Anthony Smith, founder of South Africa’s most befokte clothing label, 2Bop, has always lived by his own rules and he’s proving that you don’t need to buy into the lily-white-old-boys-club-hierarchy of the traditional Cape Town creative industries in order to level-up. As a kid he’d be skating and shooting hoops and skieting games from the rough Northern areas to the idyllic Summerstrand and Kings Beach while his ‘art’ teacher plotted new drawing formulas for the class to conform to. Even back then he was too organic for graph paper, could dallah pump fakes against the systems of constraint. Smith tells me about growing up in a coloured community in PE and at 15, being a bit insecure moving from a ‘ghetto school’ to a ‘fancy private school’ where “all the kids knew Shakespeare and shit” but how he soon realised that kids were just kids, the only difference was access. So he’d make his own spaces, skating across racial divisions and jamming the arcade games which flourished in the blind spot of apartheid’s gaze.
There’s a richness to childhood experiences which we never really realise at the time; how can you properly articulate the victory of discovering Double Dragon 2 in your grandparent’s street when you’d started to expect all the good games to be in the white areas? Or the excitement for other kids being good at the games because it meant seeing all the levels and characters and bosses without spending your own 20 cent pieces? It’s not about some kind of misplaced nostalgia, it’s about formative experiences that remain relevant to 2Bop today. Smith’s brand has never bought into the legacy of inferiority that still remains ‘post-apartheid’, it’s always taken pride in local culture, manufacturing locally and channelling Afrikaaps or coloured club culture through remixed Strictly Rhythm Records aesthetics. But all of this diverse texture is exploded open, utilised in a way that opens up appeal rather than shuts down access, drawing on the value of the lo-fi as a platform for the imagination. You can play just about any game today on an emulator and that’s cool, it doesn’t hack the power of the OGs who know the Juicy lyrics when they see them. Smith’s already two-steps ahead, establishing his own company called Premium MFG and Co., producing for like-minded clients and upcoming brands. He also his eye on eventually going full circle to actually producing video games and is already bringing arcade style home by creating a new game controller prototype.
For all of his success, Smith’s incredibly humble and expresses immense gratitude for his team and the counter-culture checkpoint at Corner Store in Cape Town. He’s cracked the code and is subverting the structure through the communal and collaborative, bringing on interns, hiring young designers, and creating work with all different kinds; from well-established artists to a 6 year-old kid named Kayden. Smith’s pioneering a new business culture; while you were rushing to take notes, he was utilising the resources to make full colour print-outs for logos of the future. While you were networking with corporates, Smith was realising the value of friends who could hustle with heart and who held skills that didn’t fit into lame-ladder job descriptions. There are other ways that you can do things, power in articulations that don’t conform to narrow definitions of language and 2Bop’s the turnaround jump shot. What company do you keep?