Today’s artist spotlight is a little different, as we feature neither an emcee nor a producer. We all know that there are 5 elements to hip hop: MCing, DJing, B-Boying, Graffiti, and Knowledge. Well today, we put the spotlight on graffiti artist RF3RD. From Brooklyn, by way of Detroit, RF3RD has been working with HiPNOTT Records for a bit now and the main graphic designer for The Regiment. His latest work can be seen at the top of each month in his S.O.U.L. project series with The Regiment and HiPNOTT Records. Check the spotlight below…
Let’s see… I was born and raised in Detroit, MI. Spent a lot of time in the “Jefferies” with my grandmother while my parents worked. So many stories and adventures that happened in that area. High school time was spent doing graphic design in Cass Tech. (Thanks Mr. Willard) I spent some time in Chicago for what I call my ninja art training. (Illustration major for Columbia College Chicago) After finishing school I came back home for a few years until 2012, when I relocated to New York City. That is my current location until my art takes me to the next place.
I think I was born with a crayon in my hand, haha. I have had an interest in drawing since my youth. My dad would make birthday cards of my favorite characters. I would try copy those drawings, and from there I started drawing my own characters.
You would always see me with a folder, notebook or paper when I travelled somewhere. My action figures and drawing tools. (Laughs) Nothing has changed… The only difference is that I keep a gaming device instead of the action figures.
My formal training did not start until my senior year in highschool. I took an illustration class to prepare for my college studies of illustration. Prior to that highschool consisted of tradional printing and photography education.
My influences derived from manga and Japanese animation. I was introduced to the anime culture through classics like Venus Wars, Akira, Ninja Scroll, Voltron, Casshan (Robot Hunter) and many others that exist on a endless list. Another influence was classic Chicago House and Detroit Techno music. It gave me obscure images of futuristic cities and nightlife as a kid. (Think cyberpunk and lots of neon lighted signs.)
Who influences you as an artist?
My influences are Drew Struzman, Syd Mead, Nihei Tsutomu, Miura Kentaro, Edayan (Shinya Edaki) and so many more.
Initially I teamed up with The Regiment in 2011 for the album “The Panic Button.” I was doing all the art and graphic design work at the time. Album cover art, website design, T-shirt (The R symbol), etc. I even had the chance to do some graffiti for the video “Battle Cry.” I became really busy the following year in my preparation for relocating out of state. After getting settled the guys contacted me about the project. It really is a great fit for the style of illustration that I love doing; the collage movie poster style.
Why do you think the fusion of hip hop and art is important?
I believe their fusion is like the peanut butter and jelly of cultures. Hip hop is art, and art can be hip hop. However, there seems to be a limit on how far some people in hip hop will go when it comes to art. The same goes for artist who are not into hip hop. When you fuse the two together you have this amazing combination and exposure to a new thing. I am a huge fan of Japanese pop culture and graffiti, and in my art I throw in those influences to spark interests in people not associated with either of the two. The best example that I like to reference to for the “art and hiphop” mix is Samurai Champloo. It was a Japanese animation that combined elements of hiphop with anime. For people that were into hiphop it revealed the world of anime being more than just Pokemon. (The stereotyped image of anime being only for kids.) For viewers that were fans of anime it revealed that hiphop is versatile, and not a genre that just talks about women and money. The show revealed that their depth on both sides of the spectrum.
Fusion of styles, cultures or anything brings understanding and breaks down walls of fear and misinterpretation. It is necessary on so many levels to bring understanding, because it eliminates the act of judging based only on appearance or rumor.
What are some projects you are working on now for the future? Who are artists you would love to connect with?
Currently I am preparing to work on large pieces during the winter season for my personal work. I have a new interest in doing things 3D. Some original characters that I have created I want to bring to life in toy form. I think right now I am just focusing on getting to Japan. I have a lot of artist friends from there, and it has always been a dream of mine.
Hmmm… let’s see… some artists I would love to connect with? Kyary Pamyu Pamyu? Maybe Perfume? (haha…I’m serious)
Honestly, I love so many genres of music that I could work with just about anyone. Some days I am listening to jazz, the next day it’s Chicago footwork music.
The most important thing is the vibe of the artist. When you are fed a positive and peaceful attitude you want to return it. I believe that is why I like working The Regiment. Working with them in the future is without question something I would like to do. It’s nice to take care of business, finish up the loose ends and then jump online to play Monster Hunter or Street Fighter with together. There has always existed a nice balance of work and play, and that just helps to build a strong relationship that feeds the drive when working on new projects.