Why RikyRick Did Not Copy Deathrow Logo x Lessons In Appropriation From The Culture

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There are two ways of looking at it: from a music point of view then people will say he’s biting but from a fashion/streetwear point of view it’s not. It’s called logo subversion and it’s the cornerstone of street fashion.  – Hayden Manuel 

Mr Lambert was my English teacher in High School. He taught me this one trick which I still practice till this day. Mr Lambert once said ( whilst charging his old Nokia phone on a car battery ) “Class.When you know fokol about a topic you need to go join a group that has experts. Find where these people meet. Join them when they are talking. Make sure you keep nodding your head everytime they say something and shut up”. This rule has made me pass and dodge many bullets in my lifetime. I also urge you to practice it. When  you are not an authority on a given topic go and join people who know that topic. Nod everytime they talk. And make sure you always drinking tea (Tea just goes well with being a good listener).You won’t be a master on that topic but you would have a learned a thing or two. Which brings me to this topic. Did Riky Rick jack x steal x pinch x bite the deathrow logo for his SidluKotini killers t-shirts? I am no expert but I called on some of the dopest thinkers and innovators in street culture to help me come to an answer. So where did this all begin? What made me write this after the t-shirts have been sold and prolly lying in a laundry basket somewhere.

The little I know about street culture is this. It is an industry and culture of it’s own. Unless you know the culture you going to get left behind or not know the codes of the culture. I am writing this because there are codes towards logos. The average consumer and that’s not  a shot if you not a part of culture. Okay maybe it’s a shot because you also thinking ‘Riky bit that logo. Why you got to defend him’. The average consumer does not know that logos in street culture have been bit for a very long time. Nothing is new. But the average South African fan may be shocked when they see Riky biting an iconic symbol of culture like Deathrow. Damn thats Suge Knight B. Anyway before I get carried away I rate you should hear what the guys who are fans x thinkers x doers in street culture think about what Riky Rick did.

My brief to the guys was simple

  1. Do you think Riky bit the Deathrow logo for his new t-shirt line

Here is what the guys had to say. Pay attention and read these answers twice out loud. Make sure you sipping on some tea. Keep nodding your head.

Hayden  Manuel –  TheyKnowCapeTown

There are two ways of looking at it: from a music point of view then people will say he’s biting but from a fashion/streetwear point of view it’s not. It’s called logo subversion and it’s the cornerstone of street fashion. Streetwear and street style was born out the idea that we use elements such as hoodies and t-shirts to make statements. Usually these messages took the form of subverting high end fashion labels’ logos by remixing them. This message was usually to say “fuck you, just because we’re not on the runway doesn’t mean we’re not fashion”. Brands like Stussy, supreme, crooks and castles have been subverting the Chanel Double C logo and Versace medusa for years. I think he’s pushing the same message just with major hip hop labels. He’s trying to say “just because we’re African doesn’t mean we can’t be iconic”

Msheng x Vee Vodka – SMB

I think Riky Rick was an opportunist in dropping these T’s. We are all aware as hip hop heads that death row would be celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. The move on his part was calculated and it Seems that the plan is to ride this wave and hype around death rows anniversary. However I can acknowledge that recycling is common in fashion and arts holistically e.g. Casper Nyovest logo is a bite of the Cartoon Network logo. It gets a pass from some and others don’t get down with it and deem it as biting. What’s important to acknowledge is that profits have impacted creativity In a negative and positive way. The hunger to create now stems from attempting to generate goods that will reap profits. Authenticity and street cred is no longer the focal point.

Jermaine Charles –  ZA XL Founder

It’s not ‘biting’ its appropriation. Brands such as TISA, HeadHoncho, Butan, and Fuct have been doing this with either there logos or graphics this since the birth of streetwear. Most things nowadays are derivatives of something else. Those with a keen interest will be able to know the history of particular typefaces (Kanye Wests recent Pablo merch) or icons (Headhoncho using the Raiders football team logo). The timing is kinda weird as The Hundreds did a colab line with DeathRow just this month. I am not sure why Riky Rick chose this as I believe his audience most likely do not have a deep domain knowledge on Death Row. I am lost as to why he chose this one as opposed to something else or created something new. Then again artists dont need to explain their work.

