Starker LTD. Speaks on Growing Up in Brooklyn and His Passion for Vintage Gear
WORDS WITH WORD$ INTERVIEW #3: Starker LTD.
A MESSAGE FROM STARKER LTD.:
BECOME A PAID MEMBER TO HEAR:
$$$. An Unreleased Track from Starker LTD.
$$$. The Audio to This Interview
Yo, it’s the Pope, 1000WORD$.
A man who’s Living The Dream, who’s constantly Living Type Dangerously, in search of Long Term Destruction, my bro Starker is an artist’s artist. His flow sounds like an AK-47 with a silencer attached. It’s a constant onslaught of bars, like bobbing and weaving through daggers.
He was featured by Polo Ralph Lauren as one of the top three vintage collectors of the brand in the world. He has appeared in ads for Aimé Leon Dore and his crew RRR recently headlined their own packed out show in Brooklyn.
I consider Starker a close friend of mine that I would love for you to get to know. He’s one of the very few people that has been in my home. What you’re about to read is a conversation between myself and Starker. We talked about his music; his early upbringing in Brooklyn; and his passion for collecting vintage gear.
THIS IS WORDS WITH WORD$.
1000WORD$: Yo, what's going on man? It's your boy, 1000WORD$. This is WORDS WITH WORD$. I'm here with my man, Starker.
Starker: Starks, Starker LTD., you already know. Living The Dream, Living Type Dangerous, Long Term Destruction, RRR representative, New York official, you know what it is.
1000WORD$: So Starker you from Brooklyn, right?
Starker: Big Brooklyn. Of course.
1000WORD$: What part of Brooklyn?
Starker: I hail from East Williamsburg, Bushwick area of Cooper projects. Kingsland and Jackson is the block to be exact. That's where I'm from, right across the street from the ‘jects.
1000WORD$: Hm, see I'm from the Bronx. So the first time I went to Brooklyn was around high school. When I got to meet some homies from Brooklyn, he took me out to Jay Street, Hoyt Street. I remember back in like 2003-2004, Jay Street, Hoyt, all that shit, they had all the kicks, bro. Like every single sneaker that you couldn't find nowhere in New York. Them n****s had Foamposites, the red with the black checks, the blue with the black checks, like them motherfuckers had everything over here. Did you grow up around all that shit?
Starker: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I was growing up in my mother's and my grandma's house, by the [Cooper] projects, and then my father hustled on that block. He had an apartment down the block from Jay Street, which is the apartment that he left to me, which is where I'm at with it right now. Growing up, every Easter, every birthday, and every Christmas, I would find myself on that Ave. on some shopping shit, but other than that, me and my pops would walk that Ave. every weekend. Me and my pops would just walk the Ave. and he'd bring the dog. We used to have a Rottweiler named "Sir Lancelot." We'd just walk up and down the Ave. and I'd see original stores that were doing it before Flight Club. They had Jordans from like 1985-1994 in the years 2003-2004 in saran wrap, all types of shit. And the people that were selling it to you were these Arab cats. It would be Arab n****s with the knot on their head type of shit. They were cool n****s too. You could talk to them, you could tell them what sneaker you was looking for. We called them “Uptowns” or whatever, they knew what you were talking about. [There were] a lot of people looking for the “bunnies,” they knew exactly what you were talking about. They were hip. They wasn't some like derelict n****s. These n****s was very in tune with the street community and the culture that we're involved with. They was the ones that were selling us these products and then at the same time, you would go to that store and they would have SIM cards, they would have fucking beepers, they would have fucking jewelry, ear piercings....
Starker: Cologne, tattoos, perfume, you name it. It was all around you in one hub and it would be like a hole in the wall. These were the spots that had some of the best sneakers that I still can't find to this day.
1000WORD$: When did you notice those stores going away, in what year?
Starker: During the pandemic. During the pandemic I was out here walking up and down with my mans, and we was passing by these stores and I was seeing n****s packing them up. I seen n****s taking half of the wall down and they were taking off the Nike signs. All these sneakers that I seen last week weren't there no more, then I seen them on the floor in boxes and I'm like, "Yo, what the fuck are y'all doing?" They're like, "Oh, we got to take the business to Philly. We can't really afford the rent no more." What happened was the neighborhood changed and the people that started moving into the neighborhood weren't really interested in these businesses. So if you think about it, what happened to Brooklyn was it got redeveloped, a bunch of people moved into the neighborhood, and they're not shopping in those stores. That lease gets sold to another store and then now, instead of the arab that was selling me the Jordans, now they got like a Claire's, like some bullshit, which is fucking corny. But that's what happens when we give up the neighborhood. A lot of people act like they want the neighborhood back but y'all gave it up, you know what I'm saying, real shit. If you would have supported these stores and we kept shopping with these people instead of falling into the online sneaker community, and going to Flight Club and all this bullshit, [those stores] would still be here, because the truth is they had everything you needed.
