"But I feel like I’ve always been hip-hop though. No matter what, I’m hip-hop, straight up", said Andrew Reynolds as he opened a half-joking, half one-hundred-percent-serious response to a question raised in his recent interview with The Chrome Ball Incident. Coming from someone I consider to be a godfather of skateboarding's punk rock movement, this was an odd statement to read. I took some time, and after re-evaluating my entire childhood it all started to make sense. Reynolds is hip-hop. He always has been. Hip-hop however, much like punk rock is not simply a genre of music. It cannot be categorized by how it sounds or looks. It is not something that can be appraised and quantified at face value. It is none of that. Like punk rock, hip hop is a state of mind - and let me tell you, there's nothing more hip-hop than a ten foot tall noseslide bigspin.
I'm gonna take a step back for a second, though. 2003 was an insane year for skate videos, and for better or for worse, was coincidentally an insane year for hip-hop albums. The same year we were blessed with shrink-wrapped, VHS copies of Yeah Right!, Mosaic, and The DC Video, we were blessed with Compact Disc or KaZaA bootlegs of 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin', Diplomatic Immunity by (you guessed it) The Diplomats, and Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. There must have been something going on in the cosmos that year to allow so much goodness to coexist.
But while all of this insanity was playing out, 2003 gave us another monumental video for the library - Emerica's This is Skateboarding. Now I'll admit, I'm not entirely sure where I was going with this whole comparison of rap albums to skate videos, but I am sure of one thing: Andrew Reynolds is hip-hop in the same way This is Skateboarding is hip-hop. They both just are. To better paint the picture, I've decided to give TIS the VHS Review treatment. Here goes nothing.
I'll start off really exactly at the beginning here. Nothing says "I was released at the peak of the Jackass Era" quite like a WARNING! message, which appears within the video's first 15 seconds of play time. Be safe kids, and definitely don't use the 'F' Word, even if Tosh is the one saying it. Now that we've gotten that out there, lets get right into it.
Oh man, honestly did not expect this to look so good. Is this the intro to a new HBO show? I need to have long hair. My hair needs to grow longer, and I need to be cooler, and live in LA. God dammit. Oh, alright, Drew has short hair, I guess I'm good for now. And why is everything kind of green?
This fat dude won't shut the fuck up, and you know what, I think he's the one getting hostile. Man, fuck him...Is this the 'F' word they were talking about, and did Heath just smile? Now the skating. Why is he going so fast, and where is this line going? He can't be skating this hubba switch...alright, fakie flip on flat. Aha, he's turning around. Hold on, that thing is a lot larger than I thought. You can still stop, Heath, you don't have to try it this time...Just had to try it didn't you?
This slam is almost worse than Matt Schlager vs. 13 Flat 13. He must love the pain. Really a classic Heath part, and kind of crazy to think that he opened the video. After finding out that kickflips were possible out of backside tailslides on handrails, we're treated to three angles of a kickflip frontside 5050 at the famously blue UC Berkely (?) Rail. One important detail about this ender though is that Heath actually kickflipped up and out to the last four steps of this rail, which basically means he did that on a four stair. Pretty soft ender if you ask me.
'Bryan Herman-related Reynolds 2 sales vs. Cherry-related Chuck Taylor sales' is the title of a sales report I would thoroughly enjoy reading. This dude is seriously just repping throughout the entirety of his part, and looking cooler than every other teenage menace East of Los Angeles in the process. He was hucking, grinding handrails attached to more stairs than he was years old, and wearing striped rugby polos before that was ever a thing. Moving on, we see bits and pieces of the Herman we know today, but it looks like he hadn't quite mastered the nollie inward heelflip he is now comfortable tossing over full size trash barrels yet. Still quite the debut for Herman though, and an easily overlooked gap ollie to open his part, too. Classic.
It should be noted at this point that Jon Miner has fucking nailed it with the transitions between parts in this video. After Herman's part fades to black, we're taken behind the scenes to a Barcelona session. Just when we think Herman is going in for a second part, Templeton steps in to try a kickflip into the bank and fails miserably. There's nothing more comforting to me than seeing an established, respected professional skateboarder struggle to kickflip *the right way* - they are human, after all.
