DJ Crooked Is Straight Outta New York

Lavo player on partying, street wear and bringing New York flavor to Las Vegas

Photo by Ray Alamo

Photo by Ray Alamo

Richard Sung, the DJ and street-wear entrepreneur known as Crooked, started DJing professionally in New York’s West Village circa 2001 before being discovered by a Light Group manager in the Hamptons four years later. Crooked proved himself at the original Light nightclubs in Manhattan and in Bellagio before making a permanent move to Las Vegas for a residency at Jet in The Mirage. The DJ-turned-boutique owner has been spinning his way into Las Vegas’ cultural fabric ever since. Today, Crooked is a SKAM Artist whose résumé includes DJing at Light, Jet, Tao, Lavo, Pure, Wet Republic, Tryst, Hyde and Hakkasan, as well as co-owner at Knyew, the influential Chinatown street-wear boutique that’s celebrating its sixth anniversary. See Crooked November 29 at Hyde and December 15 at Lavo.

You’ve been in Las Vegas for eight years. What’s your perspective on the party scene today?

It’s the epicenter of nightlife right now. Any huge DJ, musician, performer—if you come to Vegas you can see anything. You’ve got Tiësto, Calvin Harris and SKAM Artist DJs; Kim Kardashian hosting one night, Chris Brown another night—it’s insane. It’s a decent mixture of EDM, hip-hop and everything else, but everything is still segregated: There’s a crowd that likes house music; now hip-hop is making its way back into everything. Sometimes it’s a battle, but it’s just getting a little bit more integrated. Trap is the closest thing that’s integrating it.

Where do you discover your new music?

Through various blogs, and because I travel so much I see what’s going on in Atlanta, New York, Cali, Miami. I talk to some of the DJs and I’ll usually get a lot of new music that’s regional, but hasn’t hit Las Vegas yet.

How’d you get into street wear?

I’m from New York and was always about street wear. I lost touch with sneakers because I could never really afford them, so I just focused on T-shirts and button ups, stuff like that. When I came to Vegas, there were no street-wear boutiques—I would have to go back to New York or go to Cali to get gear. In 2007, I saved some money and asked my boy [DJ] Neva, “Yo, why don’t we open a street-wear boutique and bring some of the New York flavor and some of the Cali brands here and see how it goes?”

Six years in, what’s most interesting about street wear?

It’s a good time for us right now, because street wear was very hip-hop, very street, very skateboard. And now it’s evolved to the point where it’s integrated in high-end fashion, where high-end fashion is stealing from street wear now. Some people are accepting it, some people think it’s too much—the tight jeans, the skirts, the leather joggers, you know, all of this stuff. Street wear back in the day was screen-print T-shirts, oversize jeans, Tims, Jordans—those still stay the same. Tims have made a major comeback, too. I still love the hood street wear, too.

You’ve done a good job with the Knyew brand. What’s the key to building your own clothing label?

When we opened, we were releasing T-shirts unplanned. Last year I started releasing collections, then smaller capsule collections with limited pieces. Now every month I release something small and really exclusive. That’s been working out well for us. It keeps people interested in what we’re doing. They’re always checking our Instagram and our store to see what we’re dropping. Creatively, we have to do lookbooks, photo shoots, figure out what designs to make. I’m really a big supporter of making everything not only in the U.S., but making it in Las Vegas.

How do you describe Las Vegas style?

Las Vegas is flashy; everyone wants to be seen and noticed. It’s dope; the stuff you wear in Vegas, you can’t wear anywhere else. The pieces can be a little more dramatic. You can’t be as dramatic in L.A. or New York. We get a lot of people coming in for gear for the Kanye show or J. Cole show. In New York, I don’t know if people would shop like that for a concert.

Knyew stands for “keeping New York everywhere.” What are the key New York elements you’ve brought?

Me and my partner Neva, we grew up in New York, and everything we do is New York related, even if subconsciously. Whether it’s the influences on some of the designs on our T-shirts or cut and sew, or the dark colors—that’s very New York–nothing bright. The prints we do are very basic. Initially when we opened there was no New York flavor here. New York had art, musicians, fashion designers, graffiti artists, DJs, everything. We wanted to add some of that culture.

Has your Korean-Hawaiian background contributed to your career perspective?

I grew up hanging around New York with Puerto Ricans, blacks, Dominicans, Jamaicans, Jews, everything—we all hung out, and we would crack jokes on each other. I didn’t really realize until I talked to my uncle who’s in his 70s; he thought it was amazing that mainstream America had accepted an Asian DJ. When he was in America there was a lot more segregation. It was just enlightening to him: “I can’t believe you’re not just DJing for Korean people, you’re DJing for everyone in Vegas! White people, black people and an all upper-class crowd!” In his eyes that was a big step forward.

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