Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan

Jon Furniss,

Nightlife: Get your kicks with Raekwon

  • Article by: Michael Rietmulder
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • November 1, 2012 - 5:56 PM

In the early '80s, DJ godfather Afrika Bambaataa famously identified the four elements of hip-hop: DJing, emceeing, breakdancing and graffiti writing. But had the Zulu Nation leader come up in the post-Jordan era, sneakerhead culture may have cracked his list (and clashed with his dashiki).

From Run DMC's "My Adidas" to Nelly's "Air Force Ones," sneaker-centric rap songs have permeated pop culture, and for the past two years Studiiyo 23 owner Moh Habib has been merging fashion, art and music at his Uptown shoe shop/culture emporium.

Habib has hosted open-mic nights and art exhibitions, and booked the occasional show, but the sneaker-slinging entrepreneur is throwing his biggest events yet the next two weekends, starting with Sunday's Twin Cities Sneaker.Art Xchange at First Avenue (2-6 p.m., all ages, $12).

"We just want to create an environment where creative people can come together and enjoy themselves," Habib said. "For me, that was something that was missing for some of the youth and other folks that visit our shop."

Habib has assembled 17 vendors, including local artists, clothing stores, startup designers and, of course, footwear fashionistas who will set up shop in the downtown Minneapolis club, as a lineup of homegrown hip-hop talent -- including Audio Perm, Greg Grease, Villa Rosa and many more -- perform. Kick-collectors are encouraged to bring up to three pairs of their own for swap-meet-style bartering. Then comes the official after-party, featuring Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan fame, whose catalog includes a sneaker-addict anthem (9 p.m., 18-plus, $21-$23).

While still a cult trend, Habib said sneakerhead culture has exploded in the last five years, with fans coast-to-coast going to great lengths to snag the latest styles. In New York, Habib said he's heard of people offering their cars for select sneakers on Craigslist. In Los Angeles, lines formed days ahead of the release of a limited Kanye West Nike model. Still, it's Nike's Jordan line, which helped spawn gym-shoe mania in the mid-'80s, that generates the most fervor. Habib recalls that when his store released a new Jordan shoe, "we had a lady who was 60 years old; she was waiting with her son, sitting in a chair in a blanket for 12 hours."

A former marketing consultant with lots of frequent-flyer miles, Habib isn't afraid to think big. For his store's second-anniversary party next Friday he landed another renowned rap star -- Outkast's Big Boi (9 p.m., Nov. 9, 18-plus, $25-$45). Five years from now, Habib hopes to take his fledgling TCSAX from First Avenue to Target Center.

"People call me crazy, but it hasn't stopped me yet," he said.

A dark-beer takeover 

An Ethiopian restaurant and beer bar might not be the most obvious pairing, but the Blue Nile is known for its fondness of craft brews. From 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday the Seward staple throws its fifth annual Stout Fest; an homage to dark beer via a tap takeover. Highlights from this year's lineup of stouts and porters include local favorite Surly Darkness, Alaskan Brewing's Baltic Porter, Flying Dog's Pearl Necklace oyster stout and a bourbon barrel stout from Wisconsin's Central Waters. Sample sets of three 4-ounce pours go for $7. (2027 E. Franklin Av., Mpls.

Cocktail mix-off 

Eat Street hotspot Icehouse is hosting the second round of the Iron Bartender Competition at 8 p.m. Sunday. The cocktail-crafting showdown pits master mixers from the Twin Cities' restaurant scene in a reality show-esque competition. Contestants will have 12 minutes to concoct a pair of ad lib adult beverages using secret ingredients to present to a panel of judges. A champion of this weekly event, put on by the North Star Bartenders' Guild, will be crowned Dec. 2. (2528 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.

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