Podcast by Skate Newswire
Podcast by Skate Newswire
Mission Statement Episode 18: Carl Aikens
If you haven’t taken notice of Carl Aikens’s rising star over the past year, then you haven’t been paying attention. The Chicago-by-way-of-Santa Clarita native has been getting a ton of coverage since transplanting to Brooklyn last summer. He linked up with Naquan Rollings of Gang Corp fame, and dropped a heavy clip that firmly planted him on our collective radar. This was followed up with his Chocolate introduction in January, and more footage in the brand’s T.O.N.Y. tour video shortly after. Aikens is clearly emerging as one of the prominent figures of skateboarding’s next generation; so we wanted to take the opportunity to document his story during his ascent. He rolled through our studio last week for an in-depth conversation with Lee that covers his history, come-up, current events, future plans, and much more. Get familiar with this legend in the making via the latest episode of Mission Statement. There’s no doubt that we’ll be seeing much more of him in the years to come.
Mission Statement Episode 17: William Strobeck
William Strobeck, known simply as Bill by those closest to him, is this generation’s Spike Jonze. In 2014, he singlehandedly changed the direction of modern skate videos with the release of “cherry”. It was the first full-length from both Strobeck and Supreme, and had a similar impact to Jonze and Mark Gonzales’s Video Days when that debuted in 1991.
“cherry” introduced the world to a group of skaters that would go on to become icons. At the time, most videos felt like blockbuster movies that were far removed from the D.I.Y. spirit that birthed them. With street life vignettes that feel like you are watching the sessions live, Strobeck brought back an aesthetic that was lost sometime during the transition from standard to high definition. It had clearly been missed.
Bill’s trajectory was foreshadowed over a decade earlier. Before Tyshawn Jones, Na-Kel Smith, and “BLESSED”, there was Anthony Pappalardo, Brian Wenning, and Photosynthesis. He cut his teeth during the Josh Kalis and Stevie Williams era at Love Park. And his footage helped craft the Sovereign Sect’s look during its golden age. With that sort of pedigree, no one should be surprised by what Strobeck would go on to accomplish after.
But Bill didn’t get to where he is today without a little bit of luck. His Alien Workshop years were the start of an ongoing collaboration with Jason Dill. This friendship has landed him in “the right place at the right time” at multiple points during his career. The connection with Dill and a breakup with a longtime girlfriend were responsible for transplanting Strobeck to New York in 2002 after a seven-year stint in Philly. And N.Y.C. would prove to be a key element in the progression of his craft.
There were still shades of the old New York during those initial post-911 years. Bill, Dill, Chloë Sevigny, Ben Cho, Leo Fitzpatrick, Dash Snow, the Razo brothers, etcetera’s gallivanting between Max Fish, Sway, and The Hole is well-documented in the archives of Patrick O’Dell’s Epicly Later’d blog. They seemed to be the heirs apparent of the Downtown scene created by Warhol, Basquiat, Futura, Jim Jarmusch, Debbie Harry, and the rest of the legendary denizens of ‘80s L.E.S. Mingling with artists, designers, actors, and fashionistas allowed Strobeck to further develop his eye for what’s cool. This influence is highly visible in his output over the past six years.
Instead of just showcasing tricks, Strobeck creates a mood through providing a glimpse into his subjects’ lifestyles. It’s more in line with what Larry Clark and Mathieu Kassovitz did with KIDS and La Haine, respectively, than a traditional skate video. And it works so seamlessly with Supreme’s branding that it's hard to imagine anyone else making its films. Currently, you’d be hard-pressed to watch one of the dozens of skate edits that are released weekly and find one that doesn’t borrow a little (or a lot) from Strobeck’s work. If those that shape the culture is the underlying theme of Mission Statement, there isn’t a more fitting guest for our 2020 season premiere.
Mission Statement Episode 16: Danny Supa
Danny Supa could be a poster boy for New York’s golden era. He’s a native of the Bronx, and came up under the tutelage of Vinny Ponte and Ryan Hickey. By the time he reached his teens, he was already skating for Zoo York. His part in Mixtape is still one of the most beloved of its era.
Like many of his contemporaries, Supa got to experience the extreme highs and lows that accompanied the skate lifestyle during those wonder years. His crowing achievement is probably being a part of the original Nike SB roster, and getting a signature Dunk colorway that is still one of the most coveted of all time.
He also earned serious coin from his other sponsors, which included Red Bull and Stussy before signing the equivalent of a 360 deal with Zoo around the time that it moved under the lucrative Ecko umbrella.
But with the money came the partying. Supa admittedly lost some years in the bottle, and burned a few bridges along the way. That journey took him from New York to Los Angeles and back while he bounced around from Zoo to Stereo, and later Boulevard before ultimately finding himself without a board with his name on it.
When his pro journey ended, Supa took up residency as an employee at the New York Diamond store; where he worked up until recently. Ready to make a change, he walked way from the world of retail to start a skate school, and pass on his decades of experience to the next generation.
Lee Smith gets an insider’s perspective on all of this and more in Episode 16 of Mission Statement.
Mission Statment Episode 15: Taji Ameen
Taji Ameen is a product of New York. Originally from Hell’s Kitchen, he discovered skateboarding around the turn of the century during the era when Harold Hunter was still the face of Zoo. The city infamously makes kids grow up fast. This could explain why Taji is considered an O.G. despite being just shy of 30.
