It is wild to me that a person could ever get to a point in their given field where they could even consider the idea of making something perfect. In skating, I’m reluctant to say that it is even possible, given the subjectivity that is part and parcel of anything creative. Be it the way a person holds their arms, or the viewer’s disapproval of whatever “bullshit fuckin’ trap song!” was chosen — in 2018, considering the our varied and fickle tastes, no video is going to make everyone happy. I doubt that the people involved in the making of Purple had any delusions in this regard.
I can’t remember the names of the last four Ghostface albums and I can’t remember the names of the last four Transworld videos. I haven’t been waiting for either to live up to some expectation that waned well over a decade ago, either. The last dozen-plus Transworld videos have come and gone. There were some good parts, but they’re no less immune to one-and-done Instagratification wormhole that gets talked about by anyone giving a skate interview in 2017.
It seemed like we all agreed on this. Except people have had a lot of, um, not the nicest things to say about Riddles in Mathematics. First, The Bunt went in on it, then the comments on the Ben Gore part that was live for twenty-four hours — fidgety filming, GX and/or Colin Read envy, the soundtrack — skateboarders complain about everything, but apparently this one rubbed people in some way that the last five didn’t.
In the time since Transworld lost the website wars to more Biblical and Scientological outlets, it has been easy to forget that the magazine’s video program was once an eminent of a tastemaker in skateboarding. Transworld packaged Stevie/Kalis and Dill/A.V.E. better than even their sponsors. It prolonged the legend of Cardiel into a generation that was a decade removed from his S.O.T.Y. win. In Bloom predicated Tony T’s 2002 S.O.T.Y. trophy, and punctuated the release of Street Cinema. Heath Kirchart never got S.O.T.Y, but he had the Sight Unseen part. But that space where a Transworld video was an unmissable cultural event can’t co-exist with the internet.
Philadelphia, perhaps more than any other major skate city, exists in a bubble. It ignores the superficial signifiers of “cool” that we have created for ourselves. Whatever aesthetic we come to expect of a video made by a bunch of twentysomethings in the 2010s doesn’t reach Philadelphia. People from Philly will claim its four or five years “out of touch.” That number could be doubled or tripled depending where you look.
Philly kids make videos for people in Philly, where the decade-plus since Photosynthesis and The DC Video never happened. People still rock the shoes Kalis wore, do lines the way Tim O. did, and nosegrind how Wenning once nosegrinded. There’s a cult around that era and its videos, in a way that’s incomparable to pretty much any other mythologized skate scene — right now, dudes in S.F. aren’t going out of their way to track down Rob Welsh’s Aesthetics pro model or Scott Johnston Lakais.
Most skate videos reward the viewer in a simple way: you watch them to get hyped, try a trick, or maybe copy someone’s style if that’s your thing. Sabotage 4, after sitting with it for a month or so, unpacks footnotes and homages with each viewing. Just as a sample in a hip-hop song has an invitation to try and put your finger on the original sound, or The Simpsonswill wink at classic movies, Sabotage 4 comes from a similar place. The video pokes the viewer in the ribs, testing the geek-levels of anyone well-versed in the folklore of peak Alien Workshop-era Philadelphia skateboarding. It celebrates its inspirations beyond the tricks.
Watching a big company skate video in 2015 is like watching a championship game between two teams you have no emotional attachment to. Everything built up to that moment, everyone’s been waiting a long time to see the result, the people involved are the best at what they do, but it’s impossible to go all in on. That’s why most verbal reviews of skate videos are prefaced with “The skating is obviously good…” At a certain age, there’s no point in re-watching any new video that doesn’t have your friends in it — or skaters that remind you of your friends.
…or at least people who clearly skate together.
With every big video, we find something to latch onto. Some watch them for the #fashion. Many watch them to catch sightings of the old guys without active Instagram accounts (these six seconds were the loudest the theater got on premiere night in New York.) Some do have friends that make it into company videos, so they watch it for the hometown heroes (e.g. it was probably loud as shit for the Richmond premiere.) Quartersnacks’ most common lensfor discourseon this type of thing is the noseslide.
The Vans roster does not seem loaded with nosesliders — the video is largely devoid of ledges altogether, which are the noseslide’s most compatible partner — but Propeller does boast an ensemble of impressive nasal maneuvers.
Wheel companies barely scrape any semblance of the footage submission hierarchy. It’s the board company, the shoe sponsor, the high profile independent video, the Transworld part or Thrasher section, a goof-around section in the hometown video, guest tricks in friends’ parts, and then maybe, if a wheel company is rude enough to ask for footage for a full-length, they get the scraps.
Got Gold? was one of the last true pre-internet videos. Companies could still get away with packaging B-sides and parts from dudes who weren’t going to have full sections in any board company videos (i.e. half the guys in it rode for Lucky Skateboards at the time), and selling it for $20. The line-up on the box looked good, so everyone bought it. Got Gold? was as commonly seen on VHS shelves in the early 2000s as Sorry, Harsh Euro Barge, or any other video of the era worth remembering, even though it was nowhere near as thoughtfully put together. This was right before it became impossible to keep track of every skate video that came out in a given year; Got Gold? became a classic by default, sorta how seventh and eighth seeds in the Eastern Conference become playoff teams for no reason more than that there has to be eight of them.
Between Henry Sanchez’s embarrassingly lovable rapping, a serviceable first post-Wonderful Horrible Life Ryan Gallant part, some solid cameos, and a great Marcus McBride ender, Got Gold? is great at capturing a specific time. It helps that it was one of the first videos in my mind to embrace terrestrial radio hits as music supervision choices around the time of their peak relevance (“Oh Boy,” “Take It To the House,” et al.) This was a time when white widescreen bars were still the standard mode for big budget rap videos and rappers had yet to grow weary of interjecting everything they do with lines from Scarface. Got Gold? ate all that up, and syphoned it into a skate video — because chances are, no proper board company at the time would let their video go as wild with latent feelings of “We’d honestly rather make a rap video.” (Ok, maybe Shorty’s.)
Thirteen years after Marcus McBride skated to “Bonnie & Shyne,” not much has changed. The new Gold video is a bit more tightly edited, and the movie cut-ins draw reference from every facet of pop culture imaginable, not unlike Bronze with A.D.D.