Soon-to-be Corcoran School Alumni Poised to Infiltrate Art Industries by Maxwell Young

Performers in Yacine Fall’s thesis project,  Un Lien , rehearse for “NEXT,” Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s thesis showcase. Polaroids by  Maxwell Young

Performers in Yacine Fall’s thesis project, Un Lien, rehearse for “NEXT,” Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s thesis showcase. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

Washington, D.C.—Two bronze-cast lions lay await in front of the entrance to the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. Protectors of the realms of imagination and creative skill—they size-up the foreign body approaching. I am a George Washington University alumnus all the same, but there is a difference between the School of Business degree I received in 2017 and the Fine Arts/Photojournalism/Art History/Interior Design/Theater/etc. degrees that will be awarded to the graduating classes this coming May.

For 150 years, the Corcoran name has been “dedicated to art and used solely for the purpose of encouraging the American genius.” That was the mission of the oldest and largest private art museum in the District of Columbia, when banker William Wilson Corcoran endowed the Gallery in 1869, and it still rings true today as its graduates and undergraduates prepare for their thesis showcase.

“NEXT” is a 30 year-old tradition for the arts and design students. A public display of the art world’s future stars, it’s both an exhibition for employers and art enthusiasts to see fresh perspectives in contemporary art as well as a culmination of the skillsets burgeoning artists have acquired throughout their education. On Thursday, April 25, the collection opens, amplifying work of varying mediums across disciplines.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of previewing select compositions and installations from several undergraduate seniors. Artists Yacine Fall, Ashley Llanes, Seung Hyun Rhee, and Layla K. Saad explore themes of shared and personal identity in their thesis projects.

“I had never seen Muslim artwork on the walls of a gallery,” Saad admitted to me as we observed her seven-piece installation, United States of Being. Elements of wood-work, 3-D printing, quilting, and print making inform her project. The New Mexican-born artist’s Muslim heritage is intertwined with Native American culture as well as Egyptian-Lebanese lineages. When the Corcoran’s mission was written centuries ago, I doubt the encouragement of the “American genius” included the work of people who looked like Saad. “What about the Muslim kids who are interested in artwork? They don’t have this imagery to reference. They have Michelangelo. They have Picasso…all of these other artists who are interesting, but they don’t have something relevant to their identity.”

This re-contextualization of culture is evident in the respective work of all four artists. In addition to Saad’s installation, Yacine Fall debuts a performance piece, Un Lien, that uses burlap rope, clay, and the physical presence of eleven other bodies to connect histories and individual experiences together. Ashley Llanes’ La Quinceañera seeks to find the balance between her teenage self, who wanted to challenge stereotypes, and her current self, who values the conservation of culture, through a series of self portraits that evaluate the aesthetics of quinceañera tradition. And Seung Hyun Rhee’s Homesick uses manual and digital collage of K-pop stars from to juxtapose his described "militant” music interest against his daily routine of American life as reflections of his desire to return home to South Korea.

Keep your eyes peeled to InTheRough pages as we dig deeper into these topics in individual articles. We will unveil more insight into the artists and their work while the “NEXT” exhibition is displayed until Monday, May 20. Admission for “NEXT” is free and open to the public. Don’t miss the opening Senior thesis show on Thursday from 6-9pm.

“NEXT” Senior Thesis Show

April 25, 6-9pm

Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

500 17th St, NW

Washington, D.C. 20006 

Chad Medved Exposes You to the Dopest People by Alex Young

The Host of I’ll Call You Right Back Podcast Talks About His Interests

Photo by Alex Young

Photo by Alex Young

Chad Medved, a 28-year-old originally from McKeesport, Pa., sits at Streets on Carson, a fun restaurant with traffic lights hanging as chandeliers at the booths, decor by graffiti writer Narf, and a scaling mural with a pig and chef’s knife on it. The eatery delivers global street food to East Carson Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side. “My go-to is the 24 Carat Wings and their Philly Cheese Steak. I’ve never had anything bad here. I swear to God,” he explains.

Basically, Medved aims to expose the people he thinks are doing cool things to any mass of people who will listen to him. I was his audience as he introduces me to Streets on Carson. Typically though Medved’s audience is put on to interesting characters through his podcast called I’ll Call You Right Back.

He likes certain cultural oddities such as the ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ part of the Jonestown massacre. “Take a sip… You’ll love it,” a T-shirt reads advertising Medved’s podcast. While interviewing with InTheRough, he wears a T-shirt depicting a Heaven’s Gate victim covered by the purple blanket donning Nike Decades on their feet. This shirt is only available to people who actually feature on an I’ll Call You Right Back episode. “I just like what I like,” Medved says describing the cults as a marketing tactic.

Episode number 25 with funeral director Sarah McAlee is his favorite to date. “I feel the people I find are unique in the way they explain what they do,” he says. Medved’s curiosity comes from wanting to learn about different lanes people occupy. Episode 64 features Alyssa Fine who is a beekeeper. “I curate things differently… You gotta make it a variety.”

Reaching over 15,000 podcast downloads and 66 episodes since his first on January 11, 2018, Medved has made I’ll Call You Right Back a success with eclectic guests who appeal to everyone. While some episodes feature unfamiliar people and topics, others key in on Pittsburgh’s community of creative people shaping the city’s culture. He speaks with major players who keep a low profile like the music producer who has worked with the likes of Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa, Big Jerm. His latest episode is with the Sean Wotherspoon of The ‘Burgh, Zed of vintage streetwear boutique Shop Zeds. Guests feel comfortable on I’ll Call You Right Back usually sitting on Medved’s cozy couch in his living room for the show. They open up their personalities during the interview and “that’s where you learn who people are,” Medved says.

Experience is the main thing you need to have in life. You need to have experience because people could talk all this shit, but if they never experience, they don’t know.
— Chad Medved

Ultimately, Medved puts human experience on tape so other people can learn from it. His goal is to get I’ll Call You Right Back on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. “I just want to be able to pay my bills by doing what I love to do.”

InTheRough’s Favorite I’ll Call You Right Back Episodes

  1. Brandon McConnell of One Up Skate Shop

  2. Alison Falk of Sex Tech Space

  3. Big Lonn of Taylor Gang

  4. Rapper Moemaw Naedon

ITR Episode 67 of ICYRB

Read the full interview between Chad Medved and InTheRough below to learn about his foray into podcasting, his favorite movies, a Mark Twain quote, fickleness of social media, carrying briefcases in high school, and more.


InTheRough: As part of the media, do you feel a responsibility to the communities here in Pittsburgh?

Chad Medved: Absolutely. I think four years ago whenever I did it [PodRatz podcast], I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. It was just a group of friends just bullshitting going wherever it went. Podcasting really didn’t know where it was going back then. There were a few people that had an agenda with things they wanted to accomplish with there’s, but there were also people doing a podcast that was completely random going off on anything. I think that was my goal in the beginning to kind of go down a rabbit hole, but now I feel it’s important to expose the people that I think are doing dope shit in a way that is able to be consumed by anyone whether you’re young, old, white, black, good childhood, bad childhood, I just want to be the way to appeal to everyone. I think I’m sharpening my sword as I go along. I definitely wasn’t good at it in the beginning. I’ve listened to my first interviews me asking a question and then just waiting for an answer and me just not even paying attention to the answer and just preparing the next question. I definitely don’t like what I did in the past, but I leave it there because I feel it’s important to show people. If people listen to one of my later episodes and they enjoy it and they want to deep dive and go back to the beginning, I want people to see my progression and how hard I’m working at it. I feel that this podcast now I have a better idea of what I want with it.

ITR: What do you want with it?

Chad: I want to talk to anyone that I find interesting. We all have our career paths in life, like we all chose one path to go down. For instance, I’m doing this and on the side I work at an engineering firm. Those are my two lanes. Everyone else has their own lanes. I am still interested in those lanes, but I am obviously not going to turn those into careers. I still want to learn. This is a good way for me to do both. I’m learning about things I’ve always been interested in kind of like the funeral director. That’s probably my favorite podcast that I’ve done so far. I’ve always been so curious about what happens after you die. Who takes care of your body and stuff like that. I don’t know why. It’s grim, but I’ve always been interested.

ITR: What episode is that?

