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Bally launches Retro Sneakers collection | Style/Design Feature 

Sneakers, just like music, are an essential part of hip hop culture — their ubiquity on vinyl covers throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s spoke out as a representation of status. As rap music evolved, fans started paying attention to their favourite artists fashion sense and used sneakers as an accessible way to emulate their style. 2015 saw Bally collaborate with Roc Nation rapper J Cole on a collection of hiking boots. ‘Before I really knew about luxury brands, I knew the name Bally, and I knew in the hip-hop world this was something that Biggie was rockin’, Nas was rappin’ and even before that, Rakim, so it’s cool to be in that lineage.” Footwear News, August 2015. 

Bally has been creating sneakers since the 1930s. Starting with plimsolls and gym shoes and progressing to football, basketball and golf, Bally catered for the sporting industry like no other shoe brand at the time. As sneakers transitioned from their sporting practicalities to become part of everyday casualwear, the style or brand that you wore began to signal a sense of belonging. 

Jumping ahead to the 1980s and there sparked a period of time when the Bally name was synonymous with the urban hip-hop movement, gathering momentum in New York City. The early 80s saw an explosion of Bally within this community and the brand remains a status symbol even today. Bally sneakers rose to recognition as the first designer sneaker in the mid-1980s among rappers on the hip-hop scene. Long before musicians were calling out other sneaker brands in their lyrics, Slick Rick shouts out he’s wearing his ‘Bally shoes and fly green socks’. Doug E. Fresh put Bally where it could be seen when he wore a pair on his 1986 album cover ‘Oh, My God!’, before featuring them in his music video for ‘All the Way to Heaven’ in a Wild West style shoot out with a pair of Adidas Superstars.

The Competition (1983), Galaxy (1983), Vita Parcours (1974) and Super Smash (1965) have all been taken from the extensive Bally archive and recreated as part of the SS18 collection. Bringing back Bally’s best sneaker styles from the past decades, the collection includes four replicas of its most successful lace ups, from hip-hop era classics to tennis shoes and sporty runners.

Last summer LIFE VOCABULARY's LV MAG section featured the latest collaboration by Grammy Award winning producer Swizz Beatz – a capsule collection of shoes, accessories and ready to wear, with designs by Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo – which came about organically from Swizz Beatz’s longstanding respect for the brand: ‘I’ve been a fan of Bally since back in the day, growing up in the South Bronx. Bally used to be the signature of making it, Slick Rick, Doug E Fresh - ‘Fresh dressed like a million bucks/Threw on the Bally shoes and the y green socks,’ - and now to come back years later and be the one to bring things to a new’s amazing.’, 29 September 2017 

The authenticity of this collaboration was illustrated by the coming together of hip hop legends Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick and Kid Capri at the launch in New York this summer, alongside new generation artists A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, along with DJ Kitty Cash. 

Although hip hop is constantly evolving Bally maintains its inextricable link with the music industry. The new collection sees a reintroduction of four of Bally’s most renowned sneakers from past decades, reimaging the brand’s cultural relevance and solidifying the key message ‘Bally is Back’. 


ESKIBOY: A reflective and vulnerable tale of a very raw and traumatic climb.

By Serena Hussain (Editor) - An in depth review.

I’m without a doubt a Wiley fan and keen listener of UK grime Artists Skepta, Wretch 32, Kano and Ghetts. I’m not a 'grime head' and I wasn’t a 'grime kid', but I was a London kid.  And as a Londoner still (the same generation and age as Wiley) I appreciate the cultural, geographical, and historical musical references in this autobiography that flesh out the origins of this genre of music which is fast becoming an 'any household' name. This book joins the dots for those who know and don’t know grime.  

“Never disturb a baker when he’s mixing up the flour" Skepta lyrics from song ‘It ain’t safe’. 

Wiley baked grime.

In this autobiography, Richard Kylea Cowie aka Wiley breaks down the ingredients of Grime, which has risen and still is rising.  

“Grime is a rudeboy genre... but it’s not a badman genre" ... "Your bars don’t have to be bad. Your bars can’t be badder than you are.  You have to be badder than your bars.” 

This book reveals the early influences and incidents that made him and the genre what they are today, and by sharing his story through multiple narrators, mainly his father 'Richard Senior', sister Janaya Cowie, as well as comrades Wretch 32 and Logan Sama et al, it reads as a reflective and vulnerable tale of a very raw and traumatic climb.   

