The man behind the iconic rhino logo weaves an interesting story employing alternating threads of entrepreneurial advice and autobiographical confession.
When he was younger, few could have dreamed that the chubby kid busily aping graffiti culture in the garage of his parents’ New Jersey home would one day rise to become one of the top purveyors of hip-hop cool in the country. But that’s exactly what Ecko managed to accomplish in just a few scant years. From slinging airbrushed T-shirts in high school to hobnobbing with the Tommy Hilfigers of the world, Ecko and his partners—sister Marci and buddy Seth—built a clothing empire that still remains a sartorial force on the streets, even if the core group has fractured. Though he’s taken more than a few wrong turns, the author doesn’t flinch when laying down his entrepreneurial expertise. In fact, his “guts to skin, skin to the world” philosophy about self-branding is more potent given all the mistakes. In his role as entrepreneurial guru, Ecko is a sort of anti-Trump, using human frailty instead of unattainable omnificence to educate the next generation of dreamers. The author delivers a sobering inventory of screw-ups, ill-advised team-ups, lots of overexposure and overextension, as well as generous dollops of hubris and flat-out boneheaded maneuvers. Still, he stubbornly adheres to his philosophy of authenticity while sticking it to the clueless “gatekeepers.” “My business plan for Ecko Airbrushing might have been technically naïve, but it did have this much going for it: my personal brand was massively authentic and relevant,” he writes. Ideas about authenticity run deep throughout the book. Criticized throughout much of his career for allegedly co-opting established cultural touchstones, Ecko argues that what he has been doing all along is something more akin to sampling—just like the best MCs have done on their way to creating something legitimate and pure.
A compelling how-to guide that also reads like a saucy celebrity exposé.