Chad: Her name is Sarah McAlee. I feel the people I find are unique in the way they explain what they do. I could talk to anyone who is a funeral director. Her episode is 25 actually. I could talk to any funeral director, but your stereotypical funeral director you would think would be some creepy old dude or Sphinx from “Gone In 60 Seconds.” Just like a weird guy. That’s what you think about, weird ass people doing that. I wanted to find a person that would be more relatable to someone. I put the word out on Facebook and someone referred me to this girl. She’s just younger, more hip. She wears vintage clothes. She’s a unique person. You can tell she has a personality on social media. I knew she would be someone good.

ITR: How else do you find your episode guests?

Chad: I research. Instagram is my main lane. I find people’s Instagram and I feel it is important to research with their social media. People put out a facade on social media. It’s a risk for me to bring anyone on. From a quick glance they could be appealing to me, but I look deep down into their shit and I see that they’re actually garbage humans. I don’t want to support that shit. I deep dive through everyone’s social media to vet them out. As I’m doing that, I’m gaining ammunition to talk about. I saw that girl who was a funeral director had a picture posted with biographies by Judd Apatow and Steve Martin. This girl deals with death all the time and she’s a comedy fan. I love comedy. That was easily relatable for me. That’s another path we could go down if I chose to unlock it.

ITR: You’re always talking about movies in your episodes and you seem to be very in touch with media in popular culture. What do you consume regularly?

Chad: Movies and TV shows. Movies, TV shows, and podcasts are my most consumed forms of media. Movies are what I started with. I was obsessed with movies ever since I was younger just always watching movies. I had an aunt and uncle who owned a video store. That was my first exposure. Then I had a six-year-old brother and an eight-year-old cousin. They’re already watching all the dope ass shit and they’re putting me on to all the dope shit that they already vetted for me. If you have an older sibling, it’s almost like a coffee filter. They go through and they find all the cool shit so I don’t have to. Immediately, my brother is bringing home the best music. He’s bringing home the best movies and I’m watching all this shit with him. So, I’m getting exposed to it early. Movies for sure are my first love of everything. Are you a big movie guy?

ITR: Yes and no. I feel like there are a lot of movies that I still have to see. You know there’s a canon of books. There’s a canon of movies too. So with that said, what movies do you have to watch to be a movie buff?

Chad: I think my favorite movie of all time is “The Shawshank Redemption.”

ITR: I’ve seen that movie.

Chad: That’s good. I’ve loved that forever. If I had to choose three movies, I don’t think about the “Desert Island Questions” too much, but I would say “Shawshank Redemption,” “Casino,” and “The Monster Squad.” Those are my ‘Desert Island’ picks.

ITR: How do you come up with segments like the “Desert Island Questions”?

Chad: That came from the TV show “The Office.” They get locked out of the office one episode and Jim starts playing that with everyone. I’m a big movie buff we could deep dive on a conversation while we’re recording the podcast, but you normally don’t get to that point. I feel you can learn a lot about people by their three favorite movies that they think of. They say wild shit that you would never ever think that that would be their favorite movie. Same way with music. Same way with books.

Chad Medved sitting at Streets on Carson | Photos by Alex Young

Chad Medved sitting at Streets on Carson | Photos by Alex Young

ITR: Is there any episode you’ve had that didn’t go as planned?

Chad: Yeah, I’ve had a couple. I interviewed someone and they took me lightly. They took what I was doing lightly. They were just on their phone. They took a phone call in the middle of it. They lit a blunt in the middle of it. It’s cool if you want to smoke. I’m fine with that. But, I felt that they were taking me lightly. I paused the podcast while he was getting on the phone and as soon as he was done with the phone call I was like, “I feel like you’re taking me lightly. I’m doing this shit for real. People aren’t wasting your time whenever you’re working with shit.” I told him that.

ITR: Did you end up posting that episode?

Chad: Yeah, because I did mad editing on that one. I edited out all the deadass time whenever I’m asking him a question and he’s looking at his phone for a minute and then saying, “What’s the question again?” That was when I was in the beginning of all this shit. That’s why I vet people. I’m careful about who I have on. I curate who I have on. It was hard in the beginning to get certain guests because people are hesitant about embarking on anything that’s not… “I have 50,000 followers.” If they can’t reap anything from it, why give them their time. Now, I’m fortunate enough to have people grab on to this and start to run with it. It’s a little bit easier. I can be more selective. It was difficult because in the beginning when you’re building something you have to have some heavy hitters in the beginning to gain traction and to let people know you’re serious about this. Fortunately enough, people were cool and took out time to sit down with me through references. Like Big Jerm for instance. I would say he’s arguably one of the biggest people I’ve had on the podcast. He was hesitant at first, for sure, but it’s also like his personality. He’s not someone you see all day on social media and stuff. Because we have mutual friends, they vouched for me. He was pleasantly surprised he said. That makes me happy that people put respect on my name.

ITR: How do you deal with that? It seems like people are too consumed with the number of followers a person has on social media. Numbers don’t lie, but at the same time, they don’t tell the full story. Your podcast is what should tell the full story. It doesn’t matter if you have one follower or 20,000. If you like the product that’s what matters. When you get people who are hesitant to come on I’ll Call You Right Back or people who don’t trust what you do, how does that make you feel?

Chad: It makes me feel like fuck them. If they don’t think that what I do is going to reap them a big enough benefit then fuck them. I got other people that are cool people. You don’t need to have thousands of followers. I’m stubborn. I’m kind of doing shit my own way. It might even be hindering me from growing quickly, but I would rather put out a product that is completely what I want. Quality the way I want to do it rather than having some showy names. I can get showy names and I’m grateful for people that have a bigger following, but I also want to talk to people that no one knows about. All the big media outlets stay gassing up the people that are already famous. Put on someone that’s not at that level yet. It’s like, “Why not?” I think people are afraid to do it. I think people are scared of the competition potentially. I just don’t care because I know that what I’m doing is completely what I want. I don’t think people will be able to do what I do as far as as the way I talk, ask questions, come up with shit, I just feel it’s my own way. I’m being completely organic and translucent with what I’m doing. Mark Twain has this quote that’s like, “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” That’s dope to me because people could bullshit all this stuff, but I’m really trying to be real about everything because I don’t want people to catch me in any of my shit, you know what I mean. It’s different to cut up with your friends and embellish stories a little bit, but whenever it comes to this shit, I want it to be real.

ITR: Do you think people in Pittsburgh trust the media?

Chad: I think there’s enough shit out there now for people that want to do media for them to be able to choose what they want to do. You know you hear about people hating journalists. There’s a movie called “Almost Famous.” Have you ever seen that?

ITR: No.

Chad: Okay, it’s about this band Still Water and they take on this young kid who’s like 15 in the movie. He’s a writer. It turns out he’s such a good writer he’s actually writing an article for Rolling Stone. In the movie, it’s portrayed like fuck journalists. They’re just going to write shit that is click bait-y just to get that view. I feel that with the way I curate shit the people are click bait-y enough. It’s not click bait-y. It’s interesting. The girl that I just had on is a fucking beekeeper. I promo’d a picture of her with a thousand bees on her face.

ITR: That was it.

Chad: If I see that, I know that shit would appeal to me. What is she all about? I’m not tricking people. I’m just being creative the way that I want to do things. I think any big media outlet you would be sketchy with, but small shit is the only form of media that’s real.

ITR: How do you make sure to stay real as you get bigger? 15,000 downloads you’re getting bigger.

Chad: I’m always going to be who I am. I feel like a lot of people will say that and you never cross bridges until you come to them, but I’ve always just been who I was. Even when I was younger I always wore the shit that I wanted. I always did the weirdo shit that I wanted. I used to carry around briefcases in high school.

ITR: [laughs]

Chad: Wear suit jackets. I never cared what people thought about me. I grew up a fat white kid in a predominantly black school. I heard every type of ridicule that I could ever hear. You know what I mean, I’m not worried about what people say to me. I’m not worried about if people don’t like what I do. I just don’t think I’ll not be real. I just like who I am. It goes back to Mark Twain. You don’t have to remember bullshit if you’re not lying. I just like what I like.

ITR: It’s crazy how in the middle of an interview that people will say something that pertains to your life. I’ll go back and read articles I’ve written and be like, “Wow, I should listen to what that person said.”

