The Hustler’s Spirit

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Hailing from Richmond Hill Queens, Angel Moret has been lacing dudes with some of the tightest fades and illest tapers for the better part of 16 years. Paying dues in many of the hoods most well known shops has earned him much respect throughout (and beyond) the 5 boroughs. Respect not only for his skills as a Barber, but also his dedication as a father. As the proud father of 2 beautiful kids, Angel has been able to balance his career with fatherhood, seamlessly. Big Ang has experienced a great deal in his years barbering. He’s seen the good AND the bad, but what brought him to the Hustle, has always been to me, nothing short of providence. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a big believer in coincidence. I’m one who feels things happen for a reason… Angel’s connection to the Hustle is one of these instances.

Back when Charly was just about to open the Hustle there was a minor concern… there were only 2 barbers on board at the time. Although they both had a good amount of clientele, the Hustle was an upstart coming out of nowhere and faced stiff competition. I remember getting a call from Charly and hearing a returned easiness in his voice… “Yo, I got Angel”. I recall asking, “Angel?! Where the hell did he come from?” though in all actuality, I really didn’t care… Hearing it just felt right, almost like it was some divine intervention sh!t. “Yeah he said he’s closing his shop”, continued Charly. From that point forward I’ve always felt that it WAS some preordained shit. The Hustle was meant to be. In any case, Angel was true to his name and the Hustle opened up shop… Deep… And it’s presence was felt instantly.

Ang and I kicked it for a little bit, and he took me on a journey… A trip that for a moment took me back to a time when dudes like Bald Head Slick and Primo monopolized the airwaves (and I don’t mean the radio). When the brews were cheap & cold, smoke was in the air, and passing cars made everywhere sound like a concert.

To truly appreciate the exchange below, bump any Gangstarr joint and behold the realness.

G: So Ang, how did you start cutting hair?

Angel: Chillin’ with one of my boys… His barber was his next door neighbor and he broke his arm. We’re in the backyard waiting to get cuts and he was like yo, I can’t do it but if anybody wants to try, I could do a step by step. Nobody stepped up so I was like, I’ll do it! And so he went step by step, and I went step by step, and you know, sh!t came out HORRIBLE, but you know, I did it, Lol! And it was on from there… I was like 19

G: Lol…What was your first shop gig?

Angel: Flava Cutz… From there I went to Ace of Fades, then went to Hair We Do with Charly, Lol! Then I went back to Flava.. Left again…Then I went to Nappy Dugout…Left!! Lol, went back to Ace of Fades.

G: Wow you been around, I remember all those shops…Nappy Dugout, that takes me back…You had your own shop too right, how was that?

Angel: Yeah…It was bad… I went in with a partner and things didn’t work. Yeah, it was a lesson learned… I had barbers that wanted to be drug dealers or whatever… Barbers that wanted to do their own thing. I wasn’t fnckin’ with that.

G: You’ve been here at the Hustle from the beginning, how’d that come about?

Angel: Yeah, from Day One… I was cutting this dude and he tells me he heard Charly was opening up a shop. I was just about to close mine… So I called, “What up Charly? I heard you opening up a shop!” “Nah, um…” I said ” Yo, I’m closing man!” He was like, “Ahhh Yeah, yeah, yeah…” Lol.

G: I saw your FB status… 16 years and you still feel like you’re learning?

Angel: Yeah I STILL feel like I’m learning… everyday. It’s like with the Mohawks, I told myself I would NEVER do a Mohawk. But, you know, you gotta do it if you want that money!

G: Yeah, hawks been around for minute now surprisingly…

Angel: Whaat?! I thought they were a PHASE … This is just some sh!t dudes are going thru…Oh I’ll pass! Then everybody started wanting them and I’m like YO, I gotta get up on my GAME!!! Jumped on YouTube right quick lol, GOOGLE! LOL!

G: Lol, yeah google is a wonderful thing! But still, that isn’t something you can just watch and do.

