This story is part of Image issue 9, “Function” a sonic and visual reminder that there ain’t no party like an L.A. party. Read the full issue here.
Born X Raised has amassed a cult-like following in this city since launching in 2013. Not only do the brand’s collaborations with the Dodgers and L.A. Rams sell out in minutes, but artists, musicians and athletes feel a deeper connection to the message. Its founder, Chris “Spanto” Printup and creative director Alex “2Tone” Erdmann — both Venice natives — are ultimately telling their story of L.A., one that’s steeped in pride and authenticity and an attitude of “you’re either a part of this or you’re not.” The brand’s devotees see themselves in that. They also see themselves in the charismatic Spanto — a cancer survivor and former blue collar worker who comes from a family of struggling artists. He’s been in and out of jail and developed the idea for Born X Raised while incarcerated. Both he and 2Tone feel fiercely protective of preserving how they and their families have experienced Venice and L.A. for generations.
Part of the Born X Raised story, almost unintentionally, has become their big — and growing only bigger — ragers. To be there feels like the promise of something special and rare, never to be happen the same way again. It‘s the possibility that you might be sandwiched between an OG from Venice and Tremaine Emory at the bar.
For those who haven’t made it to the function, the feeling of wanting to be there has been known to send electric pangs of yearning through the body. You might watch it unfold on Instagram Stories, hear about it the day after from your friends, let your imagination run wild with what might have been — who you might have met — if only you’d have gotten in.
Like any good party, a Born X Raised party has transcendent potential. You might be changed at the end of the night. You might finally find that sense of belonging that has long remained elusive. What makes a Born X Raised party go off?
We take a look back on some of the greatest hits to find out from the people who were there.
The idea was simple: re-create a high school tradition rooted in nostalgia, and give people an opportunity to get their fits off. The rules were also simple: no fitted caps, no T-shirts, no streetwear, “no ratchetivity, no c—blocking, no hater s—, no weirdos, no Xanax ... .” The formality was crucial to the vibe — especially in the beginning — which, of course, only added to the mythology of it all. But in the eight years since its inception, the Born X Raised Sadie Hawkins, the brand’s biggest and longest-running party to date, has gone from streamers and balloons in an intimate venue to a line of thousands out the door at the Hollywood Roosevelt. And everyone, including A-list celebrities, cross their fingers to get in. As the founders and longtime attendees say: It’s taken on a life of its own.
Spanto: If I was to leave this earth, this s— is going to live on and on. We built it for the people of Los Angeles. When I was 19 or 20, I would get dressed to the nines, as fresh as I could possibly be. I would go to the door and some Hollywood nightclub and a cornball from Wichita was like, “You can’t come in here, bro.” I was like, “I’ll be back. I’m going to start my own party for people like us.” With Born X Raised, we said, Let’s throw a party. But how do we make it different? You look at streetwear parties, it’s all the same. Plugging this nightclub with the same people, with this DJ. Alex [2Tone] and I we’re always really into dressing up — so why don’t we do a winter formal?
2Tone: First year, I didn’t I think anyone was going to go for this. You have to dress formal. You have to bring a date. I was like, Dude, this is L.A. They’re gonna be like, f— off. I get there and the line’s around the block. People in limos and party buses. In the beginning it was way more prom-ed out. It’s a monstrous other thing now. It’s just crazy. But it still needs to maintain its warmth. If we lose that, it just turns into a function. We like the sense of community. We like the the vibe of the people who go there and wait in line for an hour to get a photo. You gotta get the photo.
Travis Bennett, a.k.a. Taco: I was on tour [four years ago] and everybody was posting these outfits. I was like, What the f— is going on? Then I saw: It was the Born X Raised thing. I tell Spanto, “Dawg, I’m coming to the next one.” It’s a mix of Venice hood dudes, Fairfax kids and now you’re running into like, I don’t know, a Michael B. Jordan or somebody. I’ve seen different crowds come [lately], but the majority of the people inside are from L.A. It’s an opportunity to run into the people you usually wouldn’t run into. Especially me being a Fairfax kid and hanging out over there for 15 years, it’s a time where I get to see the dudes [who] raised me, more or less, and be able to show them who I’ve become as an adult.
Spanto: I tried to keep it well rounded and have everybody under one roof because there’s no other place in L.A. that can do that. To see all my old-school homies that I grew up in the late ’80s, early ’90s mixing with the pseudo celebrities — everybody who shows up and coexist together — that’s what surprises me.
2Tone: It’s like what you imagine New Year’s Eve should be, but never is.
Zolee Griggs, actress (“Wu-Tang: An American Saga”): I’m from L.A., so I feel like I’m granted entry just because I’m from here — but that was not the case. A lot of my friends who are also from L.A. were at the 2019 event. We couldn’t get in because there was so much going on. We actually snuck in from the hotel side. A friend of mine booked a room and he went to the security door on the far left end of the building. He opened it and literally let it in maybe four or five of my friends, then other people snuck in behind us. It was crazy. We were running through the hotel, running from security to the party.