Anyhow, what we are supplied with in the following minutes is arguably Templeton's best part (18 stair lipslide fresh off a neck break, c'mon man). Though short and sweet, a lot of ground is covered. Between spots presumably not far from the HB Pier to ones definitely a lot further from it, we start to realize that a lot of traveling was done to make this video. Ed is also sure to remind us that the impossible might be named as such because it is perhaps less than possible to perform one as properly as he. Then alas, an 18 stair lipslide - Holy shit. I think all of us, Ed included, were psyched to find out his board was the only thing that broke upon impact. If you're reading this, I love you Ed.
What a seriously good looking dude. I want everyone reading this who can't yet buy their own 40-ounce to understand that Austin Stephens was the first dude with a membership card to team handsome. First dude who ever skated to Belle & Sebastian, wore a weird Gangs of New York chimney sweeper type of hat for a while, and found a way to gently skate handrails. One of the shortest parts in the vid, and also a part with no lines. Does this sort of make him the anti-Dill?
Here's a part that could have just as easily appeared on the 7 Year Glitch lineup. Much like his Stay gold part, I feel like this one is widely under-appreciated. Suski is truly an all terrain vehicle, and is one of few skaters who has a grind named after him that actually looks cool (I'll revoke this statement once the fandangle is renamed the Fabrizio - give him the respect he deserves). Watching this part I'm not sure whether I like street Aaron or transition Aaron better. Short answer, for now, is both. Part ends with a session on a giant piece of rust jutting out at the end of a kicker. Why, Aaron? Lipslide is the ender, but that front board fatty-to-flatty is what legends are made of.
Maintaining the spirit of insane part transitions, the sound of Suski's salsa track (which I'm certain he hand-picked) quickly morphs into the sound of a song by a band named 'Bleed the Sky'. Thus begins the merciless crusade of Emerica's up-and-comer crew at the time. We're first introduced to Braydon Szafranski, whose debut is marked by an unsuccessful shifty flip down Santa Monica triple. The boy has heart though, and does a shit ton of other stuff to make up for it.
Then we've got Leo, who is carelessly placed in the middle of this whole blitz of an am's section. This is a dude who clearly should have had his own part, and definitely made sure the same mistake wouldn't be made next time around. Here, similarly to Herman though, we're still seeing the makings of a star. There's a chest-high noseslide in there too, wow. You'll get em next time Leo.
The part, almost tragically, ends with Matt Allen. Emerica clearly had a lot invested in this dude at the time, but as we all know now that never quite materialized. Dude could 5-0 the fuck out of a handrail though, I can tell ya that much. Seems like he probably just ran out of handrails that were big enough to 5-0, which makes me wonder: does he have anything against Ben Gilley? He MUST. What would the world be like if Matt Allen 5-0'd El Toro instead of Ben Gilley? I guess we'll never know.
Again, I think this choice in editing is actually kinda smart. They gave us Herman, the young guy, then threw Ed's part on, for the older guys. Now we just went from free swim in the kiddie pool with the am boys to a full on party in the deep end with Darren Navarrette (see what I did there?). I always feel like a fraud trying to say anything about pool skating having never even considered dropping into any type of bowl, but this part isn't entirely awful to watch. Like, if your remote was sort of far from your couch, it would take longer for you to retrieve it and fast-forward thru the part than to just sit there and watch the remaining 20 seconds of it. Just saying.
Erik fucking Ellington. Not kidding if there was a number before one that wasn't zero, that's where he'd rank in my G.O.A.T. list. Ellington released the best Emerica pro-model/colorway EVER, invented the handboard, is from Alaska, then in this part, skated to Danzig. If you were skeptical of Ellington's legend status before, this part puts all doubts to bed.
As far as non-frontside flips/bigspins are concerned, Ellington shows up with a surprising bag of tricks for this part. Notable wildcards are a switch backside flip down 9 in Beverly Hills, and a switch-varial heelflip down another 9 Jereme Rogers would one day perform it's kickflip counterpart over. Also some really good product on display here. Besides the previously mentioned G.C.O.A.T., it appears Ellington requested a shit ton of brown/gum shoes throughout the filming of his part. I think he was probably saving the whole two different colored shoes thing for the Baker video.
My only qualm is that the part is over before it really starts. Though short and sweet/quality over quantity is great, I really would rather just watch 10 hours of Ellington skateboarding.
At this point into the video, and after watching Ellington's part, I actually laughed out loud when I remembered Tosh had a part. We're talking about a blonde DUDE here. I used to really fucking hate this dude, I think because he was on Element? Watching this part now though, as an adult, I realize how good he was. Lots of very chill lines...I think maaaaybe Tosh smokes weed. I also think Tosh's best trick is his ride. He is really just incredible at riding his skateboard. All of this set to Lee 'Scratch' Perry makes everything alright.