Angel: Nah, it takes skill. You have to know what you’re doing… I started cutting at 22. Officially, in a barbershop, 23.

G: Oh, at a shop in a year?
Angel: See I went to Barber School… I went to Atlas, over by St. Marks.

G: Word…How long?

Angel: Sh!t, not long… Just enough for them to say, Yo umm, you owe us money, get out! Lol

G: Lol that’s real!

Angel: I bumped into some dudes in there, and you know people would come in and pay $5 for a haircut, I’d give it in and these dudes were like “Yo what you doing man?? You already giving them money man, yo pocket that money!” Me, Whut?? I’m like, how you do that? See, when you went to class they’d give you assigned seats and they were like “everyday when you come in, switch the seats” I was like WORD?!?!? Lol

Angel: So anyway the day I got suspended, Lol, I came to Queens, went to Flava Cutz… It was on from there.

G: Lol…So after all that, would you still recommend someone starting out to go to school?

Angel: Yeah, you get to know the basics, to help you to start off… But you gotta hustle… I used to go to Smokey Park everyday, EVERYDAY. “Yo, you need a cut?, Yo, YOU need a cut? Yeah, OK, come on” … … … You smoke REE-FERS? Lol

G: Lol, that’s MAD real! Back then, I’d be like, (glance left, glance right, and with the straightest possible face) “Yeah.”

Angel: Lol, Thats when it started… Man, when I got the job at Flava, I remember I was twisted as hell! I had to bring somebody in so I could show I know how to cut, so I went to Smokey and waited for my man to get home from work. He comes, I’m like come on, he’s like “where we going, I just got home from work!” I say, come to this shop with me you ’bout to help get ME a job… He’s like “Hold oooon, uh, can we smoke first?! Can we go to 132 and 101?” Lol, I STILL cut that dude’s hair that got me the job at Flava… We were supposed to go to school together. I had a couple dudes that were all supposed to do that and we were supposed to open a shop in the neighborhood… I was the only one that went with it.

G: Lol, those were the DAYS and THAT was the place… So you went in there blazed, Lol…”You’re Hired!” ( in my most Howard type voice) Lol

Angel: Yeah man lol, Ralph was in my ear like (deep voice) ” Yo man, you taking mad long on a number 2 with a skin fade!” Lol

G: You knew Ralph from before that?

Angel: I knew him but I didn’t know him, I had gone to school with his sister….

G: And Charly you met at Flavas?

Angel: Yeah, but I used to see Charly at Smokey with his roller blades… I USED TO SEE YOU TOO!

G: Me?!

Angel: YEEEAAAHH! By the handball courts…WITH A 40! Lol

G: LMAO! Yeah that sounds about right, lol! You just took me way back!

G: And you mentioned Charly with the roller blades, he was out there hustling too! All y’all dudes were out there infringing on each others territory, Lol! All on each others turf and whatnot, lol!

Angel: YEEAAAH, lol.

G: But nowadays a lot of these younger dudes want everything quick fast… They don’t really think about putting in that kinda work.

Angel: A lot of dudes don’t realize that man. They wanna come in and cut hair and make money, quick fast… Nah man. I used to get mad when I first started, I didn’t really know how to cut, I didn’t have any real clientele. Come in Friday, Saturday I’m sitting down like, aww man, watching all these other dudes cutting… They talkin bout “Oh I made two fifty, three hundred dollars” and I’m sittin’ there, I got like $30 in my pocket, Lol… I had to realize you gotta be in there everyday…to make money, you gotta be in there everyday…you in there everyday and your day will come.

G: You gotta earn the respect before the money… But after that, you get mad LOVE!

Angel: Yeah, my girl hates walking around cuz it’s like everywhere we go, we bump into a customer of mine. She’s like damn, you know somebody here, you know somebody there. She’s from Connecticut…Man, we went out there one day and we run into one of my clients… She was like Oh my god! I can’t even bring you to Connecticut!?

