Sir Michael Rocks is a name that’s been active in music for almost a decade. Since forming The Cool Kids back in 2007 with fellow artist Chuck Inglish, then taking flight with the massive single ‘Black Mags’, Rocks (then known as Mikey Rocks) has gone everywhere and back again. From multiple projects with The Cool Kids to a prolific outpouring of solo material, the talented 28-year-old continues to push the envelope in regards to creativity and innovation. Last year he released his EP ‘Populair’ and went on to release visuals for six of the eight songs; while outside of music, Rocks is well known for his fashion sense and clothing designs. Even when he was starting out with The Cool Kids, a large part of their appeal was their taste-making abilities and their vibrant and unique wardrobes.
Fast forward to early 2016 and Sir Michael Rocks has his own clothing brand Exotic Gourmet, which stemmed from early/bootleg creations under the name Mariani. With Pokemon hockey jerseys, Reptar (from Rugrats) hats, Newport soccer shirts, Sub Zero creations and more, the clothing line continues to set Rocks apart from standard rappers. Exotic Gourmet works alongside artists like Fat Nick, Pouya, Robb Bank$ and others to finely blend Internet creativity with playful hip hop, a formula that shines in Rocks’ music releases and visuals.
It’s a cold night in Chicago when Viper speaks with the new age rap legend in his home. Rocks and his crew of filmmakers, collectively known as Fuck Everyone Else, are wrapping up the short film ‘Alone’, the final track on Rocks’ ‘Populair’ EP. Throughout the interview, we cover everything from his wardrobe to his own creations, his recent trip out to Japan to what the future holds.
He begins by retracing his history with fashion, “I’ve been dabbling for the past four years in clothing. It really came from making my own merchandise for tours. First, I would come up with my own designs and kind of put together the aesthetic that I wanted. From there, it led to making Mariani sweatsuits, a [previous] brand that I had which was mainly just loungewear with a nice name brand and funny twist. We just jacked a bunch of fucking clothing lines’ names and put ‘em on our stuff. It was kind of the first company in that wave of knockoff bootleg stuff, high-end bootleg shit that came around 2011 or 2012. That was my first real hand into making my own. From there, we got into Exotic Gourmet, which is me and my boy Peanut. We come up with basically all the ideas, all the designs and all the sketches for the clothing. We opened up the store online and began to manufacture everything ourselves, [then] hired a couple graphic designers that we trust to help us with designing and putting things together. We wanted it to be a store where you can go and cop exotic rare shit that doesn’t really exist and it’s also curated by myself. I like to think of myself as an aficionado when it comes to cool stuff. Clothes, toys, whatever, fashion, games, all that shit. In a nutshell, that’s Exotic Gourmet.”
While talking about his bootleg endeavours, I ask if he worries about getting sued. He shakes his head. “Back in 2011 with Mariani, I consulted my attorney about a couple of things as far as copyrights. To be frank, he basically said you can’t get sued without first receiving a cease and desist, which means that you have to stop whatever it is you’re doing. Stop it immediately or you got X amount of days before they start trying to investigate your finances and try to sue you.” He adds, “I’m already happy anyway if I get a cease and desist, because it means I got popular enough to get noticed. With the way I run my company, it’s all about being cutting edge and starting trends. Curating trends for everybody who’s involved in the culture.”
Rocks has been into fashion for the entirety of this decade, have his sartorial tastes changed in that time? “Over the years,” he begins, “my sense of fashion has definitely grown because I’ve gotten a larger base of knowledge for it. I’ve known more about it just by being open and traveling and studying and investigating on my own. My fashion sense has definitely grown to be a bit more organised, a bit more themed and contained and less erratic. Nowadays, I really try to just direct whatever look I’m going for [that] day, depending on what my occasion is.”
“What’s the occasion?” he asks. “If I’m chillin’, I’ll put on some chill shit that’s cool in my own way. If I’m going somewhere that’s a little more upscale, if I’m going to a cool dinner or something like that, I’ll dress the part for that, in my own way of course. I try to stick to themes a little bit more than I used to when I was first starting to dabble in clothing and fashion. Of course your tastes are gonna grow and expand as well.”
From our conversation about gaining knowledge from travel we end up speaking about his recent experience out in Japan, where he filmed the videos ‘Quality Time Lapse’ and ‘In My Mode’. “They put their own original spin on it so it makes it a whole new aesthetic, everybody out there is striving for individuality, to look like their own person and dress like their own person. You can definitely tell with the items they choose to wear and how they choose to wear it. That inspired me to continue to innovate and put original spins on existing things and existing trends. I’m a creative person and if you don’t put walls or boxes around creativity, it’s just gonna blow every-damn-where, so what I like to do now is contain it and set perimeters for where I wanna make a mark, where I wanna make some change, where I wanna make some impact and some buzz. [I] pick and choose my battles a little more wisely now. Japan’s definitely a huge inspiration. From the environment to the women to the food, the architecture, everything is a lot more different than [America]. Everything is a lot more detailed and efficient. I would like to incorporate that into clothing as well. Efficiency. Detail.”
This is an extract from the Spring Summer 16 Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.
Photos by Bryan Allen Lamb
Words by Ben Niespodziany