April Walker is the founder of Walker Wear, a clothing brand that was worn by all of the top entertainers and athletes of the early 1990s, from Tupac, L.L., Aaliyah, The Notorious B.I.G.., Run DMC, Naughty by Nature, Scarface – Brothermob, Snoop Dogg and even Mike Tyson.
Walker began her career with a small custom shop in Brooklyn. But early on, she started attracting hip-hop’s elite, and she soon began a styling division that dressed artists in countless videos, motion pictures, album covers, tours and photo shoots.
Tupac donning a custom Walker Wear suit from the”If My Homie Calls” music video.
Tupac donning a custom Walker Wear suit from the movie “Above The Rim”
She began her own line, Walker Wear, in 1992. It became a huge success, and a favorite brand of many, many stars. Walker Wear ended in 1998, after the oversaturation and subsequent collapse of the urban fashion world. But in 2013, Walker brought back her eponymous company, and now sells both retro and new pieces online.
April Walker talk about Tupac: ”I met Tupac on the set for Juice. I was an extra in it, hoping to get some light after starting my custom business. That day I remember I wore a royal blue, grey and white striped and solid custom velour sweatsuit with a matching bucket hat (hoping someone would ask for a card). It worked because that day I met Tupac. Soon after, he popped up on a video set with Stretch when I was styling the group, BWP aka “Bitches With Problems”, and the rest is history. We became friends ‘til the end, even when he’d hang up on me because he didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Somehow we always managed to stay connected. As a matter of fact, I was on set with Tupac a few weeks before the Vegas tragedy in L.A., styling a video that we were hired for by Suge Knight. His work ethic was unparalled. He was a beast. Tupac was so many things; he was complex, brilliant, goofy, talented, inspiring, intelligent, crazy, and some would say he was paranoid…I would say with good reason.
I had a close relationship as a friend and working with him, so I was able to see another side of Tupac, other than the images and propaganda that we’re constantly fed. If you ever met Tupac, he had a fierce bright light in his eyes that you don’t see in most people. He was FULL of life. We shared our dreams, held secrets, and had some parallels in our personal lives. We identified with each other on some levels and were held opposite positions on others. Much like many young people, Tupac was constantly searching, growing, and on a mission for change and success, with the world tugging at his stardom simultaneously. Try to imagine the inner conflict that he must have experienced, bearing the responsibility of his rich heritage…his mom was a notable figure from the Black Panther movement, and then the streets were calling him. It was a powerful and dangerous combination.
The thing that you should know about Tupac was his extreme love for his people, his anger for the racial inequalities that existed in this world, and how he wanted to make a change. I was looking at a letter he wrote me while he was incarcerated. Tupac had this idea for “Us First” that was going to be an empowerment facility that would help communities to be “self-sufficient”. Every floor did a different thing starting from the bottom up.
He wanted to teach survival skills, learning basics that we take for granted like cooking, cleaning, etc. The 2nd floor would find out what your interests and passions were, and then teach those skills. The 3rd floor would teach basic etiquette, how to converse & interview, how to dress appropriately in that relevant setting. The last floor was to tap into his contacts from different entities, corporations and people that would offer job training and permanent placements. This was a big part of who Tupac was and what he represented. He never got to realize that particular dream but I do know his mom & family did carry his spirit on with them in other community outreach and empowerment programs that they’ve initiated. He was inspirational in his passion, in his focus, in his grind, and really in his loyalty. He also made me realize it’s okay to have issues, conflicts, and be working on it, but be true to thyself in the process. As I paraphrase one of his key thoughts, it goes something like this… “Show me a dysfunctional family and that would be every American family in our society”.
Tracks featured in this episode:
- McCoy Tyner, “When Sunny Gets Blue”
- Gary Bartz, “Music Is My Sanctuary”
- René McLean, “Bilad as Sudan”
- Jaz-O f/Jay Z, “The Originators”
- High Potent (Jay Z & The Jaz) ~ H.P. Gets Busy ~ Get Live 1986 Brooklyn NYC
- The Jaz f/Jay Z, “Hawaiian Sophie”
- Nas, “Ether”
- D-Train, “You’re the One for Me”
- Fat Boys f/The Beach Boys, “Wipeout”
- Audio Two, “Top Billin’”
- 2Pac, “If My Homie Calls”
- Above The Rim – 2Pac Kills Flip
- Run-DMC, “Down With the King”
- WNYC-TV – Video Music Box opening – 1989
- Will Smith f/Left Eye, “Big Willie Style”
- Fresh Dressed (excerpt)
- NWA – Interview @ Yo MTV Raps 1989 (HQ)
- Run-DMC w/Beavis And Butt-Head, “Bounce”
- #BYOB….(Be Your Own Brand)
- Are You willing to fight for it?
Make sure you head over to www.walkerwear.com to see all our latest gear!