G: Barbers are kind of like unsung celebrities… I mean you guys are responsible for someone looking good…But I don’t think y’all get as much credit as you deserve…

Angel: When I first started, I had one of my uncles come at my mom like, “A Barber? He wants to be a Barber? He ain’t gonna go nowhere, he ain’t gonna make no money…” After I started making money and all that, see him later and he asks what I’m doing? I said I’m still cutting hair… He’s like “for real?!” Yeah you doubted me right? I’m looking good, kids looking good, I don’t beg nobody for money or nothing like that…

G: Yeah people sleep… Half step. This is real… Barbering goes back. It’s like there have always been barbers… An art that’s been passed down.

Angel: I got 2 of my cousins in PA, they started cutting because of me… One is a female, she does both guys and girls hair… Her brother is starting school now, for cutting hair and all that.

G: That leads to my next question… Would you teach?

Angel: I got couple dudes that I taught, but I’m up to a point now where, if you’re not showing you want to learn, I’m not going to teach you. You got these dudes that say they want to learn, “I wanna learn” then when you’re trying to teach them, they’re running around over here, over there… I remember a dude at Ace of Fades, this kid is like 16 years old, I see him having trouble, I ask him if I could show him something real quick… He’s like “nah man, I got this, I got this…” I’m like aight… A few minutes go by and he’s like, “Yo A, um can u help me out?” – Nah maaaan, lol you got it, you got it! Lol

G: What about your son, if he wants to cut? I mean he practically grew up in the shop…

Angel: I’m good with it…I don’t know, he’s told me he wants to be a Barber before but he also said he wants to be a basketball player, and he wants to be this and that. He’s 7 now… at one point it was just me and him. Every time somebody sees him now they’re like “THAT’S your son?! That’s the little one that used to sit right there?!” (points to a 2 square foot area next to his barber chair)… My son asked me, “Daddy, why does everybody always say I used to sit right there?” ‘Cuz you used to sit RIGHT THERE, Lol!

G: Had to be hard…

Angel: When he started school, I remember I used to take him to school in the morning, come here, leave to go pick him up, come back here, and then leave to go BACK to the BX.

G: Wow…and your daughter?

Angel: My daughter is going to high school next year… Just went over to the High School Fair…

G: Mine too, where does the time go? Does she know what school she wants to go to?

Angel: Either Frederick Douglas or Laguardia… She’s into performing arts at school…she’s involved in all the plays and talent shows. On Saturday’s she takes acting classes… She was doing Ice Skating for 4 or 5 years… I remember when she used to have them shows, having to be outside in the COLD (does the universal freezing self hug) MAN, you lucky I love you, man! Lol! But last year was her last year… She said she wants to focus more on acting.

G: Ha! I feel you, but they need to be stimulated, especially when they’re into something…You got any words of advice for young dads trying to get in this game?

Angel: Hard work and dedication… But the main thing is you gotta be patient, it’ll come.

Angel: Cutting hair is like you’re selling drugs… This (pointing to his chair and station) is all your lil’ corner right here. Lol, You gotta make sure your work is good, so you could keep them comin’ back. Lol.

G: So you servin’ em, huh? Lol, Hustling!

Angel: Yeah man, HUSTLIN’, you got the next dude on corner (pointing to the next station) comin’ out, like “Yo I’m nice!” You mess around, he gets one of your customers, that’s it, you’re done. Lol

Almost on cue the homeboy Angel mentioned he’d been cutting since way back comes in for his cut.

G: So how long has Angel been cutting your hair?

Macho: I was the FIRST head Angel cut! Like 16-17 years.. Practicing on my head and sh!t…I’d say it’s like this…

Angel: Yeah but he was more like “my barber does this like this and my barber does this like that” (fingers all in his own hair) and I’m like, “Come on MAN! lol.”

Macho: Lol, But in all that time, I think maybe one time I’ve had somebody else touch my hair… All these years, maybe one time, and not even… Yo, you know who I saw the other day?!