Richard Senior: “I go backstage…I suddenly realise that something’s happened.  They look a bit rattled… And then I look at him and see blood running down the back of his leg.  He’s been cut. But he was still doing it.  So when it comes to heart, I don’t think there’s too many people that have got as much heart as him.” 

‘ESKIBOY’ reveals the roots of grime and in true Wiley style, the pages of his book are shared with other voices and testimonies. It avoids being indulgent as it’s told through multiple perspectives. We get short segments written by the eyes and ears from that era, from those who know the makings of Wiley, and the experimentation that went into grime.  

“Back then, if you jump on the mic, you’ve got to prove who you are. You couldn’t talk nonsense, or just make something up. The bars that you were spitting were actually true. You had stories.  That was really the start of MCing…”  

Spitting over beats to energise crowds... grabbing the mic to tell stories and battling it out… grime has always been delivered in an energetic conversation directly with the crowd. This is how the scene was established in London since the early 2000s, with this raw but intimate interaction with the audience.

Wiley's early influences included watching his parents’ video collection of sound system clashes on repeat.  He observed how the then emerging Jungle MC’s picked up elements of the style, charisma and lyricism which informed MCing.  Jungle opened his eyes: 

“It made us realise that our accents were allowed… (Jungle) was the kind of music that we felt could be ours, or that we could be a part of”. 

Arguably the accent and slang which are the core indentifiable traits of grime have also been a barrier for the genre to be embraced globally, specifically in the U.S. With so much american influence in ‘urban’ music, a UK MC is sonically and linguistically hard to digest and embrace.  Grime isn’t a copycat genre though … it’s authentic to its’ core. 

Logan Sama:  “He gave a voice to kids from council estates for the first time - not in an american accent”.  Sama goes on to say how grime was the first genre in the UK to be born with the internet and which exploded once file sharing kicked in; adapting to changes and growing with the circumstances it found itself in. Sama explains the crazy experimental start of the genre and it being an ever-evolving organism. One with certain characters leading it and making it.   

“Grime is raw … started in the city. It started in the estates… with people who didn’t really have much. We lived in one of the poorest boroughs in England”. 

Wiley’s influences are Grime’s ingredients. His father Richard Senior explains how Wiley was a big part in forming those early crews. His vision organised and mobilised them, encouraging them to write ‘bars’.   

“I can make a whole song from nothing, whether it’s just instruments or whether it’s sequences. We had to make something different. But my dad says he can recognise his music in what we make.  He says he can hear himself.  The drums are a big part of it. The snare, he always says. If you listen to any song back in the day, it’s the snare that makes it. The snare is important in grime. It’s part of our identity”. 

(Wiley repping (cap) East London brand 'Style On Them')


Flow Dan: “Wiley is strategic. He’s always had plans. He’s always had a bigger idea. Beyond the situations we were in. When Wiley started to clock on that his instrumentals had power, things changed. His beat-making started to form the scene.” 

Having been on pirate radio since fourteen, he himself attributes this to the makings of 'Wiley'.  From setting up Rinse FM in his living room (whilst someone hung out of the window with an aerial) to distributing white-label releases directly to niche record stores, Wiley pinpoints the very early makings of grime that began with Garage, Heartless Crew and So Solid.  He calls Dizzee's “Boy in da Corner” and Kano's “Home Sweet Home” grime bibles.   

Wiley explains how it started as a young black man’s punk rock.  Shouting on a beat to get a reaction. But “the grime nationality is rudeboy now.  And anyone can be a rudeboy... It’s a release” … “You hear people talking about the grime sound coming from another planet?  Well, that’s because it does.” 

Regarded as impossible to stop, he is a self confessed “grafter” and “tag-team master”. He gives us pages of lyrics from his extensive library of songs, reminding me of the 2010 Jay Z ‘Decoded' book where the U.S Rapper and Music Mogul gave contextual explanations of his lyrics and past hits. But in ‘ESKIBOY' we get a journal - deeply open and honest reflections which at times seem changeable, perhaps reflective of the person at the centre of the story, and at the centre of grime.   

The Grime Man, once a Grime Boy, perhaps always a Grime Boy, is the secret to Wiley still being so relevant.  His hunger and drive to propel others, and his spontaneous instagam freestyles still have our ears and hearts open.   

