Friday, November 2, 2007

Ecko Under Fire / The Status of Hip Hop

As has been the case for the initial two posts on this here blog, this third installment will again have a tie-in with my "other job" writing over at Bugs & Cranks.

Earlier this year, I covered fashion designer / entrepreneur / Jack-of-All-Trades Marc Ecko's purchasing of Barry Bonds' historic 756th Home Run ball and the vote held on his website to determine it's fate. Basically, homeboy paid over $750K for the ball and then let anyone who wanted to vote on whether to send it to the Hall of Fame as is, brand it with an asterisk signifying Bonds' alleged steroid / HGH usage or blast the damn thing into orbit.

The asterisk won... I covered that too.

So now, two of my colleagues have picked up on a story from The Starting Five where they (TSF and my fellow Bugs) are agreeing with Barry's decision to boycott the Hall if they take and display Ecko's Branded Baseball. Their contention: doing this, branding the baseball, makes Marc Ecko a racist and a sellout.

For those who don't know, Marc Ecko and his initial and most profitable clothing line Ecko Unlimited got it's start in the Hip Hop Community. Ecko is the brand with the rhino for a logo you see people rockin' all over your town.

Settle in, here comes the rebuttal.

Marc Ecko didn't brand the ball himself. Millions of people, myself included, voted to put that big, fat asterisk on the ball because we believe Bonds has achieved his records through the use of performance enhancing drugs. Ecko is just following up on his promise to go along with whatever "The People" voted. It's not his fault all the Barry Lovers didn't get online...

As for how this makes him racist, I'm not sure. Would sending it to the Hall sans asterisk earn him an Image Award?

Yes, some people probably dislike or even hate Barry Bonds because he is black. Personally, I have my own reasons and not one of them has anything to do with the colour of the man's skin.

Now, let's take this away from the diamond and Barry Bonds and onto TSF's claims that these actions make Ecko a sellout who is turning his back on the people who got him to where he is today...

There is no doubt that the first demographic to embrace Ecko Unlimited was the Hip Hop Community. I can say this confidently because I count myself as part of that demographic and have proudly donned Ecko gear for some time. The flaw in TSF's argument, and therefore my friends Hulk and Chalk's co-argument is this:

Hip Hop Is Mainstream and Hip Hop Is Middle America

Like it or not, Hip Hop broke from the counter culture a long time ago and has been becoming more and more mainstream by the day.

Hip Hop tracks dominate Top 40 Radio. Hip Hop styles are present on the runways, in the shopping malls and in the closets of all races and backgrounds. It's not a 'hood thing anymore like TSF either thinks it should be or wants it to be...

I live in St. John's, Newfoundland. There is no real 'hood. There aren't even very many folks who aren't Caucasian around here. But there sure as shit is a whole lot of Hip Hop.

Now I'm not saying dressing the part and talking like 50 is the correct representation of Hip Hop, but it does show that the influence of the music and the culture extends far beyond the boundaries of race.

You want to toss Ecko aside? Do it, but do it full out. Don't say you're not tossing his glasses that you wear because you'd be blind without them. Go buy new ones tomorrow and renounce him completely. Pull a Chuck D and try and Shut'em Down. Even though the clip didn't work, it was nice to remember the power of PE...

In the end, I see it like this:

Ecko's moves weren't racially based, they were press and publicity based. He's not a racist for buying and branding the ball, he's a spotlight whore, at best. You call his move racist, I call it savvy - interjecting your name and brand somewhere it never would have been in the first place is smart business.

The two - his decision to brand the ball and hip hop - aren't related. If a white player broke that record with the same allegations swirling around his head and Ecko pulled the same moves then what?

He didn't say "Fuck Hip Hop"
You said "Fuck Ecko!"

His moves were about a baseball and a baseball player.Yes, he's black, but that doesn't mean Ecko is racist, at least not in my books. And they weren't even his moves if you want to get technical.

Besides, I was always taught - through hip hop - that hip hop isn't a colour and isn't a race, it's a culture and a way of life. It's not a black thing, it's not a 'hood thing... it just is... and I am Hip Hop.

Still Free...


Mizzo said...

Wow! You miss my point wholeheartedly. Everyone in the hood that purchased his shit didn't know about his "savvy marketing ploy" or whatever you characterized it as. Dude, I'm at my keyboard strong this very second sans ecko unlmtd glasses. My eyes hurt like hell, but I stand by my conviction. Trust me that I'm full out.

Fuck Mark Ecko! Do you really think the demography that made him rich agrees with this bullshit? Hell no!
Again, FUCK Mark Ecko!

E. Spencer Kyte said...


Sorry you're eyes are hurting but I do admire the conviction.

Are you calling branding the ball bullshit? Because Ecko didn't say "Ima brand this fucking ball. Fuck Barry Bonds!" People voted and everyone could have... the send it to the Hall as is side could have won. If it did, would you still rock Ecko?

What don't you agree with? Where do you stand on the Barry Bonds debate? Do you think he has used Performance Enhancing Drugs? So many questions - I look forward to the responses.

David Chalk said...

Spencer, you're right when you say "hip hop isn't a colour and isn't a race, it's a culture and a way of life."

But Hip Hop is about Unity -- that's why you close your fingers when you make a peace sign -- Unity (-- I learned that from Meth & Ghostface).

This "savvy marketing ploy" as you call it is the antithesis of Hip Hop because it's Capitali$ing on Divisiveness and Hate.

If you don't like Bonds, if you have your suspicions, fine. Don't watch. Say what you want, but don't attack the man and his legacy.

But to attack the man and his legacy like Eckkko's done is atrocious. To justify it with more people clicked more times is as stupid as saying the best record is the one that sold the most copies.

Hip Hop is about more than just ca$hing in. It's about more than giving voice to haters who can't appreciate greatness.

Hip Hop, America, Humanity, should all be about giving a person the benefit of the doubt and respect.

Mizzo said...

Exactly David. Shouldn't be hard to fathom Spencer. You DON'T take your ball and run from Hip Hop!

While I'm at it...the trash you hear on the radio these days is NOT Hip Hop!

Maybe that's why you are excusing Ecko.

E. Spencer Kyte said...


You tell me not to attack Bonds and his legacy but you're attacking Ecko. Then again, ain't nothing new there...

I agree that trash on the radio ain't hip hop. I was simply trying to illustrate that it isn't the same as it was when it was a cottage industry about the basics and beginnings.

I still don't agree that Ecko is giving the finger to Hip Hop, but I can agree to have differing view points.

Maybe you can clear something up for me about TSF though - did I break a rule by being a white boy with something to say over there? Sure as shit feels that way, not that I really mind though...

Stay tuned... Still free...

E. Spencer Kyte said...

This debate has continued over at TSF.

Click the link in the content to get there and see where it has expanded to.