1000WORD$: You know what's so crazy? You don't really got to connect with Jimmy jazz or Dr. J's and shit, back when they made those dumbass lines. I've been online once or twice, but when you were in the loop back then, you could have spent like $10 or $20 to get a pair of sneakers or Jordans that came out like a week or two later.
1000WORD$: Now these motherfuckers $200 extra, $400 extra, you know what I'm saying? That shit crazy to me.
Starker: Yeah, the one sneaker store that's still on my Ave., they guilty of that shit. Let's say the Bred 11s came out on Saturday. By Sunday, they got them in the store for like $350. Meanwhile, when they released they were $200, and then if you go to next week, now they $400. It was bugged.
1000WORD$: Supposedly, homies from those stores that own those mom and pops will go to Dr. J's like two nights before, and buy every single pair and just hold them shits down to stock the price up. That's what I remember motherfuckers saying.
Starker: A lot of the stores that I grew up around had Nike accounts. I only know that because I would go to the store in my hood called Mack Magic or I went to another one called Spicy Action, and them n****s had Nike SBs when they were releasing. I don't know many mom and pop shops that you could walk into and they had Supreme Lows that were all elephant print, or they had De La Souls, and shit like that. They had them, these stores on the Ave. and Graham Ave. had them so maybe right now that's what they doing. I believe that there be some fuck shit that they up to these days. But back in the day, you could actually walk into a mom and pop shop that had an account with Nike that just had obscure silhouettes of sneakers that you forgot about, or you're like, "Wow, these still haven't sold out? I remember I had these four years ago." And they'd be right there with a big zigzag price tag on it on some $50, you know what I mean? Now you can't walk into a store and really get shit, but back in the day, I used to go to stores and get sneakers that I had years prior too. You could still go into the store they had old stock of Cool Grey 9s three years after they came out on Jay Street.
1000WORD$: So fire. And the mixtapes. They had mixtapes all over the place over there too, man.
Starker: Yeah, everything you needed to have, fitteds, mixtapes, whatever shirt was popping at the moment, the Young Jeezy shirt came out. Anything that came out that had some cultural sense of importance was on Jay Street. Jay Street is the Mecca of hip hop in Brooklyn. If you go to Jay Street, you bound to bump into somebody who used to get robbed out here. Albee Square Mall, all types of shit.
1000WORD$: Beat Street was around there, right?
Starker: Yeah, I used to go there when I was a kid. Beat Street used to be a big big store, and then they changed it to a little store, then it closed. Before it closed completely, I would go into that shit with my pops and they had good CDs that I would get; they had 45s, all types of shit. I would go right up to the front; they would have a little rack with whatever CD just came out. The whole rack was full of it. I remember walked right up to that shit and bought this one album. The P Diddy album that came out, that had fucking "Bad Boys for Life." I fucking walked right up to that shit and bought it. I remember that shit.
1000WORD$: Fire. How important was it to go to school fly? When did you know it was important? Because anywhere you walk in New York City, school, job, whatever, motherfuckers look at your feet, you know what I'm saying? So when did you notice in school like, "Oh shit, I gotta have the right kicks on."
Starker: I had to deal with that shit at my home. I can't really be in my grandma's apartment, around my cousins, with the wrong pair on so that type of awareness happened at an early age. I had to get hip to the shit before n****s would clown my ass. I remember my cousin, Junie, came through with some bullshit Jordans, like not the right pair of the team Jordans, and n****s was getting at him. You didn't want to be that kid. You didn't want to be that cousin that didn't have the 1s or the 2s. If your sneaker wasn't on the card, your shits ain't valid. That's really what it boiled down to. Like, "What are those?" type of shit, pre-"What are those?" N****s would really be asking me, "Which ones are those? Oh, you got the Teams on, nobody cares about those," 11.5s or whatever the fuck. I'll be real with you, when I went to school, I set the tone. I went to a Catholic school in a different neighborhood from the one that I was living and the kids from that neighborhood were shopping in a store that was selling them bullshit. They was not fly at my school. I was the fly n***a. A lot of people had to step it up and certain kids started buying Jordans and things like that, but I was really the only kid doing that. I was coming through with old shit. There was one kid that was in school with me named, Kevin Lake, and he had an older brother [who] happened to have Infrared 6s and Bred 11s laying around. So he would come through with them and they would be wild big. This n***a was like a size 6, he was wearing like a size 9.5 wilding out. Big floppy feet, but he knew that they was cool, you know I'm saying? You know what that was about.
