Rapper, entrepreneur, and co-founder of the Lo Lifes crew Thirstin Howl the 3rd, talks about the meaning and importance of Polo to the world he grew up in.
Sean Williams: What was the inspiration for “Thirstin Howl the 3rd?” Because even today, you still have one of the most unique names ever in hip-hop music history.
Thirstin Howl the 3rd: I mean, the inspiration basically came naturally. A lot of people started calling me thirsty when I was rhyming, right? All my friends. Everywhere I was going, I’m driving, all I want to do is battle people, so everybody’s like, “Ah, I ain’t going nowhere with you. You too thirsty, you thirsty. I ain’t getting in the car with you, you thirsty.” Because I’m going to pull over for a battle and I’ll stay there for two hours. So the name Thirsty kept sticking with me. So after the Rap Sheet convention, I went away to my sister’s crib in Massachusetts. I was like, “Let me go over here and just get away from the neighborhood and focus on my writing.” And I went to Massachusetts and I spent two months out there. And I came back, I was Thirstin Howl the 3rd.
I developed my character. I developed the voice. It’s like it took a nice little period for me to transition into the style and all that I wanted it to be. I’m from the street, I’m from the hood, and all that, but when I started, when I became an artist, I didn’t want to use that as an excuse. I wanted to rap like and speak perfect English and speak proper. And I wanted to do everything that everybody wasn’t doing in hip-hop at the time, at least, I felt. So that’s how Thirstin came about. So the Howl came in because my rhyming is I’m howling at you. So the thirst and the howl is stuck. And then the third just because I’m the complete package, man, of an artist, just like the man, woman, child; sun, moon, stars. Everything that pertains to a complete package of something, Thirstin Howl the 3rd is everything in one. I’m the complete package. That’s how the third fits in with all that.
Sean Williams: I think Thirstin Howl the 3rd from Gilligan’s Island is actually a good segue into the other facet of your life that has us here in The Backstory, and that is you establishing and being co-founder of the Lo Lifes. But instead of talking about the Lo Lifes, we want to talk about you personally, in terms of what made you choose Ralph Lauren Polo brand as something to become such a connoisseur of.
Thirstin Howl the 3rd: It was crazy because we didn’t start with Ralph Lauren, like I always say. It was an evolution of the brands. All the other brands before Ralph Lauren, we did it the same exact way. I wore the Adidas suits the same way I wear the Lo right now. I wore the Benetton in that same way. I wore the IZOD the same way, the Puma suits, the track suits, all that. The Ralph Lauren brand became the only brand that was super consistent and seasonal. They would drop in every season with a massive variety of logos, styles, prints, colors. So that’s what made Ralph the brand to choose because of his consistency and the amount of drops he has seasonally.
I honestly never knew what a seasonal drop was until Ralph Lauren stuff. I don’t recall another brand at that time that did drops per season, I mean, at least to my understanding. But him doing the seasonal and making all the big logos and all that, that’s what made it official official, man, where we all just gravitated to it, and we were locked in from then, man. That’s what all it was. Because I think if Adidas would have did it that hard, we probably would’ve chosen Adidas. I think we would have did it with other brands because we was doing it with all these other brands. With FILA, we was going just as hard as with the Polo, as far as the way we would connect in it and putting it together and all that.
Dan McQuade: I feel the same way about clothes that release on a seasonal drop. I get excited. I’m like, “Oh, this is coming out later this fall or whatever.” What about that work gets you excited for clothes?
Thirstin Howl the 3rd: I mean, in the Lo Life era, what made us excited back then was beating your friends to it, because we all about the same thing. All my friends is on the hunt for this. So if I can get it first, then I’m going to be the man around here, things like that. So that was a lot of the excitement. We challenge each other when it came to the garments and the Lo, or who was rocking what first. So that was big, man.
Sean Williams: Yep. Yep. And as far as style goes, personal style, right? As far as I know, and you can drop the science on this, you and Lo Crew were tacticians, specialists, if you will, with layering your apparel. What was the science behind layering apparel?
Thirstin Howl the 3rd: Just to show you had all the connecting pieces, right? And not only that, it was there just in case somebody would pull up thinking they outdid you, and you could pull out a piece from underneath and be like, “Bam.” You know what I mean? It was a way to shoot people down like, “Bam, you ain’t got nothing on me. You ain’t see this.” So it was like a way to shoot them down. When we went to the clubs in those days and stuff, we would even switch up the shirts throughout the night. I would change my shirt two or three times and be rocking the different joint, just because I was layering up like that. And when you was g-ing, and that was one of the ways of g-ing, you just put everything on. So that used to speak, too. You just throwing things on, putting them on.
Dan McQuade: One thing I found, I read an old quote from an interview you did. I’m just going to read it here. It’s not about Polo, but the quote is, “I remember getting my first pair of PRO-Keds sneakers and how I looked for having those on and how everybody else looked at me for having those on. Those were items of respect and gave you social status.” I’m fairly certain we had very different backgrounds growing up, but that quote rings really true for me when I was a kid and a teen. I mean, honestly, why I still spend too much money on sneakers now. There is that sort of feeling that you both get from yourself and from other people complimenting you on your look. I guess if you could just talk about that a little. That’s something I find very interesting.
Thirstin Howl the 3rd: I mean, just society period, that like-
Dan McQuade: Sure.
Thirstin Howl the 3rd: We come from backgrounds with poverty, drug addiction, dysfunctional households and things like that. So I used to be a well-dressed dude all the time, man. So you will see me as well-dressed as I was, not knowing that in my household, I didn’t even have furniture and things like that. I will be in Midtown Manhattan and an older white man would tell me, “Hey, that’s some pretty cool sweater right there.” You know what I mean?
So just to know that I know he is seeing the Lo in a different perspective from the way I’m seeing it, but he’s still admiring and respecting it, it always was like a way of showing you, you’re doing something right because you’re being acknowledged. And it meant a lot, man. And it made a difference. Like I said, when you in that dysfunctional society and the world don’t know what’s going on in your head at the time, but somebody is stopping to appreciate how well you look today and how you put them threads together.
And it was also a way we were influencing our neighborhoods, man, our communities, and we were having an effect, that just that little, “Hey, you look good today,” stuck on somebody else to where they want to look like that. And that’s something that we had a lot to do within hip-hop culture and specifically, in our own areas where we come from, man. And that was a great feeling, man, because you don’t know how many girls is like, “Ooh, you’re looking good.” And that’s normal. This is something you expecting to hear every day when you come out, “Hey, yo, you shut it down today. Yeah, son, you killing it.” That’s why you surrounded by 20 other dudes that want that attention and you’re going to make sure you’re not outdoing them. That was crazy.