Besides the musical side of the culture, hip hop thrives in visual form. From graffiti crews throwing up pieces, graphic and flamboyant videos to extend the appeal of the music, or spectacular album artwork which immediately tells you what mood to expect. Using the visual format, artists’ personas are communicated to the public in a way which goes beyond beats and rhymes.
English artist Stu Mason is set to embrace this format of the movement, by launching a unique series of illustrations that pay “testament to the restorative power of hip-hop”. A professional designer with 20 years of experience, he described how the art was created “by way of survival.”. In the same way musical artists are known to use their songs as an outlet for their own mental relief, Stu’s illustrations are an escape. “Every spare moment, I’ve been head down, headphones on, scribbling away. They help keeping my head straight whilst I’ve been flat out with work”.
Hip hop culture is 40 years ago, so with such a vast number of legends to choose from Stu eventually selected Nas, Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Gangstarr for this collection. His main criteria for choosing them was the images he used to draw of the posters he has when he was younger… “My walls were covered and I would spend hours and hours drawing away”.
“It always interested me how so many photos (like the ‘All Eyez On Me’ artwork) were in shadows. So when I started drawing in this way, light on dark, it made sense to go back the images that inspired me originally.”
Thinking outside of the box is essential to stand out in this day and age. Speaking of his approach to executing the pieces, Stu wanted to avoid the most obvious aesthetic approach. “I wanted to create something that’s elevated, more aesthetically pleasing – something that isn’t going to make your lounge look like a teenager’s bedroom”.
However, this is just the beginning of the road for Stu. He explained how “there’s no real end in sight. I would love to do a UK focused series, with the OGs like Roots Manuva, Black Twang and Phi Life Cypher, through to people like Verb T, Fliptrix, Dabbla et al”.
What can the customers expect if they want to invest in these limited editions? Each piece of artwork is screen printed onto 270gsm Colorplan Ebony paper. They are numbered, signed and hand-finished before being shipped in postal tubes.
Each of the images shows the rappers in three circumstances, and is superimposed with one of the artist’s lyrics, which Stu believes “is pertinent to their career and best represents them and their legacy.”
You can check out Stu’s work at stumason.com. You can also follow him via: