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Interview with 808 Shirts

First and foremost, 808 Shirts is the brainchild of...

The Hip Hop Day Dreamer Jonathan "808" and his lovely wife Lina. My mind never stops thinking Art and Hip Hop. Lina is the treasurer and supporter. By the way, the 808 comes from the ROLAND TR-808. Not Hawaii. Much love to Hawaii, though.

What inspired you to start designing shirts?

Back in 1987, my top Hip Hop artists were Public Enemy, Rhyme Syndicate, and BDP. You couldn't buy shirts for those artists back then. At least not in Tampa, Florida. I got tired of not repping what I loved, so I decided to make my own shirts. My very first shirt was a Public Enemy logo. Cats at my school went crazy. Then I made the Rhyme Syndicate logo, then the ever so famous "BDP WORLDWIDE" logo from the video Jack Of Spades.

You have been blessed with the opportunity to design shirts for a variety of people. Who have you worked with and who would you like to work with in the future?

The first artist to reach out to me was the legendary producer Ayatollah. He Tweeted me one day out of the blue and asked if we could work together. I have made 4 designs for him since then. I do not work with artists I don't support. I like to put my heart into my work. If I'm not feeling you, I'll give you some other references to work with. LOL...

I also make shirts for UK artists Mystro, Phoenix Da Icefire, and M9. I started working with the crew UNDERGROUND from Holland. I am currently designing a shirt for Holland's DJABLO.

Of course, we are also printing for the almighty Praverb. I love supporting any positive WORLDWIDE Hip Hop movement. We are printing shirts for Saudi Arabian first Hip Hop station Revolt Radio. That is an honor.

For the rugged and raw crowd, we print for Brutal Music. That music is not for the weak! And for the progressive Hip Hop crowd, we have a collab with Uncommon Records on a special shirt they designed.

I want to continue to work with as many independent and underground artists as I can. Fans love t-shirts. T-shirts will help artists get their name out and also help bring in some extra income.

I'm not out here trying to get rich. I hate money. My passion is my Hip Hop and my people in it. I want to help them succeed. I already have a house and a car that I love. I'm good. I don't need anything else. So I put my heart on my people now.

My dream is to be on stage with an artist and print the shirts on stage and throw them out in the crowd. Just non-stop t-shirt throwing. LOL...

I also want to keep our legends names in everyone faces. Why do we see all these commercial artists on every other shirt on the street? I want to flood the world with shirts of OUR legends. I want to see some KRS-One, Guru, De La Soul, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane shirts all over the place too. They took care of us. We need to take care of them. I will not print an artists shirt for my personal benefit. It's about "US."

I am also under the impression that your wife and your children are involved with the day to day duties of the company. Describe the joy of working with your family.

Whoa, that's a deep one. Sometimes when we are all working together, I stop and look around and I have to stop myself from balling in tears, fam. Nothing feels better then getting your family involved in something you have a passion for. I don't force anything on them. They do it because they feel the love we get out at shows and on the Internet. I am blessed to have my family's support.

Your family also had the opportunity to attend one of the biggest events of the year (A3C). Describe the atmosphere of A3C. Were you able to attend some of the performances?

A3C was Hip Hop heaven. So many artists that I support were there and we were just all mingling together like there were no other worries in the world. We were all brothers and sisters with the same passion. It was great. It was a dream.

I attended as many shows as I could. I made sure to watch Eternia, El Da Sensei, One Be Lo, MED, Fashawn, The reMINDers, and the INNERLOOP RECORDS crew.

Leaving A3C was like leaving High School graduation and everyone takes off in their own direction. Some left with a part of my heart, bro.

What did you want to accomplish by attending A3C?

I wanted to connect with the artists that I support. I wanted my kids to FEEL the LOVE we have in our culture. You can't feel the love over speakers or over the Internet the same as you can in person.

So many parents let their children be surrounded by whatever music is playing on the commercial airwaves. Any human will adapt and relate to whatever their surrounding is. I want my kids to relate to us. To know us. To know why we do what we do. I want them to understand why we rap about the subjects we talk about. I want them to keep supporting these artists when I am long gone.

You also have a great taste in regards to hip-hop music and you run a successful website. How important has music been in your life?

Thanks for the compliment.

Music is my mother and father. I didn't have a father growing up. My mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. I grew up in the ghettos of Puerto Rico. Right next to garbage land fills. We never stayed in a house over a year. We were always moving or getting kicked out. We were very very poor. Lots of tears and hunger, yo. I always had love in me to make the best of any situation, though. I wasn't about to let my surroundings make me. I had to find an exit. Hip Hop gave me the strength and knowledge that I needed to escape the rude world.

Hip Hop made me a better person. Funny enough, I hated drugs and money as a kid. I would listen to NWA and Too Short but I would learn not to make the mistake of killing or dealing drugs as it was described in their songs. I still hate money and drugs. I always wanted to live in a bamboo hut with a canoe and that's it.

Everywhere I go, I bring HIP HOP with me.

Hip Hop artists like Krs-One, Ice-T, Posdnous, and Chuck D made me who I am today. I actually listen to lyrics and use them to guide me through life. Imagine that. Too many people don't see Hip Hop for what it is. They think you need JAZZ and R and B to live right, but if you really listen to lyrics, Hip Hop is all you need.

Your first experience with hip-hop occurred when you were...

sitting on my bottom bunk listening to a tape my sister brought home. It was In 1983. RUN-DMC's "Hard Times" came on. THAT MOMENT CHANGED MY LIFE. I finally found an exit out of my misery.

This was my music now! This was my sword and shield. Someone finally sent me guiding light. I was destined to defend my music forever.

Who are some of your favorite hip-hop artists?

Without a doubt my Top 5 are KRS-ONE, Guru, Posdnous, Chuck D, and Rakim. But much love to Craig G! That man is a beast! Still going strong. I have much respect for Craig G.

How can the masses get in contact with you?

My Hip Hop blog is HERE
My t-shirt business is HERE
My email is 808shirts@gmail.com or send music to 808CrateMusic@gmail.com
808 Shirts on Facebook and 808 Crate on Facebook

Are you offering any specials or promotions right now for shirt design?

Mention this interview and I'll hook y'all up!

Any final thoughts?

Praverb, thank you for this interview. It is an honor.

To the world, we have to take better care of our legends. They provided the foundation for us, lets give them as much as we can. They need us!

To the parents, don't be a lame Hip Hop head! Show them kids why we do what we do. Show them the LOVE we have. Take them to a show so they can FEEL IT!

Peace and love!!

Jonathan "808"


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