Message From the Editor
Design interview Before we start, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to interview you, it’s a great pleasure. First I’d like to ask you when did you become interested in Graphic Design and illustration? Appreciate it. Sorry it took a minute to get back to you on this, but just been nutty busy of late. You know, I never wanted to be a designer. Never had much interest in it nor thought about it. It wasn’t till a couple years into college (1996) going for the teaching degree that I became upset with the program since I was too ‘punk rock’ at the time to allow to student teach. I was just poor so the best I could do for cloths was Thrift Stores and didn’t care what I looked like on campus since I was there to learn. I ended up taking some art classes (painting, drawing, etc) to keep my GPA up since I decided to switch to liberal arts and get the hell out of there. A new class started called Visual Communications where they were going to teach Photoshop, and basic standards in Graphic Design. I got hooked playing on the computer. I think I took design actually seriously was when I got a couple illustration gigs for various record companies. They paid well and supplied me with a lot of music, so it was total win. About a year out of the program I decided to drop out since I was on the same learning curve as the professor at the time and my fine art professor was giving me shit about being a graphic designer. He insisted I should focus on Fine Arts. I disagreed since I already had a hell of a school debt. So yeah, getting into design was all chance. I always doodled and took art classes because they were easy, but nothing I ever wanted to take seriously.
What are your influences? What illustrators inspire you? I’m a bit old school when it comes to the people who’s work I appreciate. There are a lot of great new designers but they are just creative replicas of previous designers. But the short list: Rick Griffin, Jim Phillips, Greg Irons, Michael Manoogian, Gerard Huerta, David Quay, Giant, Obey, Aaron Horkey, Munk One, 123Klan, Julie West.. So on, so forth The thing that inspires me is not so much the designer but the technique. When I see different artist doing things with pen and ink or in typography I always ask myself, how can I accomplish that in Illustrator. So my list is short, but there are quite a few.
I’m great fan of your illustration style, since he’s really remarkable and detailed. Nowadays he’s quite copied by some illustrators and digital artists, what shows how popular you’ve become. When and how did you develop this style? How would you describe it? Trial and error really. It took me years to redefine my technique to create pieces that are put together in a structuralized fashion that is easy to work with for clients. Before I use to create shapes and place shapes on to shapes and use that as the basis for a illustration. But over time I’ve become rather a annoying perfectionist to my line work. I hate brushes and strokes (but use them from time to time) because I like to draw the whole line. I like to make it feel raw, organic and not clean. I believe it was a few years back when I was looking at something as simple as deer skull and noticed it wasn’t smooth. The core smooth areas are limited thus having the time and effort to make sure each line is unique expands the over all structure and makes it more prolific. But that is me tho. I don’t know tho. Just took me years to figure out. Almost every time when I do a illustration I always try to find more methods and new ideas to expand upon my work.
Design interview Nowadays you work at your own studio and you’re your own boss, being well known thru the design community as one of the top vector illustrators. How was this transition from working at agencies to becoming a freelancer? Well, I was never one to play nice with others. Actually I enjoyed working a few companies as I was starting my career. I learned so much from trial and error and learned to take each project in stride. Some of the places I worked taught me to work really quickly and figure out simpler solutions but making it feel more complex. The moment when I decided to go independent was at a pretty amazing time. As a Creative Director at this one company, I was at my mental end with the boss because he would never remember if he approved something or not. I was scared to be honest, never knowing what the road ahead had, but I took the chance and quit my job. Since then I have never looked back and don’t miss it. I enjoy setting up my own rules and my own approach. I can work as early or as late as I desire and also have time to focus on self & marketing. I love it. It isn’t for everyone in the end. The only way I was able to even consider my plight to being a freelancer was because I saved up 3 months worth of income that I could rely on if freelance didn’t go well. From there I could gauge each month if I met budgets or not. If I didn’t, then after that 3 month span, I would have to look for employment. How would you describe your daily workflow? Pretty standard. Wake up, coffee, email, twitter, figure out what I’m doing, do it, play a little Xbox, work more, coffee whenever the cup is empty and .. More work. If I have nothing going on, then I focus on creating fonts or organizing for the next project.
You have worked for many apparel labels and, since you got famous on the web, some people started copying your illustrations, tracing them and using it without your permission. What’s your opinion about your artworks copyright? And what is your concept about inspiration and plagiarism? It’s a tough one. As designers there is limitations to what we can sue and not sue for. It’s just about how much you want to invest for a limited return. There isn’t a whole lot a person can do about it unless it’s a major company. I personally just contact them and try to deal directly with them. Most of the time it’s a overseas vendor who hired some kid in Indonesia and paid him a few bucks. But on the same token, I try not to stress about it. You’re probably almost 10 years or more working as a illustrator, what you think was the best moment of your career? And what was the worst moment? Best: Probably getting my first project from Nike. I was on Vacation in Key West when I got the job and it was a quick flip so I cut my vacation early and worked on it. I would of never of expected Nike to contact me for anything. So it was a big deal. Worst: Probably those times when clients don’t pay you. It’s rare, but it happens and it’s just depressing that you are taken advantage of.
