wax Poetics
Edson Sabajo

Ain't No Half- Steppin'

Edson Sabajo of Patta

published online
By Danny Veekens

Patta embodies the spirit and influence of hip-hop on creative culture. The Amsterdam-based streetwear brand is all about community and culture: from the ‘Each One Teach One’ mentality of Patta Academy to motivating fellow creatives with Patta Running Team. With stores in Amsterdam, London, and Milan, their collaborations, sneakers, and apparel reach far and wide, but some things will remain close forever: their foundation in the heart of Amsterdam and their deep love for hip-hop culture. Here’s where that started for Patta co founder Edson Sabajo.

Do you remember when you first caught the hip-hop bug? 

The first concert that had a huge impact on me, was seeing EPMD and Stetsasonic live at Paradiso in 1988. But I started collecting records in 1986. The compilation Street Sounds Hip Hop Electro 13 from that year was also special to me. Particularly that edition because, unlike other records in the series, volume 13 was mixed so it had a whole lot more tracks per side on the record. That means the back sleeve contained much more info. Back then, you had to absorb as much information as possible to find out more about music. 

Like you say in the documentary: “The records were like a book. You had to look at the record; study the record. That was your internet, that was your info.” 

Yeah! That was exactly it. It took a few more years before we had stuff like Yo! MTV Raps. Or even Ferry Maat’s Soulshow or pirate radio like WAPS in Amsterdam. Speaking of which, the pilot episode of Yo! MTV Raps was actually made for MTV Europe, developed by a French television producer, Sophie Bramly. That also says something about how Europe embraced hip-hop culture. 

There’s a shot of the back sleeve of Biz Markie’s Going Off in the documentary, showing the credit 'Clothes designed by Dapper Dan & Nike.’ Were sleeve notes and credits also important to you to further explore streetwear and sneakers? 

Not that early on, that came later. First, it was mainly through music videos and the actual record covers. What I did was take a pair of scissors to cut out sneakers from record sleeves. [Looks up a record from his collection] Here, check out the back sleeve of Kid ‘N Play’s 2 Hype from 1988. The holes show where I cut out the sneakers they wear in that photo. I took those clippings with me on trips to New York to show store clerks which sneakers I was looking for. That’s why record sleeves and music videos were so influential: hip-hop forced you to be visually oriented to memorize things.

What was your first quest that opened the world of sneakers to you? 

The first big one for me was the Air Jordan 3 in the 1988 video for KRS-One's 'My Philosophy.’ Back then, I didn’t even know what he was wearing. I mean, where was the swoosh?! What the fuck is going on… Luckily, in 1989, I was going on a trip to New York. But when I asked a store in New York about the shoe from the ‘My Philosophy’ music video, I was told, ‘Well, good for you, buddy, but that’s a model from 1988.’ Little did I know that new models dropped each year… So I returned home with the Jordan IV—slightly disappointed. But as soon as I got home, I knew I had struck gold. Every time I walked on the streets, people would break their neck to look at my shoes. 

Were there also any photographers from that era whose work you adored in terms of style, or hip-hop in general? After all, there’s so much iconic hip-hop photography that looks like a blueprint for style and streetwear as we know it today… 

Let me tell you, I’m currently in touch with photographer George DuBose. He did all of the photography for the records of Cold Chillin’. Back then, his name stood out to me from the credits. There were names on a Cold Chillin’ sleeve like Benny Medina, Karen Jones, Craig G—and then a guy called DuBose?! When I met up with him, he was amazed I knew about his existence. But to me, he had a legendary status. 

I ended up buying a few photographs from him: one Juice Crew outtake, and the photo of Biggie Smalls that was used in The Source’s Unsigned Hype feature, with a couple of outtakes from that shoot. Oh, and one photograph of Mr. Magic. Because he was the first to [exclusively] play hip-hop on the radio; his Rap Attack show on WBLS was iconic. I also partly got that photo because before I DJ’ed as Edson, I was given the nickname “DJ Magic” by Clyde Semmoh—rest in peace—because of the way I was mixing records. 

Was that an influential moment for you? 

At that time, I was DJ’ing at a skate-oriented clothing store called Vibes. The store was located at Singel 10 in Amsterdam, where during the ‘80s the record store Rhythm Import was housed. In 1996, Fat Beats Amsterdam opened in the basement of that very building, where I ended up working. There’s a lot of history at Singel 10. Clyde worked at Vibes and he heard me play there. That’s when he hooked me up with a DJ gig at a new spot in town: Café De Duivel. That’s when things really took off for me as a DJ. 

You started working at Fat Beats Amsterdam, which is where you met Patta co-founder Guillaume 'Gee' Schmidt. Do you consider Fat Beats Amsterdam as the creative hotbed where it all started for Patta? 

Fat Beats is for sure part of that. But above all, Café De Duivel is a key location for most of us. That’s where I met a lot of like-minded people I still call friends to this day. The café opened in 1992, years before Fat Beats Amsterdam opened its doors. We currently host a photo exhibition at OSCAM, about Café De Duivel as a creative breeding ground. 

Do you see today’s lively creative scene in Amsterdam as a continuation of that era?

It’s more like a cycle. Bonne Suits, kanaal40, The New Originals, SMIB… It’s a new wave with hip-hop as a unifying factor. That cycle will keep on going. 

Polaroid releases a documentary in partnership with some of Europe’s most prominent creative individuals and communities, exploring the influence of hip-hop on contemporary culture in London, Paris and Amsterdam. See the full documentary here on May 18th. 


this is part of "Made You Look" Story

Polaroid releases a documentary in partnership with some of Europe’s most prominent creative communities, exploring the influence of hip-hop on contemporary creative culture in London, Paris and Amsterdam.

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