Rakim's Clothing Line, Urban Expedition

Two Rakim weeks ago, I covered Rakim's Rap City appearance, on which he promoted his clothing company, UBX.  About that: UBX stood for Urban Expedition. Rather than an independent clothing brand owned by Rakim, UBX was a label created by I.C. Isaacs & Company, Inc., a jeans and sportwear company founded in 1913. From then until the 1980s, the company primarily sold riding wear for the horse racing industry. In the 1980s, they were purchased by investors, started selling general men's and women's apparel, and made their way into J.C. Penney department stores. It was around this time that they also acquired Boss. By 1996, Boss become their best-selling line, accounting for more than 70% of annual sales. The acquisitions continued piling up, and in September 1999, I.C. Isaacs & Company announced the launch of UBX, an overt attempt to cash in on the streetwear trend that helped fuel Boss' rise. Or, as CEO Robert Arno put it, "The launch of Urban Expedition gives us the opportunity to capitalize on what we do best, providing style-conscious customers with cutting-edge fashions. By offering up-scale streetwear collections under a fresh new brand, we have an opportunity to capture a share of the audience who appreciates fashion-forward urban styling." The company hired Rakim to promote the line and even threw a party with Universal Records in November 1999 at NYC’s Metronome Restaurant & Lounge to celebrate the UBX launch along with the release of The Master. Also on the night's agenda: a preview of the Nelson George documentary A Great Day In Hip-Hop.

The only problem was that I.C. Isaacs was already running into financial trouble, had been since going public a couple years prior. UBX was discontinued in 2001. By 2011, I.C. Isaacs had completely divested from manufacturing and changed its name to Passport Brands Inc. 

Above: a selection of vintage UBX jackets, shirts and jeans floating around the resale market in recent years. Still unlocated: the Funkmaster Flex Great Day In Hip-Hop mix, a snippet of which accompanied the Rakim promo CD single handed out as an invite to The Master/UBX launch party.

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