Chad: Absolutely, I listen to everything. I’m 28. I’ve experienced so much shit. Experience is the main thing you need to have in life. You need to have experience because people could talk all this shit, but if they never experience, they don’t know. They don’t know what things are going to be like whenever they experience it. I take everyone’s experiences and stories and I listen to that and I gain what I want to gain from it. It would be a waste to talk to all these people that work their lives to be where they are right now and not take that into consideration. I’m not ever set on my beliefs. I’m not like, “Fuck that. That’s wrong. I’m never going to believe that.” I like to listen to the way people feel about things. People are passionate about shit. People are passionate about shit for a reason. I like to listen to their reasoning behind their beliefs because all that shit carries validity. People passionate about their beliefs means they put a lot of thought into them. I don’t necessarily have to believe them, but I listen to them. I chew that up myself and I come up with what I want to come up with out of it.

ITR: Are there podcasts you look up to?

Chad: I model my shit after four different podcasts. I model it after Joe Rogan’s podcast. He’s the reason that I got into it. I’ve been listening to his shit since back whenever he was in the hundreds. He’s in the twelve hundreds.

ITR: Oh, shit. He does one a week?

Chad: He does multiple a day. That dude does crazy shit. Kevin Hart was on it yesterday. It was incredible. I like listening to interviews because that’s where you learn who people are. People could be on Ellen Degeneres for four minutes and they could joke and promote what they gotta promote, but if you’re sitting there with someone for two hours, you’re going to learn about them whether you like them or not. I strive to be like Joe Rogan as far as like he’s not certain about anything. He listens to all these different sides. He plays Devils’ Advocate and then he makes his own opinions about things and I respect that. Bert Kreischer is a comedian who is in Joe Rogan’s little crew. I like to strive towards him because he’s silly. I try to keep it light. Sometimes we’ll talk about serious shit, but there’s comedic relief in it. I joke around with people. Parts of his is carefree. I loosen the reins a little bit with my shit. Another one is Ari Shaffir. He is another comedian in that group. He’s not too rigid about being in a quiet ass room with perfect silence. He’ll walk down the street with a guest and talk with them. He and a guy named Jay Larson did a podcast where they walked around Beverly Hills High School and just talked about shit. I like being able to hear that ambience. In my podcast, you can hear police sirens and shit because I live on a main road so you could hear a police car rolling pass my house. I like that you can hear shit in the background a little bit. I did an episode where I met my dude in Colorado. We did an episode in the woods on the back porch. You could hear birds and shit and dogs barking. The last one is Marc Maron. Marc Maron is one of the best interviewers as far as being able to smoothly manifest. He carves paths easily. He could just carefree change direction. I model my shit after all of them. It’s 80% me, but I take that 5% from each of them. I kind of use what I like from my favorite shows and incorporate it into mine.

ITR: What did it mean when the Streets on Carson restaurant decided to sponsor you?

Chad: Man, I was pumped because I fuck with people. Local people that are doing cool shit is basically what I’m doing. I’m trying to expose people doing that. They’re obviously well established. It’s an incredible restaurant. Matt Christie (co-owner of Streets on Carson with his wife Lauren Leon) and I didn’t hit it off right in the beginning. He was skeptical of me because of other things. Then I interviewed him and he got to know who I was and then we ended up being super cool. We related on a bunch of shit and I talk to him all the time now. He came up from the mud with all this shit. He made all this shit happen he and his wife and everyone else who works here. For them to be an established place that’s doing super dope shit where you can go from listening to Joan Jett to Wu-Tang in here it’s just a good vibe. For them to get behind me means a lot because these are real people and real recognize real. It’s flattering that they like what I do.

ITR: Where are you trying to take I’ll Call You Right Back?

Chad: I would eventually like to be on Sirius. That’s my goal

ITR: Is that like the mecca for podcasts?

Chad: No, it’s not at all. Podcasts are yourself, but I would like to be able to do this shit everyday. I only get to talk to people once a week. I cannot commit to twice a week because it’s hard as fuck to schedule with people. I’m busy enough myself. I’m married. I got a job. I do this shit. I gotta balance all that together. Family everything I gotta balance it together. I would love to be able to do this full-time. That’s my ultimate goal. You know have an everyday show where people want to listen. For now though, it’s just keep growing this podcast. That’s the best thing about it. I can control everything I want with this. I can pick the people that I want with this. I can curate it how I like. I can ask the questions I want. No one can tell me what to do with it and that’s how I want to stay.

ITR: Where does your audience come from?

Chad: Everywhere. My publishing site will tell you where everyone is listening. The map is almost filled now. There’s people in Russia, Japan, Australia, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Brazil just hit, Canada, all these places. You’re just like, “Fuck. There’s people in Spain.” I think in one week I got 12 downloads from them. I was like, “Who the fuck is in Spain?” That means that they listened to one and they just went and started listening to a couple others or like told someone about it. You know, Pittsburgh I have a lot of shit I could do here as far as growth. I don’t know with the whole Sirius thing. The podcast now is a passion project. I still have a regular full-time nine to five. I’m not passionate about that. I love that job. I’m happy I have it ‘cause I like money and I want more of it, but I would like to eventually just pay my bills with this shit. I’m not trying to be fucking rich. I just want to be able to pay my bills by doing what I love to do. That’s the goals right? If I can do it by talking to cool people who are doing cool shit that I can eventually help grow… people hit me up all the time to come on this. I appreciate people showing interest in me. I can see past the bullshit. I can see past the people who are like, “Yo, just have me on real quick.” I have to genuinely fuck with what you do. I’m not going to give fake ass people a way to come up with it. I don’t know if that sounds malicious, but I just think it’s fucking bullshit. Someone the other day hit me up and I saw they had a bunch of fake followers. I was just like, “I ain’t helping you.” You’re doing this shortcut bullshit. I can buy a bunch of fake shit too. I could do a bunch of dumbass shit to get my followers up where I follow a hundred people, wait for them to follow me back, and then unfollow them all. That is the worst thing in the world to me and I will not fucking support that. I cannot and I will not support that.

ITR: It’s crazy how much people care about your follower count.

Chad: Yeah, your ratio. It doesn’t matter to me for what this is. I understand why people do it, but those people are doing it to reap some sort of a benefit. Those people are in it for the wrong reasons. I feel that eventually the fake will get exposed and I hope that that happens. I don’t care if you have 300 followers and you’re following a shit ton of people. Yeah, it definitely looks better if it’s the other way around, but there’s other people like why not help them? That girl who does the bees, she’s not on social media at all. I’m not going to reap benefits from her. She’s not going to be posting a bunch of shit where people are going to be flocking to my podcast. I just know that girl is fucking interesting. I got people who listen to my podcast anyone who sell drugs to senior vice presidents of big companies. Dude sells drugs and he will listen to these things and be like, “Man, that’s fucking crazy.” I talked to Alison Falk who does this sex tech stuff.

ITR: I listened to that episode, yeah.

Chad: Bizarre. Wild shit. This dude sells weed and he was just like, “That shit was crazy.” My mother who is big up in a company she listens to it all. I usually will talk to two people from two different spectrums about what they got from that episode. My mom always gives me shit because I’ll talk to people like you know who DJ Topgun is?

ITR: Yeah, I like that episode too.

Chad: Kids like him he’s born in that SoundCloud world. He’s wearing Supreme. Face tats and shit like that. Chills with Lil Xan. I asked my mom, “What did you get from it?” And she was like, “Oh, I thought he was great. It was cool to hear about.” I feel that my mom listening to all these things gives her a bigger picture of how I feel in life. Your parents will, hopefully, always support what you do and always be cool with the way you do it, but they don’t get an in depth detailed template of what you want in life. My mom and my dad both come from completely different worlds, but they both listen to it and I hear what they get from it. It’s dope to me because they’re 60 years old and they’re listening to all these different people. Sex tech robots, DJ Topgun, Jordan Beckham, people like that, but then this bee lady. It’s cool to be able to do something that appeals to my parents and other adults who I know listen.

ITR: You have a good balance of who is on your show. You do a good job covering the scene with people like DJ Topgun, Keep Pittsburgh Dope, Cody Baker, you know…

Chad: Yeah, relevant.

ITR: Yeah, relevant, but then this bee lady is obviously not in this pop culture realm.

