From time to time, skating functions as a nexus point for a cultural #moment. Case in point: the old X-Large store on Vermont in L.A. — a locale squarely in the middle of a venn diagram of streetwear, rap, and what we now know as street skating:
1. Backed by the Beastie Boys, who used footage from Questionable in the video for “Time for Livin’”
2. Neighbored by Los Feliz School, home of legendary hip/bump/stairs etc.
3. Frequented by the most progressive World/Girl/Choc riders of the time, who, as Clyde Singleton noted in his legendary 20 Shot Sequence commentary, blew thousands of dollars on Pumas and “weird Ben Davis pants.”
The internet — or more specifically, the only thing on it that anyone cares about, Instagram — functions as the modern-day X-Large store. And in a few short years, Sk8mafia rider Stephen Lawyer has mastered this convergence by capitalizing on both the #attentioneconomy and Instagram-as-Content-Management-System.
Where are you from, and how did you get into skating?
I’m from San Diego. I was playing hella baseball as a kid, and I saw some neighborhood kids skating. I got a board together and started skating to practice ‘n shit. And one day at practice I was just like “Man, I’m tired of this shit. I just wanna skate with the homies.” I quit baseball and here I am.
Who was most influential on your skating coming up?
I’m sure you’ve heard of Jordan Taylor. I was best friends with his little brother, and we always used to skate together. It was pretty dope watching Jordan and all the other homies do their thing. They had a crew called More for Less, and they’d always make videos and shit. We pretty much followed in their footsteps.
I remember seeing some footage of you riding for Expedition. How did you get hooked up with those dudes?
One of their photographers, Matt Daughters, actually contacted me through MySpace a hella long time ago. You remember Roger Skateboards — like Michael Seiben and all that shit? I had gotten a “Roger of the Month” in like 2009, and it was a minute-and-a-half part, they flowed you for a month, and they gave you like a lil’ internet ad on the website. Daughters must have come across that part and they just hit me up on MySpace and asked if I wanted to get flowed for Expedition.
You had a sick part in one of those Shep Dawgs videos. How did you link up with Riley Hawk and those dudes?
I probably met him right around the same time I was getting flowed from Expedition, like sixteen, seventeen. I met him at the local skatepark. His dad lived relatively close to my house. We’d always skate the park and Tony’s yard. Then another one of our homies, Jacob Nunez, was always filming. Everybody just came together — Rowan and A.J. Zavalla and Kirby — all these homies and rippers. We’re all from the same area.
You know Troye Rhoades a.k.a. Bobby Long — he owns Bumbag? We always used to paint on Riley’s bedroom wall. He was trying to write “shred dawg” on the wall, and he fucked up and put “shep dawg,” and we were just like “what the fuck is a shep dawg?” That’s pretty much how Shep Dawgs came to be, and like typical kids, we started writing it on our boards and making videos.
How did you get introduced to the tri-camo pants?
The homie Caleb a.k.a. Lil Gnar, he started Gnarcotic — I wanna say a year or two ago? I don’t know how we came to find each other on IG, but he wanted to send me some promo. It had just dropped, and was pretty fresh. Nobody had really seen anything like it ever before. Whether people hate on it or not, it got hella attention from people, whether they’re hyped on it or hating on it. It was just a fun thing — I like wearing that kind of shit. I know it’s not for everybody, but I see so many people doing it now, wearing all kinds of camo shit.
It was dope, I got a write-up in Vice when Lil Gnar had his last interview; they were talking about the tri-color camo pants. It was sick because the only two names they mentioned about it were me and Lil Yachty. For me, I was pretty psyched that I could be brought up in the same sentence as Lil Yachty for something as simple as wearing a certain pair of pants. They called me a “cult favorite skater” and I was like “damn.” [Even though] there are people that hate on it as a gimmick, it’s still cool because there are always gonna be people who fuck with it. Just be yourself and do you, and wear whatever you may want to wear and skate how you want to skate.
You seem to put a lot of thought into your Instagram footage. How you go about a) putting together an outfit, and b) picking a song?
For now bro, I just try to use music that’s either made by my homies or songs that maybe some people will send me. Instagram’s getting pretty crazy with copyright shit. Sometimes it sucks, but Instagram is such a huge part of the industry nowadays for so many reasons. I know some people don’t have or need it — more power to them, that’s hella raw. But some people like to use it to their advantage, and I guess I’m one of those people.
