Darius Moreno grew up in Riverdale, Maryland, a short distance from Bowie where Washington DC rapper GoldLink spent his formative years. It was Moreno's familiarity and knowledge of the DMV (shorthand for D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area that was one reason why GoldLink tapped the young artist to produce the art for his new album At What Cost.
That Moreno's bold colors and brush strokes positively jump from the page, screen, wall or record rack could be the other reason.
In a recent interview with NPR, GoldLink said that Moreno's understanding of the streets and characters of the D.C/Maryland area was a prime reason he chose the young illustrator to work on his new album. Moreno was someone with first hand experience of the Metro, go go music, and years of mediocre Bullets/Wizards basketball.
"I was looking for an artist who could translate black culture well in today's time, nostalgically, and he nailed it," explained GoldLink. "What draws me to his style is the way that it properly displays black realism, modern art and the sound of D.C. in the most accurate and honest way. He's from here and understands our culture."
Moreno, who now studies at New York City's Parson School of Design, first came to notice through his work in GoldLink's recent video for the Kaytranada produced "Meditation." Using rotoscope, a time consuming process that involves drawing over each frame, the video came alive with Moreno's illustration.
It obviously it left an impression on GoldLink.
Noisey: How did the image and painting for At What Cost come to be? Was there much back and forth with GoldLink?
Darius Moreno: GoldLink sent me pictures of pieces I've done before and let me know what he liked specifically. Then we started a group message where I sent a few sketches. We came up with concepts for all the album art before I actually started the paintings. Once I started I'd would send updates. GoldLink and his team loved everything, and only suggested a few minor changes. It was a long, but fun process because they gave me so much creative control:
Does GoldLink have the original?
I have the original pieces; in case we work on future projects together. It's better for me to look back at the original paintings versus a picture or print.
Were you much of a GoldLink fan? What does his music mean to you growing up in the DC and Maryland area?
Yeah, I started listening to GoldLink my freshmen year in college, my roommate was a fan and put me on. He always had a real smooth flow, initially when I heard his music I thought of D'Angelo if he were a rapper. I could tell he didn't have the same mentality as a lot of people from the DC and Maryland area just by how he approaches his music. For me GoldLink's music relates to anyone in the DMV who's lived in poverty, experienced unfortunate situations but still made the decision to do something positive with their situation. At what Cost is the classic album we've been waiting for. It represents every type of person in the DMV. GoldLink really made sure to include all types of artists from the DMV area so everyone could get a chance to contribute to the story. What was your child hood and early life like? Did you see much of these characters in your neighborhood?
I grew up in Riverdale, Maryland, which did inspire the characters I portray in my art. I used to play outside a lot and drew comics based off the situations in my neighborhood. My childhood was really like a show, bad kids doing stupid shit, but we had a lot of fun growing up despite all the trouble we used to get into. When my mom started working the club scene in DC, my sister and I would work coat check at Go-Gos and partied at a young age. Then going to school in D.C. and riding the Metro everyday gave me another perspective on all the people from the area, not just my neighborhood.
The woman walking away from the car has a strong look.
All of the women in the art are like consciences manipulating GoldLink's move. The woman on the back cover is leading GoldLink into the next phase of his career. The bold brushstrokes and use of color makes for very striking images. Has this always been the case or something that you have learned?
It's always been the case when it comes to bold brush strokes. I started painting in high school and was taught different techniques but I've always been a fast painter so, wet on wet is what I resonated with the most. Color is something I learned but also made into my own. I really appreciated my art teachers in high school because they never allowed us to use black, but they also showed us how many colors can be mixed to make shades of brown. That really stuck with me; once I got to college I just started experimenting with every color just to see how it could be used in black skin.
What other musicians would you like to work with?
I'd love to work with Project Pat and Lil' Kim because they are my favorite rappers of all time. Peewee Longway is also someone I'd like to work with because I think he has an eye for art and he's been consistent with his music. Solange, because her visuals are so strong as well as her music. Most of all I would love to work with Frank Ocean because his music really speaks for my generation. All of these artist to me are very authentic when it comes to storytelling in music. Storytelling and delivery is the most important part of rap to me and I would love to be able to add visuals to all their narratives.
What have you been listening to recently in the studio?
I listen to a lot of old Memphis rap daily for inspiration and a lot of house mixes on sound cloud. I also listen to a lot of DC artists, Nappy Nappa, Wifi Gawd, and the Khan. Recently, I've been listening to a lot of ABRA, Steve Lacy and of course GoldLink.
'At What Cost' is available now through RCA/Sony.