Chad: Yeah, I’m not getting anything from that other than real shit. I’m learning from it and that’s dope to me. I just want to learn all this shit. That’s why I curate shit the way I do. I have a lot of friends who are in the hip-hop world that rap. I can’t have 10 podcasts after another of all rappers. I curate things differently. I got a list of people I gotta go through. There’s a reason I’m placing people where they are. You gotta make it a variety. That’s how you keep growing ‘cause you appeal to different people. If there’s 10 podcasts about people who rap, eventually people are going to get tired of hearing about rap music even though I love it. It’s a balance.

ITR: How do you balance your nine to five and your podcast? Is there ever a time when you come home from work and you don’t feel like doing it?

Chad: A thousand percent. 45 hours a week and you’re coming home and if I record a podcast it’s usually between one and two and a half hours. I have to edit these podcasts. It doesn’t just take two hours to edit it because you gotta listen, rewind, cut, trim, all this shit. That adds some extra time. There’s a counter on my editing software that tells me how many hours on it. I’m about to roll 560. 560 hours of editing.

ITR: What do you use to edit?

Chad: A program called Reaper.

ITR: What’s your setup like?

Chad: I interview people in my living room. I have two mic arms that clip on to the table. I give someone a nice seat on the couch because if you’re in an uncomfortable position, people are less likely to open up. I want people to be comfortable. I want people to be cozy. I got a candle lit. That’s why I give people their drinks.

ITR: Yeah, “What’s in Your Cup?”

Chad: Yeah, the more comfortable they are the more comfortable they are about opening up.

ITR: What’s something you always ask people? I know you have your segments like “What’s in Your Cup?” and “Desert Island Questions,” but what’s one thing you always want to cover?

Chad: I always talk about people’s high school.

ITR: I’ve noticed that. Why?

Chad: I feel that you learn a lot about someone by their experiences in high school. I was friends with all different cliques of people like gothic kids, the skateboarder kids, jocks. I was friends with all these different people. I related to all them in a different way. Some people that loved high school. Some people that hated it. It’s curious to me. It interests me hearing if people liked it or not because I can get a better read of who they are. Honestly, any topic that’s brought up could lead down a whole different road. Next week’s episode is this dude named Brian Gonnella. I asked him about high school, but it randomly took us to this path about he’s an artist, but in high school they did an art show where they gave them an installation at this exterior venue, so he got to go build an art installation. It was dope to hear about. You never know where shit is going to take you with those questions. I ask about high school and I always ask about… I’m always curious about the “Desert Island Questions.” That’s why I ask them. Those are ones that I always want to ask people. I’m selfish. I love movies. I ask people favorite movies, favorite books, and favorite music. And then Death Row meal because I love food. I want to know what people like.

ITR: What do you order when you come to Streets on Carson?

IMG_6104.jpg

Chad: I get everything, but my go-to is the 24 Carat Wings and their Philly Cheese Steak. I’ve never had anything bad here. I swear to God. I tell Matt I would be 100% honest with him if I didn’t like anything, but everything is good. I love the environment here. That’s what got me to this place. I love all this artwork. These are his boys who do all this art. He’s helping them. He’s giving them a platform to do more shit. He’s always down to help people do whatever. I’m fortunate enough that I’m able to read people. I’ve always been good at it.

Chad Medved in front of the Streets on Carson Mural by Jewels Antonio | Photos by Alex Young

Chad Medved in front of the Streets on Carson Mural by Jewels Antonio | Photos by Alex Young

ITR: Back to high school. What’s the difference between high school and college?

Chad: As far as my experience, I feel that high school is whenever you’re kind of figuring out who you want to be. You don’t know who you want to be, but you’re so exposed to all these different people even though there’s trends and norms you fall into. You’re being exposed at such an impressionable time you kind of develop who you want to be. You’re starting to build that foundation. College I feel like you’re sharpening that sword a little bit more refining who you want to be, hopefully at least. I thought that that’s what I was doing in college, but it turned out to be… whether you think you are refining who you are or not, it’s happening with experience, situations that you’re dealing with.

ITR: Do you see yourself staying in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future?

Chad: I love Pittsburgh. I was just talking about this. I would love to move. My wife and I talked about moving for sure, but it’s not for the fact of my disliking this or not being fulfilled here. I want to move to Colorado eventually in life. I think that that will be whenever I’m a little bit older and when I’m ready to retire. Pittsburgh is perfect. There’s so much shit here. It’s small enough where you can travel to other side of the city. You don’t have those four-hour traffic lines like you do in California. I’ll be fucking with Pittsburgh for a while. You can’t beat it.

ITR: Did you watch March Madness?

Chad: I don’t watch sports at all. I played football my entire life. I don’t watch sports at all.

ITR: You don’t watch the Steelers?

Chad: I could give a fuck less about football.

ITR: Really?

Chad: I was the captain of my football team and could give a fuck less about football.

ITR: [laughs]

Chad: I would watch the Penguins all the time if I had time or cable, but I don’t have cable.

ITR: Is that a choice?

Chad: Yeah, I’m not spending $160 for fucking cable.

ITR: Where do you watch your movies?

Chad: I have Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. I could tell you three people that are on the Steelers right now. Four people maybe. I’m not a hater. I just don’t care about it.

ITR: What made you stop caring?

Chad: Whenever I was younger, I was not collecting sports cards. I played sports because my brother played sports. I followed in his footsteps with everything. I was not collecting baseball cards or anything like that.

ITR: What were you collecting?

Chad: Movies, magic cards, just dumbass shit. I wrestled. I played football. I don’t give a shit about basketball or baseball. I will watch soccer for sure. The only sport that I go out of my way to watch is UFC. I’m a huge UFC fan. Any mix martial arts. Steelers, I’m sorry I can’t. I enjoy the Penguins.

ITR: We’re in the playoffs now (at least at the time of this interview we were).

Chad: I had season tickets for a minute. I split a half with my cousin, but I ended up getting rid of them. I’m a home body. I like being home. I don’t like going out. I get social anxiety almost. It’s gotta be worth it for me to go out. I go to comedy shows a lot though.

ITR: Where?

Chad: Improv. I’ll travel to Cleveland or Columbus. I’m going to California in two weeks. We’re going to go see a couple comedy shows out there. Anytime we travel anywhere, like whenever we went to Colorado, we saw a comedy show. My wife and I love that. Comedy has been a big thing in my life. I did stand-up for a little bit.

ITR: How was that?

Chad: It was dope. It was last year I did a competition at the Improv. It was a March Madness competition where there’s 32 people. I was in the top 3. It was the first time I ever did it. Each week was a level you advance. I loved it. I eventually want to get back into that, but it’s not realistic for my life right now. Open mics are like midnights. I’m focused on the podcast. I don’t want to spread myself too thin because this will be lacking. This has to be 100%. This is 100% my creativity. This is the outlet for it right here.

ITR: When you travel will you try to get episodes?

Chad: Yeah, I try to line people up ahead of time. There’s a couple people I’m talking to in California right now for whenever I go over there. Anywhere I could go to branch out I try to expand it. Like in Colorado even though I knew that dude real well I did a podcast with him because he offers a different insight. California will be the same way. I’m going to Seattle in October. I’ll definitely find someone up there. I’m not afraid to talk to people. I approach people. I try to make it happen.

[Chad and I’s attention shifts to a silver Jeep Wrangler with the doors and roof off. The driver’s dogs heads dangle out of the side as “Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G blasts from the car.]

Chad: There it is. That’s a good song. That dude just went up and down [East Carson Street] twice. What’s he doing?

ITR: I was going to say how do you trust your dogs in the car with no doors, but I see them on the leash up top.

Chad: Yeah, they’re gonna get hung out of the fucking door [laughs]. Yeah, I don’t know. I think it’s important to branch out a little bit. There’s more than enough people in Pittsburgh though. I like to sprinkle in a little bit extra.

ITR: What’s a piece of advice you would give to someone who is trying to get married?

Chad: Who’s trying to get married? [laughs and smirks] Don’t have a big wedding. It’s a waste. It’s a waste of money. Even though I don’t regret my wedding at all…

ITR: [laughs] It’s a waste of money.

Chad: It’s a waste of money, dude. It’s like you’re paying $15,000 for a party for other people. It’s fucking insane. I don’t even remember my wedding. I didn’t even drink. I don’t drink. It was a blur the whole night.

