The Museum of the Moving Image has partnered with the Hip-Hop Education Center to present the film series Made You Look: Documenting the Art, History, Power and Politics of Hip-Hop Culture at MOMI through Nov. 13. It will feature one screening per month. To kick off the series on Aug. 27, MOMI and CNN Films came together to present “Fresh Dressed” by Queens native Sacha Jenkins.
“Fresh Dressed” focuses on the evolution and global stance of urban hip-hop style. Screening of the film took place on Aug. 27 at the Jacob Riis Settlement Houses in Queensbridge. Special appearances included the “Fresh Dressed” filmmaker, Jenkins who was joined by style legend Dapper Dan and author of “Free Stylin’: How Hip Hip Changed the Fashion Industry” Elena Romero. The film appeared at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in January and was featured on CNN on Sept. 3 at 10 p.m. This is the first time that the film is available to be seen by a wide audience since it had a very limited run in theaters.
“I’ve been writing about Hip-Hop for many years and I realize that people talk about the four pillars of hip hop, DJing, rapping, break dancing, graffiti, etc., but one of the most important elements that has had a hand in all of those sort of movements is fashion and growing up in Queens, growing up in the hood in Queens, remembering how important it was the way we dressed, I felt like fashion would be a great way to tell the story of hip hop, but also talk about a lot of pressing issues that effect the community in creative Hip-Hop,” Jenkins said to TaniaOnTheScene. “I just simply hadn’t seen anything that used fashion as a platform to talk a lot about these issues.”
Jenkins spoke the concept behind fashion and Hip-Hop and what it means today to be “fresh.”
“Growing up, I remember how important it was to be fresh and I remember how people would be ostracized who weren’t fresh and I remember those people whose parents couldn’t afford to keep them fresh, a lot of those kids went on to sell crack and when you think about all of those factors, you realize it goes beyond what you wear,” Jenkins said.
“Fresh Dressed” featured a chronicle of Hip-Hop, urban fashion and the hustle that brought oversized pants and graffitti-drenched jackets from the streets to high fashion catwalks and shopping malls. Jenkins spoke to rappers, designers and other industry insiders such as Pharrell Williams, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Damon Dash and Kanye West, just to name a few, about how much the hip-hop fashion culture has changed.
“The biggest challenge in a lot of instances was just schedule, Pharrell Williams is very busy, Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs is very busy, Kanye West was really busy, so sometimes being able to get them was hard,” Jenkins said. “If you see the film, you’ll see that with Pharrell, we got him in the recording studio because that’s what he was doing, he was in the middle of working so a lot of scrambling, but journalism is the foundation for what I do, as a journalist you always try and get as many secondaries as you can.”
Jenkins continued by describing his process of getting big names to participate in his film and explained that rapper Nas, a Queensbridge native, was helpful when it came to that as well as the fact that he has many connections of his own.
“I’m a journalist and writing about the music for at least 25 years, I’ve developed relationships with lots of folks including artists and publicists,” Jenkins said. “In some instances though when you have an executive producer like fellow Queens native Nasir Nas Jones, who can make a phone call and people pick up, Kanye and Diddy were literally in the eleventh hour, I didn’t even think I was going to get them and we got a phone call saying, ‘hey if you want Kanye, you have to go to Mexico tomorrow.’ So we were very lucky when we finally got Kanye cause the film was pretty much wrapped up.”
Jenkins said that putting the film together took about 18 months and he had the idea for the film with Jay-Z in mind as the executive producer, but it ended up working out as an interview instead to touch on many things in the fashion Hip-Hop industry.
“An executive at CNN, Vinnie Malhotra, he is an Indian brother from New Jersey who grew up on Hip-Hop and understood the story I was trying to tell and how it would go beyond just Hip-Hop and how his CNN viewers would find it interesting,” Jenkins said about how he didn’t just focus on the fashion aspect.
He then went on to discuss his next project, which will be featured on BET some time in October, and how this will be going in a different direction of “Fresh Dressed.” He also compared this project and the topic of it to today’s struggles in Black America saying that these situations have similar correlations and they need to stay on the forefront of everyone’s minds.
“Right now, I’m directing a documentary about O.J Simpson’s 20th anniversary of his acquittal, so any opportunity that I have to tell stories that involve the community that I come from, I’m happy to dig in,” Jenkins said. “O.J Simpson, whether you think he’s guilty or innocent, the truth of the matter is, the Los Angeles Police Department has a historically horrible relationship with Black people and people of color in general, it was discovered that they tampered with evidence and did all [sorts] of crazy things with the evidence that created enough doubt in the minds of the jurors, it is entirely possible that the police department set this man up.”