This weekend I had the pleasure of interviewing Defcase, the mastermind barber behind a couple of Ron Artest’s most memorable haircuts. We talked about how Ron got started in having the NBA’s best hair, whether or not his personality is an act, and everyone from Anthony Mason to Brandon Jennings. Great stuff.
Listen here! (16 minutes, 31 seconds)
The full text of the interview is below.
Roger: I’m Roger Pimentel, for HowToWatchSports.com, and I’m joined today by Defcase, better known as Ron Artest’s barber. Or used to be. He’s responsible, at least, for the famous “Tru Warier” cut. Defcase, thanks for joining me.
Defcase: Hey, thanks a lot for having me, Roger.
R: Yeah, no problem. Tell me a bit about yourself and what you do.
D: Yeah, my name is Case, Defcase. I do a lot of work for websites, and graphic design, that’s what I specialize in. As a hobby, I’ve been cutting hair since I was young. I had people lining up in the backyard for haircuts. I specialize in promotions, and right now what I’m doing is helping with these t-shirts. So, yeah, that’s it.
R: Tell me about the t-shirts, and what you’ve got going on right now.
D: Right now I’ve got these Manny Pacquiao t-shirts. I’m working with Team Pacquiao, as you know he won his eighth belt last night, so right now he’s a hot commodity and a lot of people are looking to pick up his merchandise. So that’s where business calls me to be at.
R: Cool. Tell me about how you came in contact with Ron Artest, and how you ended up cutting his hair.
D: Well, I came in contact with Ron Artest when I was in New York. I had a couple of friends who were working with him on music. It was a label called Q-York Entertainment, and when Ron started working on his music, when he first started getting involved in everything, he used to come around and we started shooting music videos for him. I was working on all the marketing stuff for our business, for our brand, and he wanted me to help him out with all this stuff, so I started on his logos, his identity on the the Internet, and I started cutting his hair basically because I was cutting one of our partners’ hair. I was cutting a design, Q-York, on the back of his head, and he saw that, and that was the beginning right there, and he wanted me to go ahead and start cutting Tru Warier on his head one time when he came and visited us. That was it right there, that was the beginning. So since then… that’s how it all began for him.
R: Nice. So you did the Tru Warier, and then you did another one when he was with the Kings, right?
D: Mm-hmm. Yep.
R: And another others since then, or just those ones?
D: No, it’s just those two. After that, he’d been jumping around from place to place, I think he had moved to Houston, and so whenever he was in town—because I had moved to L.A., and it was whenever he was in town that he would hit me up. That’s been the two that I cut for him, right there. I think he had found someone over in Houston who had approached him about cutting his hair. From there, you know, someone who was more local for him, and someone who was closer. So, he built a bond with that person, and instead of having to travel 2,000 miles to get a haircut, he had one right there in his backyard.
R: Nice. What do you think about the cuts that he’s had since then? He has a sweet Rockets logo cut, and then he had some cool ones this past year. What did you think about that?
D: That guy’s really talented. When I saw those cuts, I was like, at least he found someone who was good. It would be another story if he found someone wasn’t doing him justice. But definitely, whoever’s cutting his hair now has a lot of talent.
R: Good. Looks cool to me, but I don’t have the chops. So what’s the process for a haircut like that? Does Ron come to you with a design, or with an idea, or does he come and say “I want something cool, do your thing?”
D: The first time, it was up in the air. We were just sitting down brainstorming, and I thought, hey, why don’t we do Tru Warier in your head to promote the label, and he was totally for it. From there, he just left it up to me, and we basically just freestyled it. Other times, if we’re going to do something like that, they usually come with an idea, and we just build around that.
R: Cool. What about with the “Kings” cut, was there a story behind that one?