ITR: What about it was a blur?

Chad: You’re the center of attention and you have to go around and talk to all these people and give your moment to everyone. You’re just like, “Jesus.” It’s only four hours. It’s almost like a high school dance. You get there and by the time you’re there it just feels like it went a million miles an hour. It’s nuts.

It's Crunch Time in Life: David Cole Speaks About His Label Elisa Jones by Alex Young

David Cole wearing the “Bart 12" Elisa Jones hoodie | Photograph by Alex Young

David Cole wearing the “Bart 12" Elisa Jones hoodie | Photograph by Alex Young

Growing up in LefRak City, which is in New York City’s Queens borough, for 20-year-old David Cole “it was either play basketball or be around the people on the block.” Hoop dreams were a means to an end, a way out of rough conditions. The ball found David education and different circumstances. During his high school sophomore year playing for Christ The King, he earned his first Division I scholarship to play for Manhattan College. Although, Cole decided to leave home and head to Pittsburgh and join the Robert Morris University Colonials.

Basketball has been a savior for a lot of people... If it wasn’t for basketball, a lot of people wouldn’t be who they are.
— David Cole

“I love fashion” too Cole said even though basketball remains a priority. He’s no stranger to the cultural phenomenon the A$AP Mob created in New York blending music and fashion. A self-described ‘hypebeast,’ Cole copped VLONE garments by A$AP Bari or items like the volt, Off-White Air Force 1 sneaker. “I love the way they paved for us in this world when it comes to fashion,” Cole said about A$AP noting all the brands from A$AP Illz’s Disco Inferno, A$AP Ant’s Marino Infantry to A$AP Twelvyy’s L.Y.B.B. The natural intersection for Cole became sports and streetwear.

When he was back in New York on college break his sophomore year, Cole told his friend Aziz Donnadle he could enter the game and make an impactful clothing brand. Donnadle would help Cole create a name. They would call it Elisa Jones, an ode to their mothers using their first and last names. Donnadle’s mom’s first name and Cole’s mom’s last name. “Elisa Jones is smooth. It’s a true meaning. We love our mothers. Our mothers mean everything and much more. We owe them the world,” Cole explained.

Elisa Jones’ first product would return to Cole’s hoop dreams and reflect on his home’s environment. Illustrated bullet holes riddle through the “Memorial Tee,” a memorial basketball tournament T-shirt. The back reads “4 My Dead Homies.” Elisa Jones speaks to violent and unjust conditions in society. “I know people that lost their lives that had hoop dreams,” Cole said. He works for those who can’t. “It’s crunch time in life. You got one life. It’s crunch time,” Cole finished.

Tutu, Kristina wearing the Elisa Jones “Memorial Tee”, David Cole & Tyler Calpin | Photos by Alex Young

Tutu, Kristina wearing the Elisa Jones “Memorial Tee”, David Cole & Tyler Calpin | Photos by Alex Young

Flyer by Tutu

Flyer by Tutu

The brand stays true to its roots. “I love my neighborhood,” Cole said. The couple Elisa Jones hoodies out now continue to hit urban motifs. A mustard yellow or red “Public Housing” hoodie relates to drugs, money or murder. “If you know public housing, people are usually trying to sell drugs or do drugs. Get money. Money is important to everybody in life. Murder crime rates in projects are higher than other places,” Cole explained. An element to low-income neighborhoods are agents of the law, and for people of color, the negative interaction between them and police. The “Bart 12” sweatshirt displays the distaste black people have with police officers when they abuse their power.

There’s plenty of support for Elisa Jones when it comes to building concepts. “You can’t build an empire without a team of people,” Tyler Calpin said as the visual artist features as part of the system that represents Elisa Jones. At Calpin’s solo photography exhibit “Searching for Jenny” at Social Status in Downtown, Pittsburgh, Cole met the man who would handle the graphic design work for Elisa Jones, Tutu, a fellow New York native. “Because I have a real big passion for this, I feel like I gotta contribute any way that I can,” Tutu said handling Elisa Jones’ workload and his own for his HeatKlub label. A stalwart contributor to The ‘Burgh’s streetwear community, Ivan Rodriguez of SOSIMO linked Cole to Revival Print Co. to handle printing for Elisa Jones. A former basketball teammate at Robert Morris, Dachon Burke, listened to Cole’s ideas for the label. Each person’s success in the Elisa Jones teams boosts one another. “I need people that are either on the same level as me or above me to help me motivate and get higher,” Cole said.

I’d rather spend $40 on my friends’ brands than at Supreme. That $40 is going to go to something way bigger and way better.
— Tyler Calpin

Effortlessly, Cole has found a place in Pittsburgh’s creative scene by being friendly meeting new people. His Elisa Jones designs carry the same relatable trait that “touch people.” Next, the brand will have a pop-up shop on April 27 at Shop Zed’s in the South Side along with Geechi P’s brand Safe Haven.

Read the full transcript between Cole, Tyler Calpin and Tutu below.


David Cole: I’m from New York City.

InTheRough: I checked out the Robert Morris University basketball roster and saw you were on it. Is that how you got to Pittsburgh?

Cole: Yeah, that’s what made me come to Pittsburgh.

ITR: How long have you been playing basketball for?

Cole: I’ve been playing basketball since seventh grade. I’ve been playing for eight or nine years now.

ITR: When did you notice you got good?

Cole: High school, Sophomore year is when I got my first Division 1 offer from Manhattan College.

ITR: How was it playing basketball in New York? Rucker Park and the public parks are intense competition on some manly shit.

Cole: Well, when I was growing up we didn’t really play at Rucker. We played in Dyckman, Tri-State, and in my neighborhood we had the Y-Zone. So, basically we would go between those three tournaments. Those were the most popular tournaments. Dyckman was always very competitive. You got old NBA players coming to play over there. Tri-State was very popular. Those two tournaments were the best tournaments in New York.

ITR: How would you describe your basketball style? What sneakers were you wearing?

Cole: Nike. I went to Christ The King so we were a LeBron school. We got a bunch of LeBrons.

ITR: Did that influence you when you were picking your school, like a Nike school or adidas school?

Cole: Basketball basically influenced. Coming up from the neighborhood where I’m from, things were always rough. Basketball was a way out for kids. That’s how we saw ourselves as succeeding. It was either play basketball or be around the people on the block. Even if you were to play basketball the people on the block would get along with you and mob with you. Basketball has been a savior for a lot of people and I say that for a lot of people in New York. I can speak for them. If it wasn’t for basketball, a lot of people wouldn’t be who they are. They wouldn’t be anybody. They would kind of just give up. I would say basketball is very important to almost everybody in New York that participates.

ITR: Where is the intersection of streetwear, sports and music?

Cole: Fashion. I love fashion. Music, I listen to a lot of people who are really not in the industry, like Kayo and my friends and family OTN.

ITR: So OTN is like a crew of yours?

Cole: OTN is a family. OTN is seven people. We all grew up with the same dream, which is basketball. As we got older, times started to get rough. Certain people didn’t have that basketball path. Others had the basketball path. However you were going to get it, how were you going to be a more successful person. We got rappers, we got entrepreneurs (me being myself), we got someone that’s in the NBA, and we got another person that’s playing college basketball. Everybody in the group is aiming for some type of success.

ITR: But you occupy both those lanes with the basketball dreams and the entrepreneurial side.

Cole: More not even the entrepreneurial side, I mean, when I really fell in love with fashion, that’s what made me get into my brand. I like VLONE. I like Bstroy. Shout out to Disco Inferno, especially A$AP Ant, if he sees this, my mans YG Addie. Shout out to all of them. I love them. I love the way they paved for us in this world when it comes to fashion. Me continuing to get my money and I know I have all these ideas in my head that I can produce on my own and make the same impact as them.

