Tony Whlgn Talks Working With Joey Bada$$, Album Drafting, and The Whlgn®
It’s already been over a week since Pro Era member Joey Bada$$, released his sophomore album, All Amerikkkan Bada$$. The hype surrounding it is still in high gear. Both old and new fans have yet to stop sharing and posting about how entertaining and insightful this project is. Definitely one of the best to drop in 2017 so far! From the lyrics to the production, it’s safe to say that this album is a force to be reckoned with. We also can’t forget to mention the artwork for the album, for which Detroit’s very own Tony Whlgn is responsible. Check out our interview with him to find out more about the message and meaning behind the album cover, his love for design, and his (creative) collective.
Q: How did you meet Joey?
A: I met Joey and the rest of the Pros the Summer of 2012 via brother Jon Shipes, on the Smokers Club Tour with Juicy J. The whole lead up is a story of it's own, but it led me to designing at the 20yrs+ street wear brand, Marc Ecko's: EckoUnltd. At that time, Joey was the creative Direction. He loved my work and I loved his. The rest is History.
Q: What's it like working with him?
A: That's Family. It's a type of relationship that I would ask for from anyone I work with, that loves what they do. As far as boundaries and creativity, the sky is never the limit. We push ideas and concepts until we find a balance in between our vision and the message we want to spread to the people. Don't get me wrong, by no means is it easy to work with someone with a vision as strong as yours. A lot of times we see eye to eye and other times we don't, but that's how things go.
It's all about Balance.
Q: Where did the inspiration for the album cover come from?
A: The Inspiration came from the real life experiences and conditions of the Black Individuals in Amerikkka.
If you’re A true Hip Hop Fan, you'd know that as far as the temporary Sleeve artwork goes, It was a high key nod to Dead Prez's: R.G.B ( Revolutionary But Gangsta ) Album from '01. I love Sleeve artwork that speaks to the people from a more cultural and personal standpoint. I believe it's necessary to speak on current issues, if we really want to identify them and create change. It's some shit that will make people uncomfortable in this world, but I'm not going for comfort.
The main cover was shot by Photographer Gary Askew, (who I've yet to meet in person) which was inspired by Joey's youthful "fuck you" to the cold shoulder Amerikkka has given to our people over the last 300 years. Some things are better done than said, which was accomplished by utilizing the Unity Flag and the All American Muscle (the Mustang). Once I had these images I had no choice but to weave the story and album into one solid piece of visually pleasing and uncomfortable work of Art.
Q: Was the temporary album cover on purpose, or the result of a tight schedule?
A: The Temporary Album Sleeve Idea was actually a follow up to a Retail issue we ran into. With the title of the album and the Imagery we wanted to convey on the Main Sleeve, we had to cover things up. What better way to wrap it all together than with the Unity flag we had created for the Land of the Free Visuals prior?
Q: What was the biggest challenge coming up with the art work for the actual album cover?
A: The biggest challenge would have to be the rock and hard place we were in, deciding what we'd go with as far as Light (Joey in the Mustang) or Dark (Joey with the Amerikkkan Flag Noose) Imagery. This Album captured both sides of Joey's message, and I wanted to assist in portraying that the best way I could. I wouldn't say I'm a dark person, but I'm vocal with my visuals as far as communicating my ideas and manifesting something physical. So I created something for the Light side and the Dark side. Joey loved both & I loved both, but we had to keep the consumer and Joey's fan base in mind & to what degree such harsh imagery could affect those who saw the Album on shelves. So we went with the Light side which was still pretty