This past weekend, ComplexCon returned for a successful fourth year in a row in Southern California. Following their launch of the inaugural ComplexCon Chicago in July, the two-day streetwear and music festival took over the Long Beach Convention Center where it originally started. This year’s lineup included headliner Kid Cudi and Lil’ Kim on Day One, with Anderson .Paak and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie closing out Day Two.
While ComplexCon is described as “the groundbreaking festival that brings together pop culture, music, food, innovation, activism, education … the list goes on,” this year’s motto resonated even more deeply: “Come experience the future.” That theme attracted some of the world’s biggest and most influential creatives, artists and brands, giving attendees the opportunity to shop hundreds of exclusive drops and releases.
One thing Complex prides themselves on is providing the “most immersive and ambitious pop culture experience yet,” which is exactly why Takashi Murakami serves as creative director. The legendary Japanese artist may best be known for his work on Kanye West’s third studio album, Graduation, but it’s his signature style and taste that cannot be duplicated: a fusion of Japanese contemporary high- and low-brow arts, sprinkled with his highly-respected stroke.
At 8 a.m. on Saturday, November 2, select press outlets were invited to an exclusive walkthrough of the exhibit floor with ComplexCon Long Beach executive producer, Isis Arias Clermont. While Murakami’s arrival was postponed due to a flight delay, he arrived in true Murakami fashion alongside five giant-sized characters. As Drake says in “Going Bad,” “Lot of Murakami in the hallway…”
Takashi isn’t just the art director, he’s the mastermind behind the event’s entire identity, design and aesthetic experience. In an exclusive interview with Irvine Weekly, we asked him to compare Japan’s influence on American culture and vice versa.
He answers, “You know Harajuku? The Harajuku culture is exactly the U.S. culture from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Then we bring it back here, the Chicago movement is kind of from the Harajuku culture. Then it’s back and forth.”
On that note, we asked him how exactly does art evoke emotion? “Maybe through technique,” he states. “I saw Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, the actor and actress they picked were amazing, very in detail. When I watch this movie, I think, ‘Oh, I have to do that. It’s a very precise technique.”
He clarifies, “You can see the inspiration in my paintings. People are watching everything, that means everything needs to have concentration.”
When doors for the VIP ticketholders opened at 9 a.m., the hypebeast factor rose to the forefront as sneakerheads rushed over to the Sneaker Drop line. Two hours later, general admission attendees entered.
A major highlight had to be Cudder’s Playground, bringing to life Cudi’s critically-acclaimed debut studio album Man on the Moon: The End of Day. Not only did hip-hop lovers nostalgically celebrate the project’s 10-year anniversary on September 15, but they were able to play laser tag and pose for the photobooth inside the dark purple moon-themed backdrop.
Another standout stop was PUMA’s build out called FUTRO LAND, yielding the hybrid culture the brand was founded on mixing in sports, esports, fashion, music and more. To celebrate, they brought back their original Fast Rider which launched 40 years ago when running began to shift from the track to the streets.
On top of the free games, prizes onsite, and artist sightings from Matt Ox, DaniLeigh, YBN Cordae, and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, it was the customization station with Chinatown Market that proved to be the biggest hit. Only two styles (Future Rider and Style Rider) were available for purchase, highlighting FUTRO (future meets retro) designs that pull from the brand’s 70+ year archives and combine them with today’s digital trends.
As with most collabs on the floor, only a few hundred pairs were made available at ComplexCon. Beyond all the above, many who have attended ComplexCon in the past already had the Complex (Con)versations planned out into their schedule. Whether it was Matt Barnes and Allen Iverson joking about their early fashion styles back in the day (Tunnel Takedown), or on a more serious note: “Disruption: How Gen Z Is Taking Control,” festival-goers arrived ready to absorb the wisdom and inspiration from, again, some of the greats.
Tunnel Takedown Live with Allen Iverson
Day Two featured surprise performances from 21 Savage and DaBaby, the latter at spicy wings live on Complex’s Hot Ones. Handing the baton over to the females, Kamaiyah, Rico Nasty, Eve and Trina spoke about the stigma of female rappers and this new age of social media. Finally, Anderson .Paak shut down the show with his live band and smooth, sultry voice. “Yes Lawd!”