I actually sat down with my girlfriend one day and I told her I was like listen, “It’s time for me to make my brand. I talk about it like I want to do it, but it’s time for me to actually do it.” When it was time for me to make my brand, that’s when, shout out to Ivan (Ivan as you know owns SOSIMO), I was telling him all of my ideas. Between him and my mans Dachon Burke, I was telling them all of my ideas. Listen, “I wanna run this brand and everything.” Dachon Burke knew so much too because he was my teammate last year at Robert Morris. He and I came up into fashion. Dachon, Isaiah Still (ForWeird), and I came up into fashion. It was really big to us. Shout out to Ivan. Ivan basically told me he was like listen, “I’m going to be honest with you. I see you have some very creative ideas. I have someone who you can go to and get your garments done with them. They can make it for you. You gotta provide them the designs and make sure all the designs are on par and everything will be good from there.” Basically, from there, that’s when I started telling myself, “Okay, I got all these ideas. I got all these good drawings in my head and I really can’t sketch. Aw man, I need to find a good graphic designer.” So, in my head, I know what graphic designers to get. Like, I’ve had friends that had graphic designers that they gave things to and they would take it from there and give it to somebody who they feel like is more successful and feel like they presented something. So, it really wasn’t none of that. It’s really them just stealing the idea. That was my biggest fear personally. I’m going around looking and then I met my guy Tutu at Tyler Calpin’s “Searching For Jenny” (art exhibit). I met him and he was like, “Yeah, I do graphic design.” I’m like alright bet. We’re going to get in touch. I’m going to see what you can do basically ‘cause there’s a lot of people that say they can do things and you just gotta research for yourself. I know he’s got his own brand going, HeatKlub. I see what he’s doing.

Dachon Burke and @rah_mccoy in the black “Memorial Tee” | Burke photo by VALE™

It started with the public housing hoodie that I did. I have three items in my brand. I’ll explain each one of them and make sure you get a good understanding. But, it started with the public housing hoodie with Tyler. I told him I wanted to do something for my neighborhood. That was my first big piece to really mean something. I wanted it to express where I come from. I live in LefRak City. LefRak isn’t projects. It’s a public community, but the environment in LefRak City is a very tough environment. I said to myself that I’m going to make a public housing hoodie, but it’s not going to be my building technically ‘cause I’m not a public housing building. I’m saying to myself everything that happens in public housing is either drugs, money or murder. Drugs, money and murder. If you know public housing, people are usually trying to sell drugs or do drugs. Get money. Money is important to everybody in life. Murder crime rates in projects are higher than other places. I told Tutu I need three buildings to look similar to my building. I just want the whole theme, sort of the whole font, like it’s a flesh wound font, it needs to be an old school type of feeling ‘cause it’s way back. LefRak goes way back. I grew up there my whole life. Basically, it means a lot. Within like two days, he sent me over some work. I looked at it and I’m like, “Yo, this is crazy. This looks tough, but is this really going to come out like this after I give it to Daniel?” Daniel is Revival Print Company. I really don’t know what’s going to happen and we end up getting the hoodie and I’m like, “Yo, this hoodie is tough.” So then from there I’m like alright bet I can trust Daniel. I can trust Tutu. I got my group that I can work around at the moment. It’s really a blessing to have people that you can trust. I just came back from L.A. yesterday. Shout out to my guy Keeon Scott, CreamAAWheat. That’s my brother. He put me on to a garment manufacturer out there. Me and my man Lazarus, we’re about to get some work done. We’re about to get very intense into some garments. I’m still going to be doing what I’m doing now with the images, but certain pieces will be less images and more going on to it. That’s what I’m transitioning over to right now. I also have the memorial tee. As I said, where I came from everybody looked at basketball as a way out. Everybody had that dream regardless if they are gangsters now, resting in peace or, you feel what I’m saying. They all came up with that same dream. I know people that lost their life that had hoop dreams. I know people that couldn’t continue hoop dreams because they had to go get it whichever way they had to go get their money and provide. I said to myself I need to make a T-shirt that’s going to standout and actually speak in a way. I’m going to do a memorial tee, so these are for the people that had these dreams and just letting them know that they’re not forgotten. You’re still out there. We still remember you. On the back I put for my dead homies for the people that passed away, and that’s what the bullet holes are on the shirt for. Due to violence, we have a memorial classic going on for the people that couldn’t fulfill their dreams. We’re showing them love. That was my first shirt. Then it was the public housing hoodie and then after I made the Elisa Bart hoodie. The whole theme of this one was this: I’m a young African American man. You know how it goes with cops. I’ve known people who have been violated by cops. I’ve seen enough videos. I’m pretty sure everybody can understand that cops sometimes abuse their rights. That’s way above for me to actually answer, but for my personal experience with cops, I feel like they do crazy things sometimes. So I said I’m going to do a Bart Simpson hoodie that is basically stating we don’t really fuck with cops. We’re not rocking with cops. That’s why I got the cop as a pig. 12 is from slang instead of putting a police department. It’s a different understanding. My work, I want it to be looked at and I want you to have to ask questions about it. I don’t want you just to buy something. I want you before you buy it to DM me and ask me and I can explain it. Tutu did this too. I had told Tutu put Bart riding on top of the cop car with no cop in it. And I remember he was done with the whole design. I was like, “Bro, this isn’t good enough. I need you to go back and spice it up for me.” I came up with the idea with my friend Dachon. We were dead on the phone for like three hours. I told Tutu I need the cop to be a pig and I need both of them in the car. I don’t care what you do from there make it happen for me. He surprised me with some wonderful work. Actually, so far it has been my best piece. I thank God for him. I thank God for my girlfriend. I thank God for everybody that’s around me. Dachon, Ivan, Isaiah, Keeon, Laz, Tyler, I thank everybody that’s around me because without seeing all the creativity that’s going on around me in life, then you really won’t be able to experience it.

David Cole, Tutu & Tyler Calpin | Photos by Alex Young

David Cole, Tutu & Tyler Calpin | Photos by Alex Young

If you trap yourself in something and not experience the outside world around you, you won’t really know what’s going on. You’ll just be stuck to your own regular routine. It’s kind of a blessing to have the people that I have around me. I only surround myself with people that have the same goals as me. What I mean by goals, let me clarify, as long as you’re trying to succeed. As long as you’re never going to become complacent and satisfied with what you’re doing. As long as you’re true to yourself and know where you come from, I totally respect you and have no problem building a bond with you. It’s really a wonderful feeling. I actually do appreciate everybody around me. I’ve recently made friends with Geechi P. Geechi is a really interesting person. I want you to talk to Tyler for a little to get where he comes from as a part of the brand ‘cause he means a lot to the brand. Without him and his creativity, I really wouldn’t get anywhere as far as certain things getting done. I’m really thankful for him. I just want to shout out Pittsburgh Social Status. I appreciate you guys 100%. Shout out my beautiful girlfriend Kristina.

ITR: Who is Elisa Jones?

Cole: Shout out to my guy Aziz Donnadle. The brand is run by Aziz and I. One day, we were at home. I’m home on break my sophomore year, I’m like, “Yo, bro, we can really do this fashion.” I’m over here just talking with my mans and chillin’. I’m like, “Yo, bro, we could really make a fashion clothing line.” He’s like, “Let’s do it.” I’m like alright bet. Let’s think of a name. We’re sitting there thinking and it literally took us like 15 minutes. I was like we should name it after my mom. I love my mom Jacqueline Jones. She is my biggest role model. She played my mother and father role. Not only that, she’s everything to me. Basically, I was like we could use my mom’s last name. I said, “What’s your mom’s first name?” He said, “Elisa.” I was like okay that’s tough. I’m riding with Elisa. Smooth. Nobody can stutter over it. I’m like, “Elisa Jones.” His mom recently just beat a little stage of cancer so she means a lot to him as well. We’re doing Elisa Jones. Elisa Jones is smooth. It’s a true meaning. We love our mothers. Our mothers mean everything and much more. We owe them the world.

Shout out to the whole OTN too. Hamidou Diallo who is playing in the NBA, Jeffrey, James, Kevin, Elijah, Amadou, shout out to Fendi, Dudus, MallyMall (Somoli), shout out to some of my brothers I love them all OTN. Also, Jabari Bell always pushing me to strive.

ITR: How has it been finding talent in the city that you mesh with and work well with?

Cole: I knew Ivan first. Ivan introduced me to Tyler at Social Status. I met Tutu at Tyler’s event as I said. It all played out. I met Ivan ‘cause I used to always go to Social Status. I was a Bape fiend. I was a hypebeast once upon a time in my life. I kind of changed everything.

Tyler Calpin: You still are [laughs].

Cole: Nah, not even [laughs].

Calpin: Nah, you just do it different now, man.

