Black Dave Breaks Down Five Hip-Hop Artists He Discovered In Skate Videos

[caption id="attachment_83617" align="alignleft" width="640"]Dave_Willis_003_CRONAN-640 Photo: Dave Willis[/caption]

"At this point I feel like I'm the Black Bart of the music industry," Black Dave tells Hive over mid-morning coffee and croissants. Handily, it's a characterization that the Harlem-based rapper and skater has invoked for this week's Black Bart mixtape -- a project that sees Dave solidifying his position as the young torch-bearer for the stylish intermingling of hip-hop music and skate culture that bubbles away in New York City. "I'm essentially just myself, a skater who doesn't care," he adds.

With Dave's dual credentials in mind, we pestered him to trawl through the vault and talk about five key hip-hop artists whose music he first came across via skate videos. Dave obliged -- and the results built into broader chat about how being born and raised in the Bronx affects his lifestyle, his adoration of the movie "Kids," and why he's not mad at Lil Wayne's skate career.

Was hip-hop music always the soundtrack to your skating?

Always. Even before skateboarding, I was always going and listening to everything that was in my dad's car and my mom's car. Growing up in the Bronx, they created hip-hop there and it was always around me.

What sort of things did they play in the car?

I remember the first CD was like Kool G. Rap, A Tribe Called Quest. My mom was also into a lot of soulful R&B like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.

Why is there such a strong link between skate and hip-hop culture?

A lot of videos used the music a lot and definitely New York City skateboarding was influenced with the clothing and the style by the old hip-hop. That's what everyone listened to. Old videos like "Zoo York Mixtape 1," they had a lot of O.G. hip-hop artists in there. They had video excerpts of them spitting in the studio. It's always been tied together. It's cool to keep that feeling going.

Can you remember any particular studio excerpts that you were impressed with?

Yeah, they had Busta Rhymes in there. This was back before he had blown up and had his Hype Williams videos. Busta was in there just going off! I was really young when that video came out, but just watching that video now and going back to it, it really paved the way for a lot of people to get that step into the skateboarding industry and those new fans.

Can you imagine Busta on a skateboard?

Nah! Especially back then with his dreads! I mean, that look can rock, but I can't see Busta Rhymes skating at all.

Which other songs on skate videos made a big impression on you?

Definitely all the old "Zoo York" videos and all the old "411" videos -- they had a lot of sections on New York City skateboarding and it was always old Wu-Tang [Clan]. That was the first time I saw their music set to skateboarding. It was dope. It was kinda like the music I grew up with and it made me feel at home with that. Even now, Wu-Tang is always used in skate videos.

Why does the Wu's music fit so well with the action?

It's the flows; the beats go really well with the skaters. It's kinda dark and not too happy but real good to vibe to.

Were there any Bronx-based rappers whose music you were introduced to through skate videos?

Definitely KRS-One -- he was in a lot of skate videos. I mean, the first time I heard him was with B.D.P. and I was young and, again, it was in my dad's car. I was born in 1992 so I didn't develop a taste for sound until like '95. The first time I heard KRS I was like, "He's going hard but he's not like degrading women and he actually has a point and it's kinda political" -- kinda like how Public Enemy came across -- and he was flowing with intelligence. I liked that. I liked the intelligence and the fact that he still has that raw energy.

Is the song "Wadadaang" on your mixtape something of a tribute to KRS-One?

Yeah, it was definitely a tribute to that era even though I didn't necessarily reverse any of his verses, but the hook sample and the whole idea of paying respect for your elders is kinda how [Bodega] Bamz came on it. Even at the end with the whole "9mm go bang" part and he did the outro. It just felt good to have that.

How was working with Bodega Bamz?

We weren't in the studio -- he sent me his verse -- but I met him when we had a show together in the Bronx and he watched me perform and came up to me and told me he liked how I vibed. He shouted me out in his show. I hit him up on Twitter, told him I had a song that I think he'd be perfect for. He sent it back in like two days. It was dope. I see Bamz all the time, he's a good dude.

When a featured artist sends over their verse, are you ever tempted to go back and change your own verse?

Never. It's not what it's about. Even though I've had songs where my verse has sat on there for a while, I think it's kinda cool that somebody will hear it and feel like, "Well he flowed like that so let me go in and do it like this, maybe counteract what he's saying." Going back and changing the verse is kinda like going back and changing art -- you can't go back and do that. It's a finished piece.

Has someone ever altered a guest verse you've sent over?

It's happened. My verse has been changed, like they'll change the beat, and I've been pissed off, but I've never came out of character out of respect.

The video to your song "Take It Back" has a cameo from two of the original actors in the movie "Kids." How did that come about?

Well I had a video for another song called "Muthafuck My Enemies" and that concept was based off of "Kids" and I actually showed it to [actor] Leo Fitzpatrick 'cause I know him from just around New York City skating, and he told me it was dope and that I should have hit him up for a cameo. I just showed it to him before I put it out on the Internet as a respect thing. So this time I kinda based the video around having him in it. I contacted him and Peter Bici who was also an extra in "Kids" and an O.G. Zoo York pro skater, so I hit them both up and it worked out well.

