Why you should care
Because there are people who think hip-hop is more harmful than racism.
This interview is brought to you by our friends at Vibe.
When the 2015 BET Awards opened with Kendrick Lamar confidently crouched on the hood of a vandalized cop car, grand pyrotechnics and the American flag billowing in the background, we all knew what time it was. The Compton kid delivered a poignant and politically charged performance of “Alright” that spoke to the current state of the Black community.
However, K.Dot’s act of heroism that night has been met with much controversy and criticism. For some, his powerful and conceptualized performance atop a cop car covered in graffiti didn’t translate — even Fox pundit Geraldo Rivera had an opinion. “It’s very interesting to hear comments from people who are so far detached from what’s actually going on in reality,” Blue, the artist and brainchild behind the graffiti-covered po-po mobiles, told Vibe.
The art-inspo recently chatted with Vibe to talk shop about the BET Awards, the inspiration behind his art, his opinion on Rivera’s comments and what hip-hop has done for him.
VIBE: For those who aren’t familiar with your work, who is Blue?
Blue: I’m Bryan Blue. I guess “Blue” is cool. I’m from Dallas, Texas, and was born in Inglewood, California. I’ve been living in L.A. for the past two years, and I’m an artist.
What kind of art installations do you do?
It’s pretty hybrid. I do a lot of drawings, but as of now, I make a living off of painting murals and illustration work. Sometimes I’ll get asked to do illustrations for companies here and there, but I’m mostly doing paintings these days.
How did you get into painting?
I’ve been doing it all my life. I was working a regular job and quit that to take the next step toward art. I was either going into advertising or taking the chance and really committing to doing art. I chose art, and it all really just ended up working out.
I want to show kids that they can actually do what they want to do for a living instead of going the traditional route.
A lot of your art displays mummification. Why the fascination and what does it represent to you?
The reason I do it is because I can execute it in so many ways and deliver a message differently every time I do it. Some pieces are very conceptualized and some are just about the aesthetic. I’m still figuring out what my specific style is, and just experimenting and seeing what I can build. I let people figure out what it means to them.
How did you start working with Kendrick Lamar?
I’ve known him and the whole TDE camp for quite some time. My older brother actually produced a record for Kendrick earlier the other day. When I moved to L.A., I made sure to link with them. I’ve gotten opportunities to work alongside them, and I just keep trying to kill every job thrown my way. I’ve been around them for a few years, so it’s cool to finally put some work out.
Kendrick’s BET Awards performance was pivotal, especially in the visual aspect. How did the concept come about?
They already had the concept in mind. I had actually just done a painting on The Ellen DeGeneres Show with Kendrick. It was done in three minutes and 30 seconds, so that’s, for sure, the most pressure. After Ellen, they decided what they wanted to do with the car and reached back out to me to see if I wanted to do it. So of course I’m going to take the challenge. It was dope because they trusted me to do whatever I wanted in conjunction with their concept.
I’m sure you heard Geraldo Rivera’s comments about the performance.
[Laughs] It’s funny. It’s very interesting to hear comments from people who are so far detached from what’s actually going on in reality. [Geraldo] didn’t get the song lyrics right, so it’s just a guy looking to be relevant on something he doesn’t know anything about. I don’t know. I guess you have to take it with a grain of salt because no one is looking for his opinion on the hip-hop community, Black culture or anything.
Rivera also said that hip-hop is more harmful than racism. What has hip-hop done for you?
That’s crazy. I haven’t shot anybody. I haven’t lit any stores on fire. I haven’t, like, hit anybody. I don’t do any of those things, and I listen to some pretty graphic music. I grew up on Dre’s The Chronic and gangster rap. I grew up in Dallas. We listened to all kinds of music, but hip-hop has really only allowed me to express myself — and positively at that. I did something positive with my talents I’ve developed. It’s crazy to say that about hip-hop but never question rock ’n’ roll.
Art is a form of self-expression.
Definitely. The cop cars were very relevant, especially with everything that’s going on in the landscape of beliefs and the African-American struggle. I do believe it represents a little bit of frustration about what’s going on in current times.
Who are some of your inspirations?
One of my inspirations is Keith Haring. As a kid, I remember seeing all his stuff, and before I even knew what it meant, I was so attached to the visuals, the colors, the simplicity and how effective it was at delivering a message. He’s one of my favorite guys. I like some of the O.G. graffiti guys too. Kaws is amazing — everyone knows that. I get a lot of inspiration from music as well.
Speaking of music, hip-hop was, in a sense, birthed from street art and graffiti. Do you feel the art world is underserved today?
It’s not. I think the hip-hop community is actually in tune with the art, in a general sense. Art is being valued more than it has been in the past 10 years, but that’s just my personal opinion. It’s selling for more than it has ever sold for too. You’ve got Kanye West and Takashi Murakami collaborating, Swizz Beatz is doing cool stuff with his collection, and even with Jay Z and ol’ girl at the MoMA — I think people are paying attention. It’s kind of motivating too, even though the market is saturated, like many things today.
What advice would you give to young artists coming up?
My advice would be that over-influence is the biggest killer. Creating a style and developing it from yourself and your own space makes whatever you create signature — that’s yours. Push the culture; don’t go around copying things you see or being overtly influenced by others.
Ultimately, what is the message you hope your art translates?
I want to show kids that they can actually do what they want to do for a living instead of going the traditional route. You don’t have to go to college or have kids when you’re 26. My goal is to show people that it’s all possible.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on my first solo show. Other than that, I’m just trying to make work.