Last week, NY’s own 40oz VAN stopped by our office to chop it up about his special edition 9/11 Balmain-inspired Snapback, dropping today at noon on his site. A true New Yorker who has found success keeping it 100, VAN maintains his humble approach, keeping his ear to the streets and his hands on the pulse of everything happening in city that never sleeps. The 40oz VAN Snapback channels all of this.
With his homie Diego at his side, VAN spoke about the his inspiration for his highly-coveted line of hats, his 9/11 experience, keeping shit real New York, and even predicted a Jay-Z gubernatorial run. If you know VAN, or simply follow him on Twitter, you know his words are culled from Uptown New York City culture, often humorous, and worth their weight in gold.
Check out our sit down before you slide to his site to pick up the limited edition 40oz VAN Snapback snapback.
Mass Appeal: Everybody knows about your hats, like they just… you know…
40oz VAN: [Laughs]
So ,why hats? Most folks are doing shirts.
That’s my twist. I like to go left, when everybody’s going right. And I always felt that accessories sold the most. Production wise, it’s cheaper; sales point, it’s cheaper. Everybody can afford something that’s not two, three-hundred dollars for a T-shirt. Once you do something in that area, it opens up that door to make it unisex without labeling it unisex. You feel me? Someone’s gonna buy a $40 hat, quicker than they’re gonna buy a $300 wife beater.
What’s with the Balmain inspiration? Why Balmain?
Balmain (corrects our mispronunciation), cause it’s high end. And none of that shit really fit me. So I was like, I wanna make something that’s gonna be out there for everybody. Not just something that’s a waist size 32, or T-shirt XS. You feel me? Like we took that font and put it on something that everyone can relate to, which is the snapback. Everybody’s rocking the snapback. We just made it a classic.
I know you got the red joints coming up. I actually predicted that, I saw the blue going for LA and I thought, he’s gonna do red next.
That’s the best color right there.
Yeah, but I didn’t see the 9/11 thing coming up though. What made you choose 9-11 for this one?
First of all, it commemorates 9-11, it’s right around the corner. I’m a born and raised New Yorker, so it impacted everybody. And right after that happened—I don’t know if you remember—every New Era hat had the flag on the side. Every Major League Baseball team had to have that to commemorate 9/11. So I was like why don’t we start on the snapback? And then it felt right to write “R.I.P. 9-11-01”
I feel you. It makes sense. Your joints are kinda like what the Yankee cap is now.
Yea, I got all the youth. The kids wearing ’em.
Yeah, there’s one floating around the office today.
That’s crazy. It’s still surreal for me to walk the streets and see a nigga with my hat on. I’m like “Oh shit.”
It’s nuts for me seeing it on television.
Yea, someone just tweeted me, Victor Cruz is on some shit right now with it. and that’s crazy.
What was your 9/11 experience like?
9-11, I was in high school. I was in (pshhh) 9th grade. I remember everybody had to stop cause they put on the TVs in the lunch room, like yo, shit is bugged out. The towers [got] hit. Well the first tower got hit, then the second one got hit and it was just like everyone just got together.
It was one of those days… well, weeks, that everybody was just like real New Yorkers. It wasn’t no “aight cool, we don’t like you, we don’t like this.” We all gonna get together and figure out how we gonna get around this problem.
How long do you think that lasted?
That shit was like a month. You know how it is. Everything goes by so quick.
Did you know anyone that passed in 9/11?
I had friends whose parents worked in the towers. I forgot what floor. There was a few of them that worked together. It kinda impacted me, cause it’s like it hit close to home. You never expect something like that to happen to someone you know.
I know a lot of other people have done 9/11 commemorative stuff. Or other tragedies. Couple of them caught criticism for doing stuff on a day that’s so powerful. I know a lot of times now you see movies drop on 9/11. Are you concerned about getting any criticism for it?
I think it’s a little different when you’re not from New York. It’ll seem like you’re just trying to cash in on something that you can’t relate to. As far as media and movies, everybody’s waited for that 10 year loop. You know, after 10 years shit got slammed with movies about buildings burning and terrorist attacks.
