29 décembre 2005

Bobbito Garcia: A Tyler kind of guy

Hip Hop, sneakers, basketball, if you ever have a question about one of those subjects, then Bobbito Garcia is the man to see. DJ, professional ballplayer and real connoisseur of sports shoes, Bobbito is passionate about everything that we are passionate about. Meet a real Tyler kind of guy.

Lyrics: Théophile Haumesser

It's so much fun to chat with Bobbito Garcia. Not only is he a basketball and sneakers fanatic, but he's also an avid record collector and a well respected DJ. The radio show he used to host during the 90's alongside DJ Stretch Armstrong helped launch the careers of some of the illest New York lyricists. From Nas to Organized Konfusion, Black Moon, Big L, Company Flow or O.C., all the best MC's of the time have stopped by at a moment or another. Fed up with the state of Hip Hop these days, Bobbito is more than ever involved in basketball. Actually, it was at the Parisian street-ball tournament "le Quai 54" that we got the opportunity to sit down and talk with him.

Tyler: You first had your break in the music industry but, lately, you seem to be more involved with basketball stuff, right?
Bobbito Garcia: I've always been involved in basketball. Before I even worked at Def Jam in 1989, I played professionally in Puerto Rico, in 1987. I also played college basketball from '84 to '88. And I've played on the playgrounds of New York for all my life. When I started getting a name in the Hip Hop world, I was still playing, and a lot of people in the basketball community in New York didn't even know I was deejaying. And a lot of people that knew me because of my parties didn't know that I was playing ball every day. But then, my name got more known in both circles and people were like, "Oh, shit! That's the same Bobbito!"

T.: How was it like to play in Puerto Rico?
B.G.: It was amazing. I mean, when Puerto Rico beat the US at the Olympics, I was one of the few people that wasn't surprised. Because when I played out there, I saw that there was a ton of great players. We lost to the USA by one point in 1976 and our pro league is ten years older than the NBA. So we have a long history of loving basketball. There's a lot of legendary players in Puerto Rico and playing out there was one the biggest highlights of my life, because I'm 5'10, skinny (laughing), and I got to play in my homeland. Nothing could be better. I never thought I'd be able to do it.

T.: Do you think that the American players have finally realized that international basketball was for real?
B.G.: Oh yeah! If they didn't get it before, they definitely got it now. It's too obvious; you got all those international players in the NBA. You have the national teams of all these countries playing very well. Even the development of the playgrounds, worldwide, is incredible. I have a basketball magazine called Bounce, I'm the editor in chief, and we got articles from South Africa, Tokyo, London, Paris… We realized that it was now an international phenomenon. We recognize the global participation of playground basketball.

T.: How and when did you get the idea to do a basketball magazine by yourself?
B.G.: I didn't do it by myself, I have four partners. I had the idea to do a basketball magazine eight years ago, but it was only my idea. Those guys approached me and asked if I wanted to be a part of it, because they were gonna do it with or without me, and I said yes. In 2003, we put all our ideas together and we're doing well so far.

T.: I also saw that you had a show on ESPN, about sneakers. Can you tell me about it?
B.G.: It's called It's The Shoes. It's all about the sneaker culture. I do interviews with artists and athletes. I got the show because I did a book called Where Did You Get Those?, and the producers at ESPN read the book, they loved it and they thought that I was the right person to do the show. It's getting great ratings and we're talking about having a second season next summer.

T.: So, who has the sickest sneakers collection?
B.G.: Of the ones that I've seen so far, I would probably say Quentin Richardson and Carmelo Anthony. But, it's not fair because they get free sneakers off their ass (laughing). And they get million dollars contracts to wear them. I keep on asking the players "Yo, don't you think it's excessive to have 500 pairs of sneakers?". And a lot of kids on the internet, they hate me for that. But I just want to show that it's not about quantity, it's about quality and style. You can have one pair of sneakers and have a lot of style and have 500 pairs and don't know how to wear them.

