Open Mike Eagle on art rap, and his steady rise from the underground
April 17, 2014 by Amanda Gayle
The mélange of rap and high art is most commonly attributed to Fab Five Freddy, a flamboyant personality who brought together the likes of subway graffiti and Andy Warhol. Since then, hip-hop has ballooned into divergent schools of art, from the ratchet to the abstract and beyond. The bridging of the two continues to be explored on levels perhaps more mainstream than Freddy ever imagined, most recently with Wu-Tang’s current experiment – releasing only one copy of their next album, in the hopes of restoring the golden age ideal of album as art piece.
Open Mike Eagle, a veteran of LA’s storied underground, has seen a recent surge in recognition that traces its roots all the way back to his 2010 project Unapologetic Art Rap. Since then, his music has continued to experiment with the relationships between the underground and the highbrow, and with Dark Comedy slated to drop in June, it’s likely he’ll keep exploring that tension in detail. After failing to cross paths here in New York, Mike and I hopped on a Skype interview earlier this month, and caught up on some of the projects that have kept him busy over the lead-up to his latest.
April 17, 2014 BY Amanda Gayle
Belgian illustrator Ellen Van Engelen gets groovy with color
April 13, 2014 by Juan Gomez
If you ever go back and watch any early Sesame Street episodes you’ll notice two things: the wacky characters, and the psychedelic art. The latter seemed impervious to the idea of sharp right angles – be it in commercial ads, album covers, or school textbooks, there seem to be no shortage of lines in motion. Enter Belgian illustrator Ellen Van Engelen, whose work unabashedly recalls this free-flowing era, only occasionally inserting subtle glimpses of modernity – a laptop or cell phone – to distinguish it from her acid-dropping forbearers.
Though much of her thematic focus lies in the simplicity of the seemingly mundane, it’s the Edelmann-like dreamscape in which her characters bask in that drive her illustrations. Whether it’s melting away on a classroom desk, summer love in an open meadow, or a mere telephone conversation, Van Engelen’s art allows the swirls of color, rather than the subject matter, to depict eternal ambition and youthful absurdity.
April 13, 2014 BY Juan Gomez
We return to Oakland Surf Club this Thursday with a hip hop classic
April 11, 2014 by Max Gibson
The screenings were getting good. Moments in time for our community to come together around a memorable flick. From the story of Father Yod and The Source Family, to Michael Jordan’s early days, the films varied widely in voice and message, yet each was unified through their peculiar and extraordinary qualities. Fortunately for us, Max, Ari and the rest of the OSC fam were down with the movement, so we continued on.
This Thursday we’ll be screening the seminal 1983 hip hop documentary Style Wars. For those that have seen it already, come for the vibe, for hip hop fans who haven’t, this is a must see. Remember seating is limited so come around 7pm to ensure a seat. Beer and popcorn on deck, but BYOB. Much love ya’ll.
April 11, 2014 BY Max Gibson
How unsung Oakland design duo Phunky Phat Graph-X quietly shaped the aesthetic of '90s rap
Tumblr, and I guess the Internet in general, has a tendency to play out trends to death. One of the most prevalent of these in the last few years (which I want to say, like many Internet trends, started with the BasedGod) has been the resurgence of Pen & Pixel-style album artwork. Known for their gaudy, and often straight up ridiculous imagery and fonts, The Houston-based design firm rose to prominence in the late ’90s and early ’00s for its work with Rap-A-Lot, No Limit, and Cash Money. Now, alongside pictures of Actavis pints and naked women, the Pen & Pixel aesthetic has become a Tumblr staple.
But before Master P returned to his native New Orleans from Richmond, California, and before Wayne and B.G. uttered the phrase “bling-bling” on a track, an East Oakland graphic design company called Phunky Phat Graph-X was producing a high volume of artwork for a thriving Northern California independent rap scene. Founded in 1992 by brothers Thomas and Tracy Underwood, Phunky Phat Graph-X produced the artwork for the initial releases by Master P and his then-fledgling No Limit Records. In addition to their work for No Limit, Phunky Phat was also responsible for some of the most iconic artwork for West Coast rap cult heroes like C-Bo, JT the Bigga Figga, and E-40 among many others. Phunky Phat remained active throughout the ’90s but their work slowed to a halt in 2001, and a decade later, in 2011, Tracy Underwood passed away.
A glimpse inside the creative world of filmmaker Lala Openi
April 7, 2014 by Max Gibson
Photography by Max Gibson
It’s funny how you happen upon things. The bike makes it so easy to just check shit out. It was only recently that I was introduced to the art of Lala Openi. It was curiosity that brought us together first. Biking home, I saw the MOCO Gallery in Downtown Oakland filled to the brim, spilling out into the streets. “Lemme check this out,” I thought to myself.
Fortunately for me, the work being consumed was The Discourse, Openi’s exploratory look into the thoughts and lives of today’s youth. Centered in the Bay Area, the film tackles broad questions about society, oppression, consciousness, and growth. Comprised of over five years of footage, The Discourse features a variety of DIY interviews whose true value lies in the words being expressed. After peeping the film, it only seemed right to sit down with Lala to chat about the world, her artistry and the origins of The Discourse.
April 7, 2014 BY Max Gibson
We went underground and came back with these pics
March 31, 2014 by Max Gibson
Photography by Max Gibson
The goal was transcendence. We were here to unite the people. Slowly but surely those ’09 dreams were coming to fruition. An organic movement with few preservatives we continued on, connecting with the like spirited along the way.
What was to come was still to be told, yet the journey grew sweeter by the day as more and more found themselves dancing to a similar drummer. Oakland became ground zero as inspiration fueled innovation. In a sense it was all for the making. Power in numbers proving themselves over time. 324 to be exact. Wave, Tap, Starter Kit and Jay, were the latest to lend their talents to the celebration and for that we were thankful. But the celebrations started and ended with the people. Those that chose to see what a Wine & Bowties party was all about.
March 31, 2014 BY Max Gibson