From one surfer to another, Tosh transitions into Chris Senn's part. How on Earth does someone specialize in bowl skating AND handrails? Thank god though, because I couldn't handle another pool section. Some crazy things happen in this part though. Like I'm talking reckless things. Perhaps the most profound thing Chris does for us is a double flip off the wall at Burnside. Yes, this man did a double kickflip on transition, and it was incredible. There's also a back noseblunt shuv in there, as well as a kinked hubba boardslide to close out. If you skipped this part as a child, give it another go this time around.
In a jump cut rivaling 2001: A Space Odyssey, a fisheye view of Chris Senn wearing a Destructo shirt, holding his headphones up to the microphone of Jon Miner's VX1000 is replaced with a similarly composed shot of Kevin Long's face. Though it is uncertain whether or not these were the intentions of Jon Miner as an experimental filmmaker, the resemblance is frightening. Lets take a look:
Moving along, an actual skateboard part begins to play, and it's Spanky's. Listening to the 'mixed up' version of The Cure's Close to Me that his skating is set to, you wouldn't assume this was the second to last part in a video closed out by Andrew Reynolds. But it is, and it's incredible. Among the incredible things happening in this part are a 180 off of a cliff, a chest-high nosepick, and most importantly the video's only varialflip.
Much like Herman, lots of good product can be seen attached to Kevin's feet throughout this part. Flashes from his past life as a rider for the original Axion footwear team are present at certain points. My personal favorite is a pair of all white Bevels, seen bright as fuck during his night line at the LA convention center (?) benches. Then just like that, after boardsliding upwards of 600 feet through two kinks, the part is over. The boy done good - next up on the bucket list: going pro, un-going pro, then going pro again.
It's only fitting that the most hip-hop moment in This is Skateboarding serves as the transition into Andrew Reynolds' part. After a confusing five seconds staring at a human pedaling in reverse on a tricycle that is magically blasting music from the genre in question, we are shown the part's first piece of footage. Reyn-Reyn starts us off with what must have been a bet between he and someone else.
"I bet you couldn't do a 7-trick line that begins with a hubba trick, includes at least 3 flat ground tricks, one manual trick, one ledge trick, and ends with a kickflip over a minimum of 14 stairs", said (probably) Josh Beagle.
"OK, I'll do that", said (definitely) Andrew Reynolds. And he did just that. Despite the rookie mistake in exposure setting for the clip's ending, crown jewel 15 stair kickflip, the double angle proves that that shit had to be real. If this was the man's first clip in the video, what on Earth are we about to witness?
He answers this question with a leather-jacketed frontside flip over Love Gap, and so the slaughter begins. It really is ruthless, but so beautiful at the same time. This is what a last part in a video looks like. The part's first minute treats us to a few rare 360 flips from The Boss. One over a five stair, one into a noseslide, and one backwards. We see rolling long-lense for a tall nosemanual, bird's eye view for a fakie frontside flip, and through the fence into the sunset for a handrail nollie halfab crook. And who could forget the shifty flips? The part really is too good, too perfect, too sincere to put into words beyond what I've said here, so I'm just going to leave it at this. To those who understand, thank you. To those who don't, watch that shit right now. This is Skateboarding dood.
Just wanted to call out one moment from the outro that I consider, to this day, to be documentation of the coolest anyone has ever looked while riding a skateboard. I'm speaking of course of the MACBA shifty flip, thrown smack dab in the middle of the section.
During a lull in noise from the appropriately scored Mogwai song, we are given a voyeuristic shot of the session. Just the Emerica team in their heyday, filming some clips over the most hucker-friendly structure in all of ledge-infested Barcelona.
The camera shows us everyone. Drew, Spanky, Tempster, Ellington, and Deanna sitting down for probably the first time all day. Very peaceful. Then the camera jolts back the where Drew was sitting, and he's gone - nowhere to be found. But in a split second, again, the camera pans up. There he is, all the way in back, a mile of run up in front of him. Without any hesitation whatsoever, Reynolds drops his board and takes aim at the virtually graffiti-less four block.
What follows is an effortless shifty flip, presumably a warm up for the nollie cab we saw less than 5 minutes prior. He rolls away, reviews the play with Spanky, looks at the camera and shrugs his shoulders with no disposition one way or another about what he had just done. That, my friends, was undoubtedly hip-hop.