Versus Introduces: Macklemore Ben Haggerty, better known for his stage name ‘Macklemore’ is one of few musicians currently spearheading a resurgence in hip-hop, using his music and influence to to heighten the importance of issues troubling society. The Seattle born rapper has been gathering momentum as of late, following his ‘The VS’ EP which was released at the end of 2009. Though this isn’t his first venture into the realm of music, between the years 2000 and 2005 he’d made an attempt to find his break and was unequivocally unsuccessful, falling back into a routine of drug use and dead end jobs.
After breaking away from his habitual downfalls, Macklemore was set to give music just one more stab in an effort to make money from something he loved. Cue ‘Otherside’, an incredibly compelling track highlighting the grave dangers which can be associated with codeine consumption, colloquially known in the scene of hip-hop as ‘purple’ or ‘lean’. This track alone created a cult following for Haggerty, allowing people an entry point to his VS EP, where tracks like ‘Life Is Cinema’ using double entendres in the same style of his former idol, Lil Wayne, along with witty line compositions to tantalise music lovers like myself with a new kid on the block with some real clout to his music.
Following the lacklustre ‘Asleep In The Bread Aisle’ album of Asher Roth the same year, Macklemore was the name on everyone’s lips for the saviour of Caucasian rap music. Fastforward to 2011 and by this time, his music had created a cult around the musician, known as ‘Sharkface Gang’. Though not particularly inspired in comparison to some other artist’s followings (see Tech N9ne & his ‘Technicians’), it allowed the fans to create the sense of being part of a movement, where music was powerful; both in pathos and humour. The snowball effect was well under way, and following some clever marketing chiefly via the remixed video of Otherside featuring fellow Seattle based band Fences, the sartorially inspired ‘Wings’ following the search for the perfect pair of Air Jordans, Haggerty was set to blow.
In October of last year, Macklemore began his ‘Fall Tour’ with the now epithetical DJ Ryan Lewis, this was the first real test of his music. The fans were there but would they truly shell out the money in order to see their muse perform live in their local town? Fortunately the answer was yes, selling out a gargantuan 18 of the 27 American venues they attended, with screaming fan girls queuing as early as 8 hours prior to the show in order to potentially meet Haggerty. So, what’s next for the Irish behemoth? His first studio album is set to drop some time this year, having a group of musicians at his disposal for whatever direction he wants to go in, see Ray Dalton the newest jazz prodigy, the world truly is the oyster for this previously misguided and disillusioned soul.
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Top5 White Rappers I thought to introduce myself; I’d encapsulate myself into a stereotypical post outlining my five favourite white rappers. Beyond Eminem, Professor Green and I Love College there’s few, if any rappers that most people come across, they’re a rare breed and are often looked upon with strong discontent from their peers, simply due to their ethnicity. You’d of thought with Stan, and 8 Mile there would be a renewed hope for the creed but this seemed to fizzle out as Vanilla Ice tarnished their reputation far before any of the people on my list had spit their first verse.
Number 1: Macklemore
I’ve tried my utmost to push Macklemore in the UK to as many people as possible, his collaboration with Ryan Lewis on The VS EP was truly stunning, each song packed with so much dedication to detail and emotion that a myriad of things can be taken from each song, whether that being pathos, humour, pride, patriotism or glee. He’s really not been given anywhere near enough credit despite being incredibly popular in Seattle and its surrounding states. His voice is instantly recognizable, often shocking people in their realization that he is indeed Caucasian.
The track I’ve chosen to highlight is Otherside, in my eyes the most awe inspiring track, and personally one of my favorite rap tracks in the past ten years. He talks of the Codine addiction which so many people have fallen either into memoriam or addiction through it’s usage, popularly advocated by Lil Wayne as made so notorious in the Westwood interview, referring to it as a physical manifestation of “success”. It seems that for Macklemore, his success comes through the innate gift he has where he can make a topic as relatable as it is to someone in the very midst of it, to somebody completely alien to it. He transcends what most rappers are, becoming one of the very few storytellers of our generation, nestled amongst only a few experienced others.
Number 2: Mac Miller
Probably the most famous on the list, Mac’s been hopping on Khalifa’s back in his transatlantic conquest for the droves of music hungry youths we have in the UK who - prior to the very recent resurgence of genuine talent - have been asphyxiated by factory made farces who graced the top of the charts. Mac on the mic comes across exactly how you’d want to be depicted, a confident ambitious and most importantly reckless guy that just wants to have a good time. Much of his success comes through his incredibly versatile beats, provided by a variety of people over the years featuring Big Jerm, Chuck English and Black Diamond to name just a few.
