Wearing a camo trucker hat and Billionaire Boys Club T-shirt, Pharrell referred to himself as “Skateboard P” on 2004’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” a nickname he had been given back in high school in Virginia Beach. In the song’s music video, Pharrell also raps, “See these Ice Creams,” as he points to his feet to reveal a pair of blurred-out sneakers. Pharrell’s love for footwear and skateboarding would come together with a pair of skate shoes made by Reebok in 2004 with beepers and dollar signs on them. He’d go onto assemble a skate team, which consisted of Terry Kennedy, Jacob Wilder, Kevin Booker, Cato Williams, and Jimmy Gorecki, a young-but-veteran skater from Philadelphia, and would change the perception of hip-hop, skateboarding, and their symbiotic relationship.
Reebok and Ice Cream would go onto release two more sneakers together, and the team would put out its first and only video, Team Ice Cream Vol.1, in 2006, at the height of the resurgence of streetwear in America. The brand’s logo -- an ice cream cone with cherries for eyes, set behind skull and bones -- became a symbol for a new generation who traded in their 3XL throwback jerseys and size 42 jeans for full-zip hoodies, slimmer jeans, and bright sneakers.
“I didn’t think it was going to leave the lasting impression that it did,” Gorecki says. “The video came out 10 years ago, and I’ve never not heard some sort of acknowledgment from people.”
The sneakers, clothing, and video impacted the burgeoning culture in an unexpected way, and Pharrell’s involvement pushed it all the way to the mainstream. The team original team made it onto BET, toured in Tokyo, and was filming a reality show before disbanding in 2009. The team would later be continued with a new cast of riders, who would help promote Pharrell’s clothing line and his passion for street culture. We spoke with Gorecki about what it was like to be on Ice Cream, have a relationship with Pharrell, and, of course, hear untold stories from back in the day.
All photos by Jason Goldwatch
How did you initially connect with Pharrell?
I had a close friend, Nino Scalia, who had been the brand manager at Zoo York and had worked with Pharrell. Pharrell had done a really short run of ads [for the brand]. He was riding a BMX bike down an alleyway, and he was breakdancing. Nino had gotten really close with Pharrell, then Pharell and [skateboarder] Terry Kennedy started working together. hey [all] sat down with each other with the idea of starting the team. I was on Aesthetics at the time, and I wasn’t sure if this was something that I’d want to do. About a year and a half went by, and I asked them, “Do you still want to do the Ice Cream thing?” And they said, “Yeah, absolutely.” This was about 2003 or 2004.
Did you think you were going to get shit on by skate purists for being on a pop musician’s team?
Part of me knew the kick back I was going to get. But I try not to do anything with that mentality. If I do my best at something, I try not to listen to the outside noise. I knew the immediate skate community wasn’t going to fuck with it.
Did you help Pharrell reinvent himself as Skateboard P?
A lot of his direction was who he is as a person. He grew up skating in Virginia Beach. It wasn’t worth entertaining the conversations and defending him back in the day, because you knew you weren’t going to win. Granted, he might have done interviews and not said the most relevant things, but I looked at his life on a bigger scale. He was taking his time out to work with a bunch of skaters, and it’s not easy to do that. He had all of these massive things going on, and he put a lot of energy into it. I talked to music people on his roster at the time, and they’d be bugging and would say, “You get way more attention and creative focus than we do right now.” And he’s a musician.
How did you guys react to the “Pharrell Can’t Skate” T-shirt that Plain Gravy made back then?
We really didn’t talk about it. Here and there people would jump out and defend him. It’s so corny looking back it now, but Bobby Hundreds had posted something on his MySpace, and I had to message him. It was a picture of the original Ice Cream ad, and it had something in the vein of “Pharrell can’t skate.” I remember hitting Bobby and saying something super ridiculous like, “You’re corny.” I remember going to Bobby’s store for the first time with Nick Tershay. And Bobby was like, “Fuck, you’re bringing Jimmy over here?” And then I met him and he was the nicest guy, I couldn’t even be a bully. Tofer Chin had made the shirts, and now me and him are friends and talk about having kids.
Did you help design the “Board Flip,” the first mass-market Ice Cream sneaker?
Nah, Nigo would submit the designs to Reebok. That was one of the tougher sides of things. When I came on, I was under the impression that we were going to run with that original boutique shoe, which was like a skinny Stan Smith. If you look at what skate shoes are now, that’s what that shoe was back then. It was really good to skate in. You could feel your board well, and the leather was good. The Board Flip was a tough one, though. When we got the first samples, in my gut I was like, “Fuck.” You had to look past certain things for the greater good. I mean, Terry could skate his ass off in them, but I couldn’t.
What was your relationship like with Pharrell?
It was really good. I’ve been a huge fan of music forever. Philly has a rich music history, so I’ve been a student of it. I talked to him about certain things of music, and he didn’t think I’d be up on that. So we had a relationship in regards to that. I was still in college, so he was very supportive of that. I still talk to his mom and little brother to do this today. His mom’s a teacher, so she’d hit me up and ask, “How are your classes doing?” They congratulated me when I graduated. It was a cool, positive relationship.
Terry Kennedy and Stevie Williams once had beef, over skating ledges. Was it weird that you were from Philly and on the same team as him?
