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Lost In Translation

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Lost In Translation

Selected for the Metamorphosis Juried Exhibition on change and transition.

Photo Credit: Jessica Kovacs.

At first glance you may think to yourself "What. in the actual f." Yes, this piece is fairly confusing and certainly did get "Lost In Translation" (thus it's title).

The idea for the painting came one day when I was thinking about how much hip-hop has changed over the years. When I was growing up in the early 90's, gangster rap was huge, but at that time I was fairly young and had not really been exposed to it. During the latter part of the decade, and into the early 2000's - when I was making the transition from middle school to high school, I began listening to some mainstream Rap and R&B because, well, that's what everyone else was doing. It was also music that was immediately accessible, so it became easy to follow what was trending. Yay peer pressure!

It was around that time that hip-hop began morphing from somewhat underground/gangster, to a more watered down, commercialized version of the genre. A version that abandoned lyricism in favor of materialism: think Nelly, Sisqo, Puff Daddy, Ja Rule, Ashanti, Big Tymers, etc.

It's not that these artists were necessarily "bad." I enjoyed and still enjoy some R&B from that era, and certain hip-hop groups like Outkast - who somehow managed to stay relevant and inventive amidst all of the chaos. It's funny, and kind of bizarre to think back on it though. Compared to what's being passed off as music nowadays, some of that music actually seems incredible in relation!

The goal for the piece was to illustrate this transition, so I used Mos Def's "Black On Both Sides" as the foundation. It's a timeless album with genuine lyricism, mature concepts, and a willingness to take risks. It represents one of the last truly good pieces of hip-hop from that time period, and still sounds fresh over 20 years later. A lot of what he discusses is actually more relevant now then when it originally came out!

The next step was to brainstorm a good representation for the shift into not just the materialism of the early 2000's, but into a genre that, to me, is almost unrecognizable now. Who better than Justin Bieber to illustrate that de-evolution? Bieber, and artists like him: Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Drake, Nicki Minaj, etc. represent everything that's wrong with Hip-Hop, and music in general.

The process of illustrating this disconnect involved photoshopping an image of Justin Bieber over top of Mos Def, and blending it until it started looking somewhat realistic. I used Bieber's lips, his eye, as well as his ridiculous hair to add to the absurdity. I then translated it to canvas.

The painting combines elements of irony, humor, multiple interpretations, play on words, etc. to touch on a topic that certainly becomes more relevant as time passes on, much like the message in true hip-hop that somehow got lost as the years went by.

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    • Oil on Canvas
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