AVS #3 | Element “Fine artists” (1994)

As 1993 slowly morphed into 1994, skateboarding started to drop its most shapeless baggy pants, for life can’t be a giant rave circus eternally. And Underworld Element dropped “Underworld” from its name, introducing Fine Artists vol.1, the swan song of its golden age -meaning: when Andy Howell was involved. But what a swan song ! A true masterpiece, featuring among others Billy Pepper, Doug Saenz, Andy Stone, Eric Pupecki, Stevie Williams in his first real video part, and, needless to say, Pepe Martinez in his legendary curtains segment. No communion with Mother Nature here.
In its 1.0 version, Element was street tough certified, as one of skateboard vid’s greatest street fights attests in the ending credits. What was that guy in the motorcycle helmet thinking? Nobody knows, but what’s for sure is that 1/ It comes a close second in the skate flick’s hall of fame bloopers, right after that one gentleman getting his cranium cracked by a bearded psychopath’s board at the end of
Right To Skate, and 2/ It fits perfectly Joe Jackson‘s desperately bluesy tune What’s The Use of Getting Sober… Ah, the Droorstalgia !
Showcasing a mix of ’90s hip hop, classic soul and the mandatory Sabbath track, the third installment of Visual Sound pays a double tribute to, respectively, the five years skateboarding’s been missing Pepe, and an unplausible time period when a Champion sweat-shirt was actually not a fashion faux-pas.

(Couldn’t find each separate part so here’s the whole video right here. 24 minutes of attention. You can do it)

The Commodores: Commodores
Tune used: Brick House (Billy Pepper)
How can an editor use a tune already used in another skate video and sleep at night? Major no-no. Oh, the pathetic moment when Powell recycled McRad’s Weakness from Public Domain! It’s OK though if the second attempt gets a 100 times stronger impact, which is the case with The Commodores’ Brick House. A forgettable background to a surprisingly front-foot double flipping Mike Maldonado in H Street’s Lick (speaking of swan song…), the 1977’s sick and slick soul tune made perfect sense, two years later, to underline Billy Pepper’s compact, dynamic skateboarding.
With a moustache-emblazoned Lionel Ritchie singing the praises of a “mighty-mighty, waaw” woman, the track itself comes from the seminal, self-titled LP and describes a young creature allegedly “built like a brick house”. Which is, hum, good. Probably. Funny enough, legend has it that the lyrics were written by William King’s wife, who wrote them overnight after her husband fell asleep on the couch, trying to figure out a last song for the LP. On a more tragic note, Brick House also got re-recorded in 2003 for the movie House Of 1000 Corpses, by a stunning Lionel Ritchie/Rob Zombie duet. As bizarre as a woman made out of bricks.

Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality
Tune used: Sweat Leaf (Eric Rewadi)
A very brief part for a very brief career. Eric Rewadi, ladies and gentlemen ! As Element was going East-Coast crazy, it gave the Philadelphian a chance he never really pursued in the limelight – even though he still skates, with Fred Gall and Lou Metal these days. So. Black Sabbath. Again, a muddy terrain since Ozzy’s band’s repertoire has been over-dug into, from Henry Sanchez’ to Fred Gall’s epic parts to even naming a Zero vid, Thrill of It All. Yet, the less-than-a-minute part lets Sabbath’s third album’s first track resonnate all over Love Park -an abrupt contrast to, say, Stevie Williams’ choice of scat jazz/rap pioneers Freestyle Fellowship (Project Blowed) on the same spot- and it kind of works.
The full LP, anyway, released in 1971 six months only after Paranoid, is part of the Sabbath classics everybody should own. Which means the pre-1980 ones, before the Ozzy-less band pathetically tried to compete with all these cheezy stadium metal bands. A blend of hallucinated, beefed-up, greasy rock, infused in the finest drugs available at the time. Even though Rolling Stone saw Master of Reality as “naive, simplistic, repetitive, absolute doggerel” when it came out, well, that’s maybe exactly what you should be after. For intricate heavy metal (ie guitar solos), just invest in Dokken. And die.

Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth:
Funky Technician

Tune used: Funky Technician (Pepe Martinez)
Legends unite ! As much of a cornerstone as Pepe’s switch back flips up stairs, the debut album from Finesse and Smooth will remain one of the turning points in the early ’90s hip hop history. It doesn’t take a specifically seasonned crate digger to understand that when DJ Premier, Showbiz and Diamond D are behind the wheel, the result might come out fine.
Released in 1990, these very 13 tracks shaped the way of many beats to come, and are still regarded as legendary in 2008. Of course, 18 years later people have stopped sampling only James Brown (in Pepe’s tune’s case :
Blind Man Can See It from the Black Caesar soundtrack) to widen their horizons, yet then, the whole approach was revolutionnary. As much as a f-side 180 nollie over a standing garbage can.
As an echo to this musical evolution, the most observant video nerds will have noticed on a side note that Martinez’ clothes mutate throughout his part, going from potato-bag chic to tight(er) white t-shirts and semi-normal pants. Skateboard history in action, people ! “To many I might look like a hoodlum, but I’m a rapper and a pretty damn good one”, Finesse stated. Pepe could have claimed the same status in the slateboarding world. From ’93 til infinity, he will rest in peace as Pulaski’s own funky techician…


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