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A 2Dope Interview w/ Trap Toys, Creators of the Run the Jewels Bootleg Toy

blame it on JES7 November 2, 2015
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Hiding amongst the outrageously priced toys that can be found at websites like Hot Toys or at mainstream brick-and-mortar shops like Toys “R” Us is a very unique and niche market for collectors of “bootleg toys.”

These counterfeits were once relegated to commonly found knockoff shops in nearly every city’s Chinatown, but now, bootleg toys are being dug up and collected with as much fury as a record collector digging for that perfect gem in a box full of dusty 45s.

There’s an entire, unified collective of individuals whose sole purpose is to search out the perfect bootleg toy, and that specific market has answered their calling by producing these oddball toys in limited quantities, making them extremely exclusive. Case in point is the one known as the Super Sucklord or the minds behind the official CZARFACE run of bootleg figures, Killer Bootlegs. Their limited edition runs fetch upwards of nearly a grand on ebay. It’s absolute fucking madness.

However, it is the great minds behind Trap Toys who impressed me the most. Tony and company are popularly known for their work on their Run the Jewels bootleg which is an amalgamation of Killer Mike, El-P and the notorious Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame.

Every single time these pieces hit the internet shelves, they’re gone in seconds. It’s nutty, and it’s about to get even crazier, with their extremely dope Raekwon Snow Beach (and even more limited Linx Beach) pieces (see below). We got a chance to interview Tony who reveals what makes them tick – and also gave us the green light to reveal their next big project. Check it out.

What and who are Trap Toys?

Tony & Adam. Two skinny white boys with a lifetime passion for rap music.

Where are you guys based out of?

Bristol, UK. Famous for Banksy, Portishead, Massive Attack and Aardman Animations (creators of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep). Kinda explains where we get our style from!

In a market that is saturated with vinyl toy companies, what makes your design approach unique? What makes you guys the leaders of the pack?

Wow, that’s kind of you to say! We certainly don’t consider ourselves to be the leaders. We are relatively new and therefore still finding our feet. But I think we’ve found some initial success due to a clear brand identity. Our tagline is simple, “we make bootleg rap toys,” and thats exactly what we do! Customers know what they’re getting and the little touches we add prove that it all comes from a fan’s perspective.

What was the first project you guys worked on?

Our Action Bronson bootleg figure with Bernard Rollins. I had the idea to make Action Bronson into a Simpsons character. I was thinking of Homer initially. So I Googled it and Bernard’s images popped up. I contacted him to see if he’d be down for a collaboration and thankfully he said yes. We get tons of requests for that Bronson toy, but unfortunately we’re not allowed to make or sell them due to copyright infringement. After that, A-Trak got in touch and asked for a “Simpsonized” figure which we were happy to do. To date, that’s our only “official” release, but we are hoping to do more in the future.

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The response for the Run the Jewels figure was massive, spawning two releases. How did the idea come about?

It was just something that came to me in a flash of inspiration. Everything just seemed to fit together perfectly with El-P as the brain, masterminding their sound and Killer Mike as the Android crushing everything that moves. First off, I made a big version using an old 11″ Krang figure from the 90s. That got heaps of love when El and Mike retweeted, resulting in hundreds of requests from RTJ fans wanting to buy. The size of that toy made it totally unsuitable for resin casting, so I got hold of a 5” version and resculpted that instead. We then asked @worthyenemies to work his magic on the backing card and the RTJ bootleg figure was born.

What were Killer Mike and El-P’s thoughts? Were they open to the idea?

Thankfully they really liked it! I was slightly concerned that El might take offense at being turned into an ugly pink blob, but he was totally cool [with it]. In fact, we met them backstage recently when they performed at Banksy’s Dismaland. I put that original 11″ figure directly into Killer Mike’s hands, as well as a couple of the smaller blister-packed figures. We can confirm that both guys are super friendly and extremely humble. It was an unforgettable experience.

Any plans for a re-release?

Yes, we will be making more available soon.

What was the creative influence behind the Shaolin Chef and Iron Sam figurines?

Firstly, we are massive Wu-Tang fans, and have been for years. Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is an absolute classic, and a top 5 of-all-time. It’s a dark, gritty street album so we thought it would be funny to flip it into something childish and ridiculous. We like to inject a sense of fun into our toys where possible – they are toys after all! We approach it a bit like sampling, taking bits from other influences and remixing them to create something new, yet familiar.

We made those two figures for the current Rhyme & Resin show at Clutter Gallery in Beacon, NY. The brief was to make something inspired by early 90s urban culture and ain’t nothing more “90s urban” than the Wu!

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Is your demographic more toy collectors, Hip-Hop heads or a good mixture of both?

Traditionally, toys and action figures are made to accompany popular films, TV series and comics. We are doing the same thing but for Hip-Hop. So we think our collectors are just people who love both worlds. The weird thing is that our stuff means very little to those outside of the Hip-Hop community, it’s very niche in that way. We make it purely for fellow fans. But we certainly didn’t start this trend – remember that Madvillain figure that Kidrobot released a few years back? Man, that toy was fucking perfect! The box alone was a work of art.

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What were some of your favorite toys growing up, and what was the one holy grail you were after?

I used to collect toys from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman the Animated Series. My older brother had the entire Star Wars collection displayed in a glass cabinet which showed me that toys could be something more than just objects for kids to play with.

Did you ever acquire your coveted, holy grail piece?

I really need a Cannibal Fuckface figure by Johnny Ryan of Monster Worship. Anyone wanna trade?

What artists are you fucking with these days?

Musically, RTJ are untouchable. But we’re also heavily into A$AP Mob, Black Hippy, Boy Better Know and Pro Era. #RIPSeanPrice

In the bootleg toy world, shout out to Sucklord, Retroband, Killer Bootlegs, Joseph Harmon and Goodleg Toys.

In the toy biz, what are the benefits as well as downsides to using materials such as resin and vinyl?

The huge draw back to making toys is that it takes forever to make them! We really wish we could supply more of the demand for our stuff, but we just can’t make them quick enough. We both work full time jobs, so it’s a case of sacrificing evenings and weekends to get them done. We are getting faster though!

Where can people learn more about Trap Toys and purchase your limited edition product?

This is our first interview, so everything you can learn is right here! In terms of buying our toys, head over to the Clutter Gallery to purchase our Shaolin Chef and Iron Sam figures.

Follow Trap Toys on Instagram and Twitter for news, updates, exclusives and more random, rap nerd shit. Give them a like on Facebook. And finally, keep checking their website daily to see if they may have something that piques your interest. Who knows, you may see a re-up of their coveted Run the Jewels toy, or its variant. For similar bootleg toys, check out their sister company, Streets of Beige.

And now, check out an exclusive first look at Trap Toys’ collaboration with illustrator Dan Evans, the Eazy-He bootleg toy – a mash-up of the late, great Eazy E and He-Man.

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