ComplexCon 2018: Pharrell, Raekwon Set High Standards and High Energy on Day 1

Pharell Williams
Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

Pharell Williams attends 2018 ComplexCon-Day 1 at Long Beach Convention Center on Nov. 3, 2018 in Long Beach, Calif.

Several thousand attendees lined up bright and early for the third installment of ComplexCon, a two-day cultural festival in Long Beach, Calif., put on by Complex Magazine. The event features an array of music performances, panels, and several vendors who sell and give away tons of exclusive merchandise and other products.

Hosted by Pharrell and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, the festival drew in a continued array of influencers, celebs, and tastemakers who come to the festival for business, to collaborate, release new collections, or just enjoy the bevy of activities throughout the day.

In addition, brands gain key exposure and media value catering to the young demographic with fun activations and celebrity appearances. Everyone companies creatively put their best foot forward vying for the attention of festival goers.

Below are highlights from day 1 of the festival on Saturday (Nov. 3).

New God Flow: How to Make a Rap Album in 2018 Panel

Kicking off the first panel of the festival was one centered on how to make a rap album in 2018 and overall be successful as an artist in the era of the Internet. Moderated by Everyday Struggle's Wayno, the panel featured Wu-Tang Klan's Raekwon, legendary music producer No I.D., and Interscope senior VP of A&R Sickamore. The men spoke at length about what constitutes a classic album with Raekwon noting that "the key to making great music is not putting so much pressure on yourself."

Sickamore made reference to the episodic nature of an artist's evolution, saying, "I like to think about an artist's career like a TV show." No I.D. spoke about the double-edge sword of the advanced of today, saying, "I think technology is destroying the value of collaboration," expanding on his recent conversation with legendary producers who came before him and how the in-person interaction garnered much knowledge and memories not otherwise gained through virtual communication and work.

Hip-Hop Portraits by Mariella Angela

Norwalk native Mariella Angela displayed her portraits of various celebs in a small booth on the exhibition floor. The striking oil paintings featured various music celebrities including SZA, Swae Lee, Lil Wayne, Nipsey Hussle, 6lack, Migos, Tyler the Creator, and many more. With a no frills presentation and the artwork the center of the space, one couldn't help but marvel at the details, color, and overall vibrancy of her work. Starting to paint when she was working in hospice care, the young 20-something artist noted that painting is apart of what keeps her calm. Expect to see more from this artist and her artwork travel far and wide in the coming months.


Swipe to see me napping @complexcon | booth K6

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How to Make it in America Panel

Moderated by Chris "Drama" Pfaff, founder of Young and Reckless clothing line, the How to Make it in America panel featured media maven Karen Civil, entrepreneur extraordinaire Gary Vaynerchuk (also known as Gary Vee), and Kareem "Biggs" Burke. Each panelist spoke to their expertise in topics such as growing their personal brands, dealing with losses, and the sensationalism around entrepreneurship today. When asked about building a brand, Civil noted that she is "really big on understanding [her] audience" while Biggs answered the question of what is a culture vulture mentioning that it occurs when "you pull authenticity out." Vaynerchuk dropped several gems including, saying, "Kindness and being a good person is leverage" and "execute against who you are versus who you wish you could be." Civil revealed during the panel that earlier this year she had sold a company to Amazon for $4 million and emphasized the importance of knowing when to separate a personal brand from a product.

1800 Tequila's Art Experience

The popular tequila brand 1800 returned to the festival floor with its art experience featuring branded mix drinks including its coconut flavor. This year the spirits company partnered with well renowned artist Adam Lucas and streetwear designer Nicky Diamonds to create a station for festival goers to customize their very own denim jacket. Lucas' designs not only adorned sew-on patches for the jackets but was also seen wrapped around the space on display.

A Bathing Ape's Little Sister AAPE

AAPE brought to ComplexCon an interactive merch booth in collaboration with the psychedelic pop-artist Steven Harrington. Attendees got a chance to purchase a hoodie or shirt and have it customized with a brand's design. The sister company to A Bathing Ape and second fashion line by Nigo, the brand hopes to expand and grow its presence in the United States as its already very prominent overseas including places like China. Stopping by was the brand's hip-hop artist Pusha T, and the brand also boasts celebrity fans of the line such as JAY-Z, Kanye West, Pharrell and more. The brand plans to announce more partnerships and collaborations in the coming months.

A Touch a Femininity: Urban Decay Cosmetics

Not only catering to men, many vendors this year at ComplexCon injected girl power with Urban Decay being one of the leaders leading the pack with an interactive booth at the festival. Selling their new NAKED Cherry palette for the first time at a festival, the cosmetics company also featured two LA tattoo artists, Kristen Fancher and Emily Effler, giving NAKED-themed tattoos such as roses, lipstick, and a cherry. The bright booth with neon signs like "feels" and "turn on" provided a nice contrast and feminine flair to the festival. The brand also hosted a afterparty with DJ Smiles on the 1s and 2s.