1000WORD$: What are your top three favorite sneakers. If everything else was gone what three sneakers would you be happy with?
Starker: Three? I would have to say the Bred 11s, Air Max 97 Silver Bullets, and Air Max 95s. As much as I want to pick a pair of [Bred] 5s, I don't think them shits would be a good pair to pick cause they don't last forever. My 11s have taken a beating and they still look amazing, so I'm definitely gonna pick the 11s. Air Max 97s, that shit is just a good foot, they just re-released too. I can't imagine life without them. I wear them with everything. And then the Air Max 95s are just good comfortable shoes. That color of neon doesn't really have to match anything that you're wearing and it still matches somehow. I don't know how.
1000WORD$: It's like the Air Force One, it's like the Timberland. Yeah, that sneaker is like a white Uptown. It goes with everything.
Starker: Yeah, black, green, and white. Or grey, black, and green. It's crazy.
1000WORD$: Yo, that shit is crazy. What does fashion mean to you?
Starker: Me personally, it don't mean shit. I'm a deal maker, you know what I'm saying? I've never really been into fashion. The fashion world started claiming me recently because they seen that I have a heavy archive of a lot of eclectic brands that people can't really get a hold of anymore. Beyond the archive, I have a good understanding of products, and development, and performance, and all the above. To me, fashion means wearing some shit that annoys everybody. That's what fashion is, wearing some shit that you know goddamn well is gonna piss people off, on some Lady Gaga stupid shit, or some Kerwin Frost. But me, I express myself through my clothes. My music sounds like my outfit and my outfit is exactly how I felt when I woke up. I have mad shit that I could wear but I'm feeling like this right now. If I'm really feeling a certain type of way for the whole week, I'm gonna wear that jacket all week, I'm gonna wear that sneaker all week, I'm gonna wear them sweats all week. I really don't give a fuck, you know what I mean? I'll repeat an outfit. I've been repeating the same outfit, my n***a, for the past month. I'm not even gonna stunt. I'm deadass, bro, it's a pair of North Face ski pants, the Starker.LTD T-shirt that I just released, I rock my own merch like that, my Bred 11s, and the North face baltoro, with whatever headwear I wear. I have not taken that off since I got the shirt off the presses, bro. I can't really say that I'm a part of fashion because the truth is that these brands don't get my money. I don't shop with new brands. My money doesn't get spent with new brands. You'll never catch me at a register buying anything other than a pair of Jordans, you know what I'm saying? For the most part, a lot of the shopping that I do is like a fucking adventure. Like, "Oh, I gotta find this sweater. How am I gonna find it?" I got to start fucking combing through the internet. You got to get creative. You got to start to understand what you're looking for, where you can find it more likely in one place than the next. I started to learn that Japan was coveting a lot of products that I'm looking for right now, so I got to look for them over there type of shit. It just gets crazy bro, because whatever I start to project on my Instagram and shit ends up being the new thing and that's really frustrating. I don't know if that has anything to do with the fashion world or just human fucking behavior.
1000WORD$: I think it's more likely human behavior.
Starker: You feel me? That's not even fashion. That's just the way people are, monkey see, monkey do shit, you know what I'm saying? It's really frustrating because like I said, I don't care for this fashion world shit. I'll just wear some shit that I want to wear that day, or I might have gotten a new sweater off my boy Post and I want to wear it today, or I got a new jacket off of him, or I bought a new sweater off eBay, or I did a trade with my other mans. And all of a sudden, now you got these people that are trying to find the same item that I posted on the picture, and people are trying to claim themselves to be the expert of whatever brand they seen me in last. I don't know what drives people to behave like that, but I'm just trying to do shit that I remember as a kid. I'll be real with you, I've been waiting my whole life to dress like this. When I was young, my mom's didn't have the money and she didn't want me to look like that. My father had money, he was buying me everything I wanted, but I was only with my father on the weekends, and my mom's used to put a stop to him sometimes. She used to say he would spoil me. My mom's did not want me in gold fronts, my mom's did not want me in big leather jackets, my mom's didn't want me in oversized Parkas, you know what I'm saying? All the things that I'm doing right now. I'm not gonna say that she stopped me, but she had control over the way I was dressing as a kid. All this fashion that's going on right now, like now people like Chrome Hearts, and they like this, and they like that, I'm like, "That's cool, bro. But you know how long I've been waiting to wear a fucking Sprewell jersey?" I had it when I was a kid and I couldn't buy it again. My mom's was like, "That it. You got one and you're not gonna get another one." I about fucked my shit up and that was it, you know what I’m saying? So now as an adult, I have this compulsive disorder where I buy like five of the same item just because I like it that much, you know what I'm saying? I don't even understand why people want to worry about what I'm doing because it's gonna be a fucking battle to get something that you see me in. If you see me wearing it, I got three of shits.
