Sunday, October 25, 2009


We came across these two slammin' illustration and painted portraits of the legendary Godfather of Soul. The above painting served as the cover of a double LP set entitled "Self portrait" (Polydor records). And this great illustration is apparently a promotional poster for a past concert. For which year this was created for and by whom we do not know. I wish we did though. for I suspect that the illustrator may have done other portraits and we'd love to see them.


With the death... and subsequent resurrection of VIBE magazine, the collapse of STEP Inside Design magazine, rumors and rumors of rumors regarding the sale of EBONY/JET, and many other magazines dissolving due to the current state of our economy and the steamrolling over of the periodical printed medium by digital media (like blogs for an example), we thought we'd take a look at what we feel have been some classic music magazine covers. VIBE, The SOURCE, SPIN- you're all on deck for gettin' next. But we thought we'd jump things off with all of the above RollingStone covers.


And just in time for Halloween... Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and people of all colors and ages, KISS! Now, we don't know what it was and/or is about these cats (well, we have some hunches) but Kiss were on some other @$IT back in the years! Regardless of detractors and critics, the crew, coming out of Queens, NY (yes, the very same home of the legendary "KINGS OF ROCK", RUN DMC), according to Gene Simmons (AKA the demon) the band placed a premium on rock band dynamics and visual communications- focusing on branding and designing the group a distinct visual identity and aesthetic. And unless I'm trippin' (it's possible), I certain that I vaguely remember hitting the night street with candy bag in hand dressed up as the KISS demon for Halloween.

The other interesting thing about KISS and their brand design, it seemed to touch all manner of fans.
There are a handful of Rock bands that Black folks love(d) through the 70's and 80's. And yes, by the 70's Rock music was considered by most to be a "White thing". Why? I don't understand. But we'll digress. Usually this love for particular White Rock bands was due to something quite obvious- "THE FUNK FACTOR". If a Rock band's sound was funy enough Black folks would be down. Yes, you'd find Queen's records in the Black woman's collection. Yes, you'd find Led Zepplin in the Brother man's record crate. Yes to the Steve Miller Band. They all shared a measure of the Funk placed in grooves of their grooves. Which makes KISS so intersting to us. They were not particularly funky. And we can't recall too many of their songs being hits or personal favorites. But yet many of us loved KISS. So what was it about the group? Not to be superficial but we're thinking that a lot of it had to do with how the band looked. The group's visual sense and presentation struck at the center of our very young imaginations. They were larger than life, futuristic, demonic, suprnatuarally space faced, axe bassed mother_uckers. Of course, you may disagree. That's fine but we think we're on to something here.

So, being designers, we're gonna blow this band a kiss for desiging a straight up wondrfully twisted identity for itself.


Photographer Joe Conzo, while a student who was in love with pictures and the making of them in the 1970's happened to go to high school with a few members of now legendary and mythical rap group, Cold Crush Brothers. Invited by them to hang at one of their parties, and his thinking that he might make a few dead presidents taking pictures there, he began to document the birth of rap music and Hip-Hop culture developing in the Bronx. The true seed planter of Hip-Hop, DJ Kool Herc. Joe shot him. A youthful Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Flash on wheels- Joe aimed his lens at them as well and hesitated not when it came to squeezing the metaphorical photographic trigger. Don't know if the world will ever tire of seeing images such as these that are found in his new book "Born In The Bronx" (Rizollo Books). The pictures illustrate something that has become fable, myth, legend. But at the same time it offers up portaits of real truth- a reality that was not just fable upon the turntable. These were true life events created by trues lives, flesh and blood, Black, brown and a handful of Whites- living, struggling and trying to survive in a bombed out world that was a real life version of Hollywood's vision of what it would look like the day after World War III.

And by the way, "trying to survive in a bombed out world", those words should not be taken lightly. From what we've heard (on NPR, and we trust them) if the Bronx was seperated from NYC and made into it's city, it would be, in terms of population, one of the 5th or 6th largest citites in the U.S. Indeed. The Bronx and many of the poor Black and Brown people living there were partying in a neglected world alone and on their own by most accounts.

Learn more from an interview and tour of the Bronx over at the BBC with Joe Conzo.