Robbie Gangemi and Busta Rhymes – Zoo York 1997

With Chaz Ortiz fulfilling his contractural obligations and setting sail, I think it is safe to say that Zoo York is officially out of the business of supporting skateboarders. Not that they really had any credibility remaining. Zoo York was just a embroidered satiny shell of skate brand squeezing its last drops of street cred to sell another logo shirt to the branded masses. But it wasn’t always this way.

Zoo York’s 1997 masterpiece, Mixtape, stirred together everything we dream of when we wax nostalgic for 1990s New York skateboarding. Freestyle lyrics flowed via the Stretch & Bobbito radio show – showcasing the skills the youthful generation of rappers who would soon come to dominate hiphop. Graffiti and music and stylish clothing choices and raw city skating all came together in a perfect blend of what we all imagine NYC in the 90s to be.

My favorite part from Mixtape, the part I go to over and over again, isn’t from Kids motion picture celebrities and New York legends Harold Hunter or Jeff Pang, but from Boston’s Robbie Gangemi.

His smooth style doesn’t conceal the raw power this skating has. Every trick, even the flatgrounders woven through the sidewalk pedestrians, are lofted. That front foot catch on the Brooklyn big Banks hardflip, the roller rink indoor park hip to rail backslide lipslide, and a few other illusion frontside flips are all just gorgeous. I love the look of night footage filmed with only a camera light. And the straight-on backside 50-50 to end the part is easily the best trick in the whole video.

Robbie would quit Zoo York the next year and eventual start Vehicle, one of many struggling East Coast centric board brands that should’ve been huge. The near impossibility to clear the music and video rights from the skaters, Stretch and Bobbito, the rappers, and the beats they are rapping over has made Mixtape a hard video to locate and one that will never see an official digital reissue. I don’t think the contemporary Zoo York really has much interest in it anyway.

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