As the conversation turns towards a barber-client confidentiality, I fall back and give these old friends their space. What they’ve got going on right there is a members only tradition and I didn’t feel it right to infringe upon it. There were a few more questions I wanted to ask, but I feel I caught the essence of this hustler’s spirit…

El Barbero

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At age 36 Rafael Padilla has been cutting hair for more than half of his life (leaning closer to two thirds of it actually) but after hearing his story, one is surprised he wasn’t born with a clipper in his hand.

Born and raised in Jamaica Queens, Ralph (as he’s referred to by fam and friends) has been cutting hair for 22 years. Happily married for 17 years to, in his own words, “a wonderful woman”, Ralph is also the proud father of 5 beautiful children. He first sharpened his blades as a teen cutting neighborhood heads and perfected his craft in several shops throughout his career. After taking his NY honed skills to Cleveland for the early part of the millennium, he returned to NY in 2006 a licensed Cosmetologist and Hair Stylist. Shortly after a brief stint in a Southside shop, Ralph brought his talents to the Hustle and the rest as they say, is history.

I sat with “El Barbero” for a little Q&A and was surprised at how rich and deeply entwined that history actually is… Read on.

G: So how long have you been cutting hair?

Ralph: I’ve been cutting hair now for 22 years, but I’ve been professionally cutting for 18. I started cutting in the streets at 14 years old…cutting dudes from my building and other buildings in my neighborhood, but my professional career started at Splendor Hair Salon in 1995.

G: Splendor?! Lol

Ralph: Yeah, Splend-DOOR, with a O R, lol…. Then I went to Flava Cutz from 96 to 99. I moved out to Cleveland in 2000, spent some time in a couple shops out there, went to cosmetology school for 2 years and became a licensed cosmetologist and hair stylist. After that, I cut for 2 years at Barberia Cache before coming back to NY in 06.

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G: So, why hair?

Ralph: Why hair? Because it’s in my blood… Both my grandparents did hair, my mother and 3 aunts were hairstylists and barbers. I grew up watching my mother doing hair in the house.

G: Wow, definitely in the blood!

Ralph: Yeah man, my mom had equipment, dryers and all that set up in the the hallway leading to my bedroom. When I was 14 she bought some clippers because she wanted to start doing men’s hair and it was on for me from there. I grabbed those clippers and went outside like ” Yoooo, I got clippahs! ” lol.

G: Lol, at 14 kid!?

Ralph: Yo I was going in! Man, I remember I had invented this sh*t called the triple fade… Lol, it was 3 levels of fades. You had the top with a fade, a fade under that, and then a fade under that!
G: LMAO, you’re kidding me!

Ralph: It was hot! Lol, You know back then, the early 90’s, dudes did their own thing… I was cutting a good amount of heads. There were 5 buildings in my neighborhood and I was cutting at each one. It was crazy… I had actually set up shop in the basement of one of those buildings with one of my boys, Lance, who taught me…We had flyers and all that. Then at like 19, I stopped cutting…

G. Stopped?! Why?

Ralph: It was rough, you know? I had a job, I was cutting hair on the side…weekends or whatever. I think I was working for the post office..I wasn’t trying to cut 15-20 heads on a Friday or Saturday night… So I stopped. Then after a little while, I start hearing about some dude cutting hair in my buildings… That was enough to make me dust off the old clippers!! The dude turned out to be to that dude right there, Charly!

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G. Charly?! Word?!

Ralph: Yeah, I knew him from high school, we were real cool… but after high school that was it… We didn’t see each other after that. Then I keep hearing about him cutting dudes I knew, here, there, but we never saw each other. We actually ran into each other a year or so later by the shop I was working at. He was delivering potato chips to the bodega next door, but was still cutting on the side too…and that was it! We been having this dysfunctional relationship ever since! lol

 

G: Y’all used to cut at Flava together right, how’d that come about?

Ralph: I was there from the beginning, I helped them paint and whatever else to help get the shop open… Charly came in afterwards.

G: Now tell me about Cleveland, was it challenging? Were cats really into cuts out there?

