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Tyshawn Jones & Nakel Smith

Interview

One of my favorite expressions is: „There’s so much talent out there“. Ok, it’s not exactly an expression, it’s probably just a quote from a friend, but it pretty much sums up what Earl Sweatshirt – a good friend of Nak’el Smith – discussed in a recent interview. The thing with talent, as well as beauty, is that sadly most of it is not seen. Because people are too shy for being themselves or distracted by the thought they have to be like someone else. Or even worse, by being smoked out all day. Luckily the last distraction mentioned doesn’t seem to harm skateboarding talent, cause Na’kel Smith and Tyshawn Jones are on fire. The beautiful thing is, not only do they skate extremely good, they also present themselves as who they are and that makes it fun to watch. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the first step of becoming an actor – as strange as it sounds. Who knows… maybe we can watch Kids 2 sooner than we think. And even if this is just phantasizing, at least we can look forward to more ”videos by Bill Strobeck“.

Hey Nak, where are you right now?

N: I’m at home in LA.

I thought you were on tour with Earl?

N: I was, but we are taking a break.

Whats your part on stage?

N: I’m the hypeman. More like Flavor Flave. That’s what I do.

Would you say rapping is your second passion?

N: Nah, I’m just having fun, but my parents rap too and they have always been around me. My mom was in a group called Urban Prop. They were pretty big in LA and yeah, my dad makes music too. They didn’t become bigtime rappers, but they did their thing. (editor’s note: Actually, we found a record which features the song “Worry Free“ by Urban Prop. Also on the record: Ice T, Chuck D, The Pharcyde and Lord Finesse).

So you were always surrounded by music.

N: For sure, my grandma was a blues singer and my uncle used to play with Sammy Davis Jr, but I decided not to be a musician, because I was skating. I wanted to become a pro skater and didn’t want to worry about balancing two things out. I’m kind of shy when it comes to making music or anything like that. I played the upright bass in middle school and guitar in elementary school.

Tyshawn Jones & Nakel Smith
Double Crooked [Photo: Sem Rubio]

Tyshawn, you are on a adidas trip in Miami. Are you skipping school or are you done with that?

T: Nah, I’m on springbreak right now, but usually I still go to school.

Where did you grow up?

T: I was born in New York City, moved to Jersey for a few years, then moved back to the Bronx, where I’m currently living. I grew up in an area, that wasn’t too good, but not all that bad either.

How did you get on Supreme?

T: I went skating and tre-flipped this ninestair. I was with my friend who filmed it with his iPhone. We kept on skating and bumped into this dude who worked at supreme, as did my friend. So he was talking to him like: „Yea, he just did this tre-flip“ and showed it to him. The Dude was hyped and told me that I could come by to the shop and grab a board, but I never did. After some time, I went there with my friends and he was like „Why did you never show up?“, and I was like „I don’t know, I didn’t want to ask you guys for anything.“ I asked him if the offer still stands. From that day I was on Supreme, but I didn’t really know about Supreme at that time.


"I was sitting there, going through all those crazy emotions whilse I was tripping on acid"

So on the one hand you had musical influence from your family and on the other you grew up with Thebe aka. Earl Sweatshirt from Odd Future. How do you know Thebe?

N: Just skating and being around LA. We still skate together every day. He’s got an insane 360 Flip – better then others I know, that are like skate warriors.

You’re featured on his new album. What’s the song DNA about?

N: Thebe lived in Hollywood in an apartment complex with like a thousand rooms. We were going there all the time fucking around, bullshitting, getting fucked up and just skating. He was making his album at a studio down the street and we were chilling there. He already had this one beat, that was kind of up-beat, like a party song, that he eventually turned into the DNA-Beat. While he was making it, a friend came by and I took acid with him. 15 minutes later when it kicked in I got a message, saying that one of my best homies had passed away, because he got shot. My whole world turned inside out. It went from like „ayyee“ so hyped, to being devastated and depressed, it was fucked up. So I was sitting there, going through all those crazy emotions whilse I was tripping on acid. I told Thebe I don’t know what to do and he just told me to write about it. So that’s what I did, at the studio and it‘s crazy that we got to express that energy. It was a hundred percent natural.

What do you think when you hear the song now?

N: I think about my friend. About what he looked like and memories that we had together. At the end of the day I had to deal with death and shit a lot in my life. People were dying and I had to be strong for my family, you know what I mean? I kind of understand when somebody dies, you got to make the best out of the worst situations. That is like my motivation to become a better person and do things the right way.

Nakel Smith – Bodyvarial
Nakel Smith – Bodyvarial [Photo: Dave Chami]

Whats your relationship with Bill (Strobeck) like?

T: I don’t know, kind of funny i guess. He is 37 and I’m 16 so it’s kind of weird, but its all good. He‘s just cool and I don‘t see him as an older guy and he doesn’t see me as a kid. I just chill with him as if he were my age. It’s more than just filming. I go over to his house to hang out with him, or get something to eat. I mean, if I would quit skating today, I’d still want him to be my friend. I am grateful that Bill helped me a lot with all the filming and he played a big part in getting to where I am now.

When did you realize that you made some kind of breakthrough with “cherry“?

T: Definitely after everybody started hitting me up, telling me they wanted to put me on their team. That first happened after “buddy“ and then after “cherry“ again. They contacted me before the video dropped, because they knew that the video was going to be tight and that there was going to be a lot of publicity. People were trying to get the skaters to ride for them, before someone else got their chance. A lot was happening.