Cole: I do it different. I only support my brands now. I don’t buy VLONE anymore. We went to the VLONE pop-up the other day. She [Kristina] spent $400 on a crewneck. I looked at her and told her she could’ve invested it in the brand [laughs].

Tutu: The Neighborhood one?

Cole: Yeah, the Neighborhood one.

Tutu: Owwww.

Tyler Calpin, Tutu and David Cole hitting the whoa | Photo by Alex Young

Tyler Calpin, Tutu and David Cole hitting the whoa | Photo by Alex Young

Cole: Basically, I support my friends. I knew Ivan had his own thing going. I did a photoshoot with Ivan in January. I did a photoshoot with him for his brand and we had a long conversation. He was touching up on everything with me and I was giving him my ideas. From there I knew I could trust Ivan. Ivan seemed like a real thorough, authentic person. When I was with Ivan, I met Tyler. Ivan is cool with Tyler. Tyler is cool. I’m over here talking to him we’re having a two-hour conversation. Don’t know Tyler from a can of paint. We maintained the two-hour conversation. Tyler is a cool person. I’m not from Pittsburgh. I’m trying to find people who I can trust. I got trust issues coming from where I’m from. I come to Tyler’s event, I see Tutu. Tutu looks like he got some style. Looks like he got some swag. I actually went up to Tutu and I’m like, “What’s good?” He’s looking at me like, “What’s good?” Just looking at me. I’m stepping out of my pride right now to come say what’s good to him and he’s over here telling me what’s good like I’m pressing him. I’m like alright I’m just going to keep going with it. “What’s your name?” He’s like, “Tutu.” Then we just started building from there. We followed each other on The Gram and we got more tight. Now, he’s my designer right now. I’m thankful for that.

Calpin: The implications of “what’s good,” as someone that’s not from New York, that’s crazy.

ITR: It’s hostile.

Calpin: It’s one of those things, man, you can’t build an empire without a team of people. Pittsburgh is a small enough city we’re all bound to be wrapped up in multiple things. I have my hands in four different brands that people are starting. I do my own thing. Something is going to stick. Something is going to hit. At the end of the day, it’s important to find success within yourself, but seeing your friends succeed is just as for me… David could blow up tomorrow and I’ll be super stoked for him. He could totally forget about me and I can just be like, “That’s sick. I got one of his first T-shirts. I was fuckin’ with him when he was coming to Social and doing his thing.” Seeing your friends succeed too is so sick, dude. My job, more or less, is to help them get to where they want to be. We’re all competition, but at the end of the day, we’re also part of the same community. We all have the same friends. That’s what’s going to elevate us. If you think about Neighborhood and how that brand started it was about that neighborhood in Japan (Harajuku) where three or four of the biggest Japanese clothing brands ever came out of the same spot in Japan. Who is to say we couldn’t do that in Downtown, Pittsburgh. When one person finds their success and they start to blowup, everyone else is going to get a ride. You have a higher standard at that point. This dude blew up. I gotta push harder.

Tutu: Yeah, that’s just how it is. I feel like right now in Pittsburgh everybody is kind of doing the same thing, but at the end of the day, the people who are real and are in this are going to be the ones that survive. A lot of people gain clout because they do clothing, this, that, and the third, but with stuff like this it’s a marathon.

ITR: Facts. Shout out Nipsey.

Tutu: Exactly. R.I.P. Yeah, you gotta take your time with it. You gotta be very precise I feel. I was blessed to meet these people that are in this store. That’s why I’m honestly here everyday. I meet very intricate people and people who help me work harder towards my goals. It just so happens that this place is also fresh. It keeps me fresh.

ITR: You, David and Tutu, are both from New York. Did you find you had similar tastes?

Tutu: Yeah, I feel like that’s a stereotype of being from New York or just being from a city that is a little bit more fashion forward. That’s why we hit it off at first type shit. It was because, “Oh, you’re from New York. Where in New York? Around New Rochelle.” I’m from New Rochelle.

Cole: I’m from Queens, LefRak City.

Tutu: That’s like 20 minutes away from New Rochelle. It was crazy because I’ve always had to tell people from Pittsburgh about New Rochelle, so when somebody came up to me talking about New Rochelle I was like, “Oh, shit. He knows. Let me keep talking to him and see what type of time he’s on.” Not to say I judge people from their Instagram, but I saw his Instagram and I was like okay he’s got some style. We got some similarities type stuff when it comes to our style. Why not collab? Why not do something that’s going to make something even bigger than we are? Because I have a real big passion for this, I feel like I gotta contribute any way that I can. If that means designing for somebody, then I’ll definitely do that. At the end of the day, it’s bigger than me no matter what.

ITR: Tyler touched on the competition aspect. We’re all in this community together. Tutu said a lot of people in Pittsburgh do the same shit. David has Elisa Jones. Tutu has HeatKlub. Tyler has his own thing but he just dropped a Searching For Jenny T-shirt with Reviving Real. Ivan got SOSIMO. Geechi P has Haven Project. Is there a fear of over-saturation?

Cole: No. We are all family and we all aim for the same thing.

ITR: Okay, yes. That could be the case, but at the same time, Pittsburgh is a small place. You all have different types of styles, but the aesthetic is very similar. How do you make sure you keep that unique?

Cole: You gotta make unique. We all got our own little pattern of how we do our work. You could look at all three of our works and see there’s a difference. You could see there’s a different theme or a whole picture going on. We all do three different things. In my head, as long as we stay separated from each other where it doesn’t look like we’re copying each other, and if we feel like we need to do that then we can collab, I think that we’re all separated. We all got our own uniqueness. That’s what made us all find each other. If it wasn’t for that then we all wouldn’t be in this situation. There’s people in Pittsburgh who I might think have a brand and I look at their Instagram and I’m like, “Nah. I don’t think he has the same ambition as me.” I’m not going to involve myself because that’s just going to bring me down. I need to be pulled up. I need people that are either on the same level as me or above me to help me motivate and get higher. It’s crunch time in life. You got one life. It’s crunch time. Everybody’s trying to get that bread. I have a mom I want to take out the hood. I understand it’s competition, but we could all help each other take our moms out the hood. Why not come together as one? If you want to talk about competition, how do you think the whole A$AP Mob feels? You got Bari the biggest, but then you still got A$AP Illz Disco Inferno. You still got A$AP Ant Marino. You still got Twelvyy Last Year Being Broke. They’re all eating though. At the end of the day, they’re showing us you could work with 50 people for all you care. You all could eat as long as you’re doing things that are different and you touch people.

It’s crunch time in life.

Tutu: For me, one thing that separates HeatKlub from everything else is the fact that HeatKlub is not a clothing brand. HeatKlub never started as a clothing brand for me. HeatKlub is more of a housing unit how David explained with OTN. It’s just a housing unit. I got people who are doing music. I got people that do videography, photography, and clothing. I would say the clothing that I put out under HeatKlub is more just to show the awareness. This is what HeatKlub is. When somebody is rocking HeatKlub you’ll be like, “What is HeatKlub?” Also, I want you to go and I want you yourself to do the homework. I don’t want to tell you what it is. Everybody’s approach is different with how this is. At least right now, I like to be behind the scenes. If I do get the accolades that come along with it, then whatever that’s great. But, right now, one step at a time. Very calculated steps about what I do.

Calpin: I think your comparison of all this and A$AP Mob and then dropping all those brands was so key. We’re all catering to the same niche of people. You see Tutu did graphic for you (David), he does it for himself, he did it for Haven Project. I know for a fact Ivan helped all three of you guys with your production.

Tutu: That’s a fact.

Calpin: What I do with Reviving Real caters to a completely different niche of people. That brand is in a little bit of a different mix, but the link that brings all of those things together is my involvement with everyone’s little bit. I do Ivan’s product shots. I shoot sick iPhone Instagram photos of you guys rocking your shit. You’re all catering to the same group of people, so when people start to see this is coming from David, people who are buying Ivan’s stuff are still going to buy your shit. They see Ivan’s fucking with you they’ll be like, “Oh, that guys cool. If he’s valid with Ivan, he’s gotta be a good dude.”

Cole: I ain’t gonna lie. That’s going on right now in Japan actually. He was actually Ivan’s customer and then he saw my friends and family piece on Ivan and was like, “I need two hoodies right now.”

