Published on September 8th, 2020 | by Guest Editor0
Biggie, Nas, JAY-Z & More Star in “Rap Royalty” Capsule Collection
Amar Stewart is a conceptual artist who carved out a niche sketching legendary rap artists guised as 17th century aristocrats. Harboring a knack for drawing as a kid growing up in London, Stewart first knew he wanted to paint professionally while running operations at Upper Playground. The San Francisco-based clothing brand often commissioned graphics from such graffiti artists like Saber, David Choe and N8, which over time motivated Stewart to take up the practice himself. Being surrounded by such awe-inspiring work moved the artist to study the masters that came before him en route to uncovering his own expressive ethos.
Landing upon Dutch painter, Frans Hals’, time-honored catalog provided Stewart a window into
his professional future, and is credited with being the main catalyst to his infamous “Rap Royalty” collection. What started out as a love letter to his adopted home of New York City, Stewart began painting some of the area’s most revered hip-hop artists decked out as ancient historians.
When asked about how his work ties into that of Hals’s archive, Stewart nostalgically touched on how the pieces made him feel, explaining “I think it was all about the fun aspect of his work I was drawn to. If you look at the facial expressions, poses and coloring of the paintings it almost seemed like he was just having a jolly old time painting but at the same time creating such beautiful work.”
His work resembles a pop-culture time machine in that the subjects he chose to paint were rendered in a style that predates them by over 300 years. Where else can you find a portraiture of Tupac posing eerily similar to the subject captured in “Portrait of a Man Holding a Skull”? Or JAY- Z sketched with his hand positioned upright like the bloke in Hals’ “Young Man Holding a Skull” masterpiece?
What initially started out as an underground street fad expected to wither off into the wind, rap eventually proved its worth as a subcultural mainstay significant enough to stand the test of time. Since its inception, the genre has served as a voice for those living in underserved communities, continuously echoing what plays out in the streets. For this reason, hip-hop as a communal culture acts like a microphone for societies striving to incite change.
Amar Stewart’s work shines a light on the genre’s brightest stars, presenting them in a way that stirs the imagination while uncovering some of art’s earliest influencers. In teaming up with Urbancoolab, Stewart’s collection sits somewhere between a rapper greatest of all time list, renaissance art history lesson, and a streetwear capsule collection.
Be sure to check out the full collection online now.Tweet