The Street Legacy

We got the opportunity to speak to Bobby Ruiz from Tribal streetwear about the Street Legacy show, as well as a brief background about his journey and how it all started.

Kevelyn:   Let’s get into it. So you started making history in 1989 with Tribal Streetwear?

Bobby:      Right.

Kevelyn:   So, how did you make that journey, or take us through that journey of going from Tribal Streetwear to then making this amazing show, where you’re putting so many people on.

Bobby:      In 1989, my brother Joey and I started Tribal Streetwear. We were always, kind of brought up in, you know, doing swap meets, and, and hustling different types of, um, product with my family’s business early on. But, you know, mostly at the swap meets and small mom and pop stores that my parents had. And, you know, we were always into clothing, and being brought up here, you know, we were being influenced by what everyone was wearing. During that time, in the late, late 80s, there was nothing that really spoke to us through what we were into. Like low riders, and graffiti, tattoos, hip hop and things like that.

It was mostly just surf and skate brands. So, I had a knowledge of some graphic arts and silk-screening producing tee shirts that I had got in high school. And my brother and I have always been into drawing and doing some design work. So at that time, my brother was doing tattoo flash for his own tattoos. And him and I would both research different things that were primarily Tribal stuff, specifically indigenous work. Mostly Aztec, Mayan, and hieroglyphics.

We started printing some of that stuff on tee shirts, and then other items that we were into. Like the whole low rider culture. In the early 90s, like 1990/1991, we started incorporating West coast and East coast style graffiti. And there was nothing else like it, so we started to get a lot of attention back then, just based on being unique and fresh. And it just kind of blew up, and we started selling to stores. And not just here in San Diego, but Hollywood too. We used to have some real strong accounts in Melrose too. And then we started selling to places in New York. Then it went international through the trade shows, ASR, Magic. Soon we started selling all over Europe which expanded to Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, and just everywhere. We were all over Asia, Europe, Korea, and it went international.

After that, ended up doing some really good license deals. But I guess that’s the beginning of it. Since the early 90s, Tribal has always been true to the cultures that we represent. I’ve always believed that in order to utilize any part of a culture, you have to either be actively involved in that culture, contributing to that culture, or supporting that culture. By that, I mean people that try to do things with low riders and Chicano culture on their product. It’s like, “Dude, have you ever been in a low rider? Do you own a low rider? Do you have friends, are you actively involved in that scene? Do you support events? Do you sponsor events? Are you giving back to these cultures that you’re exploiting for your brand?”

Not just the low rider scene, but you know, hip hop events. For instance, we work with a lot of international B boys and have sponsored the Rock Steady anniversary for about 10 years. That was on the East coast, and out here, we’ve been sponsors, we started sponsoring the B boy summit in the early 90s, free style session. We still do to this day. We’ve always had our B boy crew, and you know, working with graffiti writers and were doing graffiti. Just all these things that we were involved with were a part of who we are, and our line, and ultimately our clique. People that were down with us, that were down to represent for us, we would brand them.

But Tribal has always been, since our first catalog, an artist series. So it’s real hot right now. People do artist series, and collabs, and shit like that. We’ve been doing that stuff since 1990. If you look at our first catalog, it was people like Mike Giant, Joker, Z- Zodak, and legends. And then later on working with people like Mister Cartoon, Shepard Fairey, and on, and on, and on. So all these relationships came through working with these people. Not just on developing graphics for the brand, but doing things like catalog layouts, photography, traveling together, and going on tour with people in hip hop. Like taking the B boys to Taiwan, Japan, and Mexico.

Later on it was going on tours with Limp Bizkit, Cypress Hill, Korn, and people from New York. Like the Beatnuts,  Tony Touch, and all these people that we became good friends with over the years. We’re going on 34 years now and those relationships are 99.9% still intact, where we keep in touch with everybody. And when I call, they pick up the phone. Or if we send a text, they’re gonna respond, and vice versa. Because there’s real relationships and friendships there. And some are obviously newer and some are older, but you know, the newer relationships are younger kids.

So it’s always growing and expanding, I’m pretty sure the next Mister Cartoon is in the clique somewhere. Or the next RISK, or the next Shepard Fairey. Because the next shit always comes from somewhere since we work with a lot of international beasts.

This show I’ve curated, I started curating shows in 1991. I was a senior at San Diego State University. That was the first show that I curated here in San Diego. And since then, I’ve curated shows. I did one at the Wooster Social Club in New York. I did one in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve done them in Tokyo, Harajuku, and Tokyo. I’ve done several shows here in San Diego. I’ve also curated car shows. Not just art shows, car shows, and things like that.

