April Walker Drops Gems on Brick City
With legends leaving and landscapes changing hip-hop culture is fast realizing the need it has to document itself. Angie Martinez has been vocal about her intention to immortalize her legendary radio interviews. Films like “Straight Outta Compton” and “All Eyez On Me” have sought to set the record straight about West Coast rap. Podcasts and documentaries are being dedicated to the lives and legacies of the men upon whose shoulder the culture stands but while music is finally getting it’s just due clothing is a little late to the party.
After years of being harassed, threatened, and shut out by a couture industry that refused to recognize his genius Dapper Dan found himself being paid ‘homage’ by Gucci and Balenciaga suddenly has an affection for Ruff Ryders.
But April Walker isn’t awaiting mainstream attention. The designer behind the iconic Walker Wear is transitioning to the next phase in her legendary career by not only offering energetic casual attire but also luminous life advice. Her Walker Gems have provided practical advice to potential creatives via social media and now they have been collected into a book titled “WalkerGems: Get Your A$& Off The Couch.”
This weekend Walker sat down with digital influencer, model, podcast host, and newark resident Christina Bright at Equal Space to have a conversation about not only her gems but her journey. She stated that “You have to have added value because everyone is selling a tee shirt. Walker Wear this time around is more about this for me. I wanted to connect.”
The two discussed difficulties forming romantic relationships when you're driven, the lack of financial resources for creative, and the need for reciprocal relationships between what Walker called “like-minded tribe members” during a live recording of Bright’s “The Art of Conversation” podcast.
Walker shared that relationships were essential to her success. She advised everyone to “find people who are gonna celebrate you” no matter what their professional station might be. She built a relationship with Tupac when he was “a roadie for digital underground.” When asked how she knew he was going to be a star she replied “well you don't know but it’s about give and take not just taking.” The late Notorious B.I.G. was drawn into her first store by an Eric B. and Rakim sweatshirt in the window, a result of her creativity and passion “everything was about self expression.”
She has continued to practice that sentiment. Long before Joseph Sikora was making the ladies swoon and saving Lakeisha from Milan he was working with Walker Wear. Walker had no reservations about working with someone who wasn’t yet a household name. “My biggest asset is being naive to fear” she explained. “Some people might call that crazy” remarked Bright. “Yea” replied Walker “but it’s good crazy.”
While she stressed the importance of connections she also reminded everyone that “ It's nobody else's responsibility to believe in your gift but you.” “If everything’s easy” she said “you’re not doing it right….We need to flex our muscles and use them that's mental muscles too.”
Bright shared her need to acknowledge and highlight her failures commenting that “people think success is like Jay-z’s ‘Big Pimpin’ video 24/7”. Walker agreed. She went on to tell a story about a time where she had to pivot and walk away from a situation that wasn’t working. “you can't let your emotions get so attached to the vision that you could your reality” she said “we have to be very real and sometimes being real is painful.”
Failure isn’t the only downside of self-employment the two women have in common. Each remarkably attractive in their own right they’ve endured the presence of what Walker called “this unspoken thing” when working with men. Bright explained that it was tough for her to be a creative and a “woman on top of that.” Walker revealed that in her experience the unspoken element of business transactions between men and women dissipates and “respect” begins to fill the void it leaves. But she was clear that in order to achieve this “you have to speak up” and be willing to say “I don't care if you don't like me but this is how it's going down.” The connection between likability and female leadership is one that many women are affected by and it was impactful to hear a legend say that she being liked isn’t necessarily her first priority.
Immediately after the conversation ended the room filled with music and Walker began to sign copies of her book. While everyone wanted to connect with her they also looked eager to connect with each other, a sign that her belief that “like attracts like” was in fact true.
The intimate event, which was free to the public, was attended by members of Newark’s much talked about young creative crowd who are staking out their claim in the city. This included Newark transplant, philanthropist, and well known actor Tobias Truvillion who has been an active member of his adopted home working to empower and encourage Newark’s youth as early as 2009.
Walker claimed she could sense the creative energy in the room as she made eye contact with each member of the audience and thanked them for “coming out on a Sunday.” “That's real to me” she said “life brings life, that's like pouring water into my cup.”
Walker Gems is available in bookstores today. Listen to April Walker's recent interview on the Premium Pete Podcast.