Tyshawn Jones Interview
Backside Noseblunt Photo: Mehring
There’s long been a misconception that the only way to make a name for yourself in skateboarding is to make the pilgrimage to California, set up shop and get noticed by the powers that be. Tyshawn Jones is a shining example that skating has no such blueprints. Hailing from The Bronx, NY, Tyshawn has caught the attention of the entire skate world by following one simple step: being himself. His undeniable talent and unwavering positivity have drawn people to him, allowing him to navigate these waters on his own terms. Tyshawn’s longtime friend William Strobeck sat down with him recently and got the tale of how a nine-stair 360 flip filmed on an iPhone changed his life forever.
Frontside Heelflip Photo: Mehring
So, Tyshawn, you’ve been announcing a mix tape. Is that really happening? Is that for fun or are you really gonna end up being a rapper down the line?
It’s for fun. Me, Nak and Kevin got our mix tapes on the way. My shit is called Life of a Young Nigga, Volume 7. Yeah, this is for real. I’m about to do it. But it’s just for fun, you know? I’m not, like, really a rapper. I’m not Jereme Rogers or anything. I’m not going to quit skating and become a rapper.
So how did you link up with Supreme? What’s the real story? I’ve heard so many different ones.
I met Tyshawn Lyons from Supreme. One day I was just skating around downtown and I was in Battery Park City and I tré flipped this nine stair. I was, like, 12 or 13 or something. But back then we didn’t have a filmer, so we filmed it on an iPhone. That was maybe three or four years ago or some shit. So we just continued skating downtown. The day went on and we went to another spot. It was already nighttime and then all of the Quartersnacks dudes showed up. One of them was Ty and he was, like, “Hey, what up. Y’all were skating today? Y’all got any clips?” and my friend showed him the clip. Ty was psyched on it and he was, like, “Dude, that was sick. If you ever need a board come to the shop.” And I was, like, “Okay,” So then I just started skating off. He skated back over to me and said “You know what shop I’m talking about, right?” And I said, “Uh, Supreme?” I just guessed and he was, like, “Yeah,” and I just never went by
Did you know where it was at the time?
No, I didn’t know anything about Supreme. I didn’t even know what it was. I just kind of knew he worked there. It was just a lucky guess because he was wearing Supreme. So I never went and then one day my friend Salem was, like, “I need bushings. Come meet at Supreme.” So we met there and CJ met us, too, and then Ty was there and he said “Why didn’t you ever come by?” And I was, like, “I don’t know. I just didn’t want to ask you for anything,” and he said, “Nah, nah, you have to start coming by. We want to mess with you. We want to get you on.” And he was, like, “Don’t let it get to your head, but we do.” I said, “Okay, cool.” Then he was, like, “You need a board?” And I was like, “Nah,” because I had just recently bought one, so I said, “No, I don’t need a board but my uncle does,” who was CJ. So he gave CJ a Zoo York and said “Make sure you start coming by here,” so I just started to come by.
Switch Back Tail Photo: Sherbet
And they just gave you shit from there.
So your uncle is the same age as you ‘cause your grandmother and your mother had you guys at the same time. They were in the hospital together or no?
No. He was born a month before me, but yeah they were pregnant at the same time. So I’m not talking about my grown-man uncle. I’m talking about a 16 year old like me.
Tell me the story of getting on FA, how did that come about?
Sage was the first one on, Kevin got on second and then it was Nak. I was still on Toy Machine at the time, but I didn’t want to quit Toy Machine because I didn’t want to seem like I was being a follower. That was another thing I never like to be is a follower. Because everybody was, like, “Are you gonna do it? Are you gonna do it?” And I was, like, maybe. It would be sick for me to be the only one not to be on FA. So I thought that in my head, like, it would be cool if I wasn’t the only one who went and did that.
Switch Big Flip Photo: Mehring
Yeah, you were kind of on the outside.
Yeah, I wasn’t going to do it at first. A couple months went by, Dill would call me, Nak would always ask me or text me, you’d call…
Yeah, I’d be, like, “Yo, when are you doing this?”
