At 27, Kareem Campbell has done more to shape the look and image of modern street skating than most his peers combined. Through avenues like World Industries, Menace, City Stars, and Axion (many of which he founded), Harlem’s smooth-talking, smooth-skating Campbell has helped bring color to the blindingly white world of skateboarding. Proving once and for all some barriers don’t have to be broken through … they can be ollied over.
What’s your favorite year in skateboarding been?
I’d say ’93/94.
What was good about those years?
Everybody got along. It was just skateboarding, no politics. I didn’t know about politics, yet.
When did you start learning about politics?
The next year, when I started hanging around a lot of pros.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
Ray Barbee and Rodney Mullen. Ray, because he was a style king, and when I first got into it I’d never see black kids skating. So I dropped the Oreo thing and went, “Hey, this is just skateboarding.” Rodney Mullen was an inspiration in the form of guidance and helping me understand how the industry is.
What’s the stupidest trend you’ve seen skateboarding go through?
What kinds of stereotypes?
Basically from punk-rock, to hip-hop, to wearing all black, to death metal, to anything. It seems like skateboarders can’t just be skateboarders, they’ve got to be stereotyped into one form or another.
Has there ever been a time when everyone wasn’t lumped into stereotypes?
Yeah, that was more like ’93/94, before the politics.
What do you consider your biggest contribution to skateboarding?
Just being able to make it. I’m proof that everyone’s created equal, regardless of where you come from or what you do.
Has it been a hard road?
It’s been up and down.
How do you see the current state of skateboarding?
I see it rising in a commercial way. I also see that soon you’re going to have to be a real pro, because there’re going to be amateur leagues. You’ll have to earn your pro status. Right now no one has to earn it; you do a couple tricks and you turn pro.
Do you think the best way to qualify people for pro status is through contests?
Contests and video. It still has to be a mixture of both.
Do you have any predictions about skateboarding’s future?
Yeah, skateboarding’s going to be like basketball–you, as an individual, are going to make your own destiny in it.
Do you think the commercialness and bigness of skateboarding will continue to grow?
As long as skateboarders keep a good head on their shoulders and don’t get too intrigued with all the money there is to be made out there, yeah, I think it will continue to grow.
So you think skateboarders are the masters of their own destinies.