It was a busy New York workday in 2000. My cell rang. Famed music producer Rodney Jerkins had called my people and said, “Michael Jackson is a big fan of FUBU. Can Daymond come down to Sony Studios right now with some clothes? Mike wants to meet him.” Needless to say I was there in 5 minutes.
I walked into the studio I’d visited many times before, but this time something was different. There were a couple of large wax figures in the studio, as well as toys and stuffed animals all over the place. As I took a closer look, there was candy – M&M’s, gum balls, lollipops – sprinkled in various places. The candy wasn’t placed in candy dishes either; it was sprinkled on shelves, equipment and many random places.
Rodney and I began speaking for a while and then Mike walked in with his little son. He was wearing his traditional red button down shirt, black pants and sunglasses. As he walked in, that great big smile of his came to his face. The rumors of him being a germaphobe as well as the fact that he looked like a delicate individual made me hesitant to shake his hand, but to my surprise, he put his hand out first, looked me square in the eyes and shook my hand with a firm grip – like any man would greet another.
As we started to speak, his son kept tugging on him and as any parent would do, he said to his son, “Say hi to Daymond.” His son said hello with a wave and then interrupted him again. Mike was firm and told him not to interrupt people when they are speaking and called for the nanny to come and take the little boy to another room. Just like any parent would do.
He continued to tell me how much a fan of FUBU and my work he was. I replied by letting him know I was truly honored. We sat back and talked as regular guys, and got on the topic of traveling. I shared with him my excitement that FUBU had just opened a store in South Africa, that my partners and I were headed there for the opening, and that we would be meeting Nelson Mandela. Mike said he loved Mandela and spoke to him on many occasions and even mentioned that the Ivory Coast was his favorite place to visit.
He wandered off in a daze for a minute as if he was picturing himself at the Ivory Coast. And in the very next moment he came out of the daze and said, “If I have time, the next time I go to South Africa I will try and stop by your store.” Of course, in my mind I was like “Holy shit, did he just say he’d stop by our store?!”
Mike’s energy level started to drop and he walked around the room eating candy to give himself a sugar boost. Out of nowhere he turned around and said, “You know where my favorite place to go in New York is?” Knowing that he is one of the only men on the planet besides the Pope that cities will declare a day off for if he visits, I would think Niagara Falls or a place of true nature and splendor would be a place that Mike would love in New York. So my answer to his question was, “The Hampton’s? Thousand Islands? Niagara Falls?”
Mike smiled and said “No, its Harlem.” We both burst out in a laugh and that little voice in my head said to me “Now he is just telling me any old shit that comes to mind!” I wanted to hit him with the ol’ “You ain’t got to lie Craig”, from the movie Friday! (You know that chicks voice is going off in your head right now! Haha! Ok sorry about that. Now back to my man, Mike.)
After the short laugh he said, “The reason I like to go to Harlem is because nobody knows I’m there. I get inspiration for my music when I see how the everyday person goes through life. I see the beauty in their lives that they will never see.” I would find out later from Rodney that Mike loved to sit on 125th or Amsterdam in the back of a tinted-out jeep, eat soul food and just chill for hours at a time. In some cases, Mike would put on a disguise in the studio and get in a wheelchair and actually roll around in the streets of Harlem to feel the energy.
Our 20-minute talk started winding down and I definitely didn’t want to overstay my welcome. I, of course, asked Mike to take a quick flick with me and when he said yes, I posted up next to him wit a nice gangsta pose! (I was honored to be in his presence, but Daymond ain’t no punk! If I was gonna get a picture with MJ, I wasn’t gonna be in some old stiff happy-to-be-here pose! I’m gonna take it to Hollis on this cat!! Haha). To my surprise, Mike said “Oh I like that pose!” He then switched his pose up on me and took it to his hood – Gary, Indiana – right back at me.