J2K is a walking and talking representation of reinvention. Since bursting onto the scene a decade ago as an MC with Roll Deep, the pioneer has never stopped evolving and has stepped away from the mic to emerge as one of the UK's most successful young entrepreneurs. It's J2K's ability to reinvent himself and keep moving forward that caused PUMA to link up with him – and his latest venture, 'atHOME' – for the launch of the new PUMA RS-X3 Level Up sneaker.
The RS-X3 takes everything we loved about the RS design before stripping it back to basics and rebuilding it from the ground up with a new eye on material mix and colour. To celebrate the drop, PUMA linked up with J2K and Vibbar to takeover the new atHOME pop-up space at Boxpark Shoreditch.
After launching the wildly successful Crep Protect, atHOME is J2K's new digital agency and lifestyle brand. Alongside partnering with brands on creative campaigns, atHOME has also dropped a string of products including socks, sliders and – most recently – a fire hot sauce. The new pop-up at Boxpark brings J2K's new vision to life and looks to bring the world a step closer to atHOME.
We caught up with J2K at the new atHOME space in Boxpark to talk about his vision for the new company, linking up with PUMA again, heading out to ComplexCon, and working with Vibbar.
COMPLEX: The pop-up space is mad! How did the idea for hosting it here come about?
J2K: Basically we had the opportunity to have a space after they double-booked one of the single containers! So we had to make four rooms instead of one…it actually ended up being more work, but I think it’s worked out well in the end. We figured out what rooms we were gonna do, positioned them and then did some block colouring to make it more striking.
How long has the process been in getting atHome to where you want it to be, and why was it the right time to launch?
atHOME has been something we’ve been plotting for a little while now, but at the minute, it’s very much a “if you know, you know” sort of thing. I’ve purposefully not been giving off the information for a minute just to see people getting involved in the brand organically without actually knowing what it is exactly. People have just been getting into it because of the vibe and how we activate things, which is exactly what I want.
Us, as an agency – which is part of what we are – we put it all together from top to bottom. The team is small at this stage, though.
Talk to us some more about how atHOME came together. What was the inspiration behind it?
To do something like this has been in my mind for a long, long time. When I starter Crep Protect and building it, branding it, positioning it in the culture...I had a brainwave. I thought “actually, I could outsource this!” – so I just realised I could make this something bigger, and into the agency that it is today.
The idea originally was to make it a party, you know like going “HOME” after everything you do in the day. It then developed into the agency idea after getting asked about putting stuff together a lot – so it just made sense to build something that all the requests could come under. I’ve had to be patient with that, and let it build organically until I could launch it, and now it’s ready to start.
I’m guessing you have even bigger plans to take it further in the future?
There is nothing that we ain’t thought about yet! It’s all just timing. It’s about ticking off certain things first and doing things stage by stage. So this will branch out into a lot of things off the back of it. This will cover being an agency, providing services, as well as being a brand in itself.
How supportive have PUMA been with the project?
They’ve been really good actually – I’ve built up a good relationship with those guys. When they want to get involved in something, they understand it’s your vision. They just want to support your vision, and we always come to a great balance. They’re very flexible too – and working with brands, that’s the best thing you can ask for.
You’re wearing the new PUMA RS-X3 Level Up, which takes the original RS design to an extra, new level, remixing and reinventing to form something new – does the story of the shoe resonate with how you have worked hard over the years to reinvent and level up within your industry?
The shoe is fresh! And yeah, it just matches my own story completely. It’s a reason why I wear the shoe alongside it just being a dope shoe in itself. With me – having transcended through different industries down the years – most people know me as J2K the MC and artist, and taking my experience from that and the mindset I took to music, I started Crep Protect.
You don’t even realise you have certain things until you’ve been putting them to practice in other areas. Coming up as an independent artists, you learns skills to keep yourself relevant, to be engaged and stay popping. You’re the product at the end of the day...
That's the same way that NSG have got to where they’re at through Instagram. What were you doing back in the day to promote yourself?
MySpace man. Man learnt HTML code and stuff like that – I would never have cared about that, but I knew that that’s what was going to get me popping. That was helping my MySpace pop a bit more, the same way that they’re been doing their thing on Instagram now. You just know that there are certain things you need to learn to have the desired effect and result.
Having a natural understanding of the culture because I’ve been a part of it has helped massively too. There’s a lot of guys out there who don’t actually get it, and they employ a lot of people that might be good at typing fast, but they don’t know what it’s all about, really. People will have names for things that I do that I didn’t even know existed before, like codewords or departments I never knew existed.
How has your influential role in past music, style and youth culture over the last decade helped you in launching atHOME?
I’m an MC first and foremost, so to dismiss that would be ridiculous. But building a level of quality and being associated to quality is essential too. I’ve always built trust with what I do. Whenever you heard me or saw me, you knew there was going to be a level of quality to what I do. So I think that’s allowed me to progress into other areas more easily, as the trust is there.
You’re planning on going to ComplexCon with atHOME and PUMA – how excited are you for that?
Very excited! I went to the very first one, and I came back here telling everyone about it. The vibe is wicked. The activations are dope out there, the out the box thinking is crazy – you can definitely pick up a lot of inspiration out there. So I’m looking forward to it man, looking forward to bumping into some familiar faces out there too.
What are your plans out there?
I just wanna meet some good people out there, start some activation out there, talk about starting some parties…those kind of vibes. Poet will hopefully come out with me too, anyone from Vibbar is always invited to join.
You’re working with Vibbar on the launch – is that just like working with family?
With Vibbar it’s just so organic – and that’s what I’m trying to bring to everything I do. It makes sense, it fits, everyone’s on the same page…and we’ve done it before, with the socks and sliders launch.
What have the vibes been like at the pop-up?
People have been loving it you know. There were queues on launch night, cameras were out, people just really enjoying the space. People don’t really realise it’s a shop – but it’s a shop with a difference. If you wanna lounge here and chill that’s calm, if you wanna buy some product, listen to some music, whatever, it’s all just about people catching a vibe.
If you build with people, you relate to each other – I just want everything to be natural and not a “#ad” or a cold call. Me, doing this, is just organic – and to be organic is weird now. Which is funny, it’s mad that everything is like that now. I just want people to gravitate towards atHOME because they’re into it, naturally.
What are the next few steps with atHOME?
We’re gonna set up an office, bring on more cool people, and bring in more vibes. We wanna create and curate the dopest settings – so we’re just gonna continue doing exactly that.