I don’t want to get my shit taken down, so I try to be pretty careful about using copyrighted music. I’ll have people send me songs and I’ll go through them to see which ones work, or I’ll try to use artists who don’t really have labels owning their music. That’s why I like the the Soundcloud rap and why a lot of that shit is used so frequently. Like, you’re probably familiar with Pouya and Germ and all them? Like those kind of guys, you can always use their kind of music because they own all the rights to it.
Instagram will straight up take your account down. You know when you post something, use a song, and it says “your post has been removed due to copyright” or whatever? I feel like if you get a few a those, and you keep appealing it, they just pull your shit down. I just try to avoid that.
As far as outfits, I don’t really put too much thought into it. I’m sure some people think I do, but my shit’s not put together well. By no means do I consider myself as someone who knows a lot about fashion and matching clothes and colors. Sometimes I’ll just throw on a [Sk8]mafia shirt and some fuckin’ camo jawns or some fuckin’ AYC jumpers — I like track pants a lot. I like comfortable shit, and I hella like baggy clothes, too.
Top 5 SoundCloud rappers?
Definitely Germ and Pouya. It’s getting hard these days because Soundcloud rappers are turning into mainstream artists so fast. But I really like Smooky Margielaa, he’s hella hard, and Gunna, he raps with Young Thug. I was into that $uicide Boys shit for a while, but they took all their shit off Soundcloud, so I don’t really listen to it anymore. Thouxanbanfauni is raw. I still listen to Chief Keef a lot, not even gonna lie.
Do you fuck with 6ix9ine?
No, fam. I don’t fuck with Tekashi69 — unless he drops that song “Bloodwalk,” which sounds kinda raw, but other than that…
What would you say to someone who thinks you should do all the NBDs at a street spot, and save them for a “real” video part?
I would tell them that the separation between the streets and the park is, to me, a huge deal. Just because something’s done at a skatepark doesn’t mean it’s easy to do it in the street. If someone said that to me I’d just be like “Whoa, man, you should watch some of my parts because there’s hella shit in there.” Like, to me, sometimes I think that just because something’s on IG doesn’t mean everybody can see it, you know? Thousands of other people may have not seen it at all, so it would still be like a first-time viewing for them. A lot of the tricks I do on IG — I’ll try to just keep ‘em [there], but sometimes I like doing that shit in the streets, because if I haven’t seen it done in the streets before, I still think it’s raw.
Whose footage do you check for these days?
Definitely Gustav Tønnesen on Sour. I really fuck with his skating, bro. He does the dopest shit; that’s the kinda shit I try to be on, just like “damn, what was that?!” Obviously, I keep up with people like Busenitz and Silas. I like Tyshawn Jones. I heard he doesn’t smoke or drink or anything, like he’s just sober — I think that’s pretty raw, too. And honestly, Kevin Bradley, Supreme, Fucking Awesome, all that.
What’s your typical day-to-day like?
Wake up, brush my teeth, meet up with the homies, smoke a bit, and go get some food. We usually end up at Encinitas park, the Poods Park. It’s like thirty minutes from my house, but I make it down there at least a couple times a week, whether just to chill or try some new shit. Then, if I don’t make it all the way down south, like all the way to S.D. where the [Sk8]mafia heads are at during the week, I usually go down on the weekend and skate some street with all the homies.
What’s your take on the popularity of Xanax these days?
It’s obviously terrible. Especially with the way shit is nowadays, you don’t even know what you’re taking. Like, that’s what happened to Lil Peep: he was taking pressed Xanax that wasn’t real and had Fentanyl in it. I think it sucks that the mainstream media will so heavily endorse people that promote pretty shitty drug use. And I’m not perfect. I’ve sipped lean every now and again in my years, and smoked hella weed, but none of that crazy shit. That’s the type of shit that ruins people — those benzo’s, bro? That’s just the wrong path. But I’m not sure how big it is in the skate industry, because you can’t be an athlete or skateboarder popping hella Xans. I think also without Xans being so heavily promoted, there would be way less face tat type shit. I think when you’re on Xans you don’t really have that voice in your head telling you not to do something.
How do you feel about the current political climate in America?
I don’t really keep track of the politics, but I know things are fucked right now. It’s crazy to go travel out of the country and see how people treat you nowadays with all the shit happening in America. I remember being in a shop in Barcelona , and they can tell we’re Americans and probably from California. This one guy was like “Where you guys from, California?” We’re like “Yeah, why?” He’s like “What do you think of ?” I was just like “Damn, in a little city outside of Barcelona and that’s what he’s asking us about.”
