by Artist Krow
Growing up, I was normally to myself. In my room most of the time I would either play my video games or read books. This was of course ALL before we had cable. Once we did, I was a young, cartoon junkie. Watching shows like Johnny Quest, Cow and Chicken, Kablam, (I’m probably showing my age..but my age is beautiful), I enjoyed many varieties of shows and didn’t have to wait until One Saturday Morning.
I then began at a young age drawing many things that I seen. I remember watching Scooby Doo one day and on this particular episode when Shaggy and Scooby are running from a ghost, they run through a hidden, revolving door in a wall. As a child, I thought that was the most awesome thing EVER! So I started to design houses and shoes, which eventually led me to drawing cartoon characters.
Until one day…I was in World History class in 10th Grade. Got an assignment from the teacher to get done in class. I loved History because it was easy. For me, the quote “You gotta know where you been, to know where you going” was instilled in me for the longest and I took that approach with the class. Although I loved History, I loved art like 100 times more! So when the teacher was walking through the aisles, I was already drawing in my binder. I sat in the front, not because I wanted to be the teacher’s pet (I didn’t give a fuck about this teacher), but because I couldn’t see very well and was too embarrassed to get new glasses on top of the ones that were already not working for me. SO when the teacher came and passed the assignment to me, he rudely told me “Put that junk away!”
Although I loved History, I loved art like 100 times more!
Junk…I know right. Bitch this was my art! Like how dare you homeboy? …..but I did. I put it under my desk and got to work. About 25 mins in class passed and I was already done. I put my assignment on the teacher’s desk, went back to my seat, got out my binder and started to draw again. I STILL remember what I was drawing. It was Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with his katana sword cutting off the head of a priest. It was quite graphic, yes. But to me, it spoke as my childhood reacting to the beliefs of religion.
To this day, it was one of my favorite drawings because it was sooooo good. I was proud of myself. …but God forbid a Black kid finishing his work before all the other white students! My teacher came over to my desk after flirting with one of the students in the back of the classroom, ONLY saw that I was not working on the assignment (not knowing I was already done), just grabbed my whole binder and tossed it across the whole classroom to the front.
Papers flew all out the binder to the point I just saw that one sheet gently floating in the air towards the ground. BOOM! It hit the ground and so did my soul.
I was proud of myself. …but God forbid a Black kid finishing his work before all the other white students!
I sat there looking straight for a few seconds then I slowly turned around to look at one of my best friends in the back of the class. My friend gave me a “Whatever you about to do, don’t do it look”. I looked back at him with a “Watch what I’m about to do” look on my face.
I got up, took the biggest trash can in the class (size of the ones from the cafeteria) and tossed it upside down and trashed the room and left. I literally lost my mind within those few minutes and went super crazy! What happened after is neither here nor there. But since then, I haven’t been drawing characters since. It was like my childhood was destroyed by my anger. My skills were taken away by those who never understood me. Understood my people. Understood my culture. This same teacher told me I wasn’t gonna grow up to be anything. You would have sworn I was gonna be a rapper just to quote that line! Fast forward 15 years later and here we are. Married a beautiful artist who restored my knowledge of passion and talent with art and have sold MANY pieces to so many art collectors.
Even got my art in the hands of one of the women I deemed to be one of, if not the most, beautiful, radiant, well-respected women in acting, Phylicia Rashad.
Never in a million years would I imagine myself as this dope ass artist making a name for myself. But now I have. I am somebody, somebody with a name proving those who didn’t believe in me wrong.
Recently, with this new project, I decided to do something different. Something I felt would not only inspire many others, but also something that would give you a certain feeling. A feeling of pride, a feeling of culture, a feeling of creativity. With my experience of living these past 30 years, I realized the power of Black culture in America. From music, films, art, sports and entertainment, we’ve been in the forefront with our impact, but in the “Rosa Parks section” with appreciation.
We (as Black Americans) rarely take moments to glorify our achievements in culture and our influence. This year, I wanted to do just THAT!