In Wretch 32’s words, “Wiley was at the forefront” which we can appreciate made him a major target; his sister being held for ransom and the multiple near fatal attacks.   

The most emotional and revealing account is what went down with Dizzee Rascal. Wiley recounts the events which led to Dizzee being attacked in Ayia Napa in 2003 and includes a personal letter addressed to him. The disconnect between both Artists is tragic in a Shakespearean sort of way since their ascendance was so intertwined and dependent on their collective talents and influence. Wiley asserts he claims no credit for the success of Dizzee Rascal but the facts are that Dizzee is one of many Wiley has helped connect the dots for.   

“Pad and a good pen” is all he has ever wanted.  Music is his therapy - one which has paradoxically invited the very chaos he seeks to escape from and has him finding a family life out of England. 

Wiley’s DIY approach and relentless drive makes him the Godfather of grime and it's these characteristics that reflect the quality of the genre.  The young MC’s he has championed are now in positions of influence and the ascendance and making of the scene reads like a training ground where he traded in a different more generous kind of currency - on the foundation of friendship and helping others.  He still keeps himself connected to what snowballed the genre into life... his hunger.   

“That’s where hunger comes from - the pain that I hold inside…" 

This book reveals nuances absent from his past interviews.  In fact, it reveals the kind of insight I seek to extract from every interview I do as Wiley tells his story in full for the first time. Wiley is flawed and refreshingly honest about it; endearingly so and without arrogance. Watch out for Godfather II - he’ll be back with another banger no doubt.  Order your copy of ‘Eskiboy’.


INSIGHT:  KOREAN HIP-HOP | A phenomenon growing internationally and becoming recognised by 'western' hip-hop heads and influencers. Taking most of its influences from where the genre originated in the US, we spotlight a few of the Korean Artists pivotal to the movement, and its' growing global influence.

By E.N for

Korean-American artist Jay Park signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation illustrates how globally expansive hip-hop has become, and further how heavy-hitters in the music industry are taking note, targeting a whole new demographic.  Korean pop had become incredibly popular in a short period of time and now Korean hip-hop is catching up, with Korean pop idols and even US stars collaborating with Korean rappers.  Jay Park:

For those who wonder ‘what Korean artists rap about?’ the answer is simple... the same issues as American artists: hardship, struggle, money, desire, parties, alcohol, and love. However, Korean hip-hop Artists have tried to retain as much of their native identity as possible through the use of cultural references and colloquialism - but an international influence with universal themes remains prominent.

The Korean language has been perceived as a complex and scientific language. The ability to establish a lyrical flow can be difficult and sounds 'too different' in comparison to the well-known sound of US hip-hop. Earlier in the 1980’s when hip-hop was truly emerging and becoming its own genre in Korea, talking as fast as possible was considered as credible rap/hip-hop. Then came an artist called Verbal Jint, one of the first to establish his own rhythmic flow which shaped the genre for the better. He focused on using his words to tell a story to ensure his raps had meaning as opposed to portraying a ‘gangster’ like façade. He married English and Korean words together in a poetic manner and broke the supposed language barrier:

Rappers who speak English more fluently have progressed slightly faster, and some of those gaining influence right now are Dok2 and The Quiett who created a hip-hop label and signed a very popular artist Beenzino. In their song ‘GA’ or 'GO' in English, these three artists pass the mic around cypher style:

Most Korean hip-hop artists are or start as underground rappers, but have quickly become mainstream. Regardless of the genre being 'foreign' to western ears, its' overall vibe is being internationally welcomed signalling a growing western audience embracing hip-hop outside of the US.  

If you would like to contribute with insightful content then please head to our CONTACT page and connect with us.



Ruste Juxx is the newest sensation coming out of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. After several years of collaborating on Boot Camp Clik projects, such as Sean Price’s, 'Monkey Barz', 'Master P', and 'Jesus Price Supastar' albums, along with being featured on Boot Camp Clik's 'Casualties of War' album and touring with the likes of Sean Price, Ghostface Killah and Jedi Mind Tricks. Juxx released his first solo project, entitled “Indestructible," October 2008 on Duck Down Music Inc. 


LIFE VOCABULARY Editor/Producer of "Culture Content" Serena Hussain (aka HUSS) had the opportunity to speak to JUXX on the day he released this new project (22 SEP 2017).  The album is his 8th and includes 13 tracks with collaborations from international Artists in Lebanon, France, Nigeria, UK, Australia and more.  It's a truly seamless and captivating album for old and new hip hop lovers.  