It sucks because it puts us all under one roof, so to speak. I can’t focus too much on that shit — it’ll eat your brain up. I try and keep up with skating and shit like that. I know things are bad in our government, but I’m sure every government has some type of sheisty shit happening. I watched this documentary called Dirty Money and there’s an episode about . It’s so crazy that this dude is the main star in his own T.V. show or movie, and he’s directing the whole thing.
You had a grip of footage from Barcelona in the last Sk8Mafia vid. What was it like out there?
I think Spain — Barcelona particularly — is one of my favorite places. You really can tell people don’t live to work, you know? They work to live. You just go to skate spots, go to the shop, get a baguette and some meat and cheese, water, and some drinks or whatever and just like chill and make food. Like that don’t happen in America, you know? Like, imagine in Virginia you pull up to the skatepark and the homies are there with baguettes, cooling making lunch. I didn’t see any fights when I was out there, and really, didn’t see any people talking shit.
It’s sick because Tyler Surrey lives out there full time. Last year, I was probably there for more than sixty days, and I hopped in a car maybe twice, just to go skate spots outside the city. For the most part, you’re skating all these famous spots that are back-to-back-to-back. And honestly, the way it is out there is so cheap. If you go there and you’re like “Alright, I’m not gonna party my life away and spend hella money on alcohol,” you could probably stay there for a minute on five hundred bucks. In thirty days, I probably wouldn’t spend more than a thousand dollars.
What other jobs, hobbies, or side hustles do you have besides skating?
I love playing music; I’ve been playing all types of guitar for twelve years. That’s kinda how me and Riley became such good friends…we were always playing music together. When he used to live at his dad’s, he had the whole set-up in his pool house: drum set, a few guitars, bass. We would jam for hours. I’ve been playing drums and guitar. I’ve been playing piano — not hella well, but I can play.
I know you’re on the Asphalt Yacht Club shit, but if you could ride for any luxury fashion brand, who would you want to ride for?
Probably Gucci, honestly. I like the monogram, all-over-print type shit: the “GG.” They make pretty dope-looking shoes sometimes, maybe you could skate those. A lot of the shit they make is ridiculous — it’s pretty much pointed towards rappers, actor, singers, whatever. But if they came out with a skate line, I think it’d be pretty sick if they got the right people and did it right.
How’d you link up with Sk8mafia? They seem like a pretty tight-knit crew.
Pretty random, bro. I’ve probably been on Sk8mafia for like three years now. I was working a job at a café and riding for Expedition. It seemed to me like they were lagging and not trying to do anything with me. One day, I had an epiphany, and was like, “Man, fuck this shit. I just wanna skate. I wanna get my name out there, so I can continue to skate and try to inspire people and do all the shit I’m doing now.” I quit my job and Expedition the same day.
I wanted to get on [Sk8]mafia. Grandeur, the shop I skate for, talked to one of the reps for Sk8mafia — Josh Lopez, who’s like one of my best friends now. He was down for me, and I guess they made a phone call when Wes and Dan Connelly were in the van. I remember them saying that they were down, so I heard that and I was like,” Alright, fuck it. I’m gonna make it a point to get on Sk8mafia.” So I damn near drove to the skatepark they were at, and started filming hella park tricks.
Then, one day I hopped in the van and Dan Connelly was just like “Yeah, so we wanna fuck with you. We’ll have you film a ‘Welcome to the Team’ part.” I was so shocked and proud of myself that all that shit worked out for me.
What’s it like being on the same team as a S.O.T.Y.?
Wes is amazing. It’s really dope being able to tour with somebody like him. He’s always hyped for everybody, always rolling spliffs. You can tell he’s a S.O.T.Y. when you kick it with him. He’s hella motivational, like if you’re trying some shit, he’s right there with you, either skating or hyping you up. And when you’re in S.D., Sk8mafia is just a big-ass family.
Anything else on deck for the rest of 2018?
We’re gonna definitely put out another video in the next couple months. Keep it moving and keep my head above water. And keep drinking water.
Any thanks, shout-outs or plugs?
I honestly just want to thank all my sponsors: Sk8mafia, Asphalt Yacht Club, Thunder, Spitfire, and Grandeur. All the homies: Shep Dawgs, all my Encinitas homies, everybody who fucks with me, everybody who keeps an open mind to what skating is and what it’s gonna become, and anybody who can acknowledge something different and not just hate on it.