I remember back around 1992-1993, my first time seeing the small Ecko Unlimited order form ads in the early days of the Source Magazine. What I recall then was my first time seeing graff art clothing being pushed into a nationwide release on t-shirts, and with every t-shirt you buy you get a promotional compilation tape of unknown, unsigned emcees. These shirts had great raw designs followed with a solid promotion piece to receive a demo tape of some enjoyable raw tracks from enjoyable raw talent. I do not believe anyone else has done this since.
I bought one of his shirts from a local New York City influenced urban wear store in Sawgrass Mills outside of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The t-shirt I purchased was the one with a graff writer hanging off of a chain attached to a giant “Echo” padlock printed in four color process. It was dope which is why I still have it in good condition.
I also remember a little bit about the demo tape that came with it. The cassette’s packaging consisted of a black J-card with a white ghostly image of an emcee cypher huddled together and a mic held in the air. It was also the same image from one of Marc Ecko’s earliest shirt designs, too.
Wow, have times changed, but the smell of street vapor remains the same. Ecko is still dope!
You can turn your nose up to the big corporate machines that have tainted the Hip Hop culture, but there is something still raw when it comes to the Ecko arsenal. His products continue to reflect that colorful flavor and funk from the underground. Although at times I personally question some of the mainstream sucker punk celebrity endorsements in the past, the Ecko brand continues to consistently maintain its original Hip Hop identity that many have emulated to this day. His formula is simple: keep it street.
I hope many other Hip Hop culture companies, social communities, and non-profit groups understand this principle. You can and should make the money but keep it street. You can still be successful, but keep it street. Too often we have seen so called urban companies come and go because they cut their roots to spite their face and lost touch. Some never even had roots in the streets to begin with. For almost two decades, Ecko is still here, and still keeping it street.
How many clothing brands can you name that have come and gone during the past twenty years? Very few.
I am not personally endorsing the Ecko brand, but I am endorsing the principle of why Ecko is still the live long king. It is a culture brand that I admire. It is just like Harley Davidson. Just like Apple Computers. Just like Oprah Winfrey. They are all enterprising culture brands based on a populated lifestyle. If any of them ever sold out on its cultural core they will be finished.
Simple conscious note: when you turn your back on where you began your future is perilous. Just like a kinky haired woman losing her mind over a perm, you can never run from your roots.
And when it comes to the Hip Hop culture, “when you forget the streets, you will die out in the suburbs.”
Just like Def Jam.
Now enjoy these videos!