Music by VICE

Meet D Bruze, the Designer Behind Future’s Amazing New Merch

We paid a visit to the Purple Reign Tour Pop-Up Shop in LA, where Future fan art mixed with a line of dope exclusive T-shirts designed by 21-year-old New Yorker Darian Bruze.

by Drew Millard
11 March 2016, 2:45pm

D Bruze / Photo by the author

At this point, I think all of us—tall, small, cool, dweeby, skinny, fat, young, old, living, dead—can agree that 56 Nights crazy. Perhaps the only thing crazier than 56 Nights is the fact that last week, Cease & Desist and Future Hendrix himself quietly opened up a pop-up shop in Los Angeles, fittingly dubbed “The Purple Reign Tour Pop-Up Shop.” Open until March 20, the shop is located at 410 Fairfax Avenue—ironically enough, the exact location that once housed the now defunct Odd Future store.

Aside from offering Cease & Desist’s “Big Rings” capsule collection with Future—consisting of haute, Freebandz-inspired flight jackets, basketball jerseys, and sweatpants—the store boasts a fairly astounding selection of fan art, including a pair of 3D sculptures depicting hands pouring and/or blowing bubbles with some Dirty Sprite™, a literal representation of the now timeless adage “If Young Metro don’t trust you Imma shoot you,” and a ginormous, Christmas light-adorned painting of Future’s visage. According to a Cease & Desist spokesperson, artist Lucy Ford (no relation) mixed actual codeine syrup with her paint to achieve that iconic shade of Actavis Purple which we all know and love.

Photo by the author

But the absolute highlight of the pop-up shop was a collection of vintage-inspired Future T-shirts, which are set to be rolled out one by one at the Future pop-up shop until March 20. One finds Future dramatically shaking his dreads amid a field of purple lightning. Two are interpretations of his 56 Nights and Monster mixtapes. Another is an amazing homage to the Pen and Pixel art made famous by No Limit Records. The final shirt, which will be issued on March 20, is an homage to Future’s fallen friend, the late A$AP Yams.

Each shirt is being given a run of 50, and once they’re gone they’re gone. They are objectively beautiful objects, whose very real rarity only makes me covet them even more. They cost $90 each, and I live ten minutes from the Future pop-up shop. You have no idea how dangerous this situation is for my financial stability.

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The shirts were designed by Darien Bruze a.k.a. D Bruze, whose work you probably recognize even if his name leaves you scratching your head. The 21-year-old creative is responsible for the Death Row vs. Bad Boy collection that had streetwear circles ablaze a couple years ago, and more recently he designed a Selena T-shirt that Drake ended up wearing. More recently, he worked with Screwed Up Records to release T-shirts celebrating the work of the legendary Screwed Up Click. Though Bruze is relatively young, particularly compared to the era so much of his work celebrates, he’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop and a unique aesthetic sensibility that reveals his clear passion for the iconography of yore and his innate understanding of the transformative power of imagery.

Bruze and I spoke at the Purple Reign Pop-Up Shop, as he walked me through the inspiration behind each of the limited edition Future T-shirts.

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Noisey: Where are you from?
Darien Bruze:
I’m from New York. Queens.

How did you first get into graphic design?
Shit. I started in 2012, I made a Death Row/Bad Boy Records shirt. Ever since then I’ve just been staying in the hip-hop music lane. Everything I do is related to hip-hop.

What are the overarching themes for these shirts?
Future’s camp basically said, “We need some hard-ass tour shirts,” so I was like “All right, I got you.” I wanted to give them this old-school, 90s vibe: Pen and Pixel, Ca$h Money, No Limit, all that.

Photo courtesy of D Bruze / FreeBandz

Talk about this first one, with Future swinging his hair.
Since it’s the Purple Reign Tour, I thought purple lightning would be hard as fuck. I got the inspiration for that from old Harley Davidson shirts. Those are my favorite.

Old Harley shirts are almost like these weird pieces of folk art.
You got lightning and eagles and ladies on motorcycles with fucking fire shooting everywhere. People worked hard on them.

Photo courtesy of D Bruze/FreeBandz

What about the 56 Nights shirt?
Well, that title comes from DJ Esco was locked up in Dubai, so it just made sense to make the font Arabic. And you’ve got Esco in the sky, faded out.

It reminds me old Three 6 Mafia covers, almost.
Yeah! Exactly. Old Three 6 Mafia. That’s where I drew the inspiration. That and Bone-Thugs, a super-bootleg Flesh-n-Bone shirt. I remember my uncle had it. I recreated it from memory.

And the Monster shirt?
Well, that one’s got a monster eye on the front.

Photo courtesy of D Bruze/FreeBandz

What about the Pen and Pixel-looking one?
“The world is yours” bit is inspired by Scarface. It’s also inspired by old No Limit covers, like old Mystikal albums, Juvenile albums.

Tell me about the A$AP Yams tribute shirt.
A$AP Yams was a good homie of mine. Future wanted some Yams shirts, so I was like, “We gotta do this right—it’s gotta be special.” So I did some Polaroid pictures, inspired by a rock tee from the 80s I had. I just thought it was hard as hell—this band had Polaroid pictures on the back from their tour—I was like, “We gotta do that for Yams. It’s only appropriate.” That’s probably my favorite one. It’s fucking crazy seeing him on a shirt.

One of the things I like about these is they almost look bootleg concert tees from the 90s.
That’s exactly what we was going for! I feel strongly, man: Hard merch ain’t made for artists these days. They just want the quick stuff. I’m not into that. Hard-ass merch is almost a lost artform. Hopefully people wear these shits, like, 20 years from now.

Photo courtesy of D Bruze/FreeBandz

One thing that’s big in hip-hop right now is wearing old metal T-shirts.
Like Metallica tees—kids don’t know the songs, they don’t know the band, they just like the designs. Like, 80 percent of the youth have rock shirts in their closet—Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, whatever. But ultimately it’s just a design. People keep flipping ‘em and flipping ‘em.

The way you put it, it’s almost like the visual equivalent of sampling.
I look at T-shirts as art, man. T-shirts are really art, bro. They’re really art. They don’t get enough recognition.

That’s one of the cool things about hip-hop: It has the ability to recontextualize these symbols and imagery to create something totally new.
There’s a lot of power in merch, man. I feel like it’s a big part of the image, maybe more than artists realize. Like, look at Kanye. He did hard-ass designs for the Yeezus shirts, and you’d see them everywhere. You can open yourself up to a new fanbase if the fashion kids fuck with your merch.

Photo courtesy of D Bruze/FreeBandz

Wasn’t the cover of Future’s DS2 a stock image his team found on creative commons?
It was from a science textbook or something. Nobody knows that. It still looks hard. The colors are crazy. It works.

What’s your favorite logo of all time? You’re wearing Bone-Thugs and Ruff Ryders chains right now.
My favorite logo, man, I got it tatted on me. It’s the Death Row logo. Death Row was so frowned upon for what they did—they were such bullies. But they were hard as fuck! No one was touching them. They were 100 percent gangster.

I’ve heard stories about Master P pointing sniper rifles in record label people’s faces if he didn’t like the terms of a deal they offered him.
He was really about that. Fuck, man, I miss that shit. I love reminiscing about the good times.

How old are you?
I’m 21. I look mad older.

Drew Millard drives the Prius like it was a Chevy. Follow him on Twitter.

A$AP Yams
beast mode
56 Nights
Purple Reign
D Bruze
Darian Bruze
Purple Reign Tour Pop-Up Shop
Pen and Pixel
T shirts