More about Ruste:

Ruste Juxx blazed the hip hop scene with his single "Vic Flair," which received heavy support from New York’s HOT 97, and the accompanying video became an underground favorite online. 'Indestructible' is Executive-Produced by Sean Price and is spearheaded by the lead tracks "Wipe Off Ya Smile," and "Get Up." The production on the album is from PF Cuttin, Dan the Man, and Black Milk. After years of grinding, 

In 2010 Ruste Juxx teamed up with producer and labelmate Marco Polo to release 'The eXXecution.' Marco Polo handles the entire production on the album and it also features guest appearances DJ Revolution, Black Moon, Rock of Heltah Skeltah, Freddie Foxx and Smif N Wessun. 


We spoke to HAM the Illustrator at the Tupac Changes Exhibition - Croydon - produced by Highlight Nation.  As ever, this conversation was full of insights that came about spontaneously through conversation.  

To get involved in LIFE VOCABULARY subscribe and connect.   

HAM the Illustrator is an emerging London based British-Namibian multimedia hiphop artist and storyteller focused primarily on the marriage between his conscious lyricism and graphic illustration.  Along with over 20 overall international and local performances, HAM the Illustrator lays claim to supporting well known international artists such as Rudimental, Coolio, Grandmaster Flash, D Double E & Footsie (Newham Generals), Big Narstie, P Money, Logan Sama, Flava D, General Levy, Izzie Gibbs, Congo Natty, Killa P, HVDES, Avok, AceDa Bass, Cameron Hart, Niskerone and many others.  ​Influenced largely by his upbringing in Namibia, Ethiopia, South Africa and the United Kingdom, HAM's mission remains to promote education, empowerment and compassion in today's society through his art. 

"First you make them more aware, then you make them believe they have the power to make a change, then you make them think about what they should do with that power."- HAM”

To learn more about HAM the Illustrator visit:



Bally collaborates with Grammy Award-winning music producer and global entrepreneur, Swizz Beatz, on a collection of accessories and ready to wear, designed by Spanish Artist Ricardo Cavolo.  The collaboration came about with Swizz first reaching out to them last year through an IG post featuring a pair of Bally Ascona sneakers and the statement... ‘Bally is back!’ 

LIFE VOCABULARY (LV) received a selection of accessories from the 'Bally x Swizz’ collection. Editor Serena Hussain (aka HUSS) captured content in conversation with other Artists/Musicians in London (also shot within LV’s own HQ, HUSS ART HOUSE in South London).  

Watch the LV multimedia feature on a multidisciplinary and thoroughly current (and relevant) art driven collaboration.  The Artists/Musicians who took part in the conversation: Kayleigh Marshall of Marshall Art, Fontzerelli, and Cris Jaymez.

We got in touch with Cavolo - the Artist pivotal to the creation of this capsule collection - who along with his team offered us some exclusive insights into this new fashion offering:

"I had a conversation with Swizz regarding the essence and the direction for this Bally collection. Swizz insisted that he wanted freedom for the artists. Freedom for the artist is very important to Swizz, so I wanted to create a few characters representing the artists, when they let their inner animal out. Working with freedom and no borders means to work with that animal inside of us. These characters are a sort of gods or shamans with his/her spirit animal (as totems). The final artwork is a more complex composition of these characters letting their animals get out freely“. Cavolo. 

"A few years ago, Ricardo realized that his work could be articulated in many ways when people started getting tattoos of his illustrations or when fans created their own clothes with his symbols. Ricardo was working on his first fashion brand when Swizz and Bally offered to collaborate on this exquisite capsule collection. It was the perfect opportunity for Ricardo to work with / and learn from two epic entities, the timing was stellar. We are looking forward to see how the world will react to this strong and colourful collaboration”. Andre Bathalon - Manager to Cavolo. 

Cavolo’s eclectic style is based on the relationship between folk art, traditional and modern tattoo culture and European religious imagery.  He often develops characters, telling stories through the illustration of their experiences across time, using symmetry and symbolism to connect with a modern audience.  Cavolo’s prints will launch as part of the ‘Bally Collective, curated by Swizz Beatz’, continuing the brand’s commitment to creating a platform to playfully empower artistic license across emerging and established talent. 