But this show, being that it was in a larger institution, a museum that is state funded and federally funded, it takes a different sort of language to be able to get into these museums. I have a great friend of mine, Dr. Jim Daichendt, who is my co-curator. He’s just an amazing person. He’s a dean at Point Loma Nazarene University here in San Diego. He also does TED Talks on street art and graffiti. He’s done books on street art, books with Ken Scharf, and Shepard Fairey. He’s an art critic and an author. He’s just a bad ass on another level.

He and I just kinda started talking about trying to do something of this caliber at a museum, a real museum. Not just a small gallery or a warehouse. He started speaking the language that he speaks with the museum. And it took. He and I were able to put this show together. Basically every single person we asked said they’d do it. Nobody said no. Nobody said they couldn’t do it, they didn’t want to do it, or they couldn’t fit it in their schedule. Every person that we asked responded positively. for the museum show.



And then the car show was an invitational show. That was the one that took place on June 25th. My involvement in the car culture here in Southern California for the last 40 years or so, not just in San Diego but in Southern California was an invitational. I can honestly say that it was the best of the best. So there was just no bullshit cars, no up and coming stuff in the car show. It was less is more, quality over quantity. And we still did about 120 cars.

But it all came together, just based on the network that I’ve established over the last 33 years with Tribal. Then Jim’s network also ’cause Jim also has artists that he knew that I didn’t know that he brought to the table. People like David Flores, Chris, Carly.

Kevelyn:   Yeah, that sounds, that’s amazing. I’m so sorry to cut you off, but you’re like answering all my questions, and I haven’t even asked them.  ‘Cause I went ahead and I did my homework respectfully, and I’m like, “Wow, this is amazing. I want to ask him so much about the Chicano park thing in San Diego…”

Bobby:      Yeah, yeah. You know what you could do too? If this helps you, check out the Lower Left Podcast. That’s our podcast. And there’s a lot of people in there, we did one with some of the activists from Chicano Park. The Lower Left Podcast.

Kevelyn:    We’ll definitely check that out.

Kevelyn:    So I’m assuming you’ve come across some super dope artists with so many years in the game. At this current show that you’re gonna have. What are your favorite pieces? What speaks to you?

Bobby:      Well for this show, I worked with people that at the beginning caught my eye, and caught my ear. The homies will say, you know, “Oh, dude, you gotta check this guy out.” Or “You gotta check out this artist.” I think great artists attract great artists. It’s like anything else. Like we have this brand in the 90s that people are like, “Oh, shit, it’s Cartoon, and Shepard Fairey, and Mike Giant” and they’re fucking with Rock Steady and WCA.

But I think this show is an all star type thing. I’m a fan of all these artists. That’s why they’re in the show. And Jim and I are both fans, and that’s what I tell them too, like, “Fuck, I’m a fan. Like you’re my friend, but I’m a fan too. Your work is sick.”



Kevelyn:    That’s kinda like when people ask parents, “Which one of your kids is your favorite?” And you go ahead and say all of them? (laughs)

Bobby:      Yeah it’s kinda like that. But there is a painting in this show that I’d have to say really jumps out at me. There’s two of them, and they’re by an artist named Mear. And he’s from Los Angeles. He’s a legendary artist from LA. But he’s very, very deep, very detailed. I don’t mean visual depth, I mean mental and detail depth. He’s a very well read, brilliant person. Like he’s real, real deep. I think those paintings in the show were the ones that really, really jumped out at me.

OG Able is just a master of technique. He can do stuff with oils, acrylics, airbrush, spray paint, pencil, pen, and digital media. He’s a beast. He’s  the only artist that got an entire room for himself at the show.

Kevelyn:    That’s impressive.

Bobby:      I think those would be the two that I would like really, but then there’s people like Risk that did something great. He’s been a great friend of mine for the past 30 years. He did some crazy neon metal installation. There’s so many amazing pieces in there. It’s insane. It is really, really is insane.

One thing real quick I wanted to emphasize is this show primarily is called Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters. So with that being said, these are 99% of the artists in the show are from Southern California. This isn’t even our national or international show. Because if we were doing something that’s national, I’d bring in some of the boys from the east coast. Guys that have been great friends of mine from New York for years. Or, just different artists. Even if we went international, to bring in some of the European or Japanese artists that we’ve worked with.

So we’re still doing the Southern California version with this one.

Kevelyn:    Gotcha. So after this show, do you have any plan for another legacy show? Is it in the works yet?

Bobby:      Right now, I’m still recuperating. ‘Cause this was a lot of work. It took a couple years to put this one together.

I don’t try to do them every year. If we do another one, it would be in two years. Two years will be our 35th anniversary. So, we’ll probably do a 35 year anniversary legacy show. That would be the next one. But there’s also some talk of putting this show on the road. But we’ve been approached by… I can’t really mention the universities or the museums yet. But there’s some talks that this show may travel. There’s some interest in showing in other parts of the country as well as some other countries. So Jim and I are working on that, and the dialogue has just started to see where else we can take this show. Because I don’t think that just anybody could put a show like this together.

