Business Spotlight – The Armory
By: Tiffany Janay
Cros1 is the one to thank for bringing such artists to San Diego like Snoop Dogg, Hieroglyphics, Zion I and The Grouch, and for creating a culture through his clothing line The Armory. Fresh off of DJing a tour with the Black Eyed Peas, Cros1 is back and doing his part to get San Diego the nationwide recognition it deserves. How did someone go from being a San Diego native to spreading their creativity all over the world and designing t-shirts for the Jabbawockeez?
In 1988-89, he started doing graffiti with different crews as a form of artistic expression, but when tag banging came out (taggers that gang bang), he stopped.Â From there, he started breaking. â€œI donâ€™t think there was one boy or girl in the mid 80s that didnâ€™t try breaking.â€ The culture was everywhere, including the Olympics and in the media.
In 1996, for 6 months, he moved to Japan by himself for a much needed break and a fresh perspective.Â Over there, he learned how to take his street hustle and become a legit businessman.Â He was hanging out with people who were doing major distribution and owned stores, and that inspired him to do more.
After returning back to SD in 1997, he threw an event that snowballed into something bigger; something that lots of people wanted to be apart of.Â It was a break dancing freestyle session that he still hosts today. â€œAs much as I didnâ€™t think that throwing a party was a business, it eventually got to that point.â€ Those parties have taken him on a journey of throwing them in over 20 countries around the world.
In 2007, he took over The Armory from its previous owners and made an investment that allowed him to transform the boutique record store into a Hip Hop shop. Around that time, he did his first club at the Martini Ranch called Bus Stop.Â He followed the same recipe from his past events.
Currently, every 1st Wednesday at El Dorado, in conjunction with Charlie Rock from Rock Steady, you can still party to pure Hip Hop. To him, Hip Hop is all about a feeling, and as long as the music conveys that message, then itâ€™s all good. â€œIf it makes you drop all your worries and puts you in a zone where youâ€™re having fun, then thatâ€™s Hip Hop.â€
The Armory has become part of our cityâ€™s culture, what does it represent for you? For me, when you see our designs, it represents SD, Hip Hop and our state of mind.Â When I say SD, I mean weâ€™ve done shirts that say â€œSD Thing,â€ designs with the Coronado Bridge, and designs with other hints of San Diego; and of course, they always have a hint of Hip Hop.
What does The Armory mean? Itâ€™s a play on words because the armory is where you store your weapons. You have to come to The Armory and get your gear. For instance, if you get a DVD from us, youâ€™re getting knowledge, so itâ€™s preparing you to go out and do your thing.
What are some of the major progressions youâ€™ve seen within the culture over the years? Back in the day, when I was starting, there wasnâ€™t so much separation. There are so many categories now.Â Back then with Hip Hop, there was only one or two spots you could go to, but now Hip Hop is so broad that there are numerous options with different stores, clubs and different things to do.Â And thatâ€™s just with Hip Hop, so imagine that with House, Reggae, Dancehallâ€¦Thereâ€™s so much of everything and so much to do out here. Overall, Iâ€™d say the culture of it is bigger, but at the same time, itâ€™s smaller because everything is getting divided up.Â Back in the day, you might have had 200 people going to one spot, but now thereâ€™s like 400 people going to 10 different spots. Itâ€™s kind of been watered down a little bit, but when thereâ€™s good stuff, then everyone flocks to that. So I guess you just gotta do the good shit!
What has kept you here? Itâ€™s my roots.Â All my family is here. Sometimes I get bored and thatâ€™s when Iâ€™ll go on tour or travel, and thatâ€™s what makes me love this city even more, because I see how it is everywhere else. Our weather is hands down some of the best in the world.Â The grass is always greener on the other side, so youâ€™re always thinking â€˜Oh, itâ€™s better over there,â€™ but in actuality, we have it pretty decent.
Whatâ€™s your favorite thing about SD? Mexican food! And the people and weather.
What do you think about the way the cannabis culture has changed over the years? The good part is all the bad things that everybody used to think about weed. All those barriers are getting broken down.Â But on the flip, now all of a sudden itâ€™s legal?! What about all those people that are doing time in the pen for selling weed? So now that itâ€™s legal, do they get pardons?Â Itâ€™s kind of wack.
As an entrepreneur, what advice do you have for people who want to move past their 9-5 type of lifestyle and into a more independent way of life? I see people who go way over their means. I see people trying to do shows at the 4th & B and theyâ€™ve never even done a show before.Â Be more aware of what other things are going on. Start small. Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with starting small, thatâ€™s key. If you do a show at a spot like The Kava Lounge, pack it out and have to turn people away, then thatâ€™s a good thing.Â People will know they have to get there earlier next time.Â Donâ€™t put yourself at risk.Â Donâ€™t do a $50,000 show when youâ€™re making $25,000 a year because you may put yourself in bankruptcy.
â€“â€œIâ€™ve been doing this for so long that I feel like I have a responsibility to bring good shit out here.â€
If youâ€™re looking to find out more about The Armory, check out their website at www.ArmoryHipHop.com