With this 30 year anniversary of our generation (as well as my life), I wanted to put as much culture as I could in one picture, but with cartoons. I wanted to take two worlds and merge them into one. Real and not real. Animation and reality. Within the past 30 years of watching cartoons, listening to Hip Hop and R&B, and learning about Black History as a culture, I used my knowledge and implemented it into this art piece called, Black Nostalgia. Here you’ll see not only the influence of fashion, music and culture of Black America shown through animated characters that familiarize with our generation, but also each resonating with myself.
To me, this art piece is talking as if someone is communicating through it. With each character, there’s a story to me behind it. Like to hear it, here it go… (I’ll go over a solid 10 so you can only begin to feel like you know me).
#10 – Suga Mama (Missy Elliott- The Rain outfit)
In 1997, Missy Elliott dropped Supa Dupa Fly. On that album, one of my favorite songs, The Rain was featured which had a crazy, different visual to it. The music video came out and I saw Missy rapping in bright color glasses and suits and what was funniest of all, she was rapping in a big, black trash bag. This was so much out of the ordinary Hip Hop at that time, which consisted of East Coast vs West Coast beef. This was entertaining. It was fly. It was right in your face. The trash bag itself seems as if its metaphoric in multiple ways. You know when people say “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. I saw it like what some may seem as women in Hip Hop being trash or not as credible or relevant, Missy turned that trash and made it her treasure. Her cool flow and animated ways visually and audibly elevated the Hip Hop scene with its influence in creativity. With other artists such as Redman, Busta Rhymes, and Eminem following suit, she pioneered a particular vision in Hip Hop music with its music videos. That influence alone gave me inspiration to be a different kind of light in a room full of imitation candles.
#9 – Franklin (DJ Screw Nike Tee)
Back when few thought Cash Money was taking over for the 99 to the 2000s, my city was stirring up a new trend. Screw music, which originated by Robert Davis aka DJ Screw, was a thing where you would normally hear music slowed at a certain tempo once you crossed the other side of Hwy 610. My home with my parents was always on the North side. My other family members along with our church was always on the South side. On the South, in Alief to be exact, there was a store called the SWAT. There you could always get culture tees that related to Hip Hop in Houston, screw mixes, hats and other items. It was a small shop but it was THAT spot to get your culture fix and find the new everything. What Screw represented for Hip Hop was something not of the norm. It was hated in the beginning from so many locally as an annoyance. I’ve heard many times, “Aghh…they be trying to screw everything!” after hearing popular songs now at a different pitch. There were screw mixes of MANY different style artists from local rappers to old school soul classics from such artists as Isley Brothers and George Clinton. I even remember a time where I heard gospel music screwed down! Shit was wild! But the culture through that style of music was beginning to change everything in Houston, whether people liked it or not. And what was then just a local trend has now became the worldwide popular style used by many artists of different styles. I enjoyed seeing the come up of something so major begin in my home town, and its heavy influence played an intricate part in my creativity not only through art but also through music in my production.
#8 – Leon from Bebe’s Kids (D-Generation X tee)
Wrestling was everything for me at a young age. In the 90s, there was a group of wrestlers called D-Generation X. This group consisted of Road Dawg, X-Pac, Triple H, Bad Azz Billy Gunn, and Chyna. What this group represented in the world of wrestling was a bit of attitude that separated itself from the norm of the every day wrestlers. Its flashy ways, vulgar language, entertaining antics wasn’t the best of influences, but an influence nonetheless. It spoke to me. In a way at times where you don’t want to fit in, you’d rather stand out but you had a mission or something to say and you were gonna make sure you got that message across. This group represented that not only for myself, but for those alike. When they came with the phrase, “And if you don’t like it, I got TWO WORDS FOR YA!!!….SUCK IT!!!” that shit was legendary to me. I ain’t never heard of nothing like that to be said on TV like that, with a crowd of people repeating it. That “in your face (pun intended) influence” that D-Generation set represented youthful rebellion. If you didn’t get in trouble for telling someone at school to “SUCK IT!!!” then you probably can’t relate. But for those who can, no doubt in my mind would agree that this group among many things in wrestling has a huge impact and influence on our being as adults in this day and age.
