An Interview With Gangcorp Videographer, Naquan Rollings

Intro & Interview by Adam Abada
Photos by Mac Shafer

Gang Corp is an organically formed group of friends, born of their love for skating and curiosity for the world, and aided by social media — but not governed by it. Fort Greene native Naquan Rollings just released their second full-length video, Black Business, which is their best yet. We hit him up to try and get some insight into the ingredients and process behind Gang Corp doing what they do.

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Where are you from, and how old are you?

I was born in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I actually just moved — I live in East New York now. I’ve lived in Brooklyn my whole life. I turned 21 last September. I’m getting old super fast. I still feel like I’m 18.

When did you start skating?

That’s always a weird question that I can never really answer. I remember when I was around 10 years old, I had a board but didn’t take it seriously. If it wasn’t for my sister, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten into it. She’s 10 years older than me. When she was in school, she knew about Supreme and all that stuff. She kind of put me on, I guess you can say.

She always wanted a skateboard and my grandma ended up getting her one of those fake ones from Target. I would just ride around on it. I thought I was never gonna try all that trick shit, but I guess the more I was on it, the more I wanted to. I would start meeting people around Fort Greene who skated. I lived right across the street from the park, so anytime people came to skate it, I would hear it from my window, then would go outside and check it out.

How did you meet the Gang Corp guys?

We were all homies before Gang Corp happened. Before I even skated L.E.S. like that, the only thing I knew about was the Death Video. I would see everyone skating deep around Midtown. I started going to Essex Street Academy right there on Delancey for high school, so I would go to L.E.S. every day after school.

What do you think drew you to the idea of filming back then?

When I listen to music, I always think about skating going to it. I started making iPhone edits with whoever I was friends with when Instagram started having videos. All the homies liked my edits and wanted to be in them. I have some of them private now, because I’d rather people watch the newest stuff.

The first Gang Corp video was on an iPhone too, yeah?

Everyone thinks that was an iPhone 5, but it’s not. It’s an iPhone SE that came out with the 6S. I had a little death lens on it. I literally edited that whole video on that phone. Some homies was with it and others were like “I’m not trying to film with a phone.” I was ignoring all the negative comments — they were coming from my own homies! Not even random people.

Did that help grow Gang Corp?

Yeah. One thing I like so much about Gang Corp is that everyone can do different shit. One homie does graffiti, people do art. Everyone does enough to make it a big collective. This is not some forced shit. It was all happening before it was Gang Corp — that’s just the name we added to it. We just saw how other crews had made a name about it. We would just fuck around on our Instagram group chats, and change the name of the chat each time with some dumb lingo. Someone titled it “Gang Corp,” and we decided that was kind of hard. Day Day went and made the Instagram, and started reposting some of my edits. I didn’t even think we should’ve been reposting edits — we should just make new edits.

“In New York, if you have a solid ollie, you can hit anything.”

Where’d you get the name Black Business?

It’s from skating midtown, which we skate a lot. Whenever we got kicked out, Duron would yell “Black Business! Black Business!” and the security guards would usually give us another try or even let us keep skating because we were all yelling that. I kind of like the name, because I feel like it builds controversy. I’ve been getting comments on YouTube like, “Well what if it was a white business?” That shit is funny to me.

How do sessions get organized? Sometimes it seems like just you and one skater, but a lot of times, there are huge groups of people mobbing through the streets.

It’s usually not organized. We don’t know where to go half the time. That’s why a bunch of the spots are just in the midtown to L.E.S. radius. Any clips that are just me and a few people means that I met up with them before we went to L.E.S. If there’s a bunch of people, we already linked up there and went somewhere else. It’s sick because we ended up making a whole video about the area we are always in.

It sounds sort of like you’re leading the charge, then?

Everyone’s always looking to me like “Where we going?” I don’t know how it became me. I guess you could say I have an eye? Most of the time, someone will come to me wanting to try something and I’ll be like “That’s wack” — well, I won’t say it’s wack, but I just know if someone can do something better. I guess people just respect my thoughts on it and my eye for skating.

A lot of the spots you end up hitting seem to be either new approaches to classic Manhattan spots or even just skating the spots the traditional way.

In New York, if you have a solid ollie, you can hit anything. Just a nice, decent ollie and you can get on a lot of spots. But I guess it’s hard to find new shit. Everyone is gonna want to skate things that they’ve seen other people skate. I’m trying to take these guys to different types of spots that aren’t always seen.

At the same time, we don’t care about ABDs. Why ruin the joy of wanting to try something just because somebody else did it? It’s still doing it for you, it’s still pushing skateboarding. It’s just negative to not do something because someone else has. Everyone has different style, it shouldn’t matter if someone else did it.

“They were trying to kick us out, but everyone just lined up at the bottom of the stairs and around the spot.”

Like in Amir’s part! He does a backside grab over that bump in Bed-Stuy that people have done so many tricks over, but that really stood out to me. His part was so sick — it’s not like anyone’s going to doubt his ability — so it was awesome to put that stylish grab in it. I like that more than any other trick I’ve seen at that spot.

It’s funny you say that, because he was actually trying a trick on the out ledge at Zuccotti. We went back there four times to get the trick for this one part in his song, but he didn’t get it. He didn’t want me to use that grab, but he didn’t get any other clips for that part, so I was like “fuck it.” Then he did that little back bigspin after it. It just went.

