By Alex P80 Parks
I wanted to showcase one artist on the scene who is helping push the culture forward, this time in a visual way. It’s become increasingly important in this era of hip hop. We’re amidst a renaissance; not only with the music itself, but with this growing movement to better promote, preserve and protect true hip hop.
New Jersey’s own cover-art master, Trevor Lang has been extremely busy with several projects this year alongside some of underground hip hop’s biggest talents. I caught up with the “Esoteric Art Dealer” with some questions about becoming one of the more sought-after graphic artists in the hip hop community.
DRHH: Did you go to school for visual arts?
TL: I studied Fine Art in high school, and took AP studio art but that’s about all my formal training as far as art goes. I taught myself Photoshop and all that.
DRHH: You do cover art and layouts for albums but what else?
TL: Literally anything- you name it, I try to believe I can design or make it. A lot of people ask me for cartoons these days with the popularity of B’nards work, but honestly thats not my specialty. I’m not an illustrator really so I try to stray away from those type of jobs.
DRHH: Any experience in music/audio?
TL: I graduated from the Institute of Audio Research and studied audio production and recording. I have a pretty legit home studio with tons of classic vintage gear (ASR 10, S950, 3 MPCs, etc). I recently mixed and mastered a few songs for Ty Da Dale. I do a little bit of rapping also. I DJ a few gigs a year too. I’ve been working on a project but that will all be unveiled in due time…
DRHH: You’ve got your own BandCamp page, and you promote these artists you are connected with. How did those relationships come about?
TL: I started just as a fan really. I’ve been interested in being in the hip-hop scene since I first started listening to it in the mid to late 90s in one way or another- DJing, rapping. I’ve always been into art, and a few years ago I started sending cover art through IG to some of my favorite artists. I did a few (pieces) for this amazing reggae artist KG. Those were some of my first. When WSG and Conway came on the scene with their heavy emphasis on the art aspect, I got inspired. I kept submitting art until one day Conway told me to call him and said they were using my art for Reject On Steroids. That really got people to first notice me. After that I continued reaching out to artists I like and it just evolved eventually into what I’m doing now. I work very hard on fostering relationships.
DRHH: How did you merge your worlds of visual design and hip hop?
TL: I think music and art are really the same so I don’t feel like we really forced anything together. I buy alot of music and I take notice of all the little details. You can tell right away when someone is really passionate about their product. When someone gets my stuff in the mail, I want someone to feel like they really got a piece of art, not just an album. I will only work with artists who I can tell take their craft very seriously. We’re in a renaissance right now In hip-hop and I just want to contribute.
DRHH: You seem to have your hands in lots of dope projects at the moment; From the whole Heist family to Knowledge the Pirate and every artist in between.. You seem to be be name right now with all the emcees and producers wanting your work- What’s that been like over the last few months?
TL: It’s been alot of work. I have a full time job that I am at nearly 60 hours per week already and I give full attention to that. Then I come home and work on this stuff for a few hours. Social life is non existent, but the work has paid off. I’ve collaborated with tons of artists I hold in high regard and some big names have started to notice what I’m doing- these are very exciting times for me.
DRHH: As you’ve been so busy, have you had to turn down projects due to time constraints?
TL: I try to say yes to every opportunity I can get, but with that said, I don’t do this for the money. So if I’m not feeling the music, I will be honest and I won’t even take the job. I’ve been pretty lucky and everyone who has approached me has been dope so far, for the most part.
DRHH: Do you feel that criticism about creating artwork is as simple as using photos and adding a filter- is that fair sometimes? With that, many musical artists are doing their own visual art and layout- can that potentially compromise their quality by showcasing a product missing some artistic integrity?
TL: Art is anything and everything… some of my best covers took 30 mins to do, and other I think suck I worked on for days. You can’t force art, it just happens. With technology these days some people think it’s “cheating” or some shit, but that’s the wrong attitude. Do whatever works for you. Westside Gunn can afford famous artists to do his cover (which is dope AF) but that doesn’t mean the photo you took on your iPhone then added a filter to for your cover is wack… it’s all about presentation…
DRHH: Plans going forward?