#7 – Susie Carmichael (I ♥ B2K tee)
I had to be about 13 or 14 years old, and my older sister was now becoming a young woman. Entering pageants to win scholarships for college, many other young women were in pursuit of a higher education. With their beauty, brains and talents, these pageants paved a way for brighter future for these women. I was always proud of my sister for not only entering these type of competitions but also winning! I’ve learned a lot about women not only watching my mom, but my sisters as well. Growing up, I had nothing BUT. No brothers. Just me and older sisters (Yep, I’m the youngest). Around this time, with music at my age all you heard was youthful rap. Artists like Bow Wow and Lil Romeo was taking over the Hip Hop game. But with R&B, it was young artists like B2K who was the it factor. They were basically the Black version of (at that time) Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. But with seasoning. Low key they jammed. But this phenomenon played a major role with a shift of what I saw as girls becoming of age and their particular interests. If you didn’t have similar talents, looks or style like these young artists, young girls weren’t really interested. Girls had hella posters in their rooms, magazine cut outs, vision boards and more of these guys. Even in the beginning stages of online mackin way before Facebook and Instagram DMs, there was Black Planet and MySpace. On these pages, you couldn’t go to a girls page without SOME B2K song playing on their page or visually displayed as a background image on their page. Although they weren’t my favorite guy group, growing up this was the best thing ever for women my age now. The influence B2K played on myself was probably likability. I learned to dance because girls then liked guys who danced. I excelled in choir winning multiple UIL competitions because well, girls liked guys who can sing. As a child, you can see how the interests of women affected the being of me. Luckily it played out to be a success, yet as an adult thankfully I now live the complete opposite and started living for me and let the interests of my own affect the me I become.
#6 – Sunny Bridges (Michael Jackson Thriller jacket)
If there was one concert to this day of any artists I’d see who is no longer here, of course it would be Michael Jackson (although I would understand those who said Prince)! But you’d be lying if you said Michael Jackson played no influence in your life, even if you’re not a millennial. From songs like A-B-C to You Rock My World, Michael has HELLA classics. Although “Remember The Time” is my favorite music video and song from him, I can’t write off the influence that Thriller set for my generation. Even with Thriller being released in 1982, its classic style gave appeal to many in the 90s and beyond! With Thriller being the first hit song with a visual that gave a horror appeal to the masses, it not only set the tone for others to creatively follow suit but to give Michael a sense of direction with a vision of his sound. Thriller’s dance routine was repeatedly acted out within my childhood in many places to the point its hard to ignore its influence in society. I remember like it was yesterday, September 11th, 2001. 2nd period Choir class, plane hits the first World Trade Center building. I (who never been to New York nor heard of the towers) thinks nothing of it. I remember my exact thought, “Damn how drunk you gotta be to hit a building?” Then…the second plane hits. White people are crying! Black folks are chilling. This ultimately became an understanding that this was an issue that wasn’t Black folks problem. Yes, America was under attack. But even as a younger child, I knew, when America gets attacked. It’s not an attack on Blacks in general. I was either desensitized or morally disconnected within worldly issues. Ultimately, this situation didn’t affect me. Yet in a time of what was a crisis, I tuned out the world and now played Michael’s new album at the time, which was the Invincible album. That album title gave me a feeling that I TOO was invincible, spiritually at least. Michael gave me that feeling, that anything was possible. The moonwalk represented the smoothness of mobility throughout the surface. When you’re grounded in anything in life, its better to move throughout trials and tribulations with smoothness. You know, finesse the struggle. Maybe its generally why I didn’t panic during 9/11, because my smoothness through problems of life. Or maybe I just generally didn’t care or know to care. I was stuck on the feelings behind watching movies like Dead Presidents, Higher Learning, A Time To Kill and Rosewood. I didn’t have the capacity in my mind to fit in white people’s problems.
