Scrapertown

Scrapertown

Customized bicycles in Oakland, California, called 'scraper bikes,' are the teenager's version of a lowrider car. (California is a Place)

The self-titled Scraper Bike King, Tyrone “Baby Champ” Stevenson, claims to have created the customized bike as a combination art project, alternative for transportation, and positive activity for youth in Oakland, California. Taking cues from the custom paint and rims on tricked-out cars, scraper builders decorate the spokes of their low-riding bicycle wheels with colorful and reflective materials, and add a paint job that can be anything but the original color. The movement gained popularity after a homemade 2007 music video on YouTube went viral.

This video catches up with Baby Champ now that he’s a celebrity, and blends new rap music and professional production values to showcase the current crop of scraper bikes and their builders. Champ now has a signature sequined cap, a logo, t-shirts and a large following of fellow scrapers who have evolved into advocates for non-violence and going “green” by riding a bike instead of driving a car.

Multiple camera angles and high-contrast lighting amplify the visual impact of a kaleidoscope of wheel decorations as Stevenson works on his ride, and leads a group of riders on a single–file cruise through the often mean streets of East Oakland. The final sequences of spinning spokes set to music demonstrate just how creative the teens can be when using a bike wheel as a canvas.

This story is one of the initial offerings of “California is a Place — Stories from the Golden State,” a new collection of videos produced, directed, and shot by filmmaker Drea Cooper and photographer Zackary Canepari. Among their other visual goodies are “Cannonball,” “Big Vinny,” and “Borderland.”

CHANNEL: California is a Place

Length: 7:32

On Camera: Tyrone Stevenson
Produced by: Zackary Canepari & Drea Cooper
Directed by: Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari
Cinematography by: Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari
Edited by: Drea Cooper
Still Photographer: Zackary Canepari

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