Words by Brian Kayser — Book Jacket Design, Illustration

I’ve been working on these Words books [+] for awhile now. Each one is a collection of interviews with legendary artists. It started as one book but now it’s being compiled into volumes.

I spent many years discovering new music by actually digging through records, tapes and cds in stores, attics, basements and yardsales. I read my favorite artists’ point of view in print before twitter decimated a pretty robust culture of magazines. So this is a pretty special bit of work. Journalism in print! It’s high art, man.

This collaboration with Brian Kayser has segued into other book jacket design and illustration projects that I’m excited about. I’m working on a couple of children’s book ideas and currently designing a jacket for another different collection of interviews from an independent hiphop label out of London. I won’t say to much about those things yet but once they get printed, I’ll be posting details of them here.

Get a better look at the covers in my design portfolio [+] or on my instagram feed [+].

I and I Survive – HR of Bad Brains

hr documentary human rights bad brains

I did this illustration just to see if I could get the @HRdocumentary instagram [+] account to like it. They did and that made me pretty happy. My gift of regard was dispatched to the internet. My message landed and was received. That’s a simple joy.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing the new documentary [+] that tells the story of Bad Brain’s legendary front man, HR. I grew up loving the band, and specifically their human torch of a singer.

I believe that HR is the kind of spirit that originally inspired the notion and convincing belief in Shamanism. He’s gifted, powerful and mad. He is absolutely magical if that word can be defined in terms of energy and imagination. If this film is what I think it is – it will speak equally to his icon as a legendary talent and as a living example of the complexity of human mental health. It will be more of a story of survival and gratitude than a celebration.

The first time I ever heard his voice I was bewildered. I remember saying out loud, “What is this?!” Nothing has ever sounded like him.

Burning Light

Kimio Eto Interpretation for Guitar

I’m happy with this drawing.

I saw an image of the artwork from Kimio Eto’s “Koto Music” album and it really landed for me. Instant impact. I feel that art “on art’s terms” is largely overlooked due to the quiet value it offers amid competing bids for attention from an accelerating and unprecedented variety of commercial media. But sometimes a piece of art just connects and makes you stop and say “Oh.”

I saw this album and had to know what the music sounded like. I gave it a spin via YouTube [+] and began studying the cover with paper and ink.

My goal was not to copy the cover but see where I ended up by studying it’s character and line and energy. Receive it and express it and change it in the process.

I’m tempted to explain the associations that ran through my mind as I steered the image toward my own thoughts and interpretations but instead I’ll just leave it here.

Contributing to the Art of Rap


Last year I illustrated and designed a book cover for a collection of rap interviews called “Words” by Brian Kayser [+]. There are some proper photos of that in the design portfolio [+] of this site. Brian is working on a second volume now and in the meantime I’m illustrating artists for his other interviews to be published to a couple of rap news websites, hiphopgame.com and wegoinin.net

I spent many years working on art to support music projects. I contributed illustration and design to rap magazines in the days before twitter and soundcloud. I love being involved with these projects. It’s true to that era of media, creative culture and connecting to collaborate with people out of a mutual love of the art.

Dickinson’s Hope

These days, Ben Sayers is an emergency room doctor by profession. He made this great set of compositions with his turntables when he was in school circa 2001. Most of the narrative in the tracks revolved around science and chemistry but it segued to the mind, imagination and spirit — connecting an array of brilliant threads.

We were both big fans of Rob Swift and Prince Paul. You can hear that influence in most of the tracks. Humor woven into really imaginative soundscapes and rhythm.

I recently came across the Emily Dickinson poem “Hope.” It took me a minute to pinpoint how I knew the words. I remembered it from his project. So I asked him to let me upload the whole set to YouTube as a playlist.

Preem Toon

Illustrated Primo

Working on a book cover for a hip hop journalist. He’s compiling his rap mag interviews from a time before twitter. This illustration of GangStarr / DITC chairman of the boards, DJ Premier, nods to a time still a bit further back; the hey day of sugar cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. I imagine Premo as a guest ally on Scooby Doo a la The Globe Trotters, Captain Caveman or Phyllis Diller. And for some reason that makes total sense.

Cannonball Adderall

A lot of people say they have ADHD and many do. But I think most just don’t know how to set a tone for focus. This album is a perfect soundtrack for really diving into a project that requires the cooperation of your best mind. Sunday afternoon at the office, diving into some heavy reading or creating a new work of art. This album is a good one.