D: With the Kings, he had hit me up, and he just wanted a fade. I think he was a little that David Stern would have some problems with him promoting anything else, so he just wanted a fade. This was right after the fight with the Detroit Pistons, and he was getting heat from everyone, so he really wanted to stay a little low, and I was like, why don’t we do the Kings to show that you’re part of the team, show that you represent your team, and you’re a team player. Just to show something that was more like instead of being an individual and representing himself, just show something that represents him and his team. So we went ahead and just cut the “Kings” in the back of his head. It was fun times.
R: And since then, he’s had a Rockets logo cut, and he’s had a Lakers logo cut. So it looks like you started something.
D: Yeah, yeah. This was all inspired by Anthony Mason. I don’t know if you guys remember Anthony Mason, but he basically started all that. After Anthony Mason, everyone was everyone was like, I gotta get that, I gotta get that, we all gotta do this. It basically brought us back. It was kinda like bringing the old school back into the new school and just representing what was already out there.
R: Very cool. So the big question, and you probably get this a lot as someone who knows Ron Artest, he had a reputation for a while as a “bad boy”, after the Brawl, after that stuff. It’s not so much that way anymore, but he does come across as just as very strange human being. Really goofy, really different guy. My question about Ron Artest is, is it an act? Is he really a strange dude? Or is it a show he puts on?
D: Ron is just original. Even hanging out with him, you can tell he’s kinda off the wall. He’s just being himself. He’s a good guy. It’s definitely not an act, he’s definitely down for whatever. Ron… he’s just out there. Growing up in Queensbridge and stuff, he’s always just been a character. He’s pretty straightforward with what he wants, and I think nothing’s going to stop him in whatever he wants to do. He’s definitely changed; he’s definitely changed and gotten his act straight and that’s definitely a good thing. He’s just being himself—this is really who he is. He’s just really down-to-earth, and it’s just like when you hang out with anyone else, we all have that one friend who’s just kinda out there, and he just says whatever he wants to say. That’s Ron. That’s our Ron of the group.
R: Nice, that makes a lot of sense.
D: Yeah, it’s definitely not an act.
R: Do you think he deserved any of the flak he got after the Brawl, and for a while he was kind of the poster boy for what was wrong with the NBA. Do you think he deserved that?
D: He definitely did something wrong. When you’re in that spotlight, you have to hold yourself as a role model to anyone, and that was televised nationwide. It made a lot of news. It wasn’t good for the sport, but it had to happen for him to become who he is. He’s learned from it. I’m sure that if it happened again, he would know what to do this time. It had to happen, and he paid his penalty for whatever he did wrong, and he’s moved on and he’s become a better person because of it.
R: And no reason to dwell on that, I think that’s behind us. But to draw from another NBA “bad boy”, when people see Ron, they see his hair, they see his outspoken personality, and even the way he plays the game, 99% of the time the first person they think of is Dennis Rodman. Any idea how much connection he feels to Dennis Rodman, if he’s drawn inspiration from him, or did they just end up doing similar things by going down their own path?
D: I think Dennis Rodman probably paid some influence on him. Dennis Rodman was playing basketball when Ron was still growing up, so it’s exactly like how it is. He was penalized, the way that people looked at him for what he did. It’s the same thing with how Dennis Rodman acted. I’m sure that he influenced Ron, how he’d become that “bad boy” image for the NBA. Yeah, I’m sure it has. It happened how it happened, and if we look at where Dennis Rodman’s at right now, hopefully he’s not the same person, but if you look at where Dennis Rodman’s at, he has a lot of problems. But when we look at Ron, at least he didn’t turn out in that same direction. He found a way to fix it, and he found a solution on how to become a better person, and to not end up the same way as Dennis Rodman.
R: Well let’s talk about basketball now. You watch a lot of basketball?
D: Yeah, I watch a lot of basketball. My team is the Knicks, but, I don’t know, man.
R: That’s a shame, really.
D: Yeah, they could be doing better. Hopefully they’ll get to pick up Carmelo, or C3P0.
R: That would change the Knicks, that’s for sure. What do you think of their pickups over the summer? Stoudemire, Raymond Felton… Stoudemire’s the big name, clearly.