For a young person like you, who is getting a lot of hype, is it hard keeping your feet on the ground?

T: No, because it just happened to me. I’m just hyped and grateful.

What did you buy with your first paychecks?

T: Nothing really. I just save the money. You can’t just blow everything on crap, just because you got it man. I just want to save it, buy a house when I get older and live comfortably.


"I just want to save the money, buy a house when I get older and live comfortably"

What was your first impression when you met Bill?

N: He’s cool and really funny. We would just go out and skate like on a normal day and he’d still just get it. He kind of brings the tricks to you like, “You should try this”. We took him to OG-spots that he wanted to skate and get big sessions going. He brings the energy. He keeps his stuff in secrecy. When we film something we watch it on the camera and never see it again until the video is done. He never shows it to anybody before it comes out.

What has changed for you after “cherry“?

N: It opened a lot of doors being a part of it, but I still think the same way and work at everything I want to work at. I still love skating.

How much do you skate these days?

N: Every day I can. But if you’re on tour and you’re doing five shows back to back, you will be sore and tired. But if I have the energy, I make sure I go skate all day. Back then, we were also skating, but really, we were just hanging out, bullshitting, drinking, smoking… all that stuff. Now I just want to skate all the time. Since we are filming the adidas video, I might as well go out and get clips when I can, especially because of touring with Thebe and stuff. I got to make up for the lost time you know. It‘s just like skating casually, but someone is pointing a camera at you.

Tyshawn Jones – Backside 5-0
Tyshawn Jones – Backside 5-0 [Photo: Pep Kim]

New York was gaining momentum or might have even passed LA in the last few years – What’s the reason?

T: I don’t know if this is true, I just think a lot of good videos came out from NYC recently. Back then, everybody was seeing LA a lot and now a lot of new people are coming out. I think it‘s tight that New York is getting the shine it deserves.

Na’kel, Kevin and you established Hardies Hardware last year. What’s behind it?

T: There is this game that we play called Hardies. I came up with the idea and was doing it by myself at first, till Na’kel and Kevin came to New York and we talked about it. I was hyped that they wanted to be a part of it. We knew that we wanted to start a hardware company and make some shirts and sweaters. We were starting to Instagram it and people started liking it and shit. It got big.

It’s unusual that a 16 year old starts a company.

T: Yea, but I don’t think it really matters how old you are. It’s a thing that grown men do every day. It’s definitely hard work though. But in order for something to be successful, you gotta put in a lot of work. Im really busy. I mean, I go skate, run a company, go to school, feed my dogs. I have a lot on my plate. I mean, I am 16, but I don’t feel like that.


"Im really busy. I mean, I go skate, run a company, go to school, feed my dogs"

Your first uncle played with Sammy Davis and your other uncle is Kareem Campbell – what’s up with your family?

N: I don’t know. I feel that’s all the ingredients to make me who I am. I feel blessed. They taught me things and did everything with me. It feels good to know that, but I still had to do stuff for myself. They didn’t spoil me and make it easy for me.

Did uncle Kareem take you to some sessions back then?

N: Nah, I was too small. I mean he probably didn’t want to babysit me. If he was going to skate, then he had to go and do his thing. I can now understand how he must have felt, cause sometimes people are like, yea let’s go skate. And I’m like yea, I skate every day, but you can’t come with me.

What’s he been up to?

N: He came out with an Adidas shoe, the legend pack. I haven’t been seeing him much lately, but I think he’s working at a real estate agency.

Nakel Smith – Ollie
Nakel Smith – Ollie [Photo: Dave Chami]

I saw a photo with you and Jonah Hill – something about “big deals happening“.  Are you going to do a movie?

T: I don’t know if I should talk about it, but I hope so. Nothing is finalized right now but he knows Bill and drove by and saw us. He’s funny and came with us to see us skate.

I think, one reason why “cherry“ was successful, is because Sage, Sean, Na’kel, Aidan and you are very expressional. Are you familiar with the movie kids?

T: I get that a lot, it seems people like our personality. It’s just who we are, nothing is fake. It’s funny. I heard about the movie, but I never watched it. I should probably do that some day.

Na’kel got on complex magazines list: the young leaders of style. With him, you could probably easily turn Hardies  into a clothing company. Is that something you might be interested in?

T: No, right now its just Hardies Hardware and we just make a small swag pack with some shirts and hoodies we like. There’s no plan for a clothing company or so, but maybe one day.


"Everybody is trying to be so next level so much, that it’s not next level at all"

How important are clothes to you?

N: I just like clothes, thats pretty much it. That has nothing to do with skating or anything. Everybody cares about the clothes they wear. Everybody has their taste and if that’s what you like to wear, then wear it. It’s not a big deal. People care too much about setting trends, as well as following them. Everybody is trying to be so next level so much, that it’s not next level at all. People want to fit in. It’s sad, but not too bad. Some people follow trends and they are still cool people.

What’s more important – gnar or syle?

N: Style. Style is important, but I hate when people forget to challenge themselves. I like beating myself up. If I’m going to try a trick, then I really want to do it. If you just do the same thing over and over again, that shit gets boring.

What would be the biggest thing in 2016: going pro, recording an album or starting a fashion label?

N: I want to go pro for sure! Skateboarding; that’s my life.

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