That’s a cool mindset to have. That’s how skating works — you’re out with a big crew and people are doing tricks and not thinking about who else has done it. What’s the normal crew size on sessions like that?

A few days ago, I counted how many people we were with and it was deadass 17 people. But that shit is lit! Skating through the streets that deep, there’s no feeling like that. Everyone on the sidewalks is beaming. We’re all skitching, doing tre flips in the street. I feel like it just brightens up people’s days. You see people pointing at us.

What do you think the biggest crew you’ve been out with was?

I think it actually could be more than 30 sometimes. It’s not just straight Corp members — we’re all homies, so a bunch of other people are chilling with us.

How long were you filming for Black Business?

I started filming right after I dropped Banister on Christmas 2017. That was done with a VX2100 and a MKII fisheye, and that shit looks way different than a VX1000. When I started doing Black Business, I had the same camera, but my homie Ben held me down and gave me a MKI and the adapter. That shit looks dope like that. You can tell which clips are on the MKII cause I fell a bunch of times, and that fisheye was fucked. Once I got the next fisheye, I started re-filming a lot of the tricks.

In total, it was about a year and a few months. In the summer of 2018, I went to Cali for a month and made that video Grabba, so that took some time away.

Any issues with filming?

I didn’t have a capture cam, so a lot of clips were getting fucked up. We lost a lot of clips from glitching. I can think of, like, five right off the top of my head now. My homie Brandon did a heelflip and then a front big on an 11 stair and it glitched right as he’s coming down. I didn’t know till I capped it, and didn’t tell him because I knew he’d be upset. Weeks later, we were at the spot and I told him, but he wouldn’t try it again.

I really like the flow of the video. There’s space in between tricks: the run-ups, the landings. Most of it is fisheye, but with some very tasteful and pointedly used long lens. How’d you develop your style?

I can’t just throw a bunch of clips against music. I usually try to film the clips to go with the song, and I have to make sure it’s a song I actually like. I’m not trying to always use trap. I remember Jenkem wrote about us once and was talking about the “new generation style” of music. I didn’t want to be known as that. I like rock n’ roll, but I’ll never use that for a skate video.

How come?

I wouldn’t want to waste an edit using a rock song — there’s already so much of that. I listen to so much more music that I think is hard, and I just want to see some shit that’s mine. Sometimes, I already know the song know before I even start filming. I also have homies that produce beats, so if I need a good instrumental, I’ll ask. My homie made that beat for Amir’s part.

Can you take me behind the scenes on those Trump Tower sessions? Those went sort of viral — they even called that out on the Nine Club.

That session was mad random. It was just the first thing we saw when we got off the train. We weren’t planning on going there. That’s why I’m hyped that blew up.

What was the mood like?

People were already hyped on the train. Everyone is getting hyped screaming and slapping their boards on the stairs coming up out of the station. And when security showed up, everyone got mad tense. They were trying to kick us out, but everyone just lined up at the bottom of the stairs and around the spot.

The hype sounds like the premiere night. I heard everyone was moshing.

True, that was wild. I was drunk that night, man — I wasn’t about to get in all that. The video was taking so long to make that I was basically over it. Usually when I make shit, I don’t hold onto it. But some homies had finished parts and others didn’t, and I really wanted to have a premiere. Growing up, I went to a bunch of shit at Sunshine. I really wanted to experience that with my own video. And that was the most lit a New York premiere has ever been! I had never seen ANY premiere like that.

What are some L.E.S. etiquette do’s and don’ts?

L.E.S. is a park where, if you’re a beginner, you can’t really be dicking around to be honest. When I’m skating there, I like flying around and a lot of people other do, too. Some people are intimidated by it, like “I don’t like those Gang Corp kids.” Back in the day, people’s bags used to get stolen, but that doesn’t really happen anymore. Half of the people who were around when I was growing up aren’t around there anymore. We’re kind of the biggest crew there. It used to be the Death dudes, and now it’s us. It’s a whole cycle.

What’s next?

I have an HD camera now, a HVX200. I’m probably gonna start fucking around with that and see what I can do. I want to film a bunch of other people too. I’d film clips for other companies — that’s something I really want to do. It’d be sick to get a video on Thrasher. It was sick that Transworld and The Berrics reposted Black Business. And that Kelly Hart and all them talked about us on the Nine Club. It’s tight to see people care about New York skateboarding. I’m still gonna film VX, of course.

Oh! And that Busshead video — my homie Kalil filmed that. He works at Huf. It’s not like I’m the only filmer. It’s a big crew, so everyone’s doing shit. He and I are gonna work on a video together now.

6 Comments

  1. Skating through the streets that deep, there’s no feeling like that. Everyone on the sidewalks is beaming. We’re all skitching, doing tre flips in the street. I feel like it just brightens up people’s days. You see people pointing at us.

    Word!

  2. moved upstate to raise my kids at the start of the decade, but these videos make me feel like city skating is in good hands

    who cares about getting a video on thrasher, you guys are killing it on your own!

  3. Black Business and the rough cuts had me smiling, laughing and yelling with amazement more than almost anything in the past few years. I probably couldn’t hang out with them because I’m over 30, white and not good enough at skating. But that’s OK — I enjoy watching from afar.


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