Meet Blue, The Mastermind Behind Kendrick Lamar's Controversial BET Awards Art Installation
Blue talks the inspiraton behind his art, what hip-hop has done for him and Kendrick's controversial BET Awards set.
When the 2015 BET Awards opened with Kendrick Lamar confidently crouched on the hood on 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, the night's act of heroism from K. Dot 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 unwanted 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.–Ashley Monaé
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 towards 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.
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 just 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 Show with Kendrick. It was done in three minutes and thirty seconds so that’s, for sure, the most pressure. After Ellen, they had 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 to in conjunction with their concept.
I’m sure you heard Geraldo Rivera's comments of 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 these things and I listen to some pretty graphic music. I grew up on Dre. Dre’s The Chronic and gangster rap. I grew up in Dallas. We listen 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 of what’s going on in current times.
Who are some of your inspirations?
One of my inspirations was 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 OG 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 under-served 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 ten 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.