The hip hop core community has changed significantly from what it was, during its sudden birth in the ‘70s. As with all great cultural movements, hip hop evolved as it made it’s way from a niche – a few men beat boxing and emceeing in the streets of South Bronx – to finding a global audience through radio play giving a popular voice to black artists and changing the landscape of music in a way that still resonates today. As Kanye West declares he’s the biggest rockstar on the planet, rap has replaced pop music, brands are shelling big dollars for product placements in songs, and every pop starlet from Ariana Grande to Selena Gomez has sought out a rapper for a feature to edge up their sound.
Hip hop and rap’s ability to connect people through little more than bass and lyrics has attracted lifelong fans (and brands) from different environments and all corners of the planet. Everyone’s trying to cash in on the culture, whether it’s Hillary Clinton dabbing to Fetty Wap on the Ellen show or fast food chains tweeting about rappers feuding online. Social media has made it possible for anybody from all over the world to participate in the culture but true fans of the genre are now able to connect and actually influence their favourite artists.
One of these lifelong fans is Pencil Fingerz, a digital artist, illustrator and painter who resides in the rural Canadian town of Chilliwack. While his environment is more suited for country music than rap, his portfolio includes: a music video for CJ Fly, tour posters for Yelawolf and Mick Jenkins, and album covers and more for Rittz. One of Pencil Fingerz longest ongoing collaborations is with The Underachievers and was sparked after Issa Gold spotted Pencil’s portrait of Andre 3000, with roses sprouting from his mind.
Pencil’s exposure to rap began by chance when he first found a stray Eminem CD on the ground. It was that serendipitous moment that ignited a respect for the culture. After Eminem, he fully immersed himself into early 00’s hip hop, and often reflects on this era, with portraits of artists, like Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Since then, he’s honed both his artistry as well as his appreciation for hip hop and has injected himself into the culture, by producing art for some of his favourite artists.
Since meeting Issa online, Pencil has collaborated with The Underachievers to produce covers for their Cellar Door, Evermore: The Art of Duality albums and their latest mixtape, It Happened in Flatbush. Under Issa’s instruction, he’s even drawn himself into the artwork for the latter, shown smiling and laughing, amongst the rest of Issa and AK’s inner circle. Not bad for a young kid working from a small town in Canada.
He’s amassed quite a following on his Instagram, where he posts lifelike portraits of public figures like Chance the Rapper, Will Ferrell, Audrey Hepburn and Pickachu, replete with a blunt in his hand. With talent, a Wacom tablet, a bit of Photoshop, and a rich portfolio of illustrations of all the rap gods from the golden era and beyond, Pencil Fingerz has since become quickly sought after, for up and coming artists looking to incorporate his signature pencil drawings into their brand.
We spoke with Pencil Fingerz, on our radio show and discussed his favourite works, his creative problem solving with Chance the Rapper’s management and his collaboration with Complex magazine.