Terry and Stevie had multiple interviews where they talked about each other. Stevie had a deal with Reebok at the time, too. They were the top dudes vying for that top spot. The night of the DGK premiere in Philly. Me and Stevie were talking shit back and forth to each other about wanting to do a Ice Cream vs DGK game of skate. Everyone was very competitive. But I don’t think it was more serious that people wanting to be “the man.”
What were your thoughts on Lupe Fiasco being a “skateboard” rapper?
I thought it was cool. I didn’t think it was much different than what we were trying to accomplish. He loved skating. He had a lane and a voice. He’s hella cool, too. I met him with Stevie at an Ice Cream event. I didn’t have any grudge with it.
What was it like getting laced with all the Ice Cream gear?
It was cool, man. It was personally what I was into. I felt fortunate to skate for the company. I was in college at Temple in a Diamond and Dollar Sign button-down shirt, zip-up hoodie, Ice Cream letterman jacket, and the shoes. People thought I had a Star Trak album coming out at the time. I wished I had kept it all. I went on the Internet looking for the jacket in a medium or large the other day. I skated through a lot of it. Then the program and friends died. I gave the rest to my nephews.
When Adidas did a collaboration with BBC on the Stan Smith, which referenced the first Ice Cream sneaker, did that bring back memories?
Absolutely. I like the Adidas stuff. A lot of the miscues that Reebok had dropped the ball on back in the day, Adidas has looked at the design cues they could capitalize on and they did it. They’re making it relevant today.
What do you think about Lil Wayne getting so heavily into skating?
It’s crazy. He’s stopped everything to focus on skating. The guys tell me he skates every night and has multiple skateparks. He found a new passion and went with it.
Did you get to spend a lot of time with Nigo, the Clipse, and all them?
The only time I met Nigo was at the opening of the BBC store in Tokyo. Here and there I crossed paths with the Clipse and Chad Hugo. We’d be in the same places, but we never got to kick it. It was more so of us being in town shooting ads, and they’d be there.
Was it crazy when Terry Kennedy was in the “Drop It Like It’s Hot” video?
That was before it all started. They had us in the “Can I Have It Like That?” and “That Girl” videos. They shot the “That Girl” video at the Supreme store with the skate bowl. They built a miniramp at the American Music Awards for Pharrell’s performance. To be part of those things, even now as a 34-year-old dad, it’s still crazy to me. To be part of the height of these things in Pharrell’s solo career is important to me.
Did being part of all this help you with your career, working at Pink Dolphin, now?
Absolutely. Earlier on in skating I didn’t realize how much of an education I was getting. I got a job at Ubiq when they first started, so I learned the retail side of things. Skateboarding told me the branding side of things. As a sponsored skateboarder, you’re a walking, talking advertisement. This provided a lot of opportunities for me. It’s been one big learning experience, as far as my professional career goes.
Do you think that skateboarding will always have an influence in streetwear?
Whether people like it or not, it’s always going to be one of the top influential things. Nike played a part in it. Adidas got involved in. It’s not always recognized, but so many things go back to skating. Look at Virgil Abloh: He’s one of the biggest things in pop culture, and he’s a skater. He’s said things to me and I’m like, fuck, you really are this Chicago skateboarder. I met him at the Glow in the Dark tour. He had a large hand in that. He’s a smart and talented dude. He’s an adaptation of that era but flash-forwarded to 2016.
Was Ice Cream going on when the Glow in the Dark tour happened?
That was a month or two before we got the final phone call from Reebok that the Ice Cream thing was done. I went to the tour stop in Los Angeles. It was cool because it was a melting pot of everyone who was important in music at the time. I was a in a room with Nigo, Jimmy Iovine, Jay Z, and Lupe.
How did you feel when the team disbanded?
It was heartbreaking. At that point, the stock market crashed and the footwear industry was in a weird place. They thought it would be easy to take the Ice Cream license somewhere else and make it happen. Trends were changing. That was the moment where I realized my skateboarding career was over and I had to focus on real life. We were working on another video and a show with MTV 2. Pharrell’s management did everything they could for us. I think the Reebok deal had been done for awhile, so I think they were paying us out of pocket. It sucked, because we had a lot of fun and memories working on it for a couple years.
Do you think Reebok did too much with rappers back then?
They had Lupe, Daddy Yankee, Mike Jones. Everyone had a Reebok deal at the time. I think they had so much success from the Jay Z and 50 cent that they went overboard.
Do you see them going down the same road or that it’s going to change?
I think they differentiated it now. I think they’re more savvy with the product and stories. Kendrick’s shoes are rooted in who he is as a person. I think they’re doing the same thing with Future. Back then, the shoes were very nutty. We like them now for how crazy they looked.
What was the reaction when the video, Team Ice Cream Vol. 1, first came out?
When the video first came out, I can’t say I was all the way thrilled. It wasn’t the video itself or how it was edited, but I didn’t realize how much people wanted to see the personality or lifestyle aspect of it. I didn’t realize people wanted that at the time. That’s what fans of Pharrell, Ice Cream, and Star Trak wanted to see. They still talk to me about it. Tyler, The Creator talks to me about it now.
What’s the best advice Pharrell has ever given you?
Don’t be afraid to do things outside of your comfort zone and other people’s comfort zones. I talked to him about music, and he said when he works with someone like Madonna, and that’s what he was referring to. When I started to make my sweatpants, and he had someone get in contact with me. He wanted the tie dye ones. He said,”I like to get things and put them on ice.” A year later he sent me a pic of him wearing them.