Since I obsessively search the internet for all things skateboarding, a recent trip to cyberspace led me to a unseen rough cut of a 2009 documentary by Eli Morgan Gesner, co-creator of Shut/Zoo York. One click later and I was sucked into a story – narrated by Rosario Dawson – that illuminated a part of skate culture that was always in the air, but never properly documented.
The documentary, titled “Concrete Jungle,” explores the connection between skateboarding and hip-hop cultures, and shows a world of style, fashion, edge, and spirit that once was prevalent in both cultures before they broke out, together, into the mainstream and all the money, fame, and dilution that comes with it.
Having never heard a single thing about the film, I quickly texted Gesner who was surprised to hear that it had leaked onto YouTube after being shelved away for so many years.
Gesner, being an insider in both the skate and rap culture of New York City, had initially been approached around 2007 to make the documentary, but after over a year of shooting and editing, the production company that commissioned it folded and Gesner walked away from the unfinished project and never looked back.
Seven years later and a rough cut somehow silently resurfaces on YouTube.
The documentary interviews several skate and rap icons: Tommy Guerrero, Natas Kaupas, Chad Muska, Tony Hawk, Andy Howell, Paul Rodriguez, Stevie Williams, Terry Kennedy, Curren$y, Jim Jones, and even Skateboard P, along with many more, but the chronology abruptly stops in 2008 when the film was scrapped. It’s obvious that the past seven years in skating have ushered in decades worth of change, but this documentary is still a valuable testament to what brought us to where we are now.
To me, the most salient point about “Concrete Jungle” is the statement that, at one point, being into hip-hop and skating was the punkest thing you could do. I mean fuck, no white kid ever had his house shot up because he skated, despite how much heat skaters may have gotten in the past.
The trailblazers that Gesner chronicles were playing with an entirely different deck and dealing out a new game. Thankfully, we’re able to watch it and learn from it, instead of it lying unwatched on some dusty DVD, all thanks to some gracious random Youtuber [@Skaten DeStroy] who uploaded the lost documentary in its entirety to YouTube.