Saturday, October 31, 2009


In 2002 the legendary underground emcee Cage released his solo debut album "Movies For The Blind". The cover for the album, illustrated, looks to be a type of homage to the original movie poster design of the classic 1988 Sci-Fi and dark comedy film "They Live" by legendary horror film director John Carpenter. Listening to this album leaves no hint of the influence, if any, of the film on Cage's music though. The "Movies" cover illustration and title are both, clever and ironic.

One of the aims of the StereoTyped blog is to explore some of the interesting ways that music and visual communications meet and collide at the intersections of our pop and creative culture. While reading an interview with the RZA in TIME magazine two weeks ago he mentioned "They Live"."I'll give you another movie: John Carpenter's They Live. That's perfect for our times right now. That's where we're at. I saw that movie, and it really made me think. I started bugging out in the mall. I just felt like, wow, there was something about that movie that was real.”

Now, we'd been thinking along similar lines over here in terms of Carpenter's film's relevant theme for these contemporary times. The film was panned by a lot of critics when it was released in the legendary year of 1988- a year that saw the release of a bucket load of classic Rap music singles and albums. One album among them was the now classic album by Public Enemy- "IT Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back". "Nation" is an album built by those of us who spent the 80's bumping up against the era of Reaganomics. Many of those bumping up against it were Blacks. "They Live" does not delve into the racial issues in the U.S. but what it does try to discuss is the other issue that shadows race and rides along side it. The issues of economic class and free market capitalism.

Over twenty years on and it's striking how close to the mark this film comes to what we're going through today.

“They use their tongues to deceive you. Venom is on their lips. Their mouths are full of bitterness and curses. The fear of God is not before their eyes. They have taken the hearts and minds of our leaders. They have blinded us to the truth. Our human spirit is corrupted. Why do we worship greed?" --The Bearded Man

“I've got a wife and two kids back in Detroit. I haven't seen them in six months. The steel mills were laying people off. They finally went under. We gave the steel companies a break. They gave themselves pay raises. The golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. If they close one more factory, we should take a sledge to their foreign cars.” --Frank

“The whole deal is some kind of crazy game. The name of the game is: Make it through life. Only everyone is out for themselves and looking to do you in. You do what you can, but I'm going to do my best to blow your ass away.” --Frank

“The under-class is growing, Human rights are non-existent, In their repressive society, we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness, We have been lulled into a trance, They have made us indifferent, We are focused only on our own gain... Keep us asleep, Keep us selfish, - Keep us sedated. The sleeping middle-class is suddenly becoming poor, We are their cattle, We are being bred for slavery” --The Bearded Man

You can view the trailer for THEY LIVE.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Inspired by a previous post about Badu's clever music video for her 2008 single "Honey", we were curious as to who illustrated said single and the "New Amerykah" album for which it was released. The culprit is one who's dubbed himself "the thinking man's poster artist". also known as EMEK. About his work, his bio states that "in Emek's posters, psychedelic '60s imagery collides with '90s post-industrial iconography. To this collision of the organic vs. the mechanical worlds he adds humor, social commentary and fantasy. Even in the smallest details there are messages."

In our opinion the album design for Badu's "New Amerykah" is one of the best of last year and a new favorite over here. We can't imgaine too many other R and B artists taking their visual presentation in this type of direction and working with artists such EMEK. There are some, are few, who's music and unique voice and perspective could allow them to "take it there" with the visual extensions of the music. Jill Scott. Alicia Keys. And we can't think of anyone else.


In 1983 the medium of music video was still a baby with MTV debuting just two years earlier. "Rockit", who's video began airing on MTV during that summer, was a big instrumental hit on the streets in the U.S. for Herbie Hancock. The song joined in on what was becoming the ever expanding and wildly creative rap and hip-hop music scene. The Electro branch of the Rap and Hip-Hop music had really jumped off one year earlier with the instant classic and now legendary Tommy Boy records release of the Soulsonic Force's "Planet Rock". "Rockit" was also interesting for the fact that Hancock was well respected Jazz musician with a rep for experimentation. As early as 1983 the outright dismissal of Rap and Hip-Hop as legitimate musical art-forms was in full effect. Many of those who trashed it resided in the land of the Jazz band (just ask Wynton Marsalis who disses it, pretty much all of it, still today). But the brothers who lived in the land of R and B music spoke loudly themselves as well about the illegitimacy of rap.