My highlighted track is Poppy, one of the few times where we get to see a softer side to the hubristic rock and roll star, where he dotes on his father and mentions amongst other things his disappointment that he couldn’t make it to college to achieve praise from his family, though I’m sure they are far from underwhelmed with his success so far! My one and perhaps only qualm, with Mac, is that his persona doesn’t properly come across in his interviews and Youtube series as well as he’d like, he oozes the archetypal middle class white boy from the suburbs that we all want him to be the opposite of.
Though this must not detract from his music, which I feel is some of the most upbeat and happy hiphop that is gracing our humble ears currently. Happily I can say that he and the rest of the Most Dope team know how to make a hype, after recently copping my ticket for his UK tour date, I can’t wait to see him in the flesh bouncing around that stage doing what he does best.
Number 3: Hoodie Allen
Hoodie has been growing in popularity since his phenomenal Pep Rally mixtape dropped last year, featuring a plethora of tunes ranging from the upbeat to the smooth relaxing tones, being able to rap over a variety of beats, changing up his flow to suit.
Being an employee at Google, renowned as one of the most enjoyable places to work you’d think that he’d be content, but apparently not. His most recent track was a remix with Jamie XX and echoes Gil Scott Heron’s original, same titled “New York is Killing Me” and is the track I’ve chosen to highlight, though I haven’t heard a remix by Jamie that hasn’t blown me away yet (Rolling In The Deep being the prime example). His tracks are littered with pop references, similar to Gambino who has been trumping the white boys success as of late with a very similar flow and style. While the samples he chooses seem to effortlessly change from their original intention into being an apt back beat for the solid flow of Hoodie.
Number 4: Asher Roth
I know I’m meant to highlight some artists you might not know, well believe it or not he did actually release tracks other than I Love College and they are pretty good. When he dropped his first album, Asleep in the Bread Aisle the rest of his tracks were completely overlooked, even his followup single didn’t get much publicity just due to the fact he’d abandoned his plastic cheese in order to make real cheddar.
Though his style has gone off the rails a bit as of late, the music he has sporadically been dropping has stayed true to his form. The oddest I thought was his track as a part of All City Chess Club, on which he features with some other big names I wouldn’t naturally associate with Roth, chiefly The Cool Kids, Lupe Fiasco, Diggy Simmons and B.o.B.
The track I’ve chosen to highlight is Gotta Get Up; featuring a very scruffy looking hungover Roth. The track had a video shot with it too, which is vivid and unique in production, almost inducing me into a drug like state when I watched it. Though Roth seems similar to a drawing throughout with his signature flowing curls reminiscent of a bad Minaj wig, he still pulls off his nonchalant style somehow, rocking mainly PJ’s and the attire a beggar may turn down.
His album is timeless in my eyes; I can listen to the whole thing through in any mood and have done countless times. He dealt with his comparisons to Eminem incredibly admirably, as highlighted on his track As I Em. The song includes witty rhymes without causing any offence to the King of white rap, a skill many seem to flout in return for a bit of extra publicity.
I truly feel he gets a lot more stick than he deserves, and he holds the title of having one of the funniest rap songs I’ve ever heard in the form of Bad Day, which still makes me laugh after the 100th listen just due to the sheer hilarity of his situation coupled with an arrogant bachelor flow.
Number 5: Intuition
It was a tough decision for me to pick a 5th, as you can see by the honourable mentions, but I eventually decided on (once again) the US born Intuition. The main reason for picking him is due to his samples, chosen by Lee himself, he highlights both some well known and vivid tracks by the likes of Winehouse, Frank Ocean and Grizzly Bear but also highlights some lesser known artists to his fanbase, like Ms Dynamite, Raphael Saadiq and Atlas Sound to name some of my favourites. Intuition has steadily been gaining a repertoire of songs through his mixtapes I Ruined These Songs For You & I Ruined These Songs For You Too. Already hinting to the great deal of relationship inspired tracks throughout.
This myriad of styles leads him to be the most eclectic in my lineup in terms of taste, truly being able to turn his tongue to whatever genre takes his fancy and still be able to put across his emotion in both a vivid and memorable manner.
The track that I’ve chosen to sample is Sanctuary, produced by Dibia$e, his rough approach echoes that of Macklemore and is the polar opposite to the likes of Roth and Mac who both clearly had relatively easy and rich upbringings in comparison and the differences in their music are clear.
The rugged Intuition doesn’t have to have fancy beats made for him by top producers to make beautiful music, somehow the juxtaposition of his vocabulary with his nonchalant exterior and gritty deep voice work together in harmony to make a great outcome. I for one am shocked he isn’t bigger at least nationally by now, but he still plugs away trying to break through the tag of “average”.
I feel an affinity with white rappers more so, simply due to their nature being less prone to flashing their 50 grand watches to the camera in the hope of becoming some kind of animalistic patriarch (Flava Flav ?). They seem to be the underdogs inherently beyond Eminem and his, prior to his new collaboration with Royce, weak ass past few albums, with a few others just missing out on the list that if you are interested you can look up, like Grieves and Haily Mary Malon who are making a big stir in the American scene with the Rhymesayers collective but are just not quite there yet, in my opinion.