LA Originals is the definitive love letter of the audiovisual world towards the city of Los Angeles, and its very particular way of understanding urban art and Hip Hop. This new 92-minute Netflix documentary puts order, names and surnames into 25 years of pop/rock/rap in California at the end of the millennium, and does so through the life story of a famous tattoo artist, Mr Cartoon, and of a photographer (Estevan Oriol, who is also the director of this documentary).
A historical period to which, seen from 2020 of the global pandemic of Coronavirus, is starting to put on the same nostalgic face that our parents put on when they talked to us about the 70s and 80s of rock and roll.
Review of LA Originals: a documentary and a thousand interpretations
Although L.A. Originals I could remember by tone Hip hop evolution (also from Netflix), here the music is a somewhat secondary aspect. Here the protagonists are the cars low rider, the Cortez sneakers, the rags supreme, and the elongated typefaces with which the relatives of Californian prisoners signed their letters at a time when they had not yet occupied the walls of the city or the covers of the Great theft auto or the NWA albums.
The documentary is edited at a much more frenetic pace than Hip hop evolution and, at times, this frenzy is a constant metaphor for the years of concerts and drugs that peotagonize the first third of L.A. Originals. It is literally impossible to assimilate in a first viewing all the information that L.A. Originals spits in our faces.
In addition to a documentary on the influence of hip hop culture in Los Angeles, L.A. Originals es ehe portrait of a very specific portion of the jet set of the Angels with members who are united by a certain diffuse, unmentionable component, and with many elements in common with MTV. We talk about Snoop Dogg, Dre, Cypress Hill, The Alchemist, DJ Premier, and also Blink 182, Slash and Justin Timberlake, but also Nas, Eminem, Beyoncé, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Kim Kardashian.
As evidenced by the use of Shook Ones by Mobb Deep or various melodies by Method and Redman, you don't have to belong to the West Coast to, from time to time, let yourself be welcomed by its palm trees. Biggie knew it well.
But, above all this (which is not little), L.A. Originals es the story of two Mexicans who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, with the right vibes and artistic genius to the point. More than the presence of any celebrity, one of the most pleasant surprises of L.A. Originals brings it to us in its final stages, when we discover that in reality what we have been watching was a documentary about the influential (and underrecognized) imprint that the Chicano/Mexican community in California has left since the days of Rodney King.
Mr Cartoon: the most famous tattoo artist in the hip hop community
And it all starts with a boy who, after being told so much at school that he is God's chosen one, refuses to make his bed and homework, and chooses to draw and doodle on the wall. Later we will see him tattooing the entire back of 50 Cent, designing the logo of Shady Records or hand-drawing Cypress Hill record covers.
Everlast He is one of the few who does not have a Mr Cartoon tattoo because, he says, he does not feel like paying the $50.000 it would cost him to be tattooed by the god of ink whose works even hotel receptionists in Beijing are capable of identify (or so Kobe Bryant said in an interview).
Estevan Oriol: unparalleled photographic talent
Just when you think the documentary is going to focus on the life and work of mr cartoon, graphic artist and possibly the most prestigious tattoo artist/celebrity in history, the narrative turns and focuses on Estevan Oriol, fond of photography and the compulsive recording of everything that surrounds him.
They tell us the same thing about Estevan Oriol that they tell us about any other photography genius: you only need a few seconds to capture the soul of the person you photograph; understands better than anyone the instra history of the moment to reflect it in the image, etc, etc, (as if nobody really knew that that was the last Blink 182 concert…).
That said, Estevan Oriol's work is impressive. She is a masterfully talented photographer who does not enjoy enough global recognition. Estevan Oriol is a god of portraiture and urban photography.
Since his famous L.A. Hands (the female hand doing the LA sign, whose t-shirt by the way has just sold out on his website due to the premiere of the documentary on Netflix) to portraits of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and MASTERFUL urban photography, Estevan Oriol is one of those strangers innate talents capable of molding at will, as if it were an extension of their own brain, the plastic beauty of the world around us to capture a unique aesthetic and atmosphere. And if this gift catches you in late-'90s LA with neighborhood thugs as buddies, all the better.
Seated the narrative pillars of Mr Cartoon and Estevan Oriol, soon it becomes evident that the paths of these two artists will intersect in L.A. Originals, and when that happens, something wonderful happens called Soul Assayns.
After hearing for the millionth time from the mouth of Xzibit, The Game or Fat Joe that Mr Cartoon is the best tattoo artist of all and that if you don't have a Mr Cartoon tattoo you're worthless, etc, etc, we get to hear Estevan say another couple of million times how lucky he felt to be the only embedded cameraman in the world tours of Cypress Hill or in the Anger Management by Eminem, 50 Cent, d12, Obie Trice & company. Just when LA Originals threatens to stagnate, SA Studios comes to the rescate.
LA and hip-hop culture was shaped by these two homies right here?? this is a MUST SEE film on @netflix this weekend! shout out to the true #LAOriginals ? @MisterCtoons @JokerBrand https://t.co/LgtdRSR8LA pic.twitter.com/8zGHlrNVgj
- Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) April 10, 2020
Oriol and Cartoon act as the backbone of a group that, throughout Andy Warhol with his Factory, he accepts artists from all kinds of disciplines, welcoming them all within SA Studios, a huge industrial warehouse in the neighborhood of Skid Row, famous for its overpopulation of white trash homeless and heroin addicts.
Of course, the collective does not last forever and the arrival of the real estate and economic crisis of 2008 sweeps the entire ship, leaving you lost in gentrified coffee shops and memories beautifully encapsulated in this highly dangerous exposure documentary: anyone exposed to L.A. Originals It will be very difficult for him not to feel the most poisonous of envy. Why wasn't I there? Why didn't I live that moment?