Ralph: Oh, dudes were definitely getting haircuts out there! It was just… just too easy. I mean, just on the fact that I was from New York, dudes were pretty much letting me do whatever I wanted to their hair, and they thought it was hot! It’s like…what was the name of that movie? Who’s The Man? When dude said “He said this was the new Wesley Snipes!” It was something like that…lol. I wasn’t f*cking nobody’s cuts up, but it was like whatever I did it was hot cause it was from NEW YORK.

G: Lol, I got you…

Ralph: But it was a different experience in Cleveland because we were like the only real barbershop…there was no competition… It was a different thing, I mean, dude we were charging $20 a haircut back then!

20120927-115031.jpgG: So how were the skills out there, where any dudes nice out there?

Ralph: My cousin… Me… < Long Pause>

Ralph & G: But that’s about it! Lol

Ralph: I mean NOW, it’s different, but back then, you know, it was just US. A couple of dudes worked under us and their skills got better and better… But it was a small town, you know.

 

G: Talk to me about school…

Ralph: I went to Vogue and Charmaine Beauty Academy for two years. As you might be able to tell, it was black owned establishment… Just me and a bunch of sisters in my class.

G: Just you? That had to be interesting.

Ralph: Oh, it was wild! Them girls were crazy… Definitely one of the best experiences of my life, I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.

G: Let’s talk clippers, I see you use Andis.

Ralph: Yeah…

G: What brand would you recommend for starters?

Ralph: I’d say start with ‘Dis… you could use Wahls or Oysters or whatever else, but eventually you’re going to want to go with ‘Dis so you should start with it. You’re gonna have to get use to it anyway… It’s a much heavier machine than the others, so you might as well get used to it right away.

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G: Makes sense…

Ralph: I don’t know what else I’d rather be doing. I go on vacation, after 3 days, I’m already itchin’…

G: I hear you! I’m sure when you go see family on vacation, you’re still workin’!

Ralph: Yeah! Especially when I go to Cleveland to see family, I’ma end up cutting some cousins, or when I’m going down to Florida, I got cousins asking “yo, you gonna bring the machines right!?” If it was up to them, yeah I’d be cutting all the time… lol, but I try. I could win the lottery, I’d probably take a year off to travel and whatever, but right after, back in a shop…not EVERYDAY, but I would miss it.

Ralph: I win the Mega Millions, I’d open up shop, this and that, but I’d be right here…cutting. Probably cutting for FREE, but I’d definitely be cutting. I mean, what else you gonna do but travel and spend money?! I’d need something else to do…

G: Word…

Ralph: If you find something you love, it’s not a job… I get mad at wifey sometimes when she start talking that, “all you do is hangout”. Nah, this IS a job, but it really AIN’T. I mean you treat it like it is, but when you really love what you do, it isn’t. I mean, I don’t wake up in the morning like “Aaaaaa, I don’t wanna go to work!” You get tired, of course, but a day is all you need. When you doing what you love it, it don’t feel like work.

G: Yet at the end of the day, it is a trade…It’s a SKILL.

Ralph: Man, one thing I hate when people say “Ah, all you do is cut hair, cuttin’ hair ain’t hard!”. Sh!t if it wasn’t kid, so many people wouldn’t be getting f*cked up. Men, women, kids… going there and there, gettin’ jacked.

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G: Any advice for anyone starting out?

Ralph: Only thingyou definitely need is confidence… If you don’t think you the baddest, you’re not going anywhere, simple as that. You gotta think you’re better than everybody… Everybody in here believes they’re better than the other. If you don’t have any of that in you, you can’t really be doing it. It’s like being an athlete or anything that takes skill.

G: Anything more advice?

