Taking place over two days (November 3 and 4) at the Long Beach Convention Center, tens of thousands of fans gathered in the 500,000 square feet space to bring to life Complex’s underlying vision of pushing culture forward: ComplexCon 2018.
With endless music, fashion, art, food, style, sports, activism and education (the list goes on and on), the highly anticipated tradeshow festival hybrid can best be described in three words: chaos, growth, enlightenment. For the third year in a row, what Complex calls “this generation’s world fair” celebrated creators, curators and most importantly: you.
If you went last year, you already knew what to expect: a very large room full of the hottest names, brands, sneakers, clothes, artwork … you name it. After initial feelings of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to go or what to see first fade, you soon realize it’s all part of the experience. At that point, it becomes a playground. Whether you’re an adult or a kid (no discrimination here), you were bound to find a booth that excited you.
With legendary artist Takashi Murakami on this year’s Host Committee, it was only fitting to see his standout work all around the main floor. Back in July, Takashi posted a picture to his 905K followers on Instagram previewing the new OVO hoodies, which boast his signature animated design encrusted on the OVO owl. At ComplexCon, guests were able to view the three original paintings from the OVO collaboration.
With doors opening at 11 a.m., Murakami hosted an epic “Sneakers for Breakfast” event, bringing in sneakerheads to curate a variety of custom shoes, which would later be sold in a silent auction with proceeds benefiting various charities. If there’s one thing you can count on with Complex, it’s their values and beliefs in giving back to the community.
While you had the option of utilizing the map/booklet handed to you at the front – which showcased a blueprint of the exhibition floor – most attendees decided to freehand it. With nearly every booth offering something unique, different and enticing, half of the fun was stepping into unfamiliar territory and discovering new brands and artists.
Overheard at ComplexCon: “ComplexCon is cool if you got hella money.”
With most of the exclusive drops happening earlier in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for a store to be completely sold out of the item you were looking for. For example, NBA legend Allen Iverson dropped his first kicks in over four years at the impossible to miss Reebok shop, which was much more a store than a booth. With two colorways to choose from, the I3 Legacy’s were gone instantly.
If you were looking for liquor, you couldn’t miss the glorious 1800 Tequila pop-up posted in the middle of the madness. In addition to the speciality cocktails, select raffle winners were able to customize an exclusive vintage denim jacket designed by Nicky Diamonds, with patches and pins created by Adam Lucas – only available at ComplexCon.
Nicky Diamonds, founder and owner of Diamond Supply, shared his own run-ins with exclusive product launches, which resulted in a riot with “50 security and LBPD trying to keep the peace.” As he shook his head, we can only imagine all the kids who waited patiently in line for the Canary Diamond SB Dunks.
Most attendees didn’t leave empty handed, though. If you played your cards right, you definitely were able to score some freebies. For example, Pharrell gave out free “i am OTHER” t-shirts for people who registered to vote. Throughout the legendary producer’s career, he has always used his platform for a greater good. This was no different.
Speaking of learning, the popular ComplexCon(versations) were the place to be. Taking place throughout the day, fans were able to join artists, leaders and influencers such as Nas, DJ Clark Kent, Don C, Lena Waithe, Trinidad James, Wale and more, as they spoke on topics near and dear to them.
On Day 1, Vince Staples with a Long Beach Legend at 2 p.m. had two LBC natives, Vince Staples and Snoop Dogg, go head to head: question for question, statement for statement. As always, the panels quickly sold out of seats, leaving standing room only. Regardless, the attention to detail was remarkable, having the original rap legend Snoop and the new rap savior Vince on stage in their hometown of Long Beach. While thousands flew into to the city for the sole purpose of enjoying the festivities, the hometown love was palpable.
If you didn’t get the opportunity to see Vince on the panel, you were able to a couple hours later on stage in the Pigeons & Planes Arena. With the release of his most recent project, FM!, it was only right to bring out TDE’s own Jay Rock. Of course, it’s not a party in SoCal unless Ty Dolla $ign pops up, as both artists ensue nostalgia into the arena performing “Feels Like Summer.”
One of the best things about ComplexCon is the fact that it showcases some of the world’s biggest names, while giving an opportunity for aspiring talent and newcomers to shine. A Chicago artist by the name of Louis De Guzman states, “Being at ComplexCon is a blessing, I’m super humbled. I worked the booth for somebody in my first year at ComplexCon, with a friend behind the register. I’m very humbled by today. To be able to share my personal art with the team, and for us to reach levels, it’s continued growth for everybody. I’m inspired for myself and these kids.”
Posted in the middle of his booth is his life-size “Elevate” vinyl sculpture, standing almost as tall as its designer.
Trucking along to the K section, it’s almost impossible to not stop at Mariella’s booth. In addition to gracing the cover of L.A. Weekly’s Best of L.A. Arts issue, her signature hip-hip oil paintings are highly favored by the masses, including the artists themselves. In between running the booth next to her partner Jake and leaving only to get food before she starved to death, the Norwalk native reveals she was put on FaceTime with Lil Yachty earlier that day. Another day in the life.
Heading back towards BAIT, which featured golden photo opps with statues of your favorite NBA teams and called all Dragonball Z fanatics to come shop their limited-edition collectibles, stood Pleasures x WAV, which surprisingly was the only booth in the whole hall that played rock music. Fans were able to choose from the four shirts hanging, each featuring the work of iconic photographer and author Charles Peterson.
Peterson, the photographer best known for shooting artists such as Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, revealed the best part of ComplexCon is “seeing people that don’t normally know my work, see my work. It’s great. It’s a collision of cultures. I think it’s interesting cause it’s kind of the last of the old school music scene.”
With hip-hop being the world’s most popular music genre in 2018, it’s important to remember what music was founded on.
Peterson states, “I know that streetwear is normally associated with hip-hop, but rock n roll grew up with hip-hop. Back in the grunge days when we threw a party, we put on Public Enemy and N.W.A., so the two were mutual. You could listen to ‘Love Buzz’ by Nirvana and then ‘Straight Outta Compton’ by N.W.A., and the party is full.”
As a whole, ComplexCon did an incredible job of bringing back the fun in streetwear, and meshing it with the existing crossover of live music, DJs, food and culture.