But when it comes from someone that’s from New York that can relate to it. That can actually say, “Yo, I was in these streets seeing everybody terrified for at least a few weeks, not knowing what was gonna happen next.” It’s valid, you feel me?
I dig that. I noticed in your (promo) video you have a lot of New York inspired landmarks. Even just cruising down the street, you got the Freedom Tower in there.
Yeah, I got the Freedom Tower in there. Got my man, A$AP Illz riding around the shit. So we started out uptown and worked our way down. From him hopping in the cap, going down the West Side, then we get to the 59th st joint, where the circles at. Ride down 5th ave. We took it to Grand Central, went down to the 6 train. Then we went to our homegirl’s crib, on the rooftop and we shot the Freedom Tower. Let niggas know what time it is.
Yeah, It was real clean.
Hell yea, whenever I put out something I try to look at it as the consumer first. With the hats I wouldn’t do anything I wouldn’t wear myself. So when I shot the video, I was telling homie who directed it, it’s gotta be like 40 seconds max. My attention span is like this: (snaps fingers), so after a minute and a half I’m gone. So we chopped it up, did everything real quick. Hit the key points. That’s how we serving it.
Then you laced it with the Cam in the background.
It was only right. He [Diego] inspired that song. We was at his crib. And we was supposed to do that for the last video, but we ended up not even doing a video for that. Mad high, yo like after like six Ls niggas said, “Yo, listen to this song.” Niggas slammed me with the instrumental. We was like, “Yo we gotta use this shit.”
Out of the two, who would you say had the best verse?
[Shakes head and laughs] Cam. Of course. I don’t even gotta think about that.
What other New York anthems do it well?
The Jadakiss verse on the Ja Rule shit, the “New York, New York” shit. The nigga talking about the little motorcycles. You know? There was a year when everybody in the hood had a little motorcycle. 60 cc’s the little shit. Dead ass. When I think of New York, I think of that. And Fat Joe’s verse too. But I don’t really fuck with Ja Rule. [Laughs]
So what do you think of Jay-Z’s “Empire State Of Mind”?
I mean it shouldn’t be our anthem. It’s a little bit more comfortable to… it’s not as urban as the rest of the New York songs. You could pitch it to a marketing firm. It’s smooth.
You gotta think, before that it was Frank Sinatra. They’re calling him the new Frank, which is pretty crazy.
Man, he could go for governor and he would win. For sure.
[Laughs] Yo, I’ve heard people say about that. Imagine people talking about “Vote for Jay.”
What’s he gotta do? Oprah behind him. Campaign. Tour around Brooklyn. He good. [Laughs]
Man, that’s sick. I don’t even know what that would be like. So what’s next for y’all?
We got a few collabs coming up. I can’t really mention who, but we about to fuck up the digital world heavy. [Laughs] It’s about to be quiet online.
Expect less apparel, more accessories. A lot of consumers that fuck with us are girls. So we’ll make some unisex stuff, can’t say what… Yo the Internet’s crazy, my nigga [shakes head]. Once you talk about something, the next day there’ll be the same shit out in a different color. Quick.
That’s kinda crazy to me. That the majority of your market is girls, but I figured that dude’s would make up more of the market between the 40oz Bounce and the Tumblr.
Yo, Girls buy the snapback from everywhere. The most bugged out shit was, we ship all over the world, but some chick from Antarctica bought that shit. We really had to write a label to Antarctica. [Laughs] That was crazy.
The problem with that, is that the crowd is too crazy. Not crazy in the sense that nobody knows how to act, it’s just too many people. When I did the first 40oz [Bounce], I only had about 2,000 followers on Twitter. Now I got about 15,000 followers. So if I tried to do something it’s gonna be retarded.
Another problem, is when I do something, the kids come in like 30-40. The packs on the train. So the cops automatically like, “Where the fuck are all these kids going uptown?
So hopefully we can get something right with the budget and the venue. but other than that it might be real quiet. We’ll see.