Believing that art embodies culture and is an expression of life, as a child Swizz Beatz (Kaseem Dean) saw graffiti on the walls in the Bronx and wondered about its meaning. He began collecting art in his twenties, and in 2014 launched 'The Dean Collection', which is not only a collection of his own artwork but also a discovery zone for art enthusiasts who appreciate art not just from the greats but also from aspiring and new artists alike. 

Bally is a Swiss luxury brand established in 1851, anchored in an exceptional heritage of shoemaking. Today the brand offers unique and vibrant designs across shoes, accessories, ready-to-wear and eyewear.


PART 1: This CULTURE CAPTURE performance was captured in HUSS ART HOUSE - HQ for LIFE VOCABULARY in South London.  Head to to get the latest on his music.  

(Part 2 - Fontzerelli performance).  

Editor Serena Hussain aka HUSS conversation with Shay J Today and Management before the event:


True. How can there be?  These are the words taken from Rapper and lyrical Philosopher (from Atlanta) Shay J Today.  In conversation with him and part of his management team Web who is based in Europe (Founder of platform "Raise the Kulture”) we discussed the state of Hip Hop for well over an hour.  Here are some of the insights: 

First - Web cut straight to what she as a Hip Hop Culture Activist deems most important for us to consider right now: 

“We don’t usually give interviews … but we f**k with you and what you’re doing.  Unfortunately, the new culture is no culture.  And those who complain about the state of hip hop - my message to them is - SHARE your Rappers”. 

The discussion about discovering new music, being heard and supported went deep - spanning from thriving as an artist to a more market perspective on the art itself. But it mostly focused on Shay J Today’s philosophy - being YOU on the path of least resistance - which is pivotal to the art itself:

“For me… vision is always a must and I go off of a feeling.  From New York and the opportunities over there to spreading the music far and wide (Japan and other territories).  Go where people receive you”. 

I asked them about this path of least resistance - and if dreaming bigger could engender such a smooth trajectory.  What about the struggle?  And the struggle being real?! A sharp insight came from them:

"Once you do better, the circle gets smaller and tighter”. 

So … removing ourselves from energy that doesn’t help propel us can be the cause of said resistance? Is isolation a necessary part in the creation of art?  Shay J Today went on to explain: 

"Art is subjective and regardless of where you sit - whether it’s mainstream music or not - you should be your own Artist and exactly how you want to be”. 

On self promotion - during these times of new media and digital content - I asked how artists, especially unsigned and independent, should seek to stand out? A very quick and succinct answer came from Web: 

“Be paper … not coins.  We’re not here to make noise - but to be recognised.  Real recognises real - be silent but (smilingly) deadly”. 

On the absence of a record label and ‘corporate' management team, we talked about straddling the line between discovery and middle management.  We’re in a space now where we can find more and more diverse music.  But it is still up to us to share what we know is 'good music'.  On her platform “Raise the Kulture”, Web shares artists whose music she finds an answer in.  Which is the true meaning and mission of Hip Hop is it not?  

Hip Hop is an evocative genre of music, one that LIFE VOCABULARY regards as a lens through which we can better understand human nature... and understand our lives.   

When it comes to making music, and the frequency of this, Shay J Today prefers to take his time and praised his Producer (also his mentor) who showed him how to absorb music in a deeper way - listening vs. studying.   

“Albums take time - the greats produced great projects”.   

Rather than churning them out?  There are trends and layers in hip hop including the “real hip hop” purists who are celebrated for recognising true musical art.  Are such categories necessary to highlight ‘the real’? Or could such categories stand in the way of the music reaching as many ears as possible?  Do elitist approaches within Hip Hop potentially create more exclusivity when in fact music and hip hop needs to be all embracing?  

Perhaps aligning ourselves to any layer in this Hip Hop cake could create further separation but we also have to assist others in deciphering where WE sit in this cake.  It’s not so black and white. 

This conversation entered all kinds of grey areas - the kind that LIFE VOCABULARY likes to capture. It’s in that grey area where we can truly find one another.  Learn more about Shay J Today in our live CULTURE CAPTURE interview with him and South London Rapper Fontzerelli. 

Shay J Today’s upcoming album VAL{you} is created around a theme of personal growth and intelligence.  To get a deeper insight into his writing and listen to his new music, head over to

Serena Hussain aka HUSS The Editor - Producing Culture Content to Incite Insight.