#5 – Black Dynamite (Police Brutality Victims tee)
Man oh man. First let me touch up on the movie Black Dynamite. Have you seen it before? Michael Jai White became one of my favorite actors because of that movie. His stern acting in a way to make serious moments into comedy was direly hilarious! The movie became a TV animated series which was a good thing for me. Watching the Black Dynamite movie was one of my favorite past times while attending college at Prairie View A&M University. Here at this school, I was blessed with the opportunity to know one of the strongest, young sisters I’ve known named Sandra Bland. Her tall stature came with much passion for her people, seriousness behind her achievements and goofiness within interactions with others. All of this was a beautiful balance that made her the woman she is known in remembrance for today. In summer of 2015, it was a year after I graduated. My news feed it lit! “I need the full story! What happened to Sandy? This shit happened in Prairie View? Too close to home.” I was shocked. What normally happened on TV to Black males for the longest, was now happening here at home. My school. My classmates. TOO FUCKING CLOSE to reality! It was an eye opener for myself and others around me as we rallied and rallied for justice. What’s crazy is that there are enough names to not only fit on a shirt but to make a clothing line with enough shirts to clothed a city of homeless people without repeating one name on the fabric. Out of all the names that can be listed, a friend of mine is actually one of the most familiar names worldwide. I feel like one of those persons who walked across the bridge with Dr. King, one of the ones who could have easily been targeted and gone because of certain beliefs to better my people. Sandra Bland was that. Korryn Gaines was that. Many others were that. These victims to police brutality are not only memories but reminders of a corrupt system that we all must learn to change. This art piece in part is a dedication to those at war that we’ve lost on our street corners here at home while our country only likes to remind us that we are at war with those abroad in similar situations as us.
#4 – Wade (J Dilla tee)
It wasn’t until 2008 where I began producing music. My best friend/college roommate had two things in his room I saw when I moved in that grabbed my attention. The Family Guy Season DVDs and an MPC. I knew this guy was like a brother to me because those were the things I wanted in life at the time to make me happy. Something to make me laugh and something to make music. He taught me about certain productions and an artist by the name of J. Dilla. I researched music on this artist and found out he produced some of my favorite classics from back in the day. “This guy is amazing!” is all I could think of. His beats, rhythm, drums, breaks, everything spoke to me! The only other cat that impressed me as much in production was 9th Wonder, who I was more up on at that time. I listened to nothing but downloaded beats daily from Dilla and learned so much from his style of production and sampling that I now implemented things i picked out into the music that I’ve created. J. Dilla’s influence in music is unmatched working with artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, Common, Busta Rhymes, and more. He may not be known worldwide to the masses, but if you’ve heard of these artists listed, their music resonated within you was most likely produced by this legend.
#3 – Vivian from Bebe’s Kids (Pretty For a Big Girl? tee)
In my super younger ages of youth, there was a movie that came out called Bebe’s Kids. This was a movie about a single guy taking a woman on a date with her child, as well her friend’s kids. This movie gave me the early perspective of the possibilities of dating in the future. Sure enough, as I got older, the chances of dating a woman who has a child grew exponentially. Luckily, none of the ones I dated had kids like Bebe’s. But this movie showed one man’s incredible effort to win a woman’s heart, even if it took caring and tending to the things that she cares about (guys can learn a lot from this funny movie). One of the characters in this film was a hoodrat sister of one of the guy’s exes. On this painting, she wears a shirt saying “Pretty for a big girl?” (Hints the question mark). This quote is generally said by men who feel like big girls are supposed to be unattractive but are surprised that they are attracted to them so they say something stupid like “You’re pretty for a big girl” when in general they should just say, “You’re pretty” or say nothing at all. This is one of the things I can understand within the culture of men vs women where people don’t think before they speak. This quote is one of the most highlighted ways to define the masculinity that men often don’t seem to understand is a problem in society. I’ve always had an attraction for big girls and got made fun of it time and time again growing up. I personally felt me smashing a skinny girl was warrant to strike up a fire like a match at some. Two sticks with certain friction can be dangerous. PLUS! If you think about it, if you’re with someone big and they lose weight, at least you already know what they look like being thick. You may not be ready for the opposite dating someone super small and next thing you know they’re the size of a house (and not just for 9 months either). I always preferred more cushion for the pushing. BIG GIRLS! Thank you for your beautiful influence. This piece is also for you.