While it would be a stretch to say that he was on the trajectory to becoming a pro; Taji definitely got his fair share of coverage in his early teen years. But his true calling would prove to be behind the camera.
Tajcam made its way from a personal YouTube channel to Vice. This is largely due to an internship that eventually matured into a staff position with the media giant roughly five years ago. Taji has worked as a camera operator and on-air talent on various projects ever since.
At this point, it’s safe to say that you’ve likely seen his work. One Star Reviews has consistently racked up millions of views since it made its debut in 2018. He’s smoked weed with Waka Flockain Amsterdam, and worked as an intern on fetish porn sets. Clearly, Taji is carrying the torch for Gonzo journalism at its most fringe. And people seem to love it.
While his comedic timing is resonating with the world outside of our little bubble, Taji continues to cater to the core with Can You Skate It? It’s a nice little crossover series that can be appreciated by a wider audience. And you have to admire the fact that he’s consistently pushing skate content between all of his other projects.
If you want to know more, Lee Smith delves into the method behind Taji’s madness in Episode 15 of Mission Statement. It’s definitely good for a laugh or three.
Mission Statement Episode 14: Rick McCrank
Rick McCrank has an unlikely success story. It begins in Ottawa in the ‘80s. The timing and location don’t provide a clearly visible path to skateboarding superstardom. The culture was still in its infancy; and Ottawa might as well have been Mars in terms of getting on anyone’s radar during those wonder years before the invention of the World Wide Web.
His circumstances would shape McCrank’s approach to his craft. He spent years paying no attention to any sort of skate media, and subsequently developed a style that was uninfluenced by the trends of the day. This made him an outlier for much of his early career. He was known as the ramp guy in his hometown. He turned pro for a snowboard bolt company called Cherry Bombs. And he was the guy that showed up to pro contests doing switch behihanas over the pyramid. Rick Howard would rename the trick a cherry bomb as a result.
McCrank overcame those early indiscretions, and went on to have a 24 years and counting professional career with a resume of sponsors that includes: Plan B, Birdhouse, éS, Girl, and Lakai. And he managed to do so without switching up his style of skating or image in the process. It’s an untouchable legacy that will intertwine McCrank’s name with skateboarding for decades to come. But the story doesn’t end there.
17 years ago, McCrank cofounded Antisocial with Michelle Pezel. The shop has become an internationally known hub for the Vancouver scene, and influenced generations of skaters in the city that McCrank would make his home. Its grassroots approach of community first and profit second is something that’s becoming increasingly rare. McCrank and Pezel’s dedication to Antisocial, and its core principals, speak volumes about their passion and integrity.
Clearly an ambassador based on the previously mentioned accolades, the title took on a more literal definition several years ago with the introduction of McCrank’s work with Viceland on Abandoned and Post Radical. His television series are bridging the gap between our subculture and a more mainstream audience in a very unique and positive way. The true impact won’t be measurable until the not-so-distant future when pros start mentioning these shows as their introduction to skateboarding. While Post Radical won’t be returning, another season of Abandoned has been greenlit. So expect more of Crankers on the small screen in 2020, and hopefully beyond.
Outside of that, McCrank is gearing up for a trip to Australia to give Melbourne a try for a few months, and preparing to start work on his next video part now that he’s recovered from a foot injury. After a two month hiatus, Lee Smith returns to Mona Liza studio to get the full story in Episode 14 of Mission Statement.
Mission Statement Episode 13: Scott Johnston
From his skateboarding to his clothing, Scott Johnston has always been known for being flawless. His nickname is Mr. Clean for a good reason. When you take a step back and look at S.J.’s career on a whole, the same can be said.
Scott’s original stomping grounds are sacred in skateboarding. A Maryland native, he grew up as a local at Washington D.C.’s Pulaski in the era when Sean Sheffey was the OG, and Pepe Martinez and Andy Stone were just cutting their teeth. Scott rose to prominence alongside these East Coast legends, and eventually took a chance on heading west to San Francisco.
In S.F., S.J. got down with the infamous EMB Crew despite being a self described suburbanite. That’s impressive in and of itself considering this was during the time when people would get chased out by the locals for practically nothing. The connections that Scott made in San Francisco would shape the rest of his career in terms of sponsors and locations.
S.J.’s skate resume is thorough. After turning pro for Think in the ‘90s, he rode for Mad Circle, DC Shoes, Chocolate, Stussy, and Lakai during the times when each of these brands were at their peak. And from San Francisco, he would sample New York for a stint before landing in L.A. where he would finish out his time as a professional alongside many of his S.F. era peers before transitioning into his next phase in life.
When it was time to retire his board, Scott took on a new challenge of learning how to design shoes. He mastered the fundamentals at Lakai, where he served as Design Director for about five years before making the jump to adidas where he’s currently the Design Director for its skate program.
Lee Smith gets up close and personal with his Embarco compatriot in Episode 13 of Mission Statement to find out how Mr. Clean perfectly navigated his way from top pro to top designer.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Need more episodes, consistently
Love this podcast! My only gripe is where you been Lee? It’s been a minute.
Youth of the Nation, POD
Love the pod, legendary.
Fix the audio levels!!!
Only thing keeping it from 5 stars