 

Ralph: Go to school, for your licensing part of it… to me it’s harder to get into barbering now because there are no guinea pigs left… Ain’t nobody gon’ let you f*ck their head up. You know when we were coming up, early 90’s, we were able to cut our friends. Like I said, back then kids 12, 13, weren’t ALLLL about being fly. You were able to go outside and f*ck everybody hair up and nobody would care. Now 8 year old boys wanna look fly! It’s hard to get that skill before you get in a shop… That’s why so any shops got sh*tty barbers… the younger ones… They ain’t got nobody to cut.

G: I see…

Ralph: When I went to Cosmetology School, you had a mannequin. You were able to, put rollers on it, take it off, curling iron, take it off, act like you doing a color, whatever, this and that, but once you cut the hair off, it’s gone! You’re done! What’re you gonna do, cut like 85 mannequins?! So cutting hair, you HAVE to cut hair.

G: Absolutely…

Ralph: You go to a barber college kid, it’s a whole bunch of dudes f*cking people up…They don’t know how to cut hair. First day you go to school and (Ralph gestures a shaky hand towards the ceiling while doing an impression of clippers that sounds like a cross between Peter Griffin’s giggle and Ralph Kramden’s whine) f*cking it up…

G: Next! Lol

Ralph: That’s the only way you learn, you gotta do it. At Cosmetology School, you got that mannequin, you’re on that for like the first 4 months. Everyday the first thing you do is just rollos(spanish for rollers). You do that for the first hour… you could do that 20 times in that hour. You do that for 3 months and by the time you go up front to the lady, you got that! I could do that! Before you even touch the lady hair… That’s because you got somewhere to practice. There’s no real way to practice barbering except cutting somebody’s hair. Me and Charly had that advantage coming up… Cutting 15-20 heads every Friday and Saturday… in a year or 2…you just kept getting better and better and better.

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G: True…

Ralph: That’s why you now see all these barbershops opening up and then closing down. You gotta know one thing about this business now… Nobody ever says who cuts their hair, they just say where they got their hair cut. Somebody got a f*cked up haircut and dudes say “Damn! Who cut your hair!?” They gonna say “at so and so”… they ain’t gonna say “Ralph”, you know what I’m sayin?

G: Anything else you wanna say, any final words before we get outta here?

Ralph: Final words? No hustle, no profit.

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Any Given Friday

Friday evening in the shop. Clippers clicking on and off, gentlemen (and ladies) engaging in conversations that could be had nowhere else. Music bumping loud enough to make you raise your voice only slightly. Flat screens simultaneously playing the latest whatever… Guys picking up a fresh tee or hat or both. All this interrupted by the sound of a hand slapping another hand in satisfaction… constantly. Again and again you hear this sound echoing over everything. The sound of a person getting up from the chair, glancing in the nearest mirror, and delivering his hand into the hand of the man that just laced him. He’s good…his weekend just started off right. The clap is like applause…the cut indeed deserves a standing O.

These fellas are in here smacking dudes with QUALITY… If you haven’t experienced this, you need to come thru.

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Stay Tuned!

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It’s another busy day at The Hustle, but we’d like to take a brief moment to let you know that there are big things on the horizon. This is a very exciting time for us and we’d like for you to be a part of it!
Although we don’t want to let the cat out of the bag (or in this case, cats…lots of ’em), I can say that you can expect everything from sales, specials and discounts to reviews, interviews and interludes… Another launch (or 3), maybe a lil’ something for the ears, another something else for the eyes, giveaways, raffles… Big Things!! As the title suggests, Stay Tuned!

Hustle

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Hus•tle: to make strenuous efforts to obtain.

There are many definitions of the word and it’s used loosely to describe many instances (most undeserving), however at it’s core you’ll find the meaning above. Be it hustling to first base or a loose ball… hustling to make that deadline, or just to make that bus, train or plane, an extra effort is necessary to obtain that which one desires. Even in its worst interpretations (swindling, slinging, etc) there is a substantially increased level of play.

At the Hustle Barbershop the word hustle is more than just a catch phrase, it is at the essence of each and every member. It’s drive, commitment, integrity and most importantly, hunger… for at the root of every hustle is a hunger.

Come by and experience hustle.

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