Aaron LaCrate: Just A Kid From Highlandtown
Event Type: exhibitions
An exhibition exploring Highlandtown’s history of DJ culture, graffiti, and skateboarding through a local success story.
Highlandtown is one of Baltimore’s greatest hidden artist enclaves, home to hundreds of artists often working under the radar from the rest of the art world. In the mid-1980’s the neighborhood was at the crux of Baltimore’s graffiti, skateboard, punk, hip-hop, club, and DJ scenes. It was also home to a young kid, Aaron LaCrate, who saw the potential of combining these influences into something completely unique – staying true to the character of the neighborhood while morphing these influences into a fashion and music empire. In celebration of Highlandtown’s native son, Creative Alliance presents LaCrate’s mid-career retrospective, illuminating his evolution from basement-based entrepreneur to cohort of stars such as Jay Z, Lily Allen, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem, and producer of rising stars from Baltimore’s own music scene like DJ Equalizer and Spank Rock. LaCrate host several workshops in the exhibition space that explore his DJ style and insights on how to develop one’s own brand. The opening night’s reception is punctuated by a Hip-Hop dance party, curated by LaCrate himself and featuring some of Baltimore’s best rising talents.
"Milkcrate's got some fire. It's a lot of clothing brands out there doing they thing. Milkcrate is on the come up. So ya betta watch out kid. We creeping up on you." - Prodigy, Infamous Mobb Deep
Born and raised around the corner from the Creative Alliance, LaCrate started Highlandtown’s first skate shop in his parents’ basement at age 8. He became a widely respected DJ and producer in Baltimore, and became integral to the development of Baltimore Club music, notably producing the Lily Allen remix of “Smile,” which brought him global attention. His fashion brand and record label “Milkcrate” has since grown to a New York-based music and fashion conglomerate recognized worldwide.
Just A Kid From Highlandtown features an immersive recreation of LaCrate’s initial basement shop, complete with a participatory DJ and mix tape station. Visitors will travel through a historical photo montage documenting Highlandtown’s 1980’s skate, graffiti, and punk scene as seen through LaCrate’s eyes. The exhibit also features rare ephemera, such as vintage flyers, skate decks, grip tape, and clothing from LaCrate’s now famous brand of Milkcrate Athletics, all of which place viewers in the cultural moment of the late 1980’s.
The exhibition also highlights LaCrate’s musical career, the embrace of his efforts by the music and fashion world alike, and importantly focuses on his desire to see Baltimore embraced as a site for creative expression and skate culture through his newest brand Bodymore and continuing efforts as a producer in the music industry.
"Aaron...that's my dude. Always working, always got a new idea. We will start out with a studio session listening to his best beats and he turns it into a photo shoot that he designs into a T-shirt then he flips it back onstage at the Apollo as my DJ. From basement clubs to boardrooms, he keeps diggin in all crates to find whats next." – Rakim
ABOUT AARON LaCRATE
A native Baltimorean, Aaron LaCrate now lives and works in the New York City. His enthusiasm for Hip Hop, Punk Rock, Graffiti, and Skateboarding has placed him on the career path of culture producer extraordinaire. He started his entrepreneurship when he was just eight years old, selling t-shirts and skateboards in the basement of his house in the 1980s. He embraced the Baltimore street culture, and leveraged his street credibility to create his own clothing brand, MILKCRATE NYC, all the while making a name for himself as one of Baltimore’s best DJs.His products quickly caught the eye of well-known rappers such as Eminem, Kanye West, and Schoolboy Q, who is currently at the top of Billboard’s album charts.
Recently his Milkcrate design was chosen as one of the “50 Greatest Streetwear T-Shirts of All Time” in Complex, the New York-based fashion magazine. HBO commissioned LaCrate to design the t-shirt design for the Baltimore-based television series The Wire. Other recent collaborations include limited-edition products for New Balance, Vans, and Beats by Dre.
As a DJ, he was recognized early on by some of the greatest artists in hip pop culture such as Kanye West, Raekwon, Rakim, and Wu Tang in the Baltimore music scene. He produced a platinum record for British producer Dizzee Rascal and Damon Albarn, and has collaborated with international singers such as Lily Allen, Lana Del Rey, Jim Jones, and Madonna, as well as other hip hop singers such as Mobb Deep, and Bun B. He is a pioneer in the EDM sound with his innovative Baltimore Club Music production. Aaron’s music has been heard in many movies, HBO shows, and in commercial worldwide.
Just A Kid From Highlandtown is the first exhibition highlighting LaCrate’s comprehensive efforts across artistic disciplines.
Milkcrate Website: milkcratenyc.com
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