Just getting these people to answer the phone or respond to an email, or respond to a text, or you know, making sure that we have a good amount of female artists. Making sure we have the ethnicities covered. Making sure we have the low rider culture, and the hip hop heads, and the people that represent the tattoo scene. And people that are street artists, graffiti writers that have become great fine artists. And again, I’ll talk about Mear. OG Able and Mister Cartoon, and photography. Making sure we had the right photographers from Southern California… Estevan Oriol, and Craig Stecyk, and Billy the Kid.

You know for me it’s been an honor to work with people like Craig Stecyk, who changed the face of skateboarding in the 90s. Estevan’s been a great friend of mine for like 30 years, so he’s on me. (laughs) You know, Craig too, he’s brilliant, and he’s highly respected in skateboarding. You know?

Kevelyn:    That’s amazing. I’m personally curious, ’cause you curate a bunch of car shows. So I’m assuming your personal car collection must be insane. Or am I wrong?

Bobby:      I definitely have had an addiction with cars since I was a kid. Since I started building my first low rider when I was 15.

Kevelyn:    Wow.

Bobby:      Yeah, I actually debuted one of my latest builds at this show. I debuted a 47 Chevy Fleetline. I’ve got Impalas, and what we call bombs. Bombs are the older cars. Like pre-1955.

I definitely have my share of cars. But you know, it’s the Southern California experience. I grew up skateboarding, and people always have a tendency, as cliché as it sounds, to put you in this box. But I grew up skateboarding, low riding, doing graffiti, listening to Van Halen, Black Sabbath, and Carlos Santana. Then later when hip hop came, it was hip hop, and rap rock. Having relationships with people in these bands too. It’s kinda like people in New York, you know? They’ve got their whole vibe, they grew up on the four elements of hip hop, rock and roll, punk, soul, culture, and tradition. And that’s kind of what street legacy is. It’s a celebration of California culture, lifestyle, and tradition.


Kevelyn:    That’s amazing. Well, thank you so much. You personally schooled me today, ’cause I’m born and raised in New York.

Bobby:      (laughs) Where in New York are you from?

Kevelyn:    I’m Dominican from Queens.

Bobby:      Queens. I have some friends from Corona Queens.

Kevelyn:   Corona Queens is lit. I get my nails and my tattoos over there. (laughs)

Bobby:      Yeah, my homies are from there. You heard of the Beatnuts?

Kevelyn:   yes, Beatnuts, I love some Beatnuts. The Beatnuts are legends in Corona.

Bobby:      Yeah, those are my boys. We’ve been to Japan like, four times together.

Kevelyn:   The little kids in diapers that are running around know who the Beatnuts are in Corona. It’s a rule. You have to know who the Beatnuts are.

Bobby:      (laughs) Nice. Yeah, those are, actually Les lives out here now, Psycho Les. He does a show with B Real from Cypress Hill. He does B Real’s podcast. And I keep in touch with all those dudes too. Tony Touch.

I think he’s from Brooklyn, though.

I love going to New York. I get a lot of love out there. But it’s the same thing, you know? The homies from New York come out here, and I’m the homie from Southern California, and we have a blast. And then I go out there, and I’m you know, we have a blast out there too. So it’s good shit, you know?

Kevelyn:   Yeah. Yeah, and I completely understand, like the fusion of the cultures. It’s so… when you said that you were listening to rap rock and all that. I personally grew up listening to Evanescence, and then I go to my cousin’s house, and they’d be playing Dipset.

Bobby:      Oh, yeah. It’s beautiful, you know? It’s like, it is what it is. And that’s the thing too, the way that I connected with the homies from New York. Like a lot of the rock steady heads, and Tony Touch, and the Beatnuts. Is we speak Spanish to each other, and we speak Spanglish to each other.

Kevelyn:   Spanglish, yeah.

Bobby:      And we’d say, “What? Wha- what did you say?” Like-

Kevelyn:   Uh-huh.

Bobby:      And just talking shit in English and Spanish. And then they have their Dominican accent. And then we have our southern California Chicano accent, but they vibe on it ’cause it’s different. You know what I mean?

Kevelyn:   When all of us get on the same page, we get it. Like, you put all of us in the same place it’s like a lit melting pot.

Bobby:      It’s a beautiful thing. But yeah don’t hesitate to hit me up if you have any more questions. I’ve posted a bunch of videos on my social media, on the Bobby Tribal Instagram. And then there’s also an Instagram called The Legacy Show.

Thanks its been great

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