Interview: Shortypop vows to “Keep Hoes Topless” (NSFW)
by Winston "Stone" Ford
In the short timespan of 6 months, the Shortypop brand went from being an art project, to one of the most talked about brands in hip-hop. The brainchild of Chandler, an art student from Harlem, Shortypop caught everybody’s attention with scantily clad women juxtaposed against hard core rap lines. Love it or hate it, sex sells, and Shortypop has used the lure of women to get everybody’s attention.
What was the inspiration for Shortypop?
A girl who was actually from the DMV, her nickname was shortypop. It was orginally her web presence, and there was some bad blood, some drama or whatnot, and ultimately I was the one who built the website, and there was a T-Shirt with her photo on it. Beyond that it sort of expanded, into brining it somewhat beyond her. It was just imagery, at that point I wasn’t even selling product. From that point on, I wanted to take it and become a brand. And I was like “What do people sell?,” and it was Streetwear, which I’ve always been interested in.
|Shortypop x Barbara Kruger|
Urban America IS pop culture. You walk outside this door and hip-hop is reality. So when people get offended by my “Keep Hoes Topless” t-shirt, I gotta say that I didn’t invent this idea, I’m just channeling it.
The first thing my girlfriend noticed when she saw Shortypop was the term “Keep Hoes Topless”…
Well, the whole ideal of Shortypop was to take urban culture which is incredibly misogynistic, and juxtaposing that against Barbara Kruger who is the most prolific female artist in the last 40 years. The bulk of her art is about feminism and gender equality issues like abortion and right to life. And then we have these contemporary notions of urban culture which is based on this blanket misogyny that exists in hip-hop. You have So you have this one artist from the 60s and 70s and even today, still making art on one end, and you have Biggie and Jada with lines like “I Like My Bitches Brainless” on the other. I’m sure that Barbara Kreuger is shaking her head.
Urban America IS pop culture. You walk outside this door and hip-hop is reality. So when people get offended by my “Keep Hoes Topless” t-shirt, I gotta say that I didn’t invent this idea, I’m just channelling it. Jadakiss said “I keep my rocks spotless and my hoes topless” over a decade ago, so the idea already existed, and there are an infinite number of songs which share the same idea. I’m not creating this.
It’s branding sexuality, I guess you could say.
The biggest thing I was drawn into by you were your photos. How do you do what you do?
Usually I’m putting [the photos] on to about four to five mediums. It’s just a matter of scale. I use film, digital, and Polaroid. I think Polariod is sort of a dead medium, but I’m trying to bring it back. I saw Johan Yasahara take Polariods with this sorta deskilled ascetic–kind of like the picture you would take with your girlfriend—but then turn that into a commercial thing. So I have these models come in and take shots on a Polariod that cost $100 on eBay versus some of the other cameras I have, which costs thousands of dollars. I feel like I’m giving people a perspective from Polaroid’s all the way to images that you could put on a billboard.
You have clothes for men, but for the most part, you are a female focused brand, why is that?
Well, I have all of these half-naked girls, so I figured that I would make clothes for them, that other women would wear. It’s branding sexuality, I guess you could say. So it was sort of a given to make women’s streetwear. Women’s streetwear is unbranded, and the only branding you see are these 80s notions of urban women, you know with the doorknocker earrings and Chanel bags. They are basic troupes for what defines streetwear, and they all build off of those same exact troupes. So I figured that I could build off of those things and then build upon that.
So, other than maybe those Abercrombie catalogs from back in the day, , your Lookbook has the most use of nudity that I’ve seen in a while.
Yeah, most lookbooks have their models wear their clothes normally to show how it fits. Me on the other hand having a girl wear the shirt all the way up to her neck is a pretty bold idea. With my product, its American Apparel, so you already know how it fits. So it’s a rather bold idea to use a Lookbook to brand things rather than just explain [the product].
I’ve noticed that you’ve done some prints with Hello Kitty…
Yeah, it’s it’s an interesting idea of literally co-opting brands. You can argue that I’ve co-opted Supreme on a certain level, but really it’s just a parody, but the Hello Kitty thing is a literal co-op, but it helps sells product.
And what about Supreme? Some people say that you ape off them too…
Supreme actually knows about me. They have me on their top MySpace friends and everything I’ve heard through the woodwork if you will, is that it’s funny, like “what is this kid going to do next?”
I feel like some of the best streetwear brands co-opt culture, and that’s what makes Supreme great. There are four Supreme stores in Japan . Their ability to contextualize and co-opt downtown New York culture and create that into clothing makes it an incredibly sellable product in places like Japan where “New York Culture” is adored. You have four stores in a country that’s 1/4th the size of America (laughs). Even though they are a part of all of these cultures they still take from them. This is definitely something that has interested me.
What is the future for Shortypop?
Well, the streetwear market is incredibly oversaturated, so I’m trying to find more revenue streams beyond just selling t-shirts. It’s a matter of expanding the brand, and creating something that is sellable to advertisers. In the next Lookbook I’m selling ad space, to present the idea of the possibility of what we could do.
We’re hosting mixtapes. The one I’m gonna promote in the next couple weeks, The Boy Illionis is going to be presented through Shortypop. It’s about showing [the world] a sellable product and you can expand beyond selling T-Shirts and Clothes. You generate this [site] traffic, and now it’s about using this traffic that you generate on a daily basis for some sellable means. Yeah, I get 1500 hits a day but what can you do with that? If I sold 1500 T-Shirts a day I wouldn’t be living in West Harlem.
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