It was millennial utopia in Long Beach California for the first ever ComplexCon, a convention that celebrates art in its many forms where fans were invited to “watch, listen, shop, and taste” with their favorite influencers. The booths ranged from art installations to new streetwear launches by the hottest brands in the game.
However, the weekend really focused on opening the minds of many during the ComplexConversations. Complex has established themselves as the leading voice by and for the youth, consistently being the first to break political and social news.
All photos by Markie Escalante.
Complex came to life in the convention center with moving art by legendary artist Takashi Murakami, commonly known for his artwork on Kanye West’s Graduation. Some of his work was on sale for thousands of dollars and lines wrapped around the booth immediately.
People were running to Nike to cop the SF Air Force 1’s and shoot hoops to enter raffles. Nike hosted celebrity cameos throughout the weekend to check out their Air Force 1 wall. Anti social social club and Bape had hundreds lined up to enter a raffle for their their new gear and buy ComplexCon exclusive drops.
Meanwhile, I headed to the first panel, “The Future of Our Schools: An Urgency For Change – Presented by XQ.” The panel included Hill Harper, Jesse Williams, Marc Eckō, Pusha T, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Russlyn Ali.
The discussion focused on the lack of adaptivity to schools and ways Jobs and Ali are already implementing change. 2016 BET Humanitarian Award winner Jesse Williams said, “We are actually being brainwashed to learn white supremacy in our schools” and went on about the importance of maintaining safety for students in underprivileged communities. G.O.O.D music artist Pusha T also gave insight on catering to children’s interests and how he has created a sound lab for students to learn audio production.
Overall, the talk was a great way to start the event, with Hill Harper closing the panel urging people to run for office.
The next panel was all about street wear and featured a panel that continues to push boundaries. Vashtie, Bobby Hundreds, Chris Gibbs, Rob Garcia, and Jeff Staples agreed that street wear has no set definition and is more a way of life. The business of streetwear is competitive but Gibbs, founder of Union LA, says, “You gotta put it out there, you gotta get some feedback.” Bobby Hundreds, co-founder of The Hundreds, gave a sneak peak of his upcoming documentary about street wear, Built To Fail.
After soaking in some knowledge, the floor got crowded as fans waited at the Taylor Gang booth to meet up with Wiz Khalifa. The rapper came out at 4:20, smoking and dancing as he usually is, to hang out with his supporters before his panel.
The best part of Day 1 at ComplexCon was definitely The Business of Weed panel. Speakers Dr.Dina, Action Bronson, The Game, and Wiz Khalifa sat down with Merry Jane editor Noah Rubin to talk about their different experiences in the marijuana business. The conversation started off informative and ended up being a smoke-out session bullshitting about medicated seabass. It was hilarious.
Day two had a mellow vibe with more panels focusing on music. Angie Martinez hosted The Generation Gap Debate featuring speakers DJ Mustard, French Montana, Vince Staples, Pete Rock, and Raekwon — a variety of hip-hop rappers and producers from different eras and styles. Although tension built between older and younger artists, knowledge was exchanged.
The last panel we attended was Wax On It: A Listening Session of Unfinished Work. Producers WondaGurl, Mikewillmadeit, DJ Mustard, and Timbaland sat with Young Guru to discuss the process of making music. Legendary Timbaland gave his advice on communicating with other producers to reinvent ideas, saying to “get out your comfort zone.” They also went into collaboration and how percentage works in the music business.
Although we missed the performances from artists like Skrillex, Kid Cudi, Travis Scott, Virgil Abloh, and much more, the ComplexConversations provided an intimate setting to learn more about the artists fans continue to admire.