A Chat with Bobbito Garcia

When Bobbito Garcia came to Düsseldorf to present his autobiographical film Rock Rubber 45s, I managed to ask him a few questions for the Praise mag. Here’s the English version.

As one of the most influential figures in the street cultures of basketball, hiphop and sneakers, Bobbito Garcia is not one to brag. He’d rather let his deeds speak for themselves: Garcia wrote the very first article and then a seminal book about sneaker culture. He was one of the heads of the Stretch and Bobbito radio show, showcasing many rap artists now considered legends. On the street courts of NYC, he is some kind of legend himself.

And there is more – it’s quite a task to sum up all of Garcia’s achievements. That’s why this humble man made a documentary about himself, with the help of many friends from the various cultural spheres. After the Afew store showcased Rock Rubber 45 in Düsseldorf in August, I had a little talk with Bobbito. Due to technical problems, the feature could’t be published until now. But the movie stays fresh and relevant, as does its protagonist!

First of all, thanks from an old vinyl buff for including 45s in your movie title – but don’t you think that many of the younger viewers won’t get the reference?

Bobbito Garcia: The Rock Rubber 45s title was deliberately coded so that if you know the slang for what each of those words mean, you don’t need an additional explanation. But beyond those people, my goal was to create something that generated curiosity and had a nice ring to it. And it worked!

You’ve done so many different things and were never afraid to flip your own script. What are some of the things you would still like to master in the future?

Hmmm … ask me this question again in five years, haha! Right now my goal for 2019 is to create a festival based on the Rock Rubber 45s themes of basketball, sneakers and music. It’s in its conceptual stage now, and I’m very excited – as always – about the new challenges. I want there to be an educational curriculum attached to the programming. Can’t say much more about it now, just stay tuned!

Why did you often turn around and do something else after you were successful in this or that field? Are you easily bored or do you simply like a challenge?

Not easily bored at all, in fact quite the opposite! I’ve been playing ball since 1973. I’ll turn 52 in September 2018, and I’m still trying to improve my game. I do love challenges, but even more so, I love what I’m passionate about – basketball, sneakers and music/hip hop. I’ve worked hard to have made noise in each of those separate yet interconnected communities. I trust my judgement when to move on, and that happens not when I’m bored, but when the universe is calling me to leave something behind …

As can be seen in the movie, you’ve got to meet and know many famous people and outright legends. Who would you still like to meet – and who would leave you starstruck? Or does that simply not happen anymore?

The only time I’ve ever been starstruck was in 1989 when I first met Chuck D. I’ve interviewed Michael Jordan, stood 10 feet away from Michael Jackson, shook hands with Lebron, on and on. They’re all normal human beings who want to be treated with the same respect I’d afford a stranger on the street. I treat them no different. I would like to meet Barack Obama and play ball with him. I love his vibe and I know we’d hit it off.

Your life – and the film – is also very much about NYC. Could you ever imagine moving away from the city?

My wife, son and I moved to DC for a year, then returned home this past April. I don’t plan on ever moving outside NY again, haha!

Your film can be seen as a memoir. Why did you make it now and not in five, ten or 20 years? Are you thinking about retiring?

I won’t stop DJing, playing ball or being a freelance creative anytime soon. I made an autobiographical documentary of my life and career because I’ve been in the rhythm of filmmaking for the last eight years. My first doc was Doin’ It In The Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC which came out in 2013, second was Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives, released in 2015. Rock Rubber 45s took two and half years to make. I may retire from making films now that I have these three under my belt, as I’m super proud of all of them and have documented what I want the world to learn about my culture.

Rock Rubber 45s is now up to watch at vimeo.com. Here’s the trailer:

*By the way, this wasn’t the first time I met with Bobbito Garcia. In 2014 he came to Cologne to show his movie Doin’ It In The Park and we did an interview for Sneaker Freaker. Afterwards we even DJ’ed together for a bit. Always a pleasure to meet this man!

A German version of this article is up at Praise. Pic courtesy of Rock Rubber 45s. Thanks Bob!