DEFinition: The Art and Design of Hip Hop (Interview with Bill Adler & Cey Adams)
unforgettable than the classic tracks on Public Enemys seminal album Yo! Bum Rush The Show is the albums
actual CD cover. The timeless pose
of all the members in dark berets gathered in a dimly lit room prove that
Hip-Hop is just as much visual as it is audio.
But this is not news to
Bill Adler and Cey Adams. As producers of the vanguard book DEFinition: The Art and Design of Hip Hop,
they show Hip-Hop art through sneakers, cars, film, clothing, and corporate
logos. Bill Adler is the former Director of Publicity for Rush Artist
Management and founder of Eyejammie Fine Arts Galleries. Cey Adams is a high
profile designer for Def Jam, MCA, Universal, Warner
Brothers, Bad Boy and BMG. Together they give voice to dozens of artists weaned
on graffiti spray paint and cultivated by corporate sponsorship.
AllHipHop.com: Obviously, DEFinition is
not just a coffee table book. Who are its ideal buyers and readers?
Bill Adler: There are at least two audiences. One is Hip-Hoppers and the other
is people who come from the art world. These folks arent necessarily
Hip-Hoppers but follow trends in art and art scholarship.
Cey Adams: Also, somebody that just wants to learn about the
history. Many people dont embrace Hip-Hop history. We only embrace it as we
create it. The way that we treat the old school is not how Rock N Roll treats Eric Clapton or Led Zeppelin. We dont give a
damn about Kool Herc or Afrika Bambaataa and we
AllHipHop.com: In the book, there is underground graffiti next to corporate Mountain
Dew and Hawaiian Punch logos. Is there a conflict there?
Cey Adams: Well, not really. A lot of that is the evolution. When I was doing graffiti, I
was 19 years old. Im 46 years old now. Its not like it happened over night.
Its been a long journey. I went from one thing and slowly progressed. Back in
the day, there werent as many opportunities to go mainstream, but as things
changed with Def Jam, my career followed. It basically evolved with Hip-Hop
Bill Adler: Artists work in a variety of fields. One day they have to create a
logo, the next day its some sneaker. The day after that they have an art show.
I dont think theres tremendous sense of conflict. Theres little distinction
between fine artists or commercial artists.
AllHipHop.com: I see some top Hip-Hop journalists like Michael Gonzalez and Sacha
Jenkins have contributed essays to supplement the art. How did you round up the
Bill Adler: Theyre friends of mine. Most of them were people I thought would do
a good job. Sacha Jenkins has really established himself as an expert of
graffiti. Carlo McCormick knows about album covers. Michael Gonzalez chose
sneakers. Armond White is the critic for New York Press. Twenty years ago he
wrote for the City Sun. I always admired his writing and I thought he would be
able to do a good job on the movie chapter.
AllHipHop.com: Why did Lil Kim get the cover of the book?
Bill Adler: Its not really that Lil Kim got the cover. Its Mike Thompson who
got the cover. Mike Thompson is a painter who has the ability to paint
whomever. He could be painting portraits of kings and queens, presidents, yet hes
chosen time to express his ability on Hip-Hop subjects. One way or another, we
were gonna have one of Mike Thompsons images on the
Cey Adams: Originally I wanted the image of Tupac that was
inside the book on the cover, but it ended up being a crap shoot really and the
folks at Harper Collins liked the Lil Kim image.
AllHipHop.com: I was amazed by the album covers chapter. How
much of the design is artist input and how much of it is your input?
Cey Adams: Well it depends on type of artist youre talking
about. I just did the new [cover for the] Scarface Emeritus CD. That was a lot
of fun because last time I with Scarface was The Resurrection with The Geto Boys so we go way back. Somebody
like Scarface is gonna give me a lot of freedom because he knows what Im
capable of doing. Somebody like Chuck D from Public Enemy will give me a lot of
freedom too but he also has his own ideas.
AllHipHop.com: Is there going to be a sequel to DEFinition?
Cey Adams: We would love to do a follow-up and weve talked
about the possibility of that because theres so much ground that we didnt
cover. As you know, we could go on and on about this subject. Theres always
artists that get left out, so I would say I would love to do a follow up but
right now I think it really depends on how this one performs.
Bill Adler: We would also love to mount a full-scale museum gallery exhibition
[based on the book] but it will take a lot of sponsorship. We made some
inquiries already but we need some real money to put together the kind of show
we would like. I think it would travel well and we could tour it through a
bunch of other cities in America and then to other capitals in the world.