When I first saw Tyshawn Jones he was probably 12 years old, already frontside boardsliding handrails and snaking people like he owned the skatepark. In my head I thought, “What a little shit,” but I couldn’t deny that his skating locked my attention on him.
Fast forward a few years and Supreme announces their first full-length video, “cherry”, which would prominently feature a slightly-more pubescent Tyshawn. Obviously, TJ blew past my expectations with clips that are still relevant four years later, which is really an eternity in modern-skateboard-years. He hasn’t slowed a bit since then, and at 19, he’s well aware he’s already one of skateboarding’s biggest stars.
A conversation with him feels like a lot of push coming to shove, but at the end, it was clear he’s just relieved to leave his rough beginning behind and continue toward his definition of success.
I remember seeing you around when you were a little kid. You were super small. Were you ever bullied?
Hell no! Niggas knew what was up with me. Ain’t nobody ever bully me. I like to fight. I can’t fight no more cause I got a name but… I wasn’t a bully, but I used to tell people to do things for me and they just liked me or respected me so much they would do it. It was cool [laughs].
What kind of shit would you have them do?
Like my homework and shit [laughs]. It was nothing crazy. I’d just ask someone and they’d be like, “I gotchu.”
How far did you get in school?
I’m still in school. I could finish my GED tomorrow if I want, I just have to do my work. Wait, hold up, hold up, my father calling me and he in jail. Hold, hold.
*…Tyshawn puts me on hold…*
Hello? Nevermind, that wasn’t my father. That was the dealership, they need to give me a loaner.
What kind of car do you have?
I got a Benz, but fuck that car, I’m tryna get a house and some other stuff. I like cars, but I don’t show it. I’m not that type of person. If I get something I get it for myself. I never show my car on Instagram or even show the steering wheel. Even if I had a Lambo I wouldn’t post it. I don’t like to brag because people can be envious or jealous, and I never was the type to want to show what I got. I don’t know people’s intentions.
You ever race? I’m sure it’s fast.
That shit goes fast as fuck! [laughs] I never raced it before though. I got three tickets already, I’m on my best behavior ‘cause I don’t wanna lose my license. But when you got these kinds of cars and you’re a young man like me, they come for you [laughs]. I only have one speeding ticket. The other ones, they pulled me over for some dumb shit.
One of them, they said they stopped me because I made an illegal turn, but I know it wasn’t. I think he just pulled me over because I looked too young, I swear to god. They be hating. It is what it is. I’mma beat my cases. I ain’t pleading guilty. We don’t plead guilty. If I lose I lose, but I ain’t pleading guilty.
I just keep rescheduling my tickets, and when you reschedule it they do it for like 7 or 8 months later. What’s the likelihood of the cop showing up at that point? He’s just gonna be like, what the fuck? I don’t care anymore. If I lose my license I’mma be pissed but if I get found guilty I’m gonna go to LA and get my license there. I’ll be able to drive anywhere else besides NY.
Was skating always your thing or did you try other sports growing up?
I used to play basketball in school a lot. I could make threes and shit. My teachers always used to tell me to be on the team, but fuck that [laughs]. Basketball ain’t even that hard. I’m not saying it’s easy to be a pro basketball player, but the way I see it, if you give a random person a basketball and say throw this in that hoop and give them 100 tries, they’re gonna do it. If you tell someone to do a kickflip and give them 1,000 tries, they’re probably not gonna do it.
Once I got as good as I could get at [basketball], there was no real progression from there. If I go to the skatepark, I can always learn something new. There’s endless possibilities in skating. You can’t learn everything, It’s impossible. I never really liked any sports because I felt once I peaked, what was I gonna do? Just keep shooting, keep crossing people, keep making touchdowns… Skateboarding seemed like the hardest challenge, and I like challenges.
Was growing up in The Bronx a challenge because of finances or was it just a rough neighborhood?
I mean I wasn’t broke as fuck, but I wasn’t rich. I’m from a family of hustlers so sometimes there’d be a lot of money, and sometimes shit slow up. When you’re hustling, that’s just how it is. When I moved back to New York [from Jersey] shit was hard. The hustle started to dry up, cause hustles don’t last forever.
