Since first going on tour with Lil Wayne at 15—skating ramps on stage during performances—to his latest part with April Skateboards, Yosef Ratleff embodies a lot of what makes skating so cool. It isn't just about the parts. It's about the community, and the myriad of exceptional places skating can take you. We had Pedro Muñoz sit down with Yosef to chat about the new part, his friendship with Wayne and some of his favorite people in the game right now.
Yosef Ratleff Talks His April Skateboards Part and Relationship with Lil Wayne
Yosef was born and raised in New Orleans, and reps the city proudly to this day. “Honestly, New Orleans made me the person I am today. Got a lot of creativity down there. Got a lot of heart, got a lot of soul. Got a lot of just drip, period,” he says, referencing the perhaps underrated style scene in the Big Easy. In his teenage years, he moved to NY; “New York has got my heart too. I actually got into skating when I moved to New York. From my Uncle Safari. He had a board and he would come around with his board messing around.
“I remember the first time he took me to the skate park. He an old head, so he got old head tricks, but he can really skate though. He did a no comply tailslide on a mini ramp. And I was like, ‘Oh my god. I need to learn how to skate. That's it right there.’ I don't know what it is about that maneuver he did. I was like, ‘That was so sick.’ And from that point I was like, ‘I need to learn how to skate mini ramps.’”
Despite an early love of basketball, skating became Yosef’s focus. “I love basketball, but I always knew I was too small for ball, so I was just like, ‘Fuck it, I’m with this skate shit.’”
Around 15, Yosef got introduced to Lil Wayne: “Pretty much through my boy Dante. He's Wayne's cousin. He introduced us. Wayne was in New Orleans for Thanksgiving and that's how him and Dante connected and was like, ‘Yo, let's skate.’
When I first met Wayne, he always told me, ‘get a passport, because I'm taking you places.'
- Yosef Ratleff
"I remember going to the skate park, and he was like, ‘Yo, can my homie Yo Yo roll through? And he was like, ‘Yeah, who's Yo Yo?' He ended up showing him videos of me and shit. And then he was like, ‘Damn, this kid is dope, Tell him to come through. Me and Wayne met, and he was just like, ‘Yo, I like your skating.’ I was young, I wasn't even really that good at skating at that time, but just being a kid from New Orleans that had a passion for skating, I think he already just seen that and was like, that's rare.”
This ignited a friendship between the legendary rapper and Yosef they maintain to this day. “When I first met Wayne, he always told me, ‘get a passport, because I'm taking you places. And I was like, shit, alright. And I just waited for that day, you know what I'm saying?”
Sure enough, eventually Wayne hit him up: “I'm gonna have ramps on stage and shit. And we'll have like a bunch of skaters.” So at around 16 years old, Yosef went on tour with Wayne. He had also dropped out of school, and characterizes this part of his life succinctly: “I'm just trying to skate and live this life for right now.”
While some skaters have been critical of Wayne recently going pro, Yosef provided some nice insight into why he has made a positive impact on the community. “I get both sides of the story. I get it. Even the weakest skateboarders are raw motherfuckers,” he explains to Pedro, before adding: “But he put plenty of people on with skating. He built skate parks. He has opened his arms to skate. You know, he's fully embraced it and been like, ‘Y'all can love me and hate me, but I'm gonna love skating forever.’ That's how he is. So he has every right to it.”
Yosef eventually moved to California, first staying with Spanish Mike in Shane O’Neill’s back house. “So from that point, Shane would just see me all the time, and that's just kinda how me and his connection started from there. And then when the whole April shit came about, he was just like, ‘Yo, I'm gonna start this thing. I want you to be a part of it. I didn't think I was at the level of that yet, you know what I'm saying? So especially coming from him, I'm like, bro, you can ask anybody. Why me? I'm just a kid from New Orleans."
April skateboards "YOSEF"
Fast forward to last month, and Yosef finally got his very own April skateboards part. “I've always wanted to film my own part,” he grins telling Pedro, adding: "I was so happy when it dropped. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of time and dedication that I had towards it, and just knowing it can finally come out for the world to see. I was very stoked on it, just hyped." He especially loves the final section of the part, to the Jermaine Dupri track he discovered from the movie Drumline: "It's just a real inspirational-type, rap-type vibe that just makes the clips come in quick and fast, that was my favorite part for sure."
I asked Ben Oleynik, founder of Grand Collection, about his favorite things about the part. He eagerly replied: "The outfits, the trick selection, the lines. Best fakie varial flips. That’s my little bro. I was so happy for him when this part came out. Let everyone know he’s not playing around.”
Let everyone know he’s not playing around.
- Ben Oleynik on Yosef Ratleff
Pedro and Yosef conclude by talking about some of the latter’s favorite skaters of all time, some of which have become peers and teammates. Yosef rattles off a few names at first: "Off the top, Ishod, definitely P Rod, definitely Malto.” He pauses for a moment, and then divulges, “I would say growing up, Shane wasn't my favorite skater, but being around him, that made him my favorite skater. So I’m definitely got to put him in there.”
He characterizes a phenomenon I think a lot of skaters are familiar with when it comes to O’Neill: “Growing up as a kid, his trick level and everything is so not relatable. So you're just like, ‘Okay, this guy's too good to even watch' type shit. But then when you get older and you just see how much effort comes behind the shit that he do. He's definitely in everybody's top 5.”
He ponders again before naming one more skater: “I'mma say Tyshawn. He's just the youngest, newest pro that's just doing it in a whole different way. He’s a young entrepreneur and he's a young black man out here, getting the bag. He don't smoke, he don't drink, he's level headed, Also, you don't see him. He's high key, but he's low key. He's not looking for any attention, and attention just seeks him.”
Looking back, Yosef is reflective, leaving Pedro with gratitude for what he's accomplished: “Being from New Orleans and just coming this far… a lot of people don't make it from where I'm from.”
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