Hip-hop in freeskiing: Why Method Man & Redman were a perfect fit for X Games
As live music merged with action sports over the weekend at X Games, the image that comes to mind is Henrik Harlaut at the bottom of the big air jump, wearing a Wu-Tang sweatshirt and celebrating his win with rappers Method Man & Redman.
For Harlaut, a slopestyle skier from Sweden, there’s no act he would have rather been greeted by at the bottom of the course.
The skier says he has been inspired by the music of the Wu Tang Clan throughout his career, which seems to be at a culmination point of sorts as Harlaut won gold medals in both slopestyle and big air at the 2018 X Games, a rare feat.
Method Man & Redman performed their 1999 classic “Da Rockwilder” as Harlaut received his big air medal on Saturday, Jan. 27.
Following the show, the rap duo discussed their music and its influences with skiers and fans including Avon local Taylor Seaton.
“I respect what you guys do, but I don’t actually watch,” Method Man told Seaton. “I’ve seen some of the moves that the guys do, my favorite is the method.”
Method Man shares a calling card with the most iconic trick in the snowboarding world, the method air, a trick named for its ability to land its purveyors at the top of the height meter for the position it forces the body into. If one were to look into the roots of X Games ski and snowboard culture, the method air would be a chapter unto itself, coming into fame in the ’80s and ’90s. That was also the time hip-hop began to break down barriers in the greater culture, Redman told the group.
“To me, that’s when music — rap especially — was crossing over boundaries and breaking down walls,” Redman said on Saturday. “That’s why I think the ’90s is the most pivitol era there is. Tonight — every show — we tell the audience we’re going to go back to the ’90s because we want to give them that feeling.”
Seaton told Redman that in his own skiing, he spent considerable time studying the fundamentals and tries to bring those elements into his run. In the ski halfpipe competition on Thursday, where Seaton finished fifth, Seaton brought back the alley oop 900 — a difficult, up-the-pipe spin that is no longer being performed by much of the field. Seaton was the only skier to include high-degree alley-oop spins in his run, something applauded by announcer and freeskiier Tom Wallisch at the contest. Wallisch called it a part of skiing that is “something that has been forgotten in the sport.”
Discussing the origins of their respective cultures, Redman told Seaton he makes special efforts to hearken back to hip-hop’s roots at his shows because he feels it’s important.
“All the young generation gotta do is go back and do they homework, like we do,” Redman said. “They just gotta go find some old music that we tuned into, where the music came from, as far as samples, and learn how we rock.”
Seaton and Harlaut have been friends for years; Seaton said they bonded as young contest skiers over music, specifically that of the Wu Tang Clan. Watching Method Man — among the most well known members of the Clan — perform on Saturday, Seaton said the fun factor defined why his act was perfect for X Games.
“You guys are having so much fun out there, that’s gotta be what keeps you going,” Seaton told Method Man. “For me, that’s what keeps me doing it. The kids that are having the most amount of fun get the most love.”
Method Man told Seaton he respects the struggle the 27-year-old skier has gone through to make it to events like the X Games.
“That’s why people enjoy the games, because you guys are having so much fun out there,” the rapper said.
More than a decade and a half ago, Kobe Bryant came to the Vail Valley quietly. Fourteen months later, he left the same way. In the middle was … well … a media circus.