There was a time in our lives where the raw power of our Earth’s elements, such as fire and lightning, would serve to enhance the epic and awesomeness of a rap artist. Their name made blatantly obvious thanks to the PowerPoint-esque typeface often seen in acid wavy or metallic, and even a few faces of the artist’s cohorts fading into the background for good measure. This approach was the go-to for hip hop merch back in the 2000s, and while they were deemed something to be ashamed of some 10 or so years later–a design catastrophe and clear sign of bad taste–these brazenly ostentatious designs are back in good graces for those with both a solid sense of humor, and an affinity for retro hip hop aesthetics.
Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, J.P. Pascual and his brainchild brand N8NE–pronounced “No One”–is bringing these flashy designs of our teenage years back, and perhaps even better than the original. The brand was conceived after Pasual aka The Amalgamator aka Freeky P discovered the resale value of vintage hip hop tees, and decided that a new wave was in order; a contemporary take–imbued with some satire–that would hark back to the very best of those once-absurd graphic T-Shirt designs. With an almost-clinically insane obsession for scouring the internet for references, N8NE’s offerings include a hilarious take on pop culture, from Ja Rule’s reputation in flames, to a much needed homage to the one and only Paris Hilton–a collaborative effort between the brand and yours truly.
Taking some incredibly rare time off away from his manic internet perusing and increasingly busy schedule, what with artists and influencers now asking to have their own N8NE-made tee, J.P. sat with us to answer a few questions on the the story behind N8NE, why there’s a philosophical level involved in what he does, and what it means to run your own vintage-inspired hip hop graphic-based company in today’s day and age. Read our exclusive interview below, and be sure to check out our aforementioned Paris Hilton-themed collab tee, as well as other N8NE threads from our store here.
Firstly, can you introduce yourself and your position at N8NE?
My name is J.P. Pascual aka The Amalgamator (@freeky.p), and I am the Creative Director/Owner of the brand N8NE.
Is there a team behind the brand or is it a solo project?
No team–I am the staff, lol.
Why the emphasis on representing the “no one”? How did you come to the conclusion that having a self is just an illusion?
To me it wasn’t so much of having a self as an illusion, it was more of a balance. Everyone is trying to be a “someone.” This is an homage to when you were a “no one,” to not forget where you came from–everyone starts out as a “no one.” I like layers to ideas, so I stylized the name N8NE, with the “8” for fortune in Chinese numerology, as well as the infinite sign, the yin and yang, No one/Some one.
How about the concept of N8NE as a brand? How did that come about, and how did the internal conversation go?
The motto: no one loves you is a double entendre. No one as nobody loves you, or no one as in us the brand; the no one you used to be will always love you.
The brand’s designs seem to be pretty on top of current pop/subculture. How do you typically keep abreast of relevant news?
I mean I never log off… It’s becoming a problem, lol.
A lot of the designs hark back to the aesthetics of hip hop tees from the early 2000s. Why is there a focus on this approach?
I like the medium, I’m a sucker for nostalgia plus it reminds me of making beats and sampling. I got on the wave bout two and half years ago, searching on Ebay for vintage rap tees, and saw they were like $300+ USD, and thought I could flip the idea while trying to make it more comedic/satire. I like to think I was one of the people to bring the wave back, so I’ve just been running with it. I’m already tired of it to be honest… but people keep hitting me up for work. It’s been the focus, but I’m always looking for the next wave.
Do you do anything outside of N8NE?
I DJ. I find there are plenty of parallels with music and graphic design. It’s basically the same thing.
How has running a brand/company been for you? Any unexpected challenges, surprises, stories?
It’s been a good learning experience, learning to be your own boss and being accountable for all your moves, taxes, taxes and more taxes… learning to get deposits before I start work has been the lesson. Last year I had a very well known rich girl in the industry contact me to design a tee for her Sporty line, and after many designs/revisions/hours, we finalized it and when I sent my invoice it was all good. Then she ghosted for a week, then sent me an email saying she wasn’t into doing it anymore and just flat out dropped it… I definitely felt some type of way, but I get it… it happens. Shoulda gotten a deposit first though…
Well looking on to brighter pastures, where are you taking N8NE next? What’s the future for the label?
I have an affinity for jazz.
Lastly, have you moved on from Ye? Or is he still in your thoughts?
Never. He will always be an inspiration. Kendrick’s DAMN. sent him to the mountains, but he’s coming with it for his next project.