Blacktop ball, pro ball, trick ball. A&R rep, radio host, world-renowned DJ. Freelance sneakerhead, sneaker designer, founder of a cultural movement. Businessman, author, filmmaker. Entrepreneur, activist, globalist. These disparate concepts are connected by one legendary man whose influence stretches through generations yet is considered an unknown outside of these realms. In a bit of self-reflection from the director’s chair, Bobby García’s Rock Rubber 45s serves as the means of exploring every facet of himself: Bobby García, aka Bobbito García, aka DJ Cumcumber Slice, aka Kool Bob Love, aka Bobby the Barber – the good, the bad, and the everlasting.
Born in 1966 to Puerto Rican parents Ramon and Romona García, this youngest of four grew up in New York City as a child who split his time between school and the basketball courts at Rock Steady Park. Though his adolescence involved some particularly troubling events, Bobby always carried a positive attitude which helped him adjust and adapt to a life of seemingly unending successes and failures. But where failure would drive the average individual to give up and fade away, Bobby always found a way to rebound using his love of basketball, music, and sneakers whether it was as the progenitor of modern sneaker culture, as a hip-hop documentarian, or as the creator of modern trick ball. The jubilant man they call Bobbito has seen and done it all, and always with a smile.
The fact that Bobbito himself is both the director and focal point of the story is going to come off as incredibly egotistical. With an entire feature film filled with celebrities like Lin-Manual Miranda, Rosie Perez, Questlove, and Patti Labelle talking about how wonderful Bobbito is, how frank could Rock Rubber 45s possibly be? The answer to that is surprisingly so. Bobbito doesn’t shy away from discussing some of the dark elements of his childhood or the harder days of keeping his career together nor does he ignore the outwardly perceived serendipitous nature of life. What may initially seem to audiences as a man taking a lap, Rock Rubber 45s is an honest, heart-warming exploration of a man whose reach within our culture is vast and largely anonymous − two facts Bobbito’s absolutely fine with as they are the by-product of living a life of filled with authenticity, a life compiled of the three things that make up who he is: rock (basketball), rubber (sneakers), and 45s (music).
Bobbito’s story is timely relative to the overwhelming sense of cynicism pervading society. Granted, a large amount of the criticism from the general populace is in regard to the overly-manufactured, high-consumption, geo-targeting that results in products losing their authenticity in favor of looking like the real deal. As a result, connection is eschewed for commercialism in the search for profits. This is the antithesis of Bobbito’s story and it’s one supported by seemingly endless testimonials, home videos, school records, newspaper and magazine articles, and so much more to cement the notion that heart trumps greed. It does not suggest, however, that authenticity also equates to great success, as the evidence within Rock Rubber 45s illustrates a man who’s been a pioneer in all three areas of his passions, but has never reaped the rewards. Just a few of the rich stories within Rock Rubber 45s touch on his involvement with a poetry slam show whose success formed the basis of the hit show Def Poetry Jam; on his lifelong obsession with one-of-a-kind sneaker curation, which made him the ideal man to partner with Nike during their 1990s rebranding; on how his musical influence inspired DJ E Love to play an Stevie Wonder-only set, which gave rise to the long-running annual “Wonder-full” tribute show, which Stevie himself has attended several times. Each story is more evocative than the last and each story is more powerful because the bulk of it comes not from Bobbito, but from external sources whose lives were potently impacted by his presence.
Whether you’re familiar with the people, events, or culture of Bobbito’s life or not, there’s no denying the pervasively infectious joy of Rock Rubber 45s. As Bobbito takes us through his life, the audience will clearly see that at any point, if not for the single-mindedness to press on, Bobbito would be a completely different person. We know this through the wealth of moments from which Bobbito presents a compelling narrative of a man driven by an innate goodness to do right by the essence of the things he loves. To him, there’s a purity and joy from playing basketball, partaking in music, and designing sneakers. Though Bobbito García’s clearly a driven individual, Rock Rubber 45s paints a portrait of someone never afraid to turn down a paycheck if the pay meant tarnishing any of the institutions he loves.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.