In fall 2016, rapper Lil Yachty went on his first official tour across North America. Documenting the tour was Yachty photographer, 19-year-old Curtis Kariuki, and to memorialize the events, Kariuki wanted to make a book of their time on the road. So he, along with graphic designer Rannel Ngumuya, teamed up with Austin artist Nicholas Osella, founder of StudioWOS, whose work they discovered, in the way all today's best discoveries are made, on Twitter.
Osella, who recently majored in graphic design, developed a visual style he identifies as "remixing," collaging elements together by physically cutting and pasting. Then, he mixes his results with hand-drawing, painting, and photography.
The book, which features Kariuki's photos combined with Osella's visual remixes, is called the Lil Yachty Scrapbook. "Kariuki was the mastermind behind the project, Rannel did the layout of each spread, and then my role was artistic direction," Osella tells Creators.
Osella's remixing can feature drawings, doodles, text, letters, and symbols, along with more textured elements like photos torn and stuck down with tape, thread sewn through the page, paint brush strokes, and more.
One idea behind these collages is to utilize the way musicians remix a song, but do it for imagery and the printed page. "[To] use existing mediums to demonstrate new ideas," notes the artist. "Which at the root, is what 'remixing' is—using old or existing photos or books and adding a flair of yourself into them."
He was also inspired by the work of rap photographer Gunner Stahl, the 23-year-old behind photos of musicians like A$AP Rocky, Young Thug, Rich Chigga, and Mac DeMarco. Osella began using Stahl's pictures of Lil Yachty and Childish Gambino to experiment on, using his cut-and-paste reworked aesthetic.
"His pictures are just incredible," notes Osella. "You look at them and they're unlike anything in magazines today—it's this air of intimacy and honesty that makes you feel like you know them. I really love that about them—and wanted to make my own version of their pictures."
The making of these remixes, including those in the Lil Yachty Scrapbook, is an entirely analog process. In his studio, Osella begins by printing out the page he wants to use, then works on top of it, writing, scrawling, whatever takes him. When finished, he then scans it, digitizing it, so he can post the file online. It's a very physical technique. "I've always wanted to give a human quality to whatever it is I'm making," he notes. "[But] the style has evolved (and is continuing to) over time and I'm starting to figure out easier and faster ways of remixing each piece. I started just with tearing each page and using tape to put them back together while I was working on a lookbook called MAGNOLiA, which came out in February/March 2017. Now I'm sewing pages, lighting them on fire—creativity is really only limited in its presentation."
Osella notes that a lot of music and art styles have gone on to inspire him, bands and musicians like Of Montreal, Radiohead, Björk, Frank Ocean, and The Beatles to Lil Yachty himself. Visuals artists he admires are Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Mark Gonzales, Michael Sieben, Ed Templeton, and Picasso.
He also notes that 1980s street art has made a huge impression. "Seeing the vitality of that art culture seep through into music and into just the overall life of people made me think about what life is like now in 2017. What we pay attention to, what we're looking at and the influences we all have now. It's very different from then, I guess there's just more to pay attention to, but I like to look at that time and imagine we're still there finding out everything for the first time or just again."
And 1980s street art fed into the book not only through visuals, but also in the concept of who Lil Yachty is as an artist. He's not just a rapper, but also a fashion icon, an entrepreneur, and Creative Director at Nautica. "He's the example of what a true artist is," says Osella. "Street art in the 1980s was representative of this exact thing—when you study someone like Keith Haring, you know exactly what clothes he wore, what kind of music he listened to, what kind of paintings he made—the same can be said about Lil Yachty. He's honest to himself so people know him and can associate with him directly. I really love that."
That honesty is in the book, too, in the form of a it being presented as a kind of behind-the-scenes of Yachty's tour—the scrapbook style layout adding a level of intimacy and familiarity. It's like you're flicking through someone's handcrafted scrapbook of a particularly interesting time in their lives. It just so happens this particular time was a 19-city rap tour playing to thousands of people.
"How often do you get to see the entire behind-the-scenes of a tour?" notes Osella. "A scrapbook is a really personal thing, you take the time to tape photos in that you want to look back on and remember for the moments you shared with loved ones—you don't get that time back, so we wanted this to be a permanent reminder everyone could be a part of."
The Lil Yachty Scrapbook is due out this summer. You can see more of Nicholas Osella's work at his website here. See more of Curtis Kariuki's work at his website here. And for more on Rannel Ngumuya, check out his website, too.