So for Hancock to dip his toe in the lake of Electro Hip-Hop, being a greatly respected musician, and join forces with rap and Hip-Hop DJ Grandmixer DST on the scratching in the song, was noteworthy at the time. Hancock brought his flair for the experimental in music to the medium of music video for the clip of "rockit" as well. The video directed by former UK Pop music duo Godley & Creme did not disappoint with its use of robots moving in time with the song. The music video won a handful of awards from MTV which at the time was not in the habit of playing music videos by Black artists. To be honest, to mind of an imaginative 10 or 11 year old (like myself back then), the clip for "Rockit both excited and frightened. There was something quite creepy about it to me. But I digress. The clip is a technical achievement for its time. Today you'd likely produce something like this all inside of a computer using 3D software.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


In a previous post we shined light on some of Kehinde Wiley's Rap artist portraits for VH1's Hip-Hop Honors show. These paintings, disturbed me with their scenes of young Black males as they lay dead with backdrops of flowers. There's something very dream like, perhaps nightmarish about the juxtaposition of visual elements and color. And being from Baltimore, seeing what's happening in the city with young Black youth everyday, these images hit so close to home that they might as well be hanging on the walls in th eliving room.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


We thought we'd revisit the ode to album cover art that is Erykah Badu's music video for her 2008 single Honey. And one year later the track is still slammin' (thanks for blessing us Producer 9th Wonder). The flick follows a slender young Sistah as she strolls through a record shop looking through the racks and stacks of wax, all of which feature our heroine, Ms. Badu, filling in for the original album's recording artists on their covers. I nice nod to the recordstore experience and the experience of looking through rows of designed album covers. For extra credit we've dropped a list of all of the original covers in order of their "remixed" appearance within the music video.

Performance: Erykah Badu
Direction: Erykah Badu
Co-Direction: Chris Robinson
Producer: Megan Gutman

Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan by Rufus

Blue by Diana Ross

Maggot Brain by Funkadelic

Paid In Full by Eric B and Rakim

Honey by Ohio Players

Perfect Angel by Minnie Riperton

Chameleon by Labelle

3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul

Let It Be by The Beatles

Illmatic by Nas

Physical by Olivia Newton-John

Nightclubbing by Grace Jones

Hey Ya! by OutKast

Head To The Sky by Earth, Wind and Fire
John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Rolling Stone cover by Photographer Annie Leibovitz

Honey by Erykah Badu







Keepin' it regal. Painter Kehinde Wiley has rendered some of Rap's royalty in the place
where they belong- among royal backdrops baby. And that's how many of us who've experienced these emcees on the first generation tip always saw them. Grand Royal! The above portraits were featured as key artwork within VH1's Hip-Hop Honors ad campaign and promotional and marketing support materials.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The artist SO-ME illustrated the cover and spreads for the current COMPLEX magazine cover feature on R&B singer Kari Hilson. Good to see the use of illustration and handmade, imperfect design being put to great use here. In a way this type of direction is not new in the sense that there's been a move back toward the tactile, tangible, handmade and non-computer aided design approach for a few years now. And it has been, for the most, for the better of the creative and design work coming out. Look again, doesn't the above make you feel better- like a kid scribbling outside the lines just because you can? You know, like you used to do when you were a hobbit sized little one with a fist full of Crayolas. Can't see enough of work like this and other approaches that utilize various, seemingly, handmade techniques.


Speed is what you need/if finesse is what you want to posses/Flash! The answer to the ladies request.
What can you say about the true grandmaster? The creator of the quick mix theory and took the role of the DJ to the next level with his abilities.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Last Christmas while at a family members house for the holiday we were playing Rock Band. Being a hardcore Rap and Hip-Hop fan I thought to myself if someone would attempt to do DJ version of the popular music games, both Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Well, we've gotten the answer. Activision has designed DJ HERO. And from what we understand it features legendary DJ's like Grandmaster Flash, Jazzy Jeff and DJ Shadow, as well as Daft Punk. In the spirit of the name of this game, we got to thinking and we'll go back into the crates and pick out some of our DJ Hero's in the days ahead.

You can check out more on DJ HERO here
Check out the 3D animated TV spot here