Long Beach ConventionCenter
Over the weekend, we ventured to the Long Beach Convention Center once again for the second annual ComplexCon, the two-day celebration of street wear, art and hip-hop presented created by Pharrell and Mark Ecko. Traversing the landscape of this year's hottest styles and music made for some interesting observations, panel discussions and the overall craziness of the festival dubbed "our generation's World's Fair." Not to mention we got to see the triumphant return of N.E.R.D., as well as sets from Gucci Mane, Young Thug, M.I.A., J Balvin, DJ Khaled and Jaden Smith. Here's a taste of the best and worst of what we experienced this weekend.
Best: Style Switch-Ups
We must look highly upon the sartorial deities for their work in curbing the saturation of camouflage print everything. The weekend’s scale back in camo made for a handful of tasteful arrangements using the splotchy design and made room for a greater diversity of other styles. Throwback basketball jerseys made a mediocre- yet-noticeable comeback and fisherman beanie stock was up this year, as well. Much of the style at this year’s convention mutated and a finer delineation between personas in attendance was observed.
Stages and consequences of globalization are still unknown to many at this point and to a hall full of millennials more interested in sneakers and designer collabs, the effects of our world shrinking can often be rendered moot. But we give a nod to ComplexCon and its influencers for pushing forward the cultures that exist on the perimeter of the current zeitgeist. Off-White founder and DJ Virgil Abloh introduced J Balvin to a crowd who just weeks ago had the No.3 record in the country, with a little help from Beyoncé. The Colombian singer exists in a space being labeled “Latin Trap” but more so is approaching icon status for his work in the Latin music world. It was also the case for art maestro Takashi Murakami, the Japanese artist whose designs not only represent the bulk of ComplexCon branding, but was also responsible for Kanye West’s Graduation cover. Murakami upholds both a strong tie to Japanese modern art but is in possession of the innovativeness required to push culture forward.
Best: N.E.R.D. Performance
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and N.E.R.D.’s set at ComplexCon proved that point Saturday night. Not only were those in attendance seeing the first N.E.R.D. performance in three years, fans got to hear cuts from their first album in seven years. The crowd’s connection with Pharrell, Shay, Chad, their dancers, a new N.E.R.D. album, No One Ever Really Dies is what separated this show from likely any exhibition one will ever visit. And the atmosphere of the fest shot the new sounds and good vibes into hyperspace. Fans walked into arena full jalopies prime for pulverizing by Ken and Ryu and when the scores of masterfully choreographed dancers took the stage in Bape print tops, bottoms, and durags (yes, some dancers had Bape print durags), the concept was so complete onlookers couldn’t help but immerse themselves in the experience. Verses from Kendrick Lamar, Future, and Andre 3000 only added to the moment’s magic.
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Last year’s Complexcon went off without a hitch. The app sent precise notifications with easily digestible information in the event things changed and set times played out as listed on the event’s programming schedule. Complexcon ’17 ventured down a different route. Several times throughout weekend, attendees sacrificed listening to panel or watching a performance in hopes that they could make the next item on their itinerary. I watched a couple walk out of a delayed live recording of an N.E.R.D. performance on OTHERtone to make, what I assume was, Young Thug’s performance in the arena. This was after waiting in the line for next to an hour. No one should have to make that kind of choice. It happened on Saturday when the delay for the panel on cryptocurrency went so long, fans completely missed the WIFIFUNERAL set and caught only Dreezy’s last song. The delays were one of the few, but of the most important, elements that need to be rectified for next year.
Physically waiting for access to a “drop” or sneaker release has long been custom in the hypebeast arena. We’ve all heard stories of the camping and braving intense conditions for obtainment of a shirt or a pair Js but waiting in line for an, albeit, dope shirt or merch is beyond reason when, while waiting, Jaden Smith is tearing down the stage or Lavar Ball is dropping gems on entrepreneurship and self-actualization. These are, again, sacrifices that shouldn’t be so stark. Entrance into the ComplexCon gift shop shouldn’t be capped before 4p.m. and entrance into Adidas’ exhibit shouldn’t be such a daunting endeavor, patrons shudder at the thought of entering the queue. Perhaps more staff would alleviate the agony or a bigger space, but either way money-paying patrons (and press) should have more access to the convention in an attempt to understand it a more complete way.