Every day would be, “When are you getting on FA? When are you getting on FA?” And I was just, like, I didn’t really want to ride for FA in my head, but I didn’t want to say it because I didn’t want to lose that opportunity ‘cause I didn’t know if Toy Machine would put me on. I didn’t want to say no to that because they were, like, “You could be on. Like, it’s no flow.” And I was flow for Toy Machine and I was, like, I don’t want to tell these dudes no ‘cause these are my friends and stuff and I don’t want them to be bummed, like, “Oh, Tyshawn doesn’t want to be with us.” But then Dill called me one day and he was, like, “Tyshawn,” he was yelling at me. He was, like, “What are you gonna do? We’re tired of fuckin’ asking you. Are you getting on FA or not? This is your last chance. You’ve got to respond now!” So I was, like, “Man, I’ll call you back,” then he was, like, “Alright, fuckin’ call me back.” And I called Mike Sinclair and I was, like, “Yo, man, they want me on. Am I ever gonna get on Toy Machine or what?” And he’s, like, “Man, Ty, not right now. You should just go do your thing over there with all your friends,” and then I was, like, “Alright, thanks for everything. You guys gave me boards and you were the first board company to sponsor me,” so I was still appreciative. I wasn’t mad, like, “Oh, you’re not gonna put me on? Then fuck you.” I was, like, “Thank you. I still appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” and Mike’s still my friend. Then I called Dill back and he thought I was gonna be, like, “Nah.” So he answered and he was, like, “Tyshawn, what the fuck? I don’t got time for this. I don’t want to deal with the bullshit. Are you getting on or not?” And I was just, like, “Yo, I just called and quit,” and he was, like, “Oh my God. I love you.” He was, like, “Sick. It’s over.” He was just happy as fuck.
Back Lip Photo: Sherbert
And you’re psyched.
Yeah, I’m glad I did it.
Do you remember your first board? The exact first board you had and where you got it?
It was a Kryptonics board and I got it from Target. Me, CJ and my brother, we all got boards and we started skating the same exact day.
That’s sick. Were you feeling it in the first month or whatever? Were you advanced out the gate or were you all just kind of the same, basically?
No, they knew how to push before me. But the way I started skating was funny. Me and my brother were at his grandmother’s house, not my grandmother ‘cause we’ve got different fathers. We were in our cousins’ room and they had a bunch of video games and we were, like, “Let’s steal some.” We took a bunch of video games and hid them in our pants. One of the games was EA Skate and we played it. But we never went outside. We were, like, house kids and we just was playing Skate. And then we started learning tricks, knowing what tricks was, like, tré flips and stuff. And then one day my mom was, like, “Why you guys always stay in the house? Go outside. Go do something,” And it was me, CJ and my brother and we were, like, “Alright.” And she gave us money and we walked three miles to Target, bought Kryptonics boards, ripped them out the box and then skated back home. But I couldn’t push. They already kind of knew how to push. I was just kind of in the back. But yeah, that’s kind of how it started, man. But I wasn’t taking it serious at first. I was just doing it because they were doing it. I just wanted to be a lot of things. I kind of wanted to be a wrestler when I was a kid because I used to love wrestling. But yeah, I had to pick one. I knew I couldn’t be both so I had to drop one.
That’s the shit. So you’re from the Bronx. It’s literally a different place up there. It’s so close to lower Manhattan. Did kids in your school make fun of you for skating?
I didn’t move back to the city till sixth grade. I moved back from Jersey to the city and I was skating— everybody would see me skate but they didn’t care. They just thought it was a little hobby. So people see me now and they’re, like, “You still do that skateboard shit?” Like, “Damn, TJ, you gonna make it one day,” but they don’t know that I am, like, a real skater and have sponsors and stuff. They think I just do it for fun. It is for fun but now it’s a job.
Nollie Crook Photo:Taketomo
You don’t drink or smoke cigarettes or weed or anything. Why? Is there a reason?
You’ve just gotta know what you want in life and you gotta go for it. A lot of people need drugs or need weed, need drinks to feel like they’re cool or that they can be down or just to fit in or that makes them happy. That don’t make me happy. I’ve got people to take care of. I’ve got a family. I mean, I don’t got kids or nothing like that, but I want a house one day and I want to be able to be financially straight and all that and do whatever I want to do. I don’t need a drink or weed to feel happy. Just being me makes me happy. I’ve never needed that kind of stuff.
I’ve never asked you this, but at the end of Cherry when you ran up the stairs, why did you take your shirt off? Was it that you knew that was the end of filming for you?
Shit, I don’t even know. I pushed up for, like, 100 tries maybe ‘cause there’s a big ass crack in front of it so it was scary and it goes straight into a gate. It’s sketchy. It’s right next to a wall. It’s a brick floor. The first try I did the Nyjah and missed my pop and just ran down the rail. I jumped on the rail with two feet and then landed on the stairs on my back and then I got up and was, like, “Wow, I’m fine.” I’ve got to try it now. I got up, rolled up again for maybe another 50 tries. Then I just did it and I was just happy. You told me to do it for a long time. You were, like, “Dude, a lot of people will be psyched. This is a historic New York spot. A lot of people have wanted to do this and tried to step to it but couldn’t do it.” So I was happy.
What was the last album or song you’ve been into? Even if it came out today, what are you on right now?
