A red bandana hangs from Ryan Brown's adidas Tiro sweatpants. He carries the fabric almost always for multiple reasons: to pay respect to his brother who was heavily entrenched in Pittsburgh's street culture, red is his favorite color, Woody from one of his favorite movies "Toy Story" wears a similar bandana, and it is a handy tool to wipe his brow or to give to a lady.
The cloth, which essentially doubles as Brown's handkerchief, is a symbol that represents important characteristics in his personality and his work.
Nicknamed RB for short, the Pittsburgh native and Lawrenceville resident understands the heritage and the pride people value from where they come from.
Born in the East Hills area of The 'Burgh and later moved to Stanton Heights, RB's appreciation for culture and the arts stems from his mother and manifests itself now in numerous ways.
"Pop culture kept me busy," he says. His mom wanted to keep him away from the life his older brother was living in the streets, so she sidetracked him with entertainment, shows like "Dragon Ball Z" and video game consoles like Sega Genesis.
A "Dragon Ball Z" DVD set, Power Rangers action figures, Toy Story figurines, such as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, and Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots adorn RB's mantle piece in his living room. A Sega, silver Playstation 2, and black Playstation 4 machines connect to his large, flatscreen television. Many paintings and photographs hang on his walls in neat frames. Three of Pittsburgh visual artist Cody Baker's NINELIVES portraits occupy a nook.
"I'm real into visual stimulation. Most of what you see comes from my interest. I try not to be closed off," RB says.
RB offers me a cup of water and places my red, Solo Cup, and his own, on a Prince, "Purple Rain" coaster. Migos' "3 Way," the Atlanta rap trio's new extended play, hums through AppleTV while we talk. "I didn't get into hip-hop until 2000. My mom played gospel in the house," RB says. "WWF Aggression," the soundtrack album featuring entrance music of WWE superstars, re-recorded by hip-hop icons like Snoop Dogg, Redman, and Ice-T, was the kick start to his rap enthusiasm. His wardrobe keys in on his enjoyment for the music genre too. A vintage wear connoisseur, RB has "The Slim Shady LP" T-shirt and merchandise from Kanye West's "808s and Heartbreak" album. He wears a tee commemorating the 1994 Major League Baseball All-Star Game hosted in Pittsburgh during our meeting.
Officially, RB made his appreciation for popular culture and his hometown his life's work in 2004 when he attended Schenley High School. He and his friends considered themselves "far from fresh," a wave that influenced how they carried themselves and how they spoke. On New Year's, RB threw a house party where he gave away shirts, the first product of farESH Brand.
Now 28-years-old, RB strives to bring different people of different backgrounds together. Through hosting events and creating apparel RB and farESH Brand achieve this.
"Pittsburgh needs to grow, develop, and ask questions," he says.
In the past, farESH brought together different tastes of music from many artists in Pittsburgh. Rapper Mars Jackson paired with Northern pop act badboxes on a song called "Sacrifice." The company blended sounds of electronic, hip-hop, and jazz from an all-Pittsburgh cast on the mixtape "Bridges," mixed by DJ Bamboo.
This year, FarESH Brand held a mini music festival with mixed genres called "The City" to showcase many of the talented acts in Pittsburgh. Blues, hip-hop, and rock were on display at Spirit Lodge, a bar in Lawrenceville. The event and the musical lineup joined the district community and the black community under one roof for a common enjoyment.
Forthcoming is more of the same mission, uniting people of many interests and backgrounds. RB holds an event called "Finesse" on July 23 at Spirit Lodge where DJ EYEJAY and illustrator-DJ Paizley Mind will play hip-hop, jersey club, and trap music. Then on July 28 at Spirit RB will host another event called "Tall Tees," which celebrates hip-hop and 2000s with DJ Pete Butta. Lastly, a beach themed roller derby will take place at Belvederes Ultra-Dive on July 30. DJ Jx4 and DJ Bamboo will assist on the beach disco tunes.
These events are necessary because they provide a contemporary music outlet, an atmosphere that is hard to find in The Steel City. RB and the musicians work hard to present a catalog of music appropriate for the mainstream, but also extremely exciting for those that pay attention to all the new artists and hot tracks that come out daily.
Paizley, RB, and myself were hitting it to "Money Counter" by Deezlee in the living room. Paizley and RB are best friends and roommates. EYEJAY is quick to say she'll deliver a better DJ set than her partner Paizley. RB and I nodded our heads crazy when he played "no no" by Monte Booker, a song EYEJAY sent him as a reference point for the 23rd.
Occasionally, RB will even host barbecues and pregame parties at his house, The Palace, and in his yard, The Garden. It is a meeting place for many of the actors in Pittsburgh's creative community to interact and meet new faces.
Additionally, the apparel RB and farESH offer hits on the public's love for their city. Currently, you will see hats, T-shirts, and coach jackets branded with "Pixburgh" and "152XX" text paying homage to inner-city slang and the first three numbers to every zip code in the western Pennsylvania city.
Future collections will build on civic pride, and specifically the 200th anniversary of Pittsburgh. farESH crafts a gray baseball jersey with "152XX" on the chest, the city's flag on the right sleeve, and a bicentennial patch on the upper left chest of the garment. The back of the jersey features the number 1 and "Denny" writing across the shoulders, an ode to Pittsburgh's first appointed mayor, Ebenezer Denny (who is buried in Lawrenceville) in 1816.
Positioned as farESH Brand's Creative Director and owner, RB utilizes culture that many Pittsburghers can identify with, and he adds diverse opportunities for people to enjoy shared experiences.