FROM A 2017 INTERVIEW WITH PIGEONS & PLANES:
First, to make sure I properly credit you and your work next to your quotes: What is your job title, a brief description of what you do, and some artists you’re currently working with?
Steve-O: Sais and I are the co-founders of Boootleg, and handle creative direction for DRAM, as well as Big K.R.I.T. We come up with the overall creative vision for the artist and then bring together fresh new talent - new illustrators, designers, graphic artists - to help execute it. Everything from merch to album art.
With BOOOTLEG, we wanted to make sure we're putting on the next Joe Perez or even the next Basquiat and giving them the opportunity to work with these amazing artists. Everything's about the youth. And it helps the artists as well - they're constantly associated with the new.
How much emphasis do you put on an artist's visual style and what advantages would you say someone with a polished, interesting aesthetic has in hip-hop's current state (if any)?
Steve-O: Hip Hop has always been about having an interesting aesthetic. From the way you dress to the look of visuals, it helps to tell a story that extends past the music. And now, everything is about authenticity and originality and being the hottest. So a well thought out aesthetic is absolutely key - and it starts, first, with the artist. Them knowing themselves, knowing their sound, knowing who they want to be. And then we help them translate that. There are so many people who want to be musicians, want to be in music. The ones that stand out take to time to curate their entire vision.
The bright, colorful cover art for DRAM's last few singles have done a great job at matching the fun energy on the songs themselves—as well as his overall vibe as a person and artist. When approaching cover art direction, what would you say your main objectives are? Coming up with something that matches the music itself? Or something that matches the artist's overall personality and aesthetic? Or something else?
Sais: I would say it's a bit of both. With each instance we aim to find the intersection between the artists overall style and the song itself. Say if the song "Broccoli" was made by another artist it wouldn't look anything like the work that we did for DRAM. We take great consideration in relaying the artist's personality as well as the feel of the song.
Cover art’s original purpose was to decorate packaging on physical albums. Now that the idea of owning physical music is kind of dying away, do you think the role of cover art is changing? Or no?
Sais: I always looked at cover art as a way to make a connection with a potential fan and also continue a conversation with an already established supporter. This role is the same whether being interacted with on a digital or physical medium. A lot of times it is the consumer's first interaction with an artist's work . You see, in the past a person would go to a record store, see an unknown artist and make a decision whether they would give it a chance. That time might be 2-5 seconds. With the internet there are more chances where that visual connection can be made. Also you have to factor in that with each interaction there is more of a chance that someone will give something new a try. More so if there is an aesthetic consistency among different songs.
Some covers (like Drake's meme-able VIEWS cover or Young Thug's Jeffery dress) can take on a life of their own and reach new audiences via social media. Now that cover art competes for attention with a flood of imagery on social media timelines instead of just other covers at the record store like it used to, do you approach it differently? Do you ever think about coming up with something that will be shared? Or does this not factor in and you prefer to focus on matching the artist/music?
Steve-O: Good work will always be shared. Look at Young Thug - that didn't become a meme sensation but everybody was talking about it because that cover was straight fire. That cover was about Young Thug pushing the envelope but being himself, at the end of the day. DRAM is the same. His artwork is his personality, the same thing that you hear in his songs is what we try to infuse in the art direction. If the song is shared, the art is shared. It's just staying true to the music.
At its most basic level, what would you say the primary role of cover art plays for an artist?