Sonic Innovation #1 - The relationship between hip-hop and high-art.
Left: Male Ancestor. 1st–4th century. Mesoamerica. Nayarit - Right: Young Thug
Art has always been an intrinsic part of hip-hop; early classics like Low End Theory, Licensed to Ill, and 3 Feet High and Rising all implemented the use of a paintbrush - but it’s only recently that the genre has truly embraced high-end art.
The two were bound (BOUND!) to end-up together at some point; rappers get a hard-on for any item that costs more than a yearly salary and frequently they’re referencing portraiture in their music. Jay Z rapped about owning a Picasso, Drake said something about Jay Z rapping about a Picasso, Jay Z rapped about a Picasso again and Kanye and A$AP are on a haute couture tip - yet it goes deeper than name-drops and the fashion runway.
Cecilia Azacarte is a freelance advertising creative / art director who, like Jigga, has a passion for both hip-hop and fine art. Her blog, B4XVI, finds a series of aesthetic parrallels between 16th century art and Young Thug. We called her up to talk about it.
Noisey: How did you make the connection between hip hop and 16th century art?
Cecilia: I went to the Met, I saw the painting Virgin and Child Enthroned with Scenes from the Life of the Virgin Morata Master, and the hat on the bottom reminded me of a snapback. It made me feel that we’re not so different, that the painting was modern for its time.
Left: detail of Christ Blessing surrounded by a Donor Family. Unknown German Painter 1560 - Right: Kanye West
It became interesting to create a tool that would let the youth look at old art differently and get excited to go to the New York Met or get curious about art . Or to get people who wouldn’t normally be interested in hip-hop to become curious about what the rappers are doing, which I think is pretty amazing.
Do think anyone in hip-hop would be aware of the similarities? Or is it just coincidence? It’s about representing power and intelligence. There has always been an avant garde in all art, it’s about timeless swag. Today’s rappers are the modern lords and kings in pop culture, so I'm not surprised there are similarities .
There's been a real avant garde movement spearheaded by Kanye but helped in part by ASAP Rocky. Who else do you think pushed this forward?
Well there’s the whole Jay Z and Drake situation, the fact they’re even talking about who owns art is interesting. Jay Z showed up at Marina Abramovic’s performance, there’s a global movement of mixing worlds, which is so fascinating! I would love in a very humble way to contribute to this mixing so people get to see things they would normally not notice. I would love to turn this into a video project or something bigger.
Left: Deity Censer - 1200–1400 Mexico - Right: YG
So when did you first get into art?
Art was always around. Even if it was the local cloister, I was lucky enough to have people around me that always took me to see things. Later on, I discovered the Flemish primitives, which are so cool. Van Eyck, Maitre De Campalle, all the guys from Bruge etc. Then the Italian ones while visiting Rome. I was surprised by how modern and free all that stuff before the end of the Italian renaissance looked, it’s so creative.
What about hip-hop?
I moved to NYC and it became impossible to ignore hip-hop . The culture, the codes , the music and my friends were a very big influence and help on this project . I got much more into it because, as you were saying, genres are getting so much more mixed. Kanye is wearing Margiela and people like A$AP Rocky and Jay Z are getting involved. And there’s the brilliant music, of course, and so much creative genius.
Left: Quentin Massys. Ecce Homo-1520 - Right: 2 Chainz
What music did you discover first?
Well it was a mix of a lot of different things. My friend made me discover Bodega Bamz who I like a lot, A$AP Ferg, I enjoy Chance when I ride the bike in the city. Especially, I enjoy the young kids from the internet, like Yung Lean or Uzi. I love what the internet is doing to music and the visuals that go along with it.
What are your favourite hip-hop videos?
I really like [James Blake and Chance the Rapper's "Life Round Here"], the mix and simplicity of these two worlds getting together really work for me. Also this Ratking video because it’s fresh and simple.
Can you explain the pictures?
I took three days off work to make the first ten. They need an element of surprise that people would not normally notice or know about ,.
The strongest ones are the ones with the lords or the knights like the Wiz one or the one with ASAP Rocky because you feel they represent power in an almost magical way. Both images empower the other one, and it feels like there is a real conversation between the two. T they are all powerful men and women of different times and I love how that is captured in such different way. I would love to do a video at the Met with Kanye or Jay Z or any other rapper. No one should feel intimidated or scared to go in a museum it’s ok to go in there just look at two things and leave, it’s the same with music in my opinion.
What music would you recommend to fine art fans?
Ratking, definitely. Because they are young and not really expected and also Le1f.
What art would you recommend to rap fans?
Hieronymus Bosch to start with because it’s surprising that it’s so old. Then Van Eyck and the Flemish guys.
I love how they carry that head around, it's like a cheap horror movie. Do you see the blood coming out? It’s so good, like a manga. Before the renaissance, art was for the people too. I t was the pop culture and it was used to tell stories to people who couldn’t read in the churches.
What’s the future for the project?
I will be posting new ones everyday this week. I'm so happy people are spreading them. I would love to make this project bigger to collaborate with artists or museums or whoever wants to get involved.
Follow Dan on Twitter: @KeenDang