So what did your parents do?
I just told you! They’re hustlers! None of my family ever had a job.
I guess I’m wondering what that means…
Just bad things… We don’t need the details, you know. Shit you go to jail for.
Are you the first major pro skateboarder from The Bronx?
I don’t know [laughs]. Maybe… I ain’t gonna claim that cause I don’t want anyone to come for me talkin’ bout “Who the fuck you think you are?” But if I am, I am.
What’s up with your dogs? You’re breeding them now?
I’m about to breed ‘em. Puppies coming soon. I got English Bulldogs, Tricolors tho. I seen them on TV, and Rob Dyrdek had one and I was like “I want that dog!” I had one from when I was 10 to like 16. He passed away almost two years ago now. Then I was like, “I’mma buy another one,” then I was like, “Fuck this, I’m buying a girl too!” That way, if I pay for a girl too, and I sell one of their puppies, I get my money back.
How much would a Tyshawn Jones bulldog cost?
Minimum $4,000 or $5,000.
Damn! Is that an average price for that breed?
Hell yeah! They’re expensive as hell. Bulldogs are some of the most expensive dogs in the world.
What was the skate video for you growing up?
I never really watched full videos, I would just watch individual parts on YouTube. I started skating in 2010, so when I watched videos I’d just see parts. I used to go home from school and watch Andrew Reynolds’ Baker 3 part. I would just rewind his frontside flip over the Hollywood 16 rail over and over and over. Brian Herman, Antwuan Dixon… I’ve never even seen [Baker 3] all the way through, I’d just watch the parts.
You used to skate for Toy Machine and Emerica. Do you think if they would’ve been down to turn you AM, you would’ve stuck with them?
Yeah, for sure. I was the last one to get FA. I didn’t wanna get on. I really liked Nick Trapasso back in the day, so I got on because I wanted to skate with him. I was really into [Toy and Emerica] and I would watch them in videos, and when I filmed “buddy” with Bill I was already on Toy at that point, and I had on Emericas, but I wasn’t even on Emerica. I would just tell people I was.
Dill would tell me Vans wanted to [hook me up], but I was like, “I don’t wanna ride for Vans, I wanna ride for Emerica.” He used to yell at me like, “Emerica doesn’t fucking want you! They would’ve sponsored you already! Just take the box!” and I’d be like “Nah, I wanna ride for Emerica.” I’d take the box, but never wear ’em. I’d just give them to my friends. I would buy Emericas with my own money cause I wanted to skate with Brian Herman and those guys. I never wore any other shoes.
I used to go to Zumiez when I was a kid’s size, and they’d have the kid’s sizes out on the floor. They’d rip super fast so I would skate them and then I’d put my old shoes in the shoebox on the floor and take the new ones because I didn’t have money. I had to do what I had to do.
So now that you’re a little older, do you regret anything you did as a little kid?
Nope. I did it. I don’t regret nothing I ever did.
Did you grow up going to Tompkins? I see you still skate there sometimes, how do you feel about that place?
I actually never skate Tompkins. I hate that place. Bill is always like, “Yo, meet me at Tompkins.” And I’m just like, “Nah fuck that!” [laughs] I mean it’s cool, but I like to be productive and I feel like people go there and don’t do shit. There’s just kids taking drugs on the bench and drinking. I don’t wanna be in that shit. I wanna go skate and do something actually fun. I don’t wanna go there and skate flat. I can skate flat while I’m riding down the street, you feel me? If I do go there it’s fine, I’ll skate, but I’d never go there on my own. I don’t wake up and be like “Yeah, I’m gonna go skate Tompkins today!” I feel like there’s people that do that [laughs]. I mean, it’s nothing there… It’s just flat…
“If you give a random person a basketball and say throw this in that hoop and give them 100 tries, they’re gonna do it. If you tell someone to do a kickflip and give them 1,000 tries, they’re probably not gonna do it.”
