Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Story of Bust Out

It's been a long time coming but here it is: the definitive (illustrated) story, from my vantage point, of how this whole Bust Out family / 中国制造团体 / [M]ade[I]n[C]hina cosa nostra started. From day 1 to infinity, moving the music, jeans, caps and tees, Harriet Tubman how we gettin' em free. Word.

All right. Rewind two years: we started picking up momentum two summers ago (late June/early July 2006), during my first summer in China, studying 中文 at 首都师范大学 through Duke on a Light Fellowship. For most of the summer I was living the standard study abroad life: broadly painted images of Chinese daily life mixed with a largely expatriate-dominated foreign experience and the occasional cultural outing (i.e. hit up a 市场 and 练习降价).

But, one day, I was out at a shopping mall, which was where my buddy Paco had his store, back when he was just hustling for dolo, selling clothes on his own, before the operation that became known as Bust Out. I was wearing a BAPE sweater that I had copped at another market, 动物园, and
Paco has always, even before the bust out days, been about selling that heat rox, high quality joints. So I saw some bape hoodies that matched my crewneck, not ot mention denim and some other items of interest, and went over to check them out.

[Paco, Paul, and Beibei in the old store.]

When Paco caught sight of my flamboyantly-attired self, he exclaimed - and I still remember exactly to this day his precise intonation and word choice - "DAAAMN BOY, IS THAT REAL?"

So we politicked and built for a little and started talking about hip-hop clothing and culture in China, and i forget how but the fact that I emcee came out and Paco was all YO SO AM I So he put on a beat and we had an impromptu cipher, freestyling back and forth for a few minutes

So Paco got the idea in his head - he's the greatest networker i've ever met, forget these YALE kids Paco knows how to build - he was like yo we got to collaborate, so I bounced out with my buddy Andrew who was with me, then came back the next weekend on my own. We wrote one or two songs together over the next few weeks, then one time Paco announced we were going to hit up a studio to finally record our long-awaited collabo. We dropped three joints that summer - including what would become our trademark song, From America to Beijing / 从美国到北京, and started making plans to keep building the dynasty.

[Paul and Yi in the old store]

Over the 2006-2007 school year, Paco and I corresponded over MSN after my return to college, and by October the name of the crew was MIC - [M]ade[I]n[C]hina. He and I, and some of the other crew members, collaborated to record songs together over the internet, and by the next spring we had amassed enough material together for the first mixtape, Made in China vol. 1. So, the next summer, when i went back to China to study through the Light Fellowship and Harvard's summer program, we had a CD out and more plans were coming together, all this under the umbrella of [M]ade[I]n[C]hina crew.

[Summer 2007 concert in 河北]

That second summer, we were immensely productive... concerts outside the city, our first round of crew t-shirts on sale, recording sessions every weekend. By this time we were straight professional with our business: the first night I touched down in Beijing, I was writing verses, and 24 hours later I was in a taxi on the way over to a studio to lay them down.

crew 3
[MIC ca. 2007: Grand Master, Bei bei, ABD, Slim Paul, Zhang Yi AKA Crazy Yi, Dirty Paco]

By that time, in addition to Paco, who ran the clothing line, me doing studio engineering and the mixdowns, and ABD running PR and advertising, Paco's other homeboys had gotten into things, too: Slim Paul and Zhang Yi rapped, and we had two singers, Bei bei (a dude) and Jing Hui (a chick). That was one of the best times for us - we were, by then, comfortable enough to chill, and had plenty of time to do so. My weekly routine was to just get through Monday-Friday morning (the HBA curriculum being fairly rigorous, my only pastime during the week was 背生次 and 为考试作准备), then, Friday afternoon after working out and eating lunch with my 同学们, pack a duffel bag with whatever I needed and grab the subway or a bus into the center of the city. I'd hit 西单 around dinnertime and just kick it with the crew for the rest of the weekend (as recounted in more vivid detail here): watching DVD's at Paco's crib; driving around blasting music; eating 串儿 and 喝啤酒 at a 小摊儿; or heading off with Paco to some high-class hotel, both arms weighted down carrying garbage bags full of jeans, tees, and kicks. During this time, we also finished the material that would eventually become Made in China Vol. 2.

Paco -me
[Joking around at the photo shoot]

So, that was our one-year milestone, which drew to a close with a photo shoot in a 胡同 (for which I had my first cold of the year...), with the brand new Made in China tees on display (the progenitors of our current Bust Out clothing line)

crew 2
[Notice the MIC tees]

After returning to the States, though, some things went down between ABD and the rest of the crew. Without making judgments as to liability (as I was not in the middle of it when it was happening), all I know is that the rest of the crew separated from him and re-formed as the Bust Out Family, focusing more on the fashion angle now, with a revitalized streetwear line as the center of the operation. I'd gotten wind of all this via Paco and Slim Paul's MSN status changes, but wasn't exactly sure what Bust Out was: an affiliated store? some of Paco's buddies? a Taiwanese line? Anyways, Paco and Paul were hustling hard on establishing the new line, so I didn't see them on MSN for quite some time; but in the early Spring, I had a conversation with Paco where he revealed the recent developments (and our first season, STREET WE ARE), and I was quickly enlisted as Bust Out's English-language factotum; my contributions were quickly incorporated into the second round of designs, released as season 2: SAVE THE WAR.

Hat 1.jpg
[Bust Out Season 1 caps]

Basically, way I see it, Paco was the one as what took me in (his apartment was my home on the weekends last summer), literally clothed me, fed me, did whatever just to hold me down. So if I am not loyal to that and stick with my boys, what kind of a dude am I??

[Season 2: Save the War]

So that's where it is today. Prior to the reorganization, we were a rap crew with some official tees; now, we're a multifaceted fashion/music (rock, not just rap)/street lifestyle family with a flagship store in Beijing. The reorganization of MIC was made complete by finally officially inducting Paco's Taiwanese designer buddies into the crew, including Zac, with whom I'd kicked it Summer 2007, and who designed the first MIC shirts. The crew has been straight hustling hard, including a feature in Chinese streetwear magazine So Cool.

[So Cool magazine feature.]

So that is the story. Two years, two continents, two names, a bunch of CD's, more trips to Beijing than I ever expected to take, and a new line that's been getting buzz in the scene. In one week, I'll be making that trip again... Bust Out family 走起来!WE RUN 北京 (eff tha 奥运会)!

[Bust Out store external]

[Bust Out store internal hallway]