ComplexCon returns to Long Beach Nov. 6 - 7 with hosts J. Balvin and Kristen Noel Crawley, performances by A$AP Rocky and Turnstile, and more shopping and drops.
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Oh wow. What made you want to do it like that?
We started thinking about stories and everybody’s always trying to talk to the kid, right? Like, you know, all these brands talk about talking to the kid and they talk about community without ever really having a line of sight into what it is their life looks like from their vantage point. And I sit on both sides of it. I come from there, and here I am right now sitting on this side of the table. And if I’m going to be one of the leaders of community, I just thought it was important to understand where the kid is now and what the issues are now. People can’t put inspirational videos out without understanding the struggles these kids are up against every day. It’s hard to get a job when no one’s teaching you how to write a resume. It’s hard for you to avoid the block to make money if there’s no opportunity for you to get an actual job. And I’ve said numerous times, before I started to hustle, I tried to get a job for months and nobody would hire me.
I know you worked with the Turner brothers for your last short film celebrating Black women. What made you want to work with them again?
Because they lived the real Black experience. Julien, Justen and their mother, Ms. Cynthia, they understand the experience. Right. So I don’t have to over index on explaining to them what we’re doing and why. We actually can go to the projects and they’re going to be comfortable in the projects. The projects heated up for that shoot. We did a cookout and we built a community center there. And everybody who grew up with me in that project came out. If I’m going to go sit on that corner, there’s a lot of people who want to come sit on it with me. There’s a lot of things happened on our corner. And you know, we just got a lot of experiences there. A lot of, you know, a lot of memories, a lot of tears, a lot of lives loss. So for them being able to capture that, I think that’s part of the magic. Right? I couldn’t go with somebody who’s not comfortable in that environment at all times.
How did you all handle casting?
Everyone is either from Pittsburgh or Columbus, Ohio, which is where the Turner brothers are from. They did the casting. I just call them and tell them my ideas and they execute and ask all the right questions. They asked about the people I grew up with. They asked about little details like, did y’all knock on each other’s doors. And you know in the projects, if you knock on someone’s door in the morning you are going to get cussed out. So that’s why you threw rocks at the window. And at night you would sleep with a fan on because there was no AC, but in the morning once it started to get hot you took the fan out because it was blowing nothing but hot air. So in the film when the rock went through the window and hit someone on the head, that’s a real thing.
Can you talk about other little details in the film that were important to you? I saw that you brought up donuts not being in the free lunch. And I know that initially people thought the shoes were inspired by donuts. So that was purposeful, right?
Yea. When the shoe leaked, the media created a narrative on its own without ever even asking what it was about. They didn’t ask us for comment or anything. They just took it and ran with it. And we’ve been working on this story since 2019. It takes that long to craft it. We’ve been working on these stories before the George Floyd murder. So when we are being this intentional about telling the story, and for them not to ask us about it, it was like, “Yo, come on man.” And like, listen, I respect all of them because the media has treated us super favorably, so no shade or hate towards them. But it was one of those moments where we just got to like, you know, all be responsible and diligent in how we do what we do. I’ve said a million times and I’ll say it again, the stories are way more important than the sneakers. You look at the film and we were really intentional about not including the product in every shot. Or not overly inserting our brand.
You used to be a kid he know who liked sneakers. Did you feel like you were being marketed to? Or like brands spoke directly to you? Or was it mostly, I just want sneakers because, you know, I want to be fly.
It was always about the hustle of being fresh, right? Because back then, the marketing machine wasn’t as powerful as it is now. Fresh was the first day of school. Fresh was the Friday night when all the hustlers was about to go out to the clubs and you see everybody get dressed. Fresh was somebody coming through the hood in a new car with the new wheels. So they got their fit on and they jump out from head to toe, like super, super fresh. Then there were moments when the hustlers will pull up for a game and they come out Saturday fresh. Everything clean. Those are the moments that we aspire to as kids. And you start to think about the nuance of the hustler in every community. And I think Joe’s [Freshgoods] story and my story share this and we never even talked about it. But when the hustler comes through, he’s coming through with a trunk full of sneakers. He’s showing love to the people in the community, right? The hustler showed us what affluence looked like. They were the most affluent thing we would see.
Yeah. That’s crazy how both of your stories touch on that.
Yeah, and at the beginning of the video, when you see the kid looking in the mirror practicing how he introduces himself to the hustler. That was another special detail. Because it’s about role models. And I’ve said this many times, but coming up, I didn’t have a me to look up to. So I’m going to show everybody why the kid mirrors that hustling. This is how it happens.
Yeah. As opposed to vilify them.
Exactly. And I can go a step further when you start talking about the killings and some of the violence. If you start to unwind that and get to the core, if somebody does something to that OG, who is the heart and soul of that community, imagine the hate they have for the person who did it. That’s how wars are started. So, and then you start talking about systemic oppression and the laws that keep that dude trapped in that position. He doesn’t want to hustle forever. He has his money. He wants to figure out something positive to do for himself, but he doesn’t really understand any other opportunities besides hustling. So he keeps coming back to the game.