You did hang out a lot downtown as a kid though considering you are from the Bronx…
I always knew that if I wanted to keep getting better, I’d have to move on from The Bronx. When The Bronx skate park opened [by Yankee Stadium], those dudes [from the park] all had cars and shit, so they’d drive me there. Then I met kids that started taking me on the train to skate spots, so I learned how to use the subway through them. Then TriBeCa park opened and they’d take me down there and we’d meet kids who lived in the city and shit. I was going to their apartments and seeing stuff.
I’d go to these kid’s houses who had money and shit and I’d be like, “Damn, I wanna be here. I don’t wanna be uptown anymore.” It just motivated me. I started going to TriBeCa every day. It was like an hour and 20-minute commute. I would go from school, throw my bag down, and head out. And I lived in a two-fare zone, so you can’t just hop on the train. You gotta take the bus, then the train.
I used to have grown people call my mom for me too. She’d call me up and be like, “When you coming home?” And my older friends would be like, “Tyshawn is ok, trust me, it’ll pay off one day.” And she’d be like, “I don’t wanna hear that shit! He needs to go to school!” Sometimes I’d be like, “Fuck it, I’m not going home.” I would just stay out with my older friends who are like in their 20s and I’m 13 hanging out. Sometimes I’d get home so late that I wouldn’t wake up for school the next morning.
Was there anything else specifically that made you think, “This is the kind of life I want”?
It was just really seeing people with money and not living rowdy. I knew I didn’t wanna hang in the hood or gangbang. I knew there was no point to that life. I still see the same kids I went to school with doing nothing, and they see me on the street sometimes and be like, “Yeah, TJ! Keep doing your thing! You really stuck with that skateboard shit! We proud of you!”
I always wanted nice houses or nice cars, so I’d go downtown and actually see that, and I knew what it’d take to get it. I wanted to stay down there and fake it ‘til I made it. Not even fake it, but just surround myself with these people and learn from them and see how they did it and hear their stories. I knew there was nothing uptown for me.
My mom would give me like $10 a day, but when you’re going to school, by 9AM that shit is gone. By the time I got downtown, I ain’t had no money left! I used to ask my friends like, “Can I get a dollar? Can I get a dollar?” [Laughs]
“I knew I didn’t wanna hang in the hood or gangbang. I knew there was no point to that life.”
You don’t drink or smoke, right? Does that mean you never have, or you used to but don’t now?
I never have. That shit corny. I’m just not a follower. When you see me, you see people following my lead. I’m not walking behind nobody doing what they doing. People wanna follow me because they can tell I’m doing something positive. It’s not even on some shit where I’m like, “I’m the boss!” People just fuck with me because they know I wouldn’t lead people in the wrong direction.
So nobody ever peer pressures you to try shit?
Hell no! They’re usually like, “I wish I could be like that, I’m proud of you.” That’s all you can do, respect the decision. You ain’t gotta like it, but you’re gonna respect it.
Do you get annoyed when people try to copy your style of skating or dressing?
Nah, I don’t care, sometimes it’s funny. I’ll see kids at LES Skatepark that try to look like me and it’s obvious, but then they don’t even say wassup to me. And I hear kids be like, “Well I don’t wanna be a dick sucker” or whatever. But if I were to see Brian Herman back in the day, I’d pay homage.
It’s all about how you do it. If you’re like crazy with it and are like, “Oh my god, I fuckin’ love you! You’re the best!” then it’s like, okay… you’re doin’ a little bit too much, but if I see someone I like, I’d just be like, “Yo what up, man? I fuck with you,” and keep pushing. You ain’t gotta do nothing extra, you ain’t gotta do the most, you ain’t gotta say much. That would be weird to me if I were trying to be like Jay-Z or something, and then I see Jay-Z and I don’t say nothing to him and act like I don’t know who he is. I see a lot of New Yorkers do that in general. I guess New York is a weird city with that.
You think people find you scary to approach?
Maybe they’re intimidated, but if you come up to me and say something, I’m not gonna be like, “Yo get the fuck out my face!” I’ll be like, “What’s up? How you doin? [laughs] You good?” You gotta be nice to people. Kids don’t forget shit. I would never wanna be an asshole to someone. You never know who’s next. There were people who were mean to me growin’ up and now they’re nice to me, like “Yo TJ!” but in my head I’m like, “Fuck you!” Even if they’re not next, you can just break their spirit.