Spanto: Ninety percent of the people that I invited this year didn’t make it inside. All these artists, Three Six Mafia, just all these beautiful people. The thing is, if you just go to a bar and you don’t get in, you go home and go to sleep. But people put months and months of planning into their fit for Sadie Hawkins.
2Tone: Listen, my dream is to make it smaller, but it’s not getting smaller. You can’t stop that thing from being what it’s going to be. If we made it invite-only on top of a mountain that you had to get to by helicopter, motherf—s would be hiking it all night.
Mathieu Schreyer, DJ: I’ve been there since the first year. Musically, I always take it on myself to start the party in an Art Laboe-type vibe, with the classics. People just want to get faded and look nice and see their friends and celebrate themselves and the city. It started as a very familial party and everybody played the game. Now, it’s turned out to be one of the best parties in L.A. It’s a zoo. There were were like 3,000 people this past year on Hollywood Boulevard. When the cops came with the helicopter, they were like, Who are those people? What’s happening? Is it a revolution?
More from The Function
Jason Parham talks to DJ Quik about his legacy
Julissa James dives into the subconscious of indie-pop prodigy Hana Vu
The homies let us know what makes an L.A. party an L.A. party
Gary “Ganas” Garay searches for the forgotten voice of the barrio, Jonny Chingas
San Cha tells Suzy Exposito how she learned to sing from a divine place
Spanto: There’s a nostalgic element to it. It’s mixed with a baptism, quinceañera, homecoming, prom — all rolled into one.
Seulgi Burns, membership director at Soho Warehouse: Their parties are weirdly timeless. They’re so referential to nostalgia and yet everything they do seems so of the moment and also very of the future. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it never just feels like a throwback. It’s like the Met Ball for the L.A. culture.
2Tone: It reminds me of the feeling when you’re 16 and you’re going to a party for the first time. You’re like, I’m here. I’m doing it. We’re always trying to re-create that feeling.
Spanto: I go to Tommy’s on Pico and Sawtelle at 4 o’clock in the morning [after the party]. I sit there and cry in front of my girlfriend — because I can feel it. I know how much people really f—ing care. It’s a cultural thing that everybody who celebrates it wants to belong to.
‘Oxymoron’ release party, House of Gods, 2014
In 2014, ScHoolboy Q was one of the kings of rap in Los Angeles, and TDE was the kingdom from which he hailed. Born X Raised was asked by Interscope Records to collaborate on a party for the release of “Oxymoron,” his now critically acclaimed classic. They found a venue, House of Gods, across the street from the Estrada Courts in Boyle Heights, curated an invite-only guest list and threw a party that goes down in L.A. music history: A baby-faced Tyler, the Creator hung off the stage, along with Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Genesis. Hands flung into the air in unison with the music as Q, in his signature bucket hat, held court.
Buy a copy of Function
It’s true what they say: ain’t no party like an L.A. party. Image magazine is back with Issue 9, the first issue of 2022.
Shop the L.A. Times Store
Spanto: I was living downtown and fresh out of the hospital. [In July 2013, Spanto was diagnosed with a terminal T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and underwent treatment through 2017.] My face was big from the chemo. I remember laying on the couch like, Why did I do this, man? Nobody’s gonna show up. Who’s gonna go to East L.A. off of Olympic? ScHoolboy is gonna show up and there’s gonna be 20 people there. I’m gonna look like a[n] idiot. Sure enough, we got there at 9:45 p.m. and there was nobody there … 10:30 nobody there ... then 11 o’clock — 2,000 people showed up.
Ray Alba, senior vice president of marketing at Capitol Music Group (then a publicist at Interscope): What I remember is that it was hot as hell. It was at the smallest venue. I was also super nervous. Like, is this going to work? There was pressure from TDE to make this thing something — mind you, they’re coming off the success of Kendrick Lamar and expect everything with Q to be equally as impactful. I was walking around and all of a sudden, people just start pouring into this place.
2Tone: We made 200 Born X Raised X TDE joints with branded papers. We had interns hand-stamp them, we rolled them all. We had an airbrushed fridge for popsicles and beer, a photo booth.
Ray Alba: Tyler, the Creator was there, and a couple other Odd Future kids, because they’re tight with Q. I couldn’t even move around it was so packed and so crowded. Q was just so hot — he was onstage, complaining about how hot it was, rapping to the songs. Spanto was walking around with a cane, fresh off chemo. Picking himself up and putting this thing on, the whole thing was surreal. Born X Raised specializes in bringing the right crowd, and this was before all the influencing that happens online nowadays. It was the perfect combination of what Born X Raised did, with what TDE was at that point and what Q was on the verge of becoming.
2Tone: The ScHoolboy Q party was crazy.
