The Art Of Rap: How Hip Hop Influences The Work Of Gary Alford
By Sumit Rehal
A few months ago, the Highlight Nation team had a chance to visit an exhibition at London’s Stour Space that was dedicated to Ice Cube’s Good Day.
At this gig we saw an amazing piece of art by Gary Alford, which depicted key moments in the Los Angeles rapper’s iconic music video. Inspired by his creativity, we decided to reach out to Gary to see how hip hop influences his art.
1. How would you best describe your style of art?
Traditional, as everything is hand drawn or painted. I don’t use technology in the process. I have many styles of painting within this.
2. When did you first realise you had an artistic talent?
I have always been painting, since I was very young. I guess it’s not until you get to school and are compared to the other children or are noticed by an adult that you realise you may have talent rather than just enjoy it.
3. To what extent has hip hop influenced your work?
Since my early teens I have been into hip hop, especially that coming from the Wu-Tang and affiliates, drawing the artists I admired was my way of paying homage to them or turning the energy their music gave me into something creative.
4. What were your expectations of the Good Day exhibition and how involved were you in it?
I wasn’t sure of what to expect from the exhibition but was looking forward to being a part of it. I love that track so it was great to be asked to create a piece of artwork based on its lyrics. I had guessed that it wouldn’t be an exhibition full of illustrative work like mine so was a great chance to be displayed with artists of different disciplines.
5. Wu-Tang seem to feature quite frequently in your pieces. What’s the story behind that?
I met Wu-Tang in 2004 at a gig in London and took some artwork to show them if I got the chance. Luckily I did and have worked with many members and affiliates and especially the RZA since then on album covers, video ideas and other projects. I’m hopefully part of a Wu-Tang exhibition in Paris in May.
6. Are you commissioned to paint/illustrate, or do you do most of your work on your own accord?
Both. Luckily I have people approaching me for commissioned work but I do get to do some of my own work as well.
7. Of late, who are the most interesting subjects you’ve worked with/painted/drawn?
I have recently done some new work with RZA and enjoyed doing the album cover artwork for one of The Insane Clown Posse. I enjoyed doing the cover artwork for Triple Darkness’ ‘Darker Than Black’. The album I am most excited about which bears my artwork is ‘Beyond The Asylum Walls’ by Sinister Stricken which I really can’t wait to hear or see as it will be a vinyl release so the artwork will be in the format album artwork was designed for. Sinister is a great mind and awe inspiring artist.
8. How difficult is it for an artist to be self taught these days?
I’m not sure. I imagine not difficult if you can get your hands on the materials and find the time you are good to go.
9. Which other hip hop songs do you feel would offer another great exhibition?
For gore factor something by Gravediggaz, maybe ‘Diary Of A Madman’ or ‘1-800 Suicide’. Geto Boys ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ has some nice Hat Man references. An exhibition around tracks from Sinister Strickens’ ‘Dark Romanticism’ would be fascinating and deeply psychological.
10. Which music artists would you love to collaborate with the most?
I have spoken with Killer Mike, nice guy, who I think I would enjoy working with. I also speak with 4th Disciple and hope to get something done with him as his music connects and inspires me. MF Doom, Kool Keith. Would love to do something officially with Nick Cave. Kate Bush and Roisin Murphy always have great visuals. The Knife would definitely be a highlight!!! Love them.
11. What is your artistic mission?
To keep doing it and stave off having to rely on a job I hate that sucks the hours of my life away, never to be returned to me. To not be denied.
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