1000WORD$: Haha. Yo, Starker, man, I'm very impressed by the way you just broke that shit down. So now let me ask you, where did you see these items growing up? Because you said that you couldn't get all of them as a kid, but now that you're older, you're able to get them, where were you able to see some of these items that you're looking for now? Like TV, people on the street, your neighborhood, school? Like your memory bank, where do you remember seeing these items that you now collect?
Starker: On the back of my dad, on the back of people in the neighborhood, on the back of teenagers. When I was growing up, and I would be with my mom's in Queens Center Mall, going to like Sam Goody and shit like that, in the early 2000s, I would see a group of high school kids all wearing different color North Faces, all wearing cargo sweatpants, all wearing Jordans and Foamposites. Those were the kids that my mom's would see and hold my hand tighter, and then walk me away and be like, "Oh, we got to move quick," you know what I'm saying? You got kids running around in Nuptses right now and they're like, "Oh my god, it's such a cool jacket." It's so ironic. People don't realize, the kids that were wearing Nuptses back in the day, them n****s was outside causing havoc. They were not there to be fly and be, "Oh, look at my outfit." Those are the same kids that were doing graffiti, doing petty thefts in the street, fucking harassing people. I remember being with my mom's and not feeling safe around those same kids that were in the big blue North Face Nuptse with the Goku blowout and shit. Those kids were up to no good, you know what I'm saying?
1000WORD$: Haha, facts.
Starker: You feel me? And kids forget that. People are like, "Oh, I remember this jacket." Like, "Do you remember that jacket? Cause that jacket came with a lot of hell. A lot of people that wore that jacket were a bad time." I remember a lot of Latin Kings with that fucking yellow and blue bubble and shit like that, you know what I'm saying? That's just what it was. A lot of gangs represented themselves with these jackets. If you had a big red North Face, you were probably blood.
1000WORD$: Facts. If you had a blue one you was crip.
Starker: Right. You remember the blue snorkel with the four pockets in the front? Come on n***a, you can hide anything in that shit. These jackets were uniforms for people that were on bad timing. That was something that I was exposed to a lot. So I don't identify with a lot of kids that are like, "Oh, I'm gonna buy every North Face right now because it's the jacket to wear this year." It's like, "Bro, that's always been the jacket you wear." If you from where I'm from, that's just what it is.
1000WORD$: Facts. I remember growing up you had to go to Genesis to get your fucking Pelle, you know what I'm saying? When I was growing up and shit, I went and got my first Pelle at Genesis, shit was like $900, bro. You had to get the shit with the most kind of design on the back. And if your shit was weak, n****s was like, "Man, why your shit look like that?"
Starker: Right, right. Your shit had to have the most studs.
1000WORD$: Haha, word. What was the first time you've seen a leather jacket and you was like, "Yeah, I need to get one of those shits."
Starker: Since I was a kid. My father had a Jeff Hamilton. Yeah, yeah. This was like during like the early 80s. There was some some dude on my block named, Buster. Buster came through with the jacket. It was a Jeff Hamilton that got Mickey Mouse on the back holding two revolvers and it said "Mickey the Kid, Best in the West." It was some gangster shit but it had frays.
1000WORD$: The cowboy joints?
Starker: Yeah, on the arms. My father thought that shit looked type fruity, so he bought it off the n***a and he cut it off himself. That's the jacket that I got right now. That's like the first heavy duty leather that I seen that had big graphics on it. I wouldn't say it's pre-Avirex but that jacket is pre-Avirex. When I was a kid I would be in Forest Hills with my mother on Austin street and we would pass by Top Gun. I remember when I would go to Top Gun because my mother went to get a red leather blazer, I looked up and I seen a crazy Avirex with the eagle on it and the “A” patent leather on the back. I was harassing her for that shit. She was like, "Yeah, yeah, I'll get it for you," and she ain't never get me that shit. But that's why I got thirteen Avirex's today, so fuck it.
1000WORD$: You feel the way that you wear your clothes represents how a motherfucker from New York dresses, right?
Starker: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. You have n****s from New York that are making money dressing like they from Atlanta, you know what I'm saying?
