Native San Franciscan Tommy Guerrero is a legend in the skateboarding world. An original member of the famous Bones Brigade skateboarding team, Guerrero pioneered street skating in the 1980s and 1990s. Though he still skates and designs skateboards, lately Guerrero has been following his musical passions. As a solo artist and with his group Jet Black Crayon, Guerrero has been developing a hypnotic, pulsing style of music that is echoed in the sounds of the city he lives in. In “Up from the Street,” Spark checks in on one of San Francisco’s most versatile performers.
Guerrero made his name in skateboarding in 1984 when, as a young teenager, he entered the first streetskating competition, held in Golden Gate Park. The only amateur involved in the event, Guerrero won, beating out 15 well-known professionals. Propelled by this unprecedented success, Guerrero went pro, signing to the Powell Peralta skate team. Over the following years, Guerrero remained at the forefront of street skating, and in 1990, he helped found Real/Deluxe Skateboards, a San Francisco-based company that designs boards for skaters by skaters. Still a part owner in the company, Guerrero works as a designer for Real/Deluxe, creating graphics for decks, stickers, T-shirts, caps and other gear.
These days, though, Guerrero has been putting much of his energy into his musical projects. He has recorded several down-tempo, trip-hop records under his own name and two full-lengths with Jet Black Crayon, as well as doing guest spots on a number of other projects. Though writers and critics are fond of calling him an ex-professional skater turned musician, Guerrero is quick to point out that music has always been a part of his life, a track that has run parallel to his more public persona as a skater.
Just as Guerrero’s skating style took him to the city streets, rather than to skate ramps or empty swimming pools, so does his music turn to the urban environment for inspiration. Using music that evokes the sounds that might intertwine and drift through the streets, Guerrero’s moody, atmospheric music perfectly captures the tenor of San Francisco’s more urban neighborhoods. Listening to a Jet Black Crayon record, one might imagine an experience of the streets: hip hop beats pumping out of passing cars, a street performer strumming a guitar, the cacophony of passing conversations in multiple languages — all melding together into a hypnotic soundtrack for the city itself.