Growing up in the crazy streets of Philly, Gianni Lee pursued the gritty route by using his love for the arts. Lee credits his mom, who worked as a progressive model, for instilling a different narrative in him opposed to the street life that many in his 'hood were accustomed to. Between a little luck and an interview with ArtSlant, the Temple University grad credits his discovery by Katrina Jeffries, who became enamored with Lee's story. Fast forward to 2017, and Gianni is gearing up for his debut art exhibition in Brooklyn, NY beginning Friday (March 24).
"Why Won't You Hear Me?" has special meaning to Gianni who tells VIBE that the black voice is often glossed over when it comes to the visual arts. "In today's climate we're not really heard. We have to go out of our way to be heard.," he said. "We have the platforms to get it done, yet because of the political climate I feel like it's very hard for the millennial generation to be heard."
"Every time I come up with a new idea I feel like it's a rebirth, but also the death of the old me."
The multi-faceted artist draws inspiration from the path Pharrell paved. For Lee, the legendary producer made "nerd art" look cool. "Pharrell made me want to start a clothing line," he said. "He made me want to make beats. He made everything look cool, the way he executed. Even though he was nerdy he didn't come off corny, he seemed authentic and made it cool. That was the only marker we had, he was the first."
Lee, who took architecture design in high school, started his own clothing line while hosting parties in college. The Babylon Cartel brand has taken off catching the eye of Willow Smith and even Rihanna. Gianni took it upon himself to learn from the DJs he would hire at the parties he hosted to further his other love for music. "The whole idea of turntables is fascinating to me," he said. "DJ classics and DJ damage took me under their wing and taught me how to DJ."
My natural habitat.... pic.twitter.com/PTwc2DtbLK
— Gianni Lee (@giannilee) March 21, 2017
Lee says he enjoys creating music the most. "Music is my favorite thing to make, painting is a close second," he explains. "It keeps me very focus and centered. The purest form of creativity, I don't even know where half the sh*t comes from that I create."
The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition hosted exhibition runs from March 24 through April 16. The free event is open to the public."View the world through my work, and see even though there are problems with the world, you have the ability yourself to change it on so many levels," he said. "You have the ability to have your own story and have your own narrative and that could help somebody else see the light. If I can inspire someone else to do what I'm doing that's great and one more person whose mind is open and see the world in a different way."
See details for "Why Won't You Hear Me?" below.