T.: I heard that you were now an "ex sneaker addict", have you really got ridden of your whole collection?
B.G.: Yeah, that's true. One of my criticisms of Hip Hop is that it's becoming too materialistic. Hip Hop has always been materialistic, but it's always been balanced as well. I kinda felt that I couldn't be materialistic in my own life and be critical of others. Me, I'm a professional ball player and I need good sneakers to wear on my feet when I play, that's all. But I'm still interested in sneakers. Actually, I designed a couple of sneakers. The last one I did was for Adidas (he says it with a French accent). I did it for the 35 years anniversary of the shell toe. I did a special, 4.000 limited edition, Project Playground design. They sold out! Reebok has been talking to me about designing the DJ shoe that they have, with the headphones on the heel. And we may come out with a D.J. Cucumberslice special edition.

T.: Alright, but if you ever want to get rid of your records, please give me a call…
B.G.: (Laughing) Yeah, I got a lot of records. But I want to keep them for the rest of my life. I want to give them to my kids 'cause I've inherited a lot of records from my father. He gave me records from the 50's so if I give them to my kids, they'll be like 60 or 70 years old.

T.: What's the situation like with your labels, Fondle 'Em and Fruitmeat Records?
B.G.: They are both dead. I'm not doing either of them anymore. I have so much on my plate right now, that I don't really have the time for that. And the independent music scene is not what it used to be, so I use my energy going towards new challenges. Like the TV show and doing the magazine. I also do the voice for EA Sports' NBA Street Volume 2 and 3, the book Where Did You Get Those? is being developed into a documentary film. I still DJ twice a month in New York and all around the world. Besides, I don't get a lot of good demos. The game is different now, somebody who got a good demo will probably put it on the internet instead of approaching me and saying "Yo, I wanna put it out on vinyl", you know?

T.: Some people may not know that but you helped M.F. Doom get his career back on track. Are you surprised by his success?
B.G.: I am and I'm not. I'm so happy for M.F., him and I went through a lot. He got dropped from Elektra with KMD and when he became M.F. Doom, I put out his first five or six records on Fondle 'Em. He was fun to work with. Sometimes he was a pain in the ass (laughing), but that's my man. I love him. It's really good to see someone who put that much time into his music finally getting his due. Like, he get so much press now… I saw him perform in Central Park last summer, with De La Soul and The Roots, it's great for him.

T.: How would you say that Hip Hop has changed the most over the last ten years?
B.G.: Hip Hop has reached its creative high point about ten years ago. So a lot of stuff that comes out now, people are saying "He's the best" or "He's the best" but they're not really the best, it's just that they sell a lot of records. If you listen to records from ten or fifteen years ago, the rhymes are written better, you hear a lot of singing now in Hip Hop… It's fine, I mean, singing has always been a part of Hip Hop but I feel like in terms of rhyme structure and beat making, it already peaked. I would say that in another ten years, it's gonna be another form of music and another culture that's gonna be underground at first and then, years later, that's gonna be the next big thing.

T.: Do you still listen to a lot of Hip Hop these days?
B.G.: Oh absolutely. I go to Fat Beats once a month and I shop for records. I love the new Common album, I like Medaphoar from Stones Throw, there's still people out there making good records, but it's just not as many. That's why I quit doing the radio show. I did it for twelve years, but when you do a show from 1 AM to 5 AM and there's only five records that you like… it's hard.

T.: The Stevie Wonder compilations that you and DJ Spinna released last year were great, have you heard his new record?
B.G.: Nah, I haven't heard his new album yet, but I heard the single. I thought that the song was cool, but I didn't love it. I felt like he was trying to say too many words in one verse and I love Stevie Wonder when he has clarity. I think that it's what he's great at, and I don't think that record had clarity. But I love Steve Wonder, he's my favorite artist. (With an air of defiance) I love him better than Run DMC!

If there's anything else you'd like to know about Bobbito, check out those sites:

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