#2 – Grandad (Coogi sweater)
I could probably tell my kids that sweaters were a trending thing and they’ll probably look at me crazy. More so, probably because we live in an area where is probably cold for a total of one month per year, intermittently of course. The first I’ve heard of Coogi as a reference was from Biggie. “Coogi down to the socks, rings and watch filled with rocks” via the song One More Chance. The first time I seen Coogi worn was with Bill Cosby and his ultimate sweater collection. Between the sweater era of the 90s, I was probably more of a Mr. Rogers type. Not too flashy, but just fit and just right for the occasion. But for others, Coogi sweater and clothing was IT! Biggie was one of the top music artists of the 90s and the Cosby show was one of the biggest Black family TV shows syndicated on television. The 90s sparked a major shift within Black culture, entertainment and fashion. People knew that! Definitely a reason why college sweaters became more popular in the 90s as enrollment into HBCU began to rise. Thank you to the influential sweater wearing pioneers who decided to stay fly and warm at a time when the world can be so cold.
#1 – Cleveland Jr. (They Love Our Culture, They Don’t Love Us tee)
Although this list wasn’t compiled with my favorite top ten characters, I will say this was my favorite culture tee. Why? Because they just don’t. History has shown that. “They” aren’t speaking of white people in general (although if the shoe fits, its probably Cole Haan), but of people who adore what Black people bring with our culture to the world that is America. This reminds me of a time when I read that a woman won’t date Black men but she’ll marry Will Smith. (Yeah..I know) Which to me, because he’s famous and talented, he’s entitled to your company. But that same person, unknown can have as much talent but approaches you as an everyday guy, he now doesn’t stand the chance. It’s crazy how some people think. They’ll ban your hairstyle in the workplace but feature the same hairstyle in their magazine as the new “chic” look. Tuh! Fuggouttahere boy! Our culture is here and it’s here to stay. Hopefully, unlike the influence of some, this art piece will give credit to the inspiration that came with it as well as serve its purpose to inspire others to create something that represents something meaningful to themselves and others alike.
This art project consisted of a total of: 22 days. 230 hours. 64 albums. and 18 grams of weed.
These are the albums played while working on this piece:
Slum Village- Fantastic Vol 2.10
Busta Rhymes- Extinction Level Event, When Disaster Strikes
The Cool Kids- Tacklebox, When Fish Ride Bicycles
H.I.S.D.- The Weakend
Bilal- 1st Born Second
Jay-Z & Kanye West- Watch The Throne
Ludacris- Back For The First Time
Jesse Boykins III- The Beauty Created
Rocky Banks- Big Little Brother
Drake- Thank Me Later, Views, Take Care, So Far Gone
Little Brother- Chitlin’ Circuit, The Listening, The Minstrel Show
Alexander O’Neal- Love Makes No Sense
Lupe Fiasco- Food & Liquor, The Cool
A Tribe Called Quest- The Low End Theory
Q-Tip- The Renaissance
Buddy- Magnolia, Ocean & Montana
Murs- 3:16 The 9th Edition
E-40- My Ghetto Report Card
Phonte- No News Is Good News
Nickelus F- Yellow Gold
Snoop Dogg- R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta)
Jack Herrera- Retro Futuristo
Sisqo- Return of Dragon
J. Dilla- The Shining
Jay Dee- Welcome To Detroit
Tim Woods- TBA, Pushing Daisies
Jamie Hancock- Sincerely, Me
Freddy Inglewood- In The Name of God
Joyce Wrice- Stay Around
Dom Kennedy & Hit Boy- Courtesy of Half A Mil
Kanye West- Graduation, Late Registration
Kendrick Lamar- Section 80, DAMN, good kid, m.A.A.d city, To Pimp a Butterfly
George Young- Ventage
Redman- Dare Iz A Darkside
Pharrell- In My Mind
Rick Ross- Deeper Than Rap, Port of Miami, Teflon Don
Lil Wayne- Tha Carter II
Dwele- Subject, Sketches of a Man
DJ Jazzy Jeff- Return of the Magnificent
Kev Brown- I Do What I Do
Trey Songz- I Gotta Make It
Big shout out to all these creative musical geniuses! Thanks for the good vibes.
This piece was originally published on Culture Artists.