Starker: You got n****s that want to dress like Lil Baby or whatever, Lil Durk. He's from Chicago but in general, you know what I'm saying? Nobody really wants to take their check and spend it to look like a fucking New Yorker. When I get my hands on a good two racks that I can really spend, you think I'm gonna spend that one stack of money on a pair of fucking Triple Sole Balenciagas, or whatever you call them shits? N***a you buggin’. With $2,000 I can get a pair Timberlands, a pair of double knee jeans, I can get a fucking good North Face, I can get fitteds. I can get a bang for my buck and it's all shit that I love, bro. Like my Avirex's, I spent $300-$600 on them. I can still look better than all of these people and not spend that much money. It's really not that deep. Some people are just spending money on these brands because it's a psychological thing. It makes them feel like they're part of something, a higher sense of living, but you're really not, you know what I'm saying? On top of that, those brands will never recognize you. At this point, I've gotten recognition from North Face, I've gotten recognition from Polo, I've gotten recognition from Aimé Leon Dore, I've gotten recognition from all these brands. I feel like I'm very particular about what I put on my back because I don't know who's watching, you know what I'm saying? Real shit.
1000WORD$: Facts. A lot of people wear Polo and Polo would never do an article on you. You got an article on Polo Ralph Lauren and look how young you are, and look how vast your collection is, bro. Your collection is insane. So how do your parents feel knowing that you invest in all this? Because it's an investment, what you do is an investment.
Starker: Yeah, of course. My moms knows what it is, my pops is pretty out of touch. My moms is well aware of what's going on. She goes to work and she brags to her friends, and her friends' boyfriends shop at the brands that use me as a model and all this funny shit. It's just funny. It's just something that she brings up
1000WORD$: They wrote about you in Ralph Lauren, bro. Like that's crazy, bro.
Starker: Yeah, bro. You could go to the website and it was right there. I think it's still there. It's just the 50th anniversary thing. They did a series where they represented the three top collectors in the world and they got me for America, they got another dude for Japan, and another guy from Spain. It gave me an opportunity to represent for the whole country. I'll be real with you, when it comes down to every collector that they showed out of the three, I feel like my mines had the most hood flare, you know what I'm saying? I don't think we ever wore Polo to look like WASPy white people. I think we was wearing Polo in the hood, against the way Ralph Lauren wanted it to be worn. And due to that, it became more popular on the street than it did in the communities that I think he was aiming for, you know what I mean?
1000WORD$: Facts. So how important is it to pass those gems down to your son? I know you're molding his mind. Do you notice him putting his little pieces together and shit?
Starker: He sees me in clothes and he goes, "Wow, I like that sweater," or "I want a jacket like that," or "I want those shoes." He'll tell me when he sees something he wants, but for the most part, I buy him whatever I could find on the internet and I just kind of put it away. He doesn't get to abuse those clothes, those are just things I take out for certain events. I think he's aware of what he doesn't want to wear more than what he does want to wear. He never really shows me more enthusiasm on clothes, but he'll tell me, "Don't make me wear that." Other than that, he got a collection of Bear tees, he got a collection of a couple of Bear hoodies. Whatever they make for kids I'll just buy for him, but I got some vintage shit for him too. I got an original other like an original “P” wing jacket, I got an original Snow Beach hat, and at the end of the day, all of my load is going to Milo. It's his, it's written, it's been his, it's in his name, Milo, you know what I'm saying? His collection is crazy, it's not even my collection. You could just call it his.
1000WORD$: Fire, man. So he good, that's so dope, bro. What do you got coming up next, bro?
Starker: I don't even know, bro. I think I'm going to Japan in July.
1000WORD$: Yeah? That's gonna be crazy.
Starker: Mhm. I've just been having those conversations.
1000WORD$: This is gonna be your third time over there, right?
Starker: That will be my third time over there.
1000WORD$: What do you plan on doing different over here. Do you plan on doing a pop-up or something?
Starker: We're just gonna do a couple of shows. We got three shows lined up right now. My boy, Mota, is supposed to come that week. He's gonna do a pop-up. Shoutout to my boy, Spike, who's a nightclub DJ out there. [We'll] see if we could do some live performances and hit a couple nightclubs and shit, maybe get a little free bottle and a section, whatever. I'm just trying to enjoy my time out there, but it's really nothing different from what I did last time I was there, and the last time before that. Every time I go over there I'm just living it up to the fullest.
1000WORD$: Did you go bombing out there?
Starker: Nah, I don't play with that out there. In Japan, the embassy will ban you from the country for doing that shit. I ain't even gonna risk it, not worth it.
1000WORD$: Okay, fire. Yeah, bro. This was really dope, man. I appreciate this conversation with you, my bro.
Starker: Absolutely, brother.