hair envy with his latest â€œGirls Around the Worldâ€ clip. When we caught up with the singer over the phone from ATL, it turned out that thereâ€™s more than a little depth to his latest tale of girl-watching. As he preps for the release of his third album Lessons in Love, dropping August 5, and upcoming tour dates with The Dream, Lloyd reveals himself as a young dude who has more than just intergalactic infatuation on his mind. Schoolâ€™s in session!
Hi Lloyd, where are you? Youâ€™re not on tour yet, are you?
No, but Iâ€™m about to. Iâ€™m getting ready to take over the world, or this solar system. Weâ€™re going to other planetsâ€”first stop was the video with Hype Williams and Lil Wayne.
Yeah, you had all the Parlour girls jealous. We even had a post called â€œLloydâ€™s Hair is Better Than Yours.â€
(Laughs) I wouldnâ€™t say itâ€™s better than anyoneâ€™s! I guess itâ€™s just the Creole in my blood.
So what kind of lessons in love do you have to share with the Parlour girls?
Growing up Iâ€™ve always been kind of blown away by the female psyche, always wanting to get in the minds of girls. Wanting to know what they think about, what they like in guys, if they like me…
Your songs manage to balance fun, party music with a message thatâ€™s still empowering. Youâ€™re enjoying sexuality and women, but at the same time youâ€™re able to big them up.
A big thing that Iâ€™m trying to do is clarifyâ€”whereas love is emotional, lust is physical. You just have to know the difference. A lot of guys would rather make music thatâ€™s rather selfish, thatâ€™s about having money, cars, and girls. I try to make music that gives people a good time. At the end of the day itâ€™s summer time, itâ€™s hot out here, we just want to hear something that cools us down.
What inspires you in daily life?
My family. When I look into my brothersâ€™ faces, and I see that admiration for what Iâ€™m doing, but I also see that drive inside of them. [Not having our dad around when we were growing up] gave me a chance to be an example to them. I really care about them, and those guys are a handful! Theyâ€™re hellâ€™s angels!
That must be inspiring too, just being around that energy.
The energy is what it all transpires from! How you feel inside, how you carry yourself, being healthy probably transpires from being surrounded by good energy. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m always so big on my familyâ€¦ Especially lacking a father growing up, it takes a lot of good people in your life to make sure you come out with a strong head. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m so proud to be able to make music about love and life. I think I have a good idea of what love is all about.
I have an unconditional amount of love from my mother who is a very strong black woman, also a woman who believes in dreams and has really helped me accomplish a lot of my childhood dreams. When I say my music is not as selfish as most, I say that because she really encourages me to make a different message to our youth that really listen to our music.
And itâ€™s on radio hits that the message really gets across.
Growing up, LL Cool J was more relevant to me than my teacher at school! Realizing the influence that I have over the community has really encouraged me to make something about the true meaning of what love is. Thatâ€™s what Lessons in Love is all aboutâ€”teaching the young ladies to spoil yourself because you deserve it. Even the single, â€œGirls Around the Worldâ€, when you hear the title you think, â€˜Oh man, this guy is trying to be such a suave playerâ€™ but when you listen to the lyrics itâ€™s about traveling the world and meeting a lot of people, knowing that one girl for you is really special. In this case, itâ€™s the one girl thatâ€™s been there for me since before the glory. Before I knew that dreams were a reality, the girl that was a big dreamer with me.
Is this a girlfriend that youâ€™re talking about?
I bet you would want to know if thereâ€™s a girlfriend!
The girls wanna know! (yes, we do…cuz we need hair tipsâ€”JBaker)
Itâ€™s more about my fansâ€¦ Iâ€™m still on that journey as far as the one girl for me.
Llyod’s Summer Favorites:
Summertime, Will Smith
Things Iâ€™ve Learned From Women Whoâ€™ve Dumped Me, by Ben Karlin, â€œitâ€™s hilarious!â€
Donâ€™t be skurredâ€”next week weâ€™re chatting up Gbenga Akinnagbe, aka Chris Partlow from The Wire, on supporting Obama, starring with Denzel, and making out with Laura Linney.
[Don’t you love Angela like we do? In addition to being the hottest Swede we know, she manages to consistently write some of the best pieces ever. Find out more at angelacravens.com]