Lemme look through my phone real quick. I don’t want to tell y’all a lie to turn y’all speakers up to. Young Thug Slime Season. I’m waiting for Lil Herb to drop Ballin’ Like I’m Kobe. Chief Keef Bang 3. Then for songs, I like Rich the Kid “Keep It 100.” I’ve been listening to that. Or Capo “Swag School.” Yeah, I like that song. Y’all better not be using that heat shit because I’m using it so don’t even try. If I see it in one of y’all videos you better give me credit at the end, I swear to God.
What’s Hardies? How did it start? Do you design all the gear for it?
Me and my friend Claydee wanted to do it. We was talking about doing a hardware company. We play this game called Hardies, like, if we make you flinch we get to punch you two times and we say, “hardies.” So Claydee was, like, “What about Hardies hardware?” Then we started doing it like that and we just started making shit, made bolts and stuff. I design the clothes because I like making clothes and stuff, so I was making the colors and stuff like that. But Claydee did the logo for me. He got it drawn and that’s just what we do now. It’s just small. We ain’t trying to be rich or nothing. I’m not trying to be the best hardware company or take nobody out. We just having fun.
Nollie Heelflip Boardslide Photo: Taketomo
It’s pretty rad, though, you guys are running that. How do you feel about contests? You said you’d do Street League if you had the opportunity.
Hell yeah. I’m tryin’ to be in contests. That shit looks fun. Get to be on TV and shit. My cousins will all be, like, “TJ, you be on TV,” and I’ll be, like, I feel like I made it if I’m on TV. It would be fun. A lot of people are, like, “It’s gay. It’s corporate.” Who gives a fuck? Just have fun. You get to be on TV. Yeah, Street League is tight.
How’s filming for the adidas video going? That’s the next thing for you that’s coming out. How are you feeling about it? You got, like what, a couple months left?
Yeah, the deadline about to be in December, but we’ve been going crazy for that. We got clips so y’all can expect that. I’m not going to say too much but, yep, my first full part, so I’m finna go crazy.
Can you tell us a story from when you were on the news or whatever?
It was, like, some Internet thing. But yeah, we put fireworks in a cab and filmed it when we were young and bad. We got a cab to pull over and we just filmed it and just backed up and it was, like, BLATATATA, POP, POP! Dude was pissed and we just started running.
Well, everyone does crazy shit when they’re younger. And that’s something that you wouldn’t do now.
Hell no. I ain’t tryna get locked up.
Switch Backside Flip Photo: Taketomo
Any advice for kids your age to get sponsored or seen?
If you want something, you just got to do it. Don’t let nobody tell you anything. Listen to yourself. Don’t be a follower. Lot of people told me I wouldn’t do a lot of things. People told me I was crazy. People told me I’m never gonna have anything I want. I was told a lot of things but you can’t listen to everybody. Nobody gonna see you being on top or being the best. People are envious, that’s why you’ve got to stick to yourself. You can have friends but know who your real friends is. If you want something, you’ve got to really be on it, you’ve got to practice every day, you’ve got to make sure you’re good at it and don’t just do it to make it—you’ve got to actually love it.
There you go. So any shout outs?
Shout out my Mom, my whole family, my Dad, Nico my dog, my Grandmother, CJ, Bill, Nak, Kevin, Sage, Sean, everybody who work for Supreme—they know who they are—Tyshawn Lyons, I’ve got to say his name, Kyle, Troy, Brick, CJ, Latrell, Claydee, Britches, Yasha, everybody at adidas, Matt Irving, all the homies, man, Hardies gang, all my sponsors, everybody supporting me and if I missed anybody else, y’all know who y’all are. Everybody know who I’m for, who I love.
There it is. There’s the Thrasher interview with Tyshawn Jones, my favorite motherfucker in the world.
5/30/2018Nak and Tyshawn are absolutely killing it at life right now. Check this interview from when they performed at Thrasher’s TX Death Match. F the opinions.
4/27/2018Converse premiered their first full-length video, Purple, last night. For those of you who were not fortunate enough to catch the premiere, we had Mac Shafer cover the event with all of your favorite skaters.
3/22/2018Three days of live tunes, bottomless booze and mini-ramp mayhem, all simmering under the Texas sun. Thank you, Austin. Can’t wait for next year...
1/22/2018Videographer Chris Mulhern has captured some amazing footage with the adidas team over the last few years. Here’s a re-edit of some of his favorite tricks and clips from the three stripe’s legendary squad.
10/11/2017The man with the eye for the cuttiest spots opens up about his vices, dropping out of college, avoiding advice from Bobby Puleo and much more. Congrats on turning pro, Tom!