D: Yeah, he’s a big name. I’ve been in Cali so I’m kinda stuck out with what’s been happening locally with the Knicks, all I see is what’s on ESPN. I don’t know, they could have done a better job picking up some people. I was hoping LeBron would have been with them, but I guess he wanted to enjoy the palm trees and the beaches.
R: Guess so. What do you think about the Heat?
D: The Heat? They’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s three superstars on the team. They have a couple losses under their belt, but a lot of people were expecting them to go 82-0. There’s talent there, but they still have a lot of work to do as far as teamwork and meshing together to work together and get these W’s. But I do expect them to take the Eastern Conference.
R: You think?
D: Yeah, I think so. I think so. It’s either them or Boston. I think down the line, that the Heat are going to figure out how to get these W’s. And the Celtics are kind of an old team, so I think they might not last the 82 games. It could be possible, but I put my money on the Heat.
R: Yeah, interesting. It’s definitely way too early. They’re at 6-4 right now. I don’t think anybody called, I don’t think anybody would have predicted 6-4 right now. But I’ve gotta think you’re right, I’ve gotta think they’re going to figure that out, with all the talent they’ve got on that team.
D: Yeah, they’re just trying to figure out their roles, I think. Wade is a role player, LeBron, Bosh… these are three superstars whose teams were always on their backs. So now they’re trying to figure out, all right, let me spread some of this weight out.
R: What about the Lakers? You talk about being in L.A., are you a Lakers fan?
D: I like the Lakers. I’ve always been a Kobe fan. If I were to pick between Shaq and Kobe, I’d definitely pick Kobe. I like Shaq, and I respect him, but ever since he knocked out my player Patrick Ewing from the starting lineup in the All-Star game, I was kinda like, you know what? Yeah, Patrick’s the man.
R: So Ron took a little bit of flak last year for not fitting in with the Lakers right away, but it seemed like he made up for it at the end. How do think he’s doing with the Lakers?
D: I think he’s going to do good. It’s not as much pressure, when you have all these great players on the team, especially with a team like the Lakers. It gives him more time to relax, instead of like, “Everything relies on me, I’m one of the top two players on the team. If I don’t do good, then the team’s not gonna.” It relieves some stress off of him. It gives him more time to gather his thoughts. Having Kobe on his team, there’s no way you can go wrong with that.
R: Yeah, that’s a good start. So when you watch basketball, are you looking at hair?
D: Of course, yeah, I’m looking at hair. I try to see what kind of styles are out there, try to see what was influenced by what. After I saw Ron Artest’s haircut I starting seeing a lot more people doing crazy things, and I kinda feel like I helped a little bit of that.
R: So who’s got good hair right now? Who do you like?
D: Ron still takes it. He’s got that gold hairdo sometimes. Last time I saw him he had that goldish hair with Chinese or Japanese lettering in the back of it. He got that one, right there.
R: I’m going to ask you about somebody off the cuff, and maybe you haven’t seen him play. But have you seen Brandon Jennings with his 80′s high-top fade?
D: The flat-top?
R: Yeah, plays for the Bucks. What do think about that stuff? Turning back the clock?
D: Every time I see something like that it reminds me of like, Kid n’ Play, reminds me of like, Big Daddy Kane, all the hip-hop rappers… back in the days of New Jack City, too. I think it’s cool. They’ve got throwbacks, and everything that was in history in basically just going to come back. It’s old school, but to the new school it’s new.
R: Nice, very cool. Well Defcase, thanks for joining me. Give us a website where we can see your stuff.
D: Oh yeah, you can check out my stuff at http://www.defcase.com, you can find all the information on there. All the posts of haircuts I have, music I have, and all the designs I’ve done for other artists. I specialize in websites and graphic design, so the haircutting is just a hobby at this point. I do it for free, just to do it.
R: Sure enough. I’ll throw up the link to your site, and I’ll put some pictures as well so people know what we’re talking about, which they should probably know already. Thanks for join me, appreciate it.
D: All right Roger, thank you.