Def Jam

11 June 2017
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Def Jam

So early on I was asked( key word here more on this later) to do a shirt that represented Def Jam the early years.  This one was to be for the true hip hop fans, 30 and up crowd.  I was down to do it but I didn't know quite how to capture it all.  Let me also state again, I'm not a music head, so I wasn't like super into how I should do this shirt, I just knew the main folks and I was going from there. 


Okay so I knew right away I couldn't fit all the people I needed to on one shirt.  It had to be readable from a distance so I decided right away to make a series of shirts.  This way I could capture each of the early acts on a separate shirt and I didn't have to shrink things to make them fit.  That seems reasonable right??  This is where I get caught up in my own head.  What I think is reasonable is not always reasonable.  This idea also directly reflected my skill level in tshirt design.  I was stuck on getting every face on a shirt when in actually I could've taken a mixture of faces , lyrics, song titles, iconic items (Adidas shoe, dookie rope chain, kangol hat , big clock, bulleyes target, shades etc) and still been good.  There is more than one way to get the message across, but I wasn't there yet.  So Def Jam , all separate shirts, hip hop , aight lets get it.


I started with RUN DMC.  I wanted the iconic red bars from the logo but I didn't want to just put the words in the middle like everyone else had done.  So I settled on the Mic, an shell toe Adidas, and the turntables for Jam Master J.  Those dookie ropes gave me a hard time.  You know how hard it is to make ink look like gold???  VERY!! I'm most proud of the way the turntables came out.  I did that piece by piece and had to make it on the slant to fit it in but it's got detail and looks dope.  This was also the first time I did no eyes.  I don't know why I did that, but to me it looks dope.  I know is creepy to some including my daughter, "dad why don't they have eyes they can't see". Meh, you will see this again in my work cuz I like it.

The next one I did was P.E., Chuck D and Flav.  With this shirt I realized that I was a minimalist.  What is the least amount of anything I can put on this shirt but make you know exactly what I was thinking.  All outline, say word, I mean why not.  The most detailed item here was the raiders logo.

Next up was the Beastie Boys.  Quiet as kept of the 4 that I designed this one was my favorite and this one I put the most time into.  This is where I knew I was becoming an artist and maybe a bit of a diva.  I wanted people to appreciate the amount of detail I had pumped into this design.  I would learn later (stay tuned below) that most folks won't be impressed, they will like it in passing but won't study it or look to deeply at it.  I mean it's a t-shirt Reese get over ya self.  These were my three favorite songs as well Brass Monkey, Paul Revere, and Fight for your Right to Party.

side note: Shout out to my dad, he use to drink private stock and under the cap was a picture puzzle.  He would drink and give me the cap and I would try to figure out the puzzle.  I thought that was the dopest thing ever, to be able to convey a message using only pictures.  So this style will repeat itself time and time again in my work because I'm a fan.

Last up LL Cool J. Looking back if I'm being honest this was the weakest of the lot.  However that's to be expected you do a run of shirts 1 will be the dopest and 1 will be the runt of the litter.  I think the concept of the two sides to LL was dope, the playboy talking about big booties and the romantic simpin about needing love.  I improved on the shimmer of a gold chain in this one though.  However I know if I were to print this that shimmer might get lost in translation. Ah well, can't win em all.


Remember back up top I said I was "asked" ok well let me get into what I learned about that first.  So I was asked to do this, not hired to do this, so what's the difference you ask?  It's simple a hire is a contract with a deposit, an ask is a favor for the homie.  The ask happened and I expected the homie to buy all four which didn't happen.  I was quite pissed.  However if I sit back and look at it 1) He asked for 1 shirt I turned that into 4, why would he go from $25 to $100?? I wouldn't. We discussed the 4 shirts before hand but again looking back I can see where someone would say OK but not really be to quick to take that up sale.  2) It's on me to get the money or set the price, get a deposit up front, Fat Tony taught me that, I didn't that's on me.  3) later on it was brought up that the homie didn't like all the designs. <---THIS is something that will pop up over and over and over.  Just cuz I think it's dope doesn't mean others will.  Do I change what I think is dope to move units??  Overall I don't , I live and die by what I think is dope, if in the end it doesn't move units then hey it is what it is (more on that in a min). I try to direct people to my website to look at my catalog of work (yeeeaaahh I'm big time now I got a catalog of work) to see if they like my style before I do work for them.  I have a style and it's not for everyone, I'm comfortable saying that now, I don't think I was early on. 

Even though the money up front thing was a big lesson to learn early on I must admit I still have not learned it fully (hard head make a soft ass as they use to say).  I still get asked to do things and I'm not consistent in how I handle it.  It's cost me money and maybe even some cool points with folks. On the other hand some folks have enjoyed the process and appreciate having their idea come to life.  Yeezy shrug, meh, (I went to edit and came back to this spot and lost my train of thought...soooo fade out)


So how have the shirts done you ask??  Run DMC did very well and has done very well over time.  PE sold the second best.  It breaks my heart to say I've not sold not one Beastie Boy shirt!!! Like that shirt is so dope to me it makes me mad every time I think about it. Like people are you seeing all the elements on that shirt.  WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! (woo saaa) This is one of many shirts I've done and been very proud only for it to go no where.  LL I don't know if I even ever released it, and if I did it was a short run.  I think after the Beastie Boys flopped I just gave up on this lot. 


I liked this project because it challenged me to do a bunch of shirts I never would've thought to do on my own.  The challenge of coming up with concepts and images that people like enough to buy is something I chase every time I design a shirt. It's often a crap shoot, I think its dope and it doesn't sell, or I think it's meh and people buy it that day. Every once in a while like Jr, I KNOW I rocked it and I get to drop the bat and slow walk as I watch it leave the yard.  Overall every project is a chance to get better at my craft.



**I'm sure this blog is full of typos and what not, it's ok, it's just a blog.



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