OTHER: Terry Kennedy
Featured in Freestyle Volume 08 2009. Story by Cristian Diaz. Photography by Jorge Peniche.
Animations in Earth’s arcade sometimes just work. Bread and butter, Samuel L. Jackson and F-U-C-K, Pamela Anderson and Kleenex… they’re effortless credits of what makes us spin with content and continue to drop endless currency. But every now and then you get the opposite side of the coin that always becomes stubbornly jammed in the slot. A nickel of a White rapper, a dime of an Asian porn-star, or even as in this case, a pretty penny of a Black pro-skater. Terry Kennedy’s life is very much just a video game… literally.
I press start in L.A.’s Chinatown and select my character for the day..
We’re told Terry Kennedy, or TK as he’s more popularly known, had already been going at it for a few minutes by the time we arrived. I blame the driver; the driver blames the Mexican Garmin voice-over. Slightly annoyed but bathed in L.A.’s finest weather, I can’t help but sense something eerie with each stride through today’s location, Chinatown Ledges. Its drudge surroundings of receding brickwork and playground line markings recall my imprisonment days of high school. This is LA, right? Not Fairfield! Right? The photographer for the day, Jorge, courteously ignores my anxious banter as he clutches for the over-engineered Nikon he makes a living from. As if perceiving the grand entrance, he stops, does the Crouching Tiger and initiates the maximum shutter speed for a fly-by TK special.
Attempt after attempt, after annoying attempt, it’s only now that I begin to comprehend the blood, bones and scar tissue skaters sacrifice for their dexterity on the ply-wood. It’s actually kind of hard to believe how this leggy 6-foot-something action figure keeps raising the bar of insanity, no matter what the body-part cost. With every healing scab as reference to his “Hustle or Die” attitude there seems no staircase too steep or rail too long.
“Come on, TK”, urge the pre-pubescent vocals that witness open-jawed. The sight of a young and eager horde within the backdrop is something he’s been getting used to since turning pro in 2003. That and various other negligible things that include a mouth full of Ben Baller ice, a signature shoe series and an Avalanche on 26s.
Fuelled by an inability to stop moving, TK relentlessly charges the coarse concrete until he finally lands a move I can’t even complete on a PS3. “So what trick can’t you pull off in real life?” I openly interrogate with a sly smirk on my face “A few ha-ha; Switch 360 flip crook fakie heel out – Well actually I just landed that last night!” Referring to his virtual version on the Skate video game, where amongst other legendary skaters like Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen and Kareem Campbell, TK has become digitally immortalised into every kid’s living room. “It’s dope. The game is one of the biggest highs of my career at this point and I feel like I will always cherish that.”
The humble factor is not what I was expecting from this outspoken Long Beach native. As my days of prior research had me watching an A.D.H.D. “Compton Ass Terry” character on MTV’s Viva La Bam, charging semi-naked and running an uncontrollable motor mouth. “Yeah, I might have A.D.D. or something but that’s what keeps me getting involved in new things. I like working on a lot of different projects and being a part of something bigger all the time.” TK refreshingly flips around. It’s an almost compulsive multitasking ability that’s taken him from pro-skater, to rapper, to up-and-coming movie star. But if multitasking is the compulsion then reversing situations and producing positive reinforcement is definitely his “speciality move”. This being most evident when in 2005 he was shot twice, once in the forearm and once in the jaw, after leaving a party in Long Beach. A seemingly unprovoked attack that still remains unsolved to this day. I bashfully ask, “So what the fuck happened at the party?” The careless shove of that special edition Baker board mimics the careless reply: “I was at a party and I got shot in the jaw. Shit happens. That sounds real tough, huh?” We stare for a good 3 seconds then concurrently chuckle in tempo to the 50cent- ish episode which could have ended in such worse circumstances. “Yeah, but has it affected you or your skating in any way?” I awkwardly spit. “Man, if anything I have more support from the people around me. Inner-city kids see that kind of shit all the time so if anything I have shown them that they can get away from it and rise above all of that stuff. It’s definitely allowed me to focus more on everything especially skating, to see what’s important, to put everything in front of me and take nothing for granted,” he explains.
The general consensus of haters is something TK learned early on in his life. As a 14-year-old black kid rocking Vans and grinding past gang-bangers was not such a common occurrence where he grew up. “As a kid I always wanted to be a professional football or basketball player but skating was there and it has always kept me out of trouble. I grew up skating with Evan Hernandez; we’d go down to Cherry Park and skate all day, which was dope. But I’d also get a lot of slack because people thought I was being more like a white kid. People looked at me like I was the weird black kid that skated.”
One man didn’t think it was weird at all - that man being music producer and urban entrepreneur extraordinaire Pharrell Williams. The visionary made a move for TK after noticing the raw talent on Bam Margera’s MTV show, where he immediately signed him up to be the captain of the Ice Cream skate team. A move that cemented TK’s presence on the skate scene and could have also been what initiated the curiosity with another form of expression, rapping. Derived from an area code that procreated the likes of Snoop Dogg, (whose video “Drop it like it’s hot” he had a cameo in), it was only a matter of time before TK became bitten with the rap bug and started spreading the lyrical virus with his crew Fly Society. I ask if there were any plans to collaborate melodiously with Pharrell? “Not yet, but we plan on working with him in the future. He reached out to me about it but we (Fly Society) agreed it would be best for us to get our feet wet on our own and show our talent before getting involved with him on a track. I’m still new in music and I need to progress before working with him. It’s all about progression – kinda like how you have to learn how to Ollie before you can kick flip.”
Now an ambassador of companies that include Baker Skateboards, Supra Footwear and KR3W, TK’s publicity is rising higher than the ollies he continually lands just inches from Jorge’s lens. The notoriety is definitely a plus and he’s stirred as ever about producing what he calls “sober mind power” for everyone around him, especially his fans.“I want to be remembered as someone who always fought for what he believed in, continued to keep his faith throughout hardships and always did whatever he could to give back as much as possible.” A testament his family appreciatingly vouches for, along with the local church minister.
I guess when getting to know the damp TK that drips of skate nirvana it seems almost annoying to perceive the gangster typecast he gets labeled. I mean I’ve interviewed enough criminals and A-grade dropkicks to recognise certain traits and qualities that TK hardly possess, but then again… if you are incredibly loud and passionate, covered in tatts and grew up around gang bangers in Long Beach I can kind of understand how the subliminal stereotyping could take over. So before Jorge packs the gear and marches towards the nacho-mobile, before I do this weird “I don’t know to shake a cool black guy’s hand goodbye” move then pretend I meant it styles, and before TK hurls the bread-winning ankles into a motorised form of transport, I double-tap my control pad of questions for this character’s final grind. “The biggest misconception about me? It’s that I am a thug when I actually try to go to church every Sunday. People are a product of their environment and I can’t help where I was raised. Some people forget about where I came from and what I had to do to get to where I am now. Like I didn’t work hard to get a video game character or a pro shoe.” Game over.
To find out more about Terry Kennedy visit www.sk8site.com
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