As a rider for Supreme do you ever get hot Supreme groupies that try to bang?
I mean, I get hoes but… [laughs] Girls who are groupies or know who you are, they usually don’t want you to know that they know. Even if they do try and come up and talk to you, they’ll never be like, “Oh my god! I love you!” But sometimes you can catch them in lies.
The other day I met some girl for the first time, and later that day she mentioned that I had such cute dogs, and I was like, “How the fuck you know what my dogs look like?” [Laughs] Obviously the whole time she knew who I was, but she was frontin’. These girls are crazy.
So would you say you have hoes in different area codes?
Yeah, I know a lot of girls… I’ll say that [laughs]. I ain’t tryna burn no bridges, but I know a lot of girls. Everywhere I go. Everywhere.
What are some of the weirdest DMs you’ve gotten from thirsty chicks?
This one girl said, “I know your thing is hairy, but I’ll still suck it every day after you skate.”
“This one girl said, ‘I know your thing is hairy, but I’ll still suck it every day after you skate.'”
How do you feel about Supreme hypebeasts?
Shit, I don’t give a fuck. Pay my bills [laughs]. Keep it coming, I’d take a raise. You’ll never see me go that crazy for clothes, but shit, if y’all like it that much, you do what you gotta do.
Who pays you more, adidas or Supreme?
If someone who’s reading this is smart, they know who pays more. Look at the kind of companies we’re talking about. It’s obvious. We know.
How much footage do you think you’re sitting on for those companies?
I got mad clips in the vault [laughs]. I’m putting in work. 2018 I’m taking over this shit. Then I’m retiring. Then I’mma rap.
I seen you been rocking du-rags lately. Who’s got the best du-rag game?
I’m the only one who do it. Who else you talking about? Sage? Who you think inspired him? He know… He know…
A while back Sage said he had the most pop in skating. You think you got him beat?
Hell yeah! He’s washed up. He don’t even skate no more. He don’t want it with me. He know better.
Nah, he skates, but he don’t skate like me. I be seeing Sage in the streets in the summertime shopping with like some running shoes on [laughs]. I’m just like, “Yo, what are you doing?!” You can catch me at the skate park or in the streets almost all the time.
“All those kids talking shit, you gotta pay to hate!”
Do you keep up with how shitty the world is getting? Like Net Neutrality and shit?
What the hell is that? Is that that shit where you gotta pay extra to be on the Internet?
Kinda, like Instagram or Porn could cost more money…
They’re tryna make money so it is what it is. My whole thing is, I can’t get mad at something I can’t control. They’re gonna complain about it, but they’re gonna pay for it, so why are you complaining? You’ll pay anyway.
Wait so is it 100% happening?
There are still some processes to go through, but probably.
How much is it gonna cost, like $20 a month? [Laughs] Fuck it. No more broke boys on the Internet. All those kids talking shit, you gotta pay to hate! All these random ass kids who be commenting dumb shit… can’t do that no more if you ain’t got a job [laughs]. Or mommy and daddy are paying.
What about all the other issues in the world?
What, like politics and North Korea bombing us and shit? I really don’t give a shit, to be honest. I see it and just shake my head and accept it’s the world we live in. Can’t do nothing about it. I ain’t the president. You just gotta sit back and watch. But if I could change shit, I would. I can’t stop North Korea from bombing America, I can’t stop Trump from being a dumbass, so what the hell? Just gotta hope he don’t make it to 8 years.
Yeah, hopefully the world doesn’t blow up. Would you be in the Olympics if we make it there?
You don’t think it’d be corny and lame?
No? What would be corny and lame about it?
A lot of people hate the idea of it, making skating a full blown sport.
There’s a lot of people who hate on everything. You can’t care about what people say. People hating ain’t doing shit. Who wouldn’t want to be an Olympic gold medalist? You get to say you won the Olympics. The person hating ain’t ever gonna get to say that cause they’re sitting there hating.