TL: There is alot of them… I have alot of projects on deck. Going to be announcing alot of stuff very soon. The rest of this year is going to be exciting. We are organizing some shows and events. I am also going to step into the CD world and bring some exciting innovations. I can’t talk about it yet but watch my next move… we’re making history on alot of levels…
DRHH: Ever think about starting your own record label?
TL: I already am a business owner for my full time job, but as far as a record label, I don’t like the concept. I partner with artists. I cover my costs and the artist keeps the money. I’ve seen too many artists get raped by the industry. We’re reinventing the whole game and doing it all independently. If we keep pushing the culture and concentrate on making the best product on the market, then the money will come. That goes the same in any business.
DRHH: Can you share an early memory of being inspired by Hip Hop.
TL: When I was real young my parents both worked full time and we had a nanny watching me, my brother and sister. She was from the caribbean and came to the US for work but was really into hip-hop. If you remember back in the days they had music these music subscription clubs where you when you would subscribe and get like 10 CDs for a dollar or something. Under her influence I remember 3 of the CDs being 2Pac All Eyez on Me, The Makaveli album, and Fugees The Score. I think Coolio and Bone Thugs might have been in there too, but its was those three CDs that really blew my mind. 2Pac had recently been killed so even though I was still super young (around 11 or 12 at the time) I knew hip-hop was something special. I really started getting into it after that. In my eyes 2Pac is on a entire different echelon then ANY other rapper, so i think his work being some of the first I was exposed to really helped make a big impact on me.
DRHH: We talked about hip hop- Do you have any visual artists as inspirations?
TL: Of course I really like what Kaws is doing, especially with the large scale installations. And who can ignore Banksy? I really like Sue Tsai’s work. Mark Chronic is doing some cool stuff too. As far as more classic stuff I was always into Norman Rockwell, I really like the emotion he captured in his work. One of my favorite pieces though is “Girl Before A Mirror” by Picasso. Although I have a long long long way to go, I like to aspire to be someone more like DaVinci, who truly was much more then just an artist, but a revolutionary and visionary.
DRHH: Any artists you’d really want to work with that you haven’t thus far?
TL: Ive reached out to most of the artists I really want to work with and have submitted art to most of them already, only time will tell if any of them actually get used. I’ve done covers for Conway and Benny. Would be nice to do something for WSG. I recently spoke to Daniel Son and Smoovth about doing art for them, I’m a big fan of what they are doing also. Have a few projects I should be announcing soon with some big names attached though.
DRHH: anything else you want to share with fans about you and your art?
TL: Honestly I have gotten so much positive feedback and made so many amazing connections through this culture, that I dont feel there are alot of misconceptions about me (at least I hope there arent!) I think some people might look at some of my releases (like Ty Da Dale Tokyo Drip and the $77 price tag for a cassette) and think I am some kind of vulture or that I am just looking to make a quick buck. But I believe that the people who matter see the value in a rare piece of art. With that being said, my product is not for everybody, nor is it intended to be so. I really got inspired by that super secret Wu-Tang album with only one copy. Everything about that release blew my mind. The artwork, the secret recording techniques, the artwork and packaging. I think alot of people thought it was just Silvaringz looking for a come-up, but I saw the genius and long term impact that album will have. Despite all the controversy, RZA is truly the greatest visionary of hip-hop in my eyes, and I prescribe to much of his philosophy. In the end I’m just here to bring you some of the best and realest hip-hop and present it in the glory it truly deserves. This shit is not a gimmick. It’s life.
DRHH: What can you tell the fans that you have coming soon?
TL: I have a 7″ single produced by Widowmaker with WSG x Conway x Sauce Heist and Al.Divino dropping soon that is nutty. SageInfinite “Sleeper Cell” physicals, a bunch of Sauce Heist projects. And a bunch of stuff I cant talk about yet but I can promise they will be special! I’ve barely gotten started…