Calpin: It’s a fire starter. One of those things is going to lead to somebody. The right person is going to see it whether it’s Elisa Jones, HeatKlub, SOSIMO, whatever the fuck. Someone’s going to get some attention and everyone is going to blow.

Cole: That’s why I give a lot of respect to A$AP Ant. The bond between me and A$AP Ant… I had ordered something from him and it took quite a while to get to me. I had to start calling him and be like, “Where’s my shit at?” He ended up sending me an extra package and was like, “My fault on that bro. I see you hoop. I support all hoopers.” He followed me on the Gram. After I started doing my brand with the public housing hoodie he was like, “Yo, that hoodie is tough. I need it.” I sent him the first hoodie and then he was like, “I need every colorway.” Being the person who I am, knowing A$AP Ant is kind of a cool feeling, but at the same time, we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all the same people. It’s cool, but we all could do the same shit. Why can’t I be just as good as them? The same way how they got up I could come up. The same way I could go down they could go down too. Nothing is impossible. This isn’t impossible. Speak things into existence. Be honest with yourself and keep it a buck around everybody around you.

Calpin: When someone with a bigger platform recognizes what you’re doing, you know you’re doing something right. Being recognized on a scale like that is fucking crazy. When I even saw that A$AP Ant liked the photo that I took of him or I saw that Illz reposted the photo I took of Tutu on both of his Instagram stories, bro, I called my mom. I was like, “Yo, people from the A$AP Mob are fucking with my shit on Instagram right now.” I mean, my mom is so caucasian it hurts, but she knows who the A$AP Mob is. She was like, “That’s fucking crazy. You mean like A$AP Rocky?” His people are rocking with me. She was like, “Damn.” To even just be recognized even if it’s second-hand recognization…

Tutu: It’s still something you can say that was done by you.

Calpin: Dude, I was on cloud nine for three fucking days thinking about that shit. I felt like big man in town. I’ve always wanted those people to see what I do. It’s going to happen more and more. One day, one of these people are going to see everything that I do on my own and they’re going to want that for themselves.

Cole: I can tell you one thing, being a person who is all about truth and being friendly, I met Keeon (CreamAAWheat) in New York City on my why to A$AP Illz pop-up in New Jersey with my girlfriend she was driving in traffic. He’s just riding his skateboard and he had One Up Skate Shop cargo pants on. I got out of the car and I said, “What do you know about One Up?” He said, “I am One Up!” I said, “You know Brandon?” He said, “Yeah, that’s my mans. I’m from Pittsburgh.”

Tutu: What? That’s crazy.

Calpin: I used to skate with Keeon back in the day. It’s really a testament to how small our community is. I did not know Davin three months ago. The first time we have a lengthy conversation he brings up Keeon. I said, “Oh, you mean CreamAAWheat?” He said, “Yeah, Keeon.” I was like you’re lying. I used to skate with that kid back in Ohio. It’s crazy how this world works, bro. Everybody is all over the place doing their thing, but it’s a lot smaller than you think. It’s crazy how this community is.

Tutu: Shout out to Social Status.

Cole: Shout out to [claps] Social Status. Shout out to Larry. Shout out to Tara.

Calpin: Shout out to Big Larry.

ITR: Lastly, Nipsey Hussle was just shot and killed. You got these bullet holes riddled through the “Memorial Tee.” How are you trying to change this violent culture?

Cole: Honestly, in life, people make mistakes. I know people who probably live the same life that Nipsey Hussle did. People try to change their life. The fact that someone so influential loses his life makes nobody feel safe. If somebody can take down Nipsey Hussle over…

ITR: Some bullshit.

Cole: Whatever it really is, to do that in broad daylight knowing he got kids and a wife shows you how coldhearted this world really is. I try to keep it real. It’s tough, man. All the gun violence needs to stop.

Tee Time by Alex Young

Emerging Streetwear Companies

“Compelling visual style, backstory and feel,” that’s the blueprint for building an influential brand according to Grailed. The buy-sell marketplace app asserted this opinion in a history piece describing the “Rise of Japanese Street Culture” through the late ‘80s and in to the ‘90s in Harajuku. Essentially, the canon of streetwear fashion, the Japanese section pertaining to Hiroshi Fujiwara, Nigo and others pivotal to the scene, all created their brands and legacies in the same neighborhood making a bridge between music and fashion. The success of one boosted more opportunity and success for another. These fashion icons asserted their “loyalty to sister brands with continual collaboration and cross-pollination,” Harsh Patel wrote in a 2010 piece for Interview Magazine. Partnerships with each other drove consumers to desire every brand involved in the movement.

Japanese Street Culture: Nigo, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Jun Takahashi | New York Street Culture: A$AP Mob

Draw the parallel. Take the model to modern day Harlem with the A$AP Mob. Members of the clique seamlessly fused hip-hop and fashion. A$AP Rocky exploded, and each A$AP member has found success whether it’s music or, particularly here, fashion. Streetwear brands grew out of the A$AP Mob without inhibiting the other’s success: Disco Inferno, Marino Infantry and VLONE. Each thrives, just as the core Japanese streetwear companies founded and remain: A Bathing Ape, Neighborhood and Undercover.

This style, camaraderie and entrepreneurship is a global culture practiced by many artists. As it happened in Japan and New York, it occurs now in Pittsburgh.

Top row:  SOSIMO  &  HeatKlub  | Bottom Row: SOSIMO x  Haven  &  Elisa Jones  | Middle: Ivan Rodriguez, Sakony Burton &  Tyler Calpin  on  Désir  hoodies

Top row: SOSIMO & HeatKlub | Bottom Row: SOSIMO x Haven & Elisa Jones | Middle: Ivan Rodriguez, Sakony Burton & Tyler Calpin on Désir hoodies

There’s a crew inhabiting and working at Social Status, using the welcoming streetwear boutique as a meeting spot to build ideas with each other and talk about the culture in a relevant establishment. Ivan Rodriguez and Tyler Calpin, while they are sales associates at Social Status, they use the store’s customer influx to build a network helping grow their personal brands, SOSIMO for Rodriguez and Calpin’s eponymous brand. With them, David Cole, Geechi P, Sakony Burton and Tutu feed off the Social Status energy, as well as their relationships with each other, which has created a budding streetwear community. Cole operates Elisa Jones, Geechi P has Haven, Burton runs Désir, and Tutu supplies graphic designs to Elisa Jones, Haven and his own project HeatKlub. Calpin spends time with all of them working in Social Status’ Downtown, Pittsburgh location where Cole frequents and the East Liberty location where Rodriguez works. Calpin adds compelling visuals and cool documentation to SOSIMO, Elisa Jones and HeatKlub, or companionship and advice to Burton. Burton and Rodriguez influence each other. “If it wasn’t for him [Ivan Rodriguez], I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now, and to some degree, if it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing right now,” Burton said.

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Calpin and Cole were the ones to draw comparisons from Japanese and New York street cultures to the current situation in The ‘Burgh. Each of the brands could eat "as long as you touch people,” Cole said during his upcoming InTheRough interview at Social Status Downtown. “We all could help each other take our moms out the hood.”

Aris Tatalovich Eyelet T-shirt by Alex Young

Product photo via  Instagram

Product photo via Instagram

Design, screen-print, cut and sew, Aris Tatalovich has the tools to keep his brand in-house.

Recently, 19-year-old Tatalovich made waves with his Sticky Note Cardholder. The wallet, made from handcrafted Italian leather, featured three individual Post-it note style cardholders that connected with Velcro. The concept and execution flexed the designer’s ingenuity.

People just want to cop and be on it because there’s a certain stigma around it. I guess that’s where people differentiate. Like people would rather have that and don’t care about quality and better product and just rather have hype. But I’m trying to change that, I guess, and make people focused on I have better quality, better product, better ideas, better concepts, everything better just no hype… I have taste is what I’m saying.
— Aris Tatalovich during his episode of the Non Disclosure Agreement Podcast

The next product coming from the Tatalovich fashion house is brand T-shirts. “Aris” text emboldens on the chest as the “i” has an embroidered, colored, eyelet dotting the “i.” Aris’ last name underlines his first. The tees release on March 31 for $78 USD. Three colorways will be available. Although which three is to be determined. Comment below to let the designer know what color you want.