REVIEW: ComplexCon is a hypebeast haven

“Where did you get those?” “Those are fresh.” “Did you just see who that was?” All of these questions and more echoed throughout the Long Beach Convention Center last weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, hypebeasts and hip-hop fans alike flocked to the venue for the third annual iteration of ComplexCon.

The convention was hosted and curated by producer Pharrell Williams and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Williams, a mogul in the music and streetwear industries, helped secure the diverse lineup of hip-hop performances and vendors for the occasion. Murakami, father of the art world’s “superflat” movement, decorated the venue with his trademark characters and figures.

Perhaps ComplexCon’s biggest draw is the close proximity that fans, buyers and Complex readers had to their favorite brands, artists and creatives. Inside, there was little to distinguish between attendees and performers or buyers and vendors. As far as fashion, every shade and style of expensive streetwear was on full display. As well, there was no shortage of surprise appearances within the sprawl of booths as artists and fans browsed side-by-side.

On Saturday, Williams and Chad Hugo of N.E.R.D and The Neptunes stopped by the BBC ICECREAM booth to celebrate its 15th anniversary. For this special occasion, the brand released merchandise and collaborations exclusive to ComplexCon, and unsurprisingly produced a line that stretched several city blocks.  

In fact, outside of the setting and context, one might mistake the featured kiosks’ and brands’ extensive queues for Thursday release days on Fairfax Avenue.

Among the convention center floor surprise appearances were actor Michael B. Jordan and the cast of “Creed II,” who participated in a Q&A hosted by BET’s Terrence J. For this, Jordan and the rest of the cast circled a pop-up boxing ring hidden within the rows of vendors. As well, NBA legend Allen Iverson debuted his first sneakers in over four years: the I3 Legacy from Reebok.

One hour prior to participating in his “Complex Conversation,” hip-hop artist Vince Staples mingled with friends and fans at his merchandise kiosk in the convention center’s warehouse. Promoting his new album “FM!” which was released Friday, the Long Beach native greeted and took pictures with eager fans.

The weekend’s “Complex Conversations” series merged leading figures in sports, music, media and fashion for sit-down panel conversations on a variety of topics. The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill and former NFL wide receiver Victor Cruz kicked off Saturday with a conversation about whether Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson has the greater impact on today’s sneaker culture. As well, brothers Tommy and Andy Hilfiger joined Complex’s Lewis Hamilton for a roundtable discussion on the brand’s legacy in hip-hop.

Yet, the day’s most anticipated conversation was between Vince Staples and a Long Beach legend, whose identity was kept secret until the panel — he turned out to be none other than rapper Snoop Dogg himself.

The straight-edge, quick-witted Staples and hip-hop’s stoner uncle Snoop could not have more different personalities, but the two took pride in their shared experiences growing up in the north side of Long Beach. In fact, Staples and Snoop quickly bonded over the fact that Staples was a product of the youth football league Snoop established. The pair also emphasized the importance of paying respects and giving back to one’s hometown.

As a whole, the festival provided an intimate gathering for the intersection fashion, music, art and pop culture. However, the lack of affordable vendors was disappointing, as it felt like a key part of the experience was acquiring exclusive, pricey merchandise. Judging by the near-perfect curation on behalf of Murakami and Williams, as well as the seamless interactions between convention goers and creatives, ComplexCon should continue to grow as a unique addition to the West Coast’s convention circuit.