Legendary drummer, bandleader and fiercely proud Bay Area native Sheila E. was the hardest of hardcore divas in the 1980s. It broke her down. Now she uses music to build people up.
Back when she ran with Prince and his crew, the timbale expert enforced 12-hour rehearsals for her band and gave commands, not suggestions. She had hits (“The Glamorous Life,” “A Love Bizarre”) and built a lasting work ethic into countless musicians, like Raphael Saadiq who joined her cohort when he was 14. She also became a cold, unfeeling person. She details the transformation in her book The Beat of My Own Drum.
Now that’s all behind her and she’s found the love of music again. You can hear it in her album Icon from 2014 and see it in her music-therapy foundation Elevate Hope. We caught up with her while she was coaching a bunch of young players in Seattle for More Music at the Moore Theatre, teaching them to find their own voices.
We did not talk to her about Prince. We did talk about her dad, Latin jazz heavyweight Pete Escovedo; her godfather, Tito Puente; Krush Groove, the classic hip-hop movie she co-starred in with Run-DMC; and the fact that it took her leaving her family cocoon of supportive musicians to learn about the sexist notion that women shouldn’t play the drums.
One particular vision of spring style we endorse: dressing like a Starburst Easter egg in adidas x Pharrell Williams gear. Just because the holiday’s over doesn’t make it wrong. There is something sublime and optimistic about this much color in one place.
It makes us want to turn up the volume on one of our favorite sublime and optimistic Pharrell songs.
To help you get through this week, or maybe just this hour, we offer words of wisdom, clarity and humor from culture icon EddieHuang.
For the unfamiliar, Huang’s memoir Fresh Off the Boat (which we love) has made him the inspiration for the current TV show of the same name–which he initially endorsed but has become publicly uncomfortable with. Now he’s on the same kind of existential tour as Dave Chappelle was in 2007, using public speaking and comedy as a way to control his narrative, making a universal case for how maddening it can be to maintain one’s identity.
When we saw Huang speak at University of Washington, he was draped in pastel XXBC gear and rocking Nike Trainer 1s. He delved into issues of domestic abuse and racism, and basically led group therapy with a laugh track.
Don Was is one of our heroes, a triple O.G. in the music biz who doesn’t believe his own hype and never stopped being a fan. He’s still blown away by all the new styles in the world, and despite making classics has steered admirably clear of the mindset that “it was all so much better when…”
Perhaps you’ve been following the True Religion premium denim brand since its inception in the early 2000s in Manhattan Beach, CA. If so, you already know some designs: the name-making bootcut jean and maybe also the more recent jogger silhouettes–though the boot fit is definitely still in the building.
The brand is growing its audience with new official spokespeople, basketball star Russell Westbrook and supermodel Joan Smalls. But let’s talk about unofficial spokespeople for a second.
Because there’s a good chance you learned about True Religion from rappers.
In the last decade and change, rappers have shouted out “Trues” 50 billion times in their lyrics, including heavyweights such as Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz and Jim Jones.
To sate our curiosity about how and why this came to be, we sent one of our favorite music journalists and rap experts–the uncommonly thoughtful David Drake–deep into the True Religion/rap music overlap.
As huge Mad Men fans we are naturally in awe of Janie Bryant, the book-writing, Emmy-winning boss who designs the costumes on the AMC television show–now in its seventh and final season.
Bryant’s depiction of dress codes and coded dressing in the American office space in the late 1960s/early 1970s is crucial to the story of every episode. Her creations are their own characters, speaking to the viewership on several levels about the message-conveying power of surfaces and the ways they can be used to mentally manipulate others and also ourselves.
Bryant spoke to us on the phone about designing for characters’ traits–Joan’s “provocative” appreciation of her own body; Don’s desire to never change–and answered the question: Who has better style: Don Draper or Roger Sterling?
Required reading for those interested in the Venn diagram of style, culture and music: “Hooking Up” by Jon Caramanica in the New York Times’ T Magazine–an article about the influence of hip-hop on today’s newly fired-up menswear.
SPOILER: Caramanica’s thesis is fashion runways used to influence the streets and now the streets influence the runways. The “direction of diffusion,” as he writes, has inverted. It’s also about men caring about fashion and being comfortable caring about fashion.
Below is a list of important hip-hop/menswear figures in the order Caramanica mentions them, which is more or less chronologically, with his excerpted characterizations.
Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade has a well-documented passion for fashion, standing apart from most NBA players with his adventurous fits and bright colors. The latter is a hallmark of his new line of Stance socks.
We spoke to the man himself about what he’s bumping right now (Trey Songz, Nicki Minaj and Ed Sheeran), personal style heroes and how Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood factored into his Stance line.
Andy Warhol Converse Extra Special Value c. 1985-86 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas 116 x 180 inches
Check out Converse Extra Special Value, above. That’s artwork featuring classic Converse All Stars by the late pop master Andy Warhol, mimicking his own early work in advertising. As an illustrator and graphic designer, Warhol sometimes drew shoes for ads. As an artist, he brought elements of ads into his pieces shown in galleries and museums, challenging people to see them in a different light.
If that were the only link, Converse’s new Chuck Taylor All Star Andy Warhol Collection sneakers would make sense by themselves. But it gets deeper. Adorned with Warhol’s beloved Campbell’s Soup cans, the Converse x Warhol sneakers are a swirl of classic American products-for-the-people.
In conversation with Carrie Dedon, assistant curator at Seattle Art Museum, we go even further. Among other things, we learn from Dedon that Warhol definitely saw himself as a product, and we find out what his exaltation of logo design had to do with his concept of democracy.