Room 1203, the Standard Downtown, 2014
It wasn’t supposed to be an actual hotel room party, honest. Just a staged kickback to shoot their look book in the early days of Born X Raised. Next thing you know, there’s a recreational drug table. There’s music. There are friends. There’s a poster of 2Tone’s dog. Where Spanto and 2Tone go, the party follows.
2Tone: We were babies, we had barely started. We were going to do a look book and were like, Let’s throw a party in a hotel. But then it just it metastasized into a real party. We had a table with shrooms, and weed and this and that. I made a giant 20-foot print of Omar’s [2Tone’s dog’s] head. I filled it full of balloons.
Born X Raised and Dead City Punx show, freeway underpass near Egret Park, 2021
On May 5, 2021 Born X Raised’s 200,000 followers watched footage on their phones as thousands of L.A. kids with mohawks, studded vests, eyeliner out to their temples and balloons hanging out of their mouths gathered near Egret Park, on an underpass between the 5 and 110. They set the sky ablaze with fireworks and hot orange flames. The scene was intoxicating and beautiful to watch, just dangerous-looking enough to seem fun. Helicopters circled above an aerial view of 3,000 bodies moshing and headbanging in a sea of pure, bright chaos. It resembled the release we were all so desperate for at the time, over a year into the pandemic: The transformation of rage, sadness and stagnancy into something entirely new, like magic. The caption, on a video montage of the many faces in the crowd that night released months later, sealed the deal: “In 2021, [Born X Raised and] Dead City Punx threw the biggest DIY punk show in Los Angeles history.” Instant FOMO.
2Tone: I’d never seen anything like it.
Spanto: I think Dead City was just as impactful as Sadie Hawkins. Who wasn’t confused, stressed out and pissed off during COVID? When we threw that show, I want to say it was like 90% Angelenos. A lot people are just pissed off with the way L.A. is changing, because it just leaves us in the dust. I think having this show and seeing 3,000 pissed-off kids — bloody and dusty with the biggest smile on her face — it was just like … people had to get that s— out. Really. Bad. People were also celebrating each other. I don’t see that s— anywhere else but at these punk shows, it’s a communal thing.
2Tone: It was also every form of punk. Even the kids who weren’t around for when it first started — they’re representing every form. We took portraits and it was new wave, post-punk, grunge. Everything was there. We did a call-out [for people to] send us any footage they had. I’m scanning through hundreds of emails full of footage and then I get this one, a news feed from the bottom of a helicopter, full high-res. I kept looking at it like, this isn’t a drone. I can see the helicopter skids. This is the helicopter. It was nuts.
Born X Raised and Powertools: The Dome, Florentine Gardens, 2021
The announcement told you to call the party line. A grainy, throwback recording scored by an energetic house track told you what was coming: “This Friday, it’s the Dome ... for one night only ... at Florentine Gardens in Hollywood ... 21 and over, brought to you by Born X Raised and Powertools. Richard Vission, DJ Irene, Sourmilk bring the vibes for one ... night ... only ... to the Dome at Florentine Gardens in Hollywood. This ... Friday ...” The event, made in collaboration with pioneering house DJ Richard Vission and his long-running mix show Powertools, was nostalgic catnip for young Angelenos who worshiped the ’90s and early 2000s. A jolt of adrenaline coursed through your body. Then came the mental gymnastics: How do I get in? Are there presale tickets? Wait, they’re sold out. This was only posted a day ago! Is there another way?
Spanto: Growing up in L.A., you had two places to go when you’re under 18. You had the Arena and you had Florentine Gardens, but nobody been to Florentine Gardens in like 20 years. I hit up Richard “Humpty” Vission of Powertools [who had a residency there from ’92 to ’98]. He was like, “No one is going to want to go to that s—hole.”
Richard “Humpty” Vission: I’ll tell you the truth. I was like, No! I don’t want to go to Florentine’s. That place hasn’t been updated since I’ve been there. [Spanto] was like, You got to understand — it’s about the culture, the heritage, the building. And it was probably top three events of my life. It was this combination of people who used to go to the Dome in the ’90s, their kids, then there was this young hipster crowd. It was crazy because all of a sudden you’re like, G-Eazy is at Florentine Gardens? What the hell is this? I think Post Malone was there. You had people from Vogue magazine buying a table, Apple Music buying a table. We turned away — and I’m not kidding you — we turned away 2,500 people.
DJ Irene: You get off Hollywood Boulevard, you see all the homeless people, there’s Tommy’s, and then all of a sudden you see this line. I was told it was going to be crazy, and I guess word just spread like wildfire. Last minute, my phone is blowing up: Can you give me guest list? Can you give me guest list? I was told to play some hard house. It was slamming against the wall but the [crowd] loved it.
Spanto: There was no way this was not going to go off. It was too easy. The whole thing with the events is that we’re telling a story. It’s not just like, Hey, let’s get Luka Sabbat at our party to be cool. We’re actually doing things for a reason.