IN THE PARK: THE CHEATS MOVEMENT GOES ONE ON ONE WITH NYC PLAYMAKER BOBBITO GARCIA
As I stood in line waiting to board the 7 AM Megabus from Union Station (Washington DC) thoughts were still rushing through my mind, Man, am I crazy? This is just a bit crazy isn’t it? This is certainly not normal. Yo, is this really happening? And those were some of my more relaxed thoughts, I had spent the first 2 hours of the trip, driving from RVA to D.C., thinking to myself, What am I going to ask him and how can I get the entire interview done in just 5 minutes. And of course, reminding myself not to spend the first 4 minutes of the interview wasting time on pictures and autographs. The “him” I was referring to was the one and only Bobbito Garcia AKA Kool Bob Love AKA Bob the Baber AKA Soul Food Bob, AKA DJ Cucumberslice.
Garcia, 45, is a true legend in hip hop culture and entrepreneurial pioneer for modern culture all over the world. Let me be clear, hip hop culture is modern culture throughout the world and Bobbito Garcia has successfully transitioned his passion for the culture into a career that benefits the entire world. As a writer, DJ, radio host, and sneaker expert, Bobbito Garcia wears many hats and I was making my way up to NYC, on 3 days’ notice, to speak with him about his passions, career, and latest project, a feature film titled, “Doin’ In The Park: Pick-Up Basketball, New York City.”
I have closely followed Bobbito Garcia’s career for over 10 years. I can’t remember the first time I heard his name but as a fan of hip hop and sneakers, he has always been a person that I considered an authority on both subjects. It was only later that I became aware of his history in basketball and then I really began to understand that we shared very similar passions. I credit his career as one of the major inspirations for this blog and my success as a writer and photographer. If someone like Bobbito can turn his passions into a career, why can’t I?
So you can understand that I was excited to even be in a position to reach out to him for a Cheats Movement interview. And I was even more enthusiastic when he quickly responded with a yes and an invitation to come up to Brooklyn and see a screening of the film. Without any hesitation, I quickly accepted and started making plans to travel up to the Planet Brooklyn.
Upon my arrival to the Big Apple, I noticed that the weather was not lining up for an outdoor screening that evening. Though the weather was nice in the Lower East Side, I had heard reports of rain in BK and even worse a tornado touching down in Queens. I sent an email to Bobbito with my number just in case we could save the interview and save it we did. A few hours later, he called me and asked me to meet him in Tillary Park in Brooklyn; rain or shine. At this point, he did not have to do the interview but he did it anyway because that is his character. That’s really all you need I need to know about him as a person – he went out of his way for a stranger to do something he didn’t have to do – just because he said he would.
The following is my interview with Bobbito Garcia:
Bobbito: What up everybody and peace to Richmond. My name is Bobbito Garcia AKA Kool Bob Love, representing New York and Puerto Rico and honored to be with my man Cheats.
Cheats: How have you been able to transition your passions (DJing, Basketball, Shoes, etc.) into a career?
Bobbito: That’s a difficult question to answer in retrospect. Along the way, I really didn’t anticipate all of this happening. So much of my success comes from cross-pollinating. For example, I started at Def Jam and I use to play ball with Russell Simmons, RUN DMC, and Rakim – I started getting a rep as a ball player in the hip hop industry because I always had ill sneakers. I would have customized sneakers in 1989 – 90 it was unheard of at the time. I would paint and customize my sneakers. That led to The Source recognizing me for my sneakers and me writing an article. That article was read by the person that ultimately published my book – 13 years later she put my book out.
Then though Def Jam I met Stretch (Armstrong) and that’s how I got on the radio show (the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show) . The radio show introduced me to the whole world. And I would always shout out basketball, “Yo, I’m playing at Tillary Park tonight. I got another game tomorrow night.” So people started knowing me as a ball player…overall it’s just kept growing…Cheats so much happened.
Cheats: It sounds like a perfect NYC story. Perfect timing…
Bobbito: Cheats, I have been blessed. Now I’ve been to 35 countries and 5 continents playing ball in each and djing in each. I look back on it all and really don’t know how I was able to do it all. But I do feel blessed. I’ve been kind to so many different people and that always plays infinite dividends.
Bobbito: I really don’t know if there was a defining moment. When I was 19 years old, I played professional basketball in Puerto Rico. That was the first time that I got paid to do what I loved to do and that could have been the original seed that everything else grew from.
Cheats: And now you can add something new to the resume. You can add filmmaker. Tell me about the film and the process of making the film.
Bobbito: The film is, “Doin It In The Park: Pick Up Basketball NYC,” is co-directed by myself and Kevin Couliau. We both took our passions for basketball and film and combined them to create a really unique project. We went to 180 courts in 75 days, 90% of them on our bicycles, and because of technology, we shot the film with at Canon 5D camera, we were able to carry our equipment in our backpacks and make a proper feature film that when you see it – you’re going to bug out. The film is shot beautifully. We got phenomenal interviews; we have amazing archive footage due to the research we completed….
Cheats: And the film was all self-financed?
Bobbito: 100% self-financed. No one commissioned us to do it. Now that the film is done, we are working on distribution so that the world can see it. And hopefully it can be released in theaters and for downloads but for now we are just doing a lot of community screenings.
Cheats: What did you learn about filmmaking that you did not know before the start of this project?
Bobbito: Well, I’ve been in a lot of documentaries Cheats – Just For Kicks, Beats, Rhymes, and Life, Freshest Kids, around about 30 films – Freestyle by Kevin Fitzgerald – so I’ve learned a lot but I can’t really take credit for the film because it was truly a team effort in that regard. David Couliau, our editor, put the film in a structure that made sense to a viewing audience. I’m just a dude that knows a lot about basketball and I love to play the game.
Cheats: I know topics like legacy is tough for you to talk about – most people will end up doing that for you – but as you put things in perspective with music – with everything – what are the moments that you most proud of right now?
Bobbito: Right now I would say two things, playing professional basketball in Puerto Rico. I’m proud of that because that is my homeland; and because I’m 5’10, 160 pounds. I don’t think I was born to play pro basketball. I made that happen through hard work. That is special to me because I beat the odds by achieving that dream. I was cut from my college team 3 years in a row and the spring after that I played professional basketball. I was the second pro basketball player in my college’s history.
I would say my second might be writing the book, “Where Did You Get Those? New York City Sneaker Culture: 1960 – 1987?” I went to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and I graduated in the bottom 10% of my class. It took me a long time to have confidence as a writer and I built that confidence over the years writing for The Source, Rap Pages, and Vibe, to the point where I felt like I could take on the challenge of a book; which is a lot bigger than at 2,000 word article. It took me 4 years to put it together. It took a lot of research…so right now I would say those two but you never know because this film may be the defining thing. Film is such a bigger medium than books and I have already seen the way the audience reacts to the film. And the film is a combination of me as a DJ as well because I supervised the score of the film. I also wrote the script, so the film really combines my music skills, my writing skills, and my basketball skills. You will see me playing ball in the film.
Cheats: And I’m about to see you play ball in a minute so last question. What advice would you give to yourself 20 years ago – knowing what you know now?
Bobbito: I say this to a lot of people, just figure out what is missing and fill the void. That has been my whole career. No one did a film about pick-up basketball before, no one had written a book about sneaker culture before, on the radio show, we had Nas, Biggie, Wu Tang, Jay Z, Big L, before anyone had ever heard of them. We were just filling the void – that’s it Cheats, I’m about to run.