Were they cool with the concept, being that you now have them playing a couple of undercover cops?

Yeah. They're used to doing movies but we did this totally guerrilla style, not scene by scene, and they got into it. They're definitely happy with the end product.

What does the movie "Kids" mean to you?

Even though it definitely does scare people with the whole HIV behind it, it represents a culture better than a lot of ways represented it. Larry Clark and Harmony Korine got together and really showed New York City skate and New York City hip-hop culture for that era from a different point of view. You don't have to skate to understand it. They kept the realness and told a good message with the HIV. It was a really good way to put that message forward.

By the time you first saw "Kids," was it still authentic to the skate and music culture you were involved in?

Yeah, I definitely first saw it after it had came out and I started skating and knew about these dudes, but it brought it back about what skating meant to New York City. All those dudes like Harold Hunter was in there, and you knew this is how it was -- you saw them having fun, drinking beers, and you saw that in the back of all the skate videos, too. Those directors [Harmony Korine and Larry Clark] tend to keep a lot of the actors in the background and use authentic guys. They do that in other films too.

Is Leo Fitzpatrick a fan of hip-hop?

He's definitely a fan of hip-hop music and the way it interacts with skating. He comes to my shows too. He supports any way he can.

What sets skate culture in New York City apart from other places?

The weather we have here, like it snows, and there's no indoor skate parks. All year round we're pushing around the streets. We don't have licenses, we just hop on the train and go uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, Queens, we're just out there. I've been to other places on tour like L.A. and it's totally not the same. Being out, pushing around Manhattan all night, there's no other feeling. You go through Midtown and you got all the big business buildings that are lit up; you skate through the financial district and then there's Harlem… Everything's fun to skate and has its own problems and its own advantages in its own way.

What's the most frustrating part about skating in New York City?

I'd probably say the tourists are annoying as hell! You're trying to land a trick and you got 5,000 people standing there trying to take a picture of you and ask you questions. It sucks.

Have you ever got hassled by the police or security guards for skating?

I definitely got my skateboard taken. That shit is wack, man. They go crazy on skaters, especially when you're out of state. I've been in Atlanta and Florida and police will run up on us in five or six cars 'cause we're skating in one spot.

Is it scary?

Hell yeah! I know I'm not doing anything wrong so I don't trip, but I definitely got my skateboard taken and have gotten tickets. You don't get your board back. Even if you go down to the police precinct that's gonna take months. But I've never been locked up for skating yet.

What would it take to get locked up for skating?

Ha, maybe like skating on a police car, something that's totally disrespecting someone. It's definitely happened though!

Are there any West Coast rap artists that you became aware of through skate videos?

Definitely Andre Nickatina and Mac Dre. Those are some of my favorites that I came across through skating. Andre Nickatina was in a ton of old skate videos, like the "411s," and he was in this old DarkStar video where this dude Gailea Momolu skated to him, and another old video where Mike Carroll skated to him.

Growing up in the Bronx, what appealed to you about Andre Nickatina's music?

It was just his vibe that he had, the way he used his words and they fit with the music. But I mean that's kinda how I was put on to a lot of new artists [through skate videos]. I don't even just listen to hip-hop, so like David Bowie and Joy Division, I was put onto that through skate videos. People say that's ignorant, but it's how I came across some of my favorite musicians.

Do you know any other rappers that are also decent at skating?

I know definitely The Underachievers skate. I know them through skating. All the guys I skate with through Stoned Rollers do, some of the Pro Era guys skate too, Odd Future out on the West Coast, and I know that guy Hopsin skates. But it can get to be like a trend. I know there's been people that have tried, like you got your Lupe Fiascos, and it kinda shows that those people don't skate like that. I mean, you can learn. Lil Wayne is getting really good.

Really?

Yeah, I tell you, Lil Wayne is getting good. His whole life is on the Internet and on camera so you're gonna see him messing up at first, but I respect him 'cause people have told me that they've skated with him and he's really going hard and trying to learn. I wanna skate with Lil Wayne one day! He's getting nice.

How did the skate community first take to Lil Wayne's announcement that he wanted to become a skater?

A lot of people were hating at first, like this dude's mainstream and it's not real skating, but as he's kept with it people have respected him. You can see the progression in him. How can you be mad at someone who wants to learn something?

Did they ever use the old Hot Boys songs on skate videos?

Actually, it was more Three 6 Mafia. That's how I came through their old music. It was that dark vibe, like the old songs like "Red Rum," I seen that in a skate video, like "Tear Da Club Up," too. It was turnt up! It caught your eye. You'd go back to their older music -- that's a thing about skate videos, they'll always go back to the older music. It wasn't as much Cash Money as Three 6. They were definitely liked by the skate scene.

The Black Bart mixtape is out now.