Dome – Head Honcho Art Director

Appropriation has always been part of street culture. Personally all I look out for is the execution from the borrower, how well you took the original idea and interpreted “differently”. Ideas are borrowed. Obviously to someone who has no knowledge of street culture it will come across as biting. The same person will compliment a rapper for using a sample. Maybe Riky’s mistake was appropriating something that just dropped (Hundreds x Death Row) maybe he did it too soon.

Martin Magner – Ogily Marketing x Photography

Fashion and hip hop are hand in hand right now. Look at the two bop and thrasher debate. Such. A fine line between what’s ok or not. Also Vetements biting at DHL. I guess it’s a trend right now and the dudes behind the Sidlukotini tshirts are trying hard to be relevant. Personally – in not a fan of direct copies but using this familiarity seems to draw a lot more people in.What I’m trying to say – Sidlukotini doesn’t need to copy. They’re already a trend why not generate a unique original image for it?

Warren  Papier – THEYKNOW CPT

The whole issue of biting is not new to pop culture, however on the street it seems to get a bit more flack. I see it as almost an ode to something that was popping from a previous era, like a reminder, or maybe it reveals an artists influence – like a reivention. We see it all the time. For example Cassper/Cartoon network, yeezus merch/metallica, Pablo merch/2bop even. We’ve even seen artists combo and grooming resemble an iconic artist from the past. The issue is if the artist hasn’t in anyway acknowledged the reference.

Rolo Rozay – Puma South Africa

Tyga used te same logo it’s a spoof it’s not like he made his record label and used the same logo …Like twobop spoof arcade game logos. If it said anything like using the words death and row then it’s biting. But that’s how it goes I used the rolls royce logo for me but I didn’t make a car and put it on the.. Bape bit the Nike airforce and the puma suede but none complains about that.

GalxBoy – Pretoria

It’s called appropriation, it has been done a million times, people dissing Riky for doing what he have probably been wearing appropriated clothes all their lives without knowing, so whether people like it or not the clothes will still sell out, welcome to the real world!!! It doesn’t really matter anymore especially in SA street culture is not that huge for it to a national when someone appropriates something, there is not that type of pressure from the youth in SA unfortunately you can literally do whatever you want.

You should have stopped sipping on that tea right about now. Okay so here is the deal. Riky did not bite. He simply appropriated the DeathRow logo. Maybe his timing was not right or maybe it was right. Who knows. What I do know is this. The average South African hip hop fan does not know about these codes and tricks of street culture. We just now that if it’s biting its biting. Here is my view on all of this. If we are meant to be pushing creativity should we not be pushing creativity. Riky is very influential in the culture and is loved by the even more younger generation. I don’t think he understood the magnitude of his actions. He knows that the people above who commented on this piece would get it but the average fan would not get it. Now how bad does it look when the average fan goes online and sees the logo without knowing this term “appropriation”? It just looks bad in my eyes. But again I need to listen and follow Mr Lamberts advice on this culture.

So where to from here? So what ? He appropriated and made his money. Why do you care? Why are you making a big deal about this. Look mayne. I am in the business of advising and building brands. The biggest advice I could give to anyone is to never underestimate your consumer. Consumers these days are very influential and everything is a click away. I am also glad that we are having this type of conversation. Fuck it taught me a lot to be honest. I still think the word ‘copy’ is not existent in street culture. It’s all about how you flip something and make it more fresh and interesting.

We never going to know why Riky did what he did and how he really feels about the comments on biting. What I do know is that he has worked well to carve his brand and live up to the king kotini label. I do feel though that he should come out and tell people that ‘appropriation’ is a part of street culture. The day he does this will be the day my tea will be finished and I will have to find another group of people to nod and agree with. Because Mr Lambert said so.


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