The Hiphop Tip

by Samuel L. Chesneau

When Earl Lancaster started Earl's Cuts & Styles barbershop in 1992, his main objective was to stay afloat and be a successful young black entrepreneur doing what he loved. Lancaster never quite figured his shop would reach the level of success that it has. With a diverse clientele in both age and genetics, his popular shop on the corner of 23rd Avenue and Union Street has drawn in sports stars like Gary Payton and rap celebrities like E-40. He's also thrown two successful hair shows, the most recent being last March at the Seattle Design Center. The popularity of the place has been well noticed by those outside of the community, as it received a write-up in this month's issue of Vibe and will be in next month's issue of GQ. Lancaster notes, "It's just a fun atmosphere where all kinds of people, black/white, young/old can come in and talk about music and sports."

Similarly passionate about his business, Thaddeus R. Valentine first opened Valentine's Barbershop in 1993 to pursue his adolescent dream. "I was working in a hair salon for two years, and while I loved doing ladies' hair, I always wanted to have a barbershop for the fellas," Valentine notes. "If I'm gonna cut hair in this square box, I might as well have the environment reflect what I'm feeling." So Valentine hooked up with Soul One of DVS for artwork, he promoted his shop (located on the corner of 80th and Greenwood) in the high schools, and the word spread about a barbershop that catered to hiphop kids. The 33-year-old has always incorporated graffiti artists, b-boys, and DJs into the mix at his shop--local stars like B-Mello, DV One, and even production wizard Jake One have come in to record live mix CDs, and more are in the works.

Both barbershops have indirectly paved the way for several new shops with a hiphop influence, including a handful in North Seattle from barbers who came up under Valentine's wing. Up on the Hill, though, there's Sal's Barbershop, run by Under the Needle's Marcus Lalario and's Brian Rauschenbach. The name of the place is a play on "Sal's Pizzeria" from the classic Spike Lee joint Do the Right Thing, and it's located at 1520 East Olive Way. As Rauschenbach is an avid collector, décor for the shop includes an original Fat Boys sweatsuit worn by Prince Markee Dee, a collection of Cazal eyeglasses worn by the likes of MC Hammer and Run-D.M.C., and several gold-certified RIAA records by LL Cool J, Rob Base, and Black Sheep. Lalario and Rauschenbach's goal is to have monthly art exhibits at Sal's as well as store appearances from various hiphop artists that Under the Needle brings to town. They also intend on helping further build the hiphop community by having local and national rap music listening stations. Sal's grand-opening party on Saturday, April 24, from 7 to 10 pm, includes artwork from Iosefatu Sua, a former graffiti artist/current graphic designer, as well as a 40s tasting contest, chicken from Ezell's, and music from DJ DV One.

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