Meet Alphonzo Rawls, Inventor of the Skate Brand That Gets Love From Nicki Minaj
What’s deeper than Rick Ross shirtless wearing elbow pads?
Alphonzo Rawls, the guy who conceived of the image, CEO of EVERYBODYSKATES in San Diego and certified skate legend. After a couple of days of email tag we finally got on the phone before his art show on April 10th at Space 15 Twenty in Los Angeles, where he’ll display a bunch of new pieces—blown-up graphics depicting popular scenes in entertainment and pop culture history, mashed-up with skateboards and other paraphernalia, as well as coasters.
Rawls is legit, a skateboarder and a designer. You can Google his work for DC, Osiris, and many other shoe companies. A veteran in the game, he’s designed for 20+ brands in 17 years. Back in the day he graced the cover of Thrasher magazine as a skateboarder and he’s well-connected in the industry—Nicki Minaj Instagrammed her EVERYBODYSKATES t-shirt (featuring her famed "Anaconda" portrait, now holding a skateboard), and according to Rawls there are rappers who “rock [the] canvas in the studio.”
“I was blown away that Nicki posted that on Instagram,” says Rawls, whose Instagram account is loaded with funny juxtapositions drawing from black movies of the ’80s and ’90s like Smokey-from-Friday’s head superimposed on a skater’s bod—a face and situation too funny not to laugh.
“Being an ’80s kid, I’m inspired by classic images, classic shows, Michael Jackson, Elvis, iconic images that stood the test of time,” he says.
The fresh interpretation of pop culture images plastered with skateboards and ramps caught on quick, forcing Rawls to juggle his regular work schedule designing shoes for popular American brands with this new hustle. Rawls draws on his interests—buddy movies and boxing heroes—printing on a wide variety of surfaces from glass to cotton knit, distributing online as well as selling his canvases at art shows.
“It all started with Vinny [DJ Vinny Ponte] and I goofing off on Instagram going back and forth with video edits of each other clowning each other. There was one video of Austin Powers making fun of Fat Bastard for gaining weight. People got a kick out of it so I started doing other images and getting demand for shirts, stickers and whatnot,” he says.
Before he was a designer, Rawls was signed with H-Street during the rise of skateboarding on the West Coast (in the early ’90s and late ’80s). He skated professionally for several years before Kastel approached him to make some designs and he followed them up with shoes for other brands like DC, Roxy, Gravis and Fallen.
“The first time I did an ollie, a lightbulb went off,” says Rawls. “I was like, ‘there’s so much more you can do on that, the creative freedom.’”
Rawls plans to collaborate with other artists and keep making art. Although there’s less pressure now, he admits he misses the passion he had for the sport when he was younger.
“I find skateboarding an act of freedom,” says Rawls. “Not making a goal or objective predictable skateboarding engages one’s personality and freedom of choice and decisions. Skateboarders are free to choose the tricks they do. Making a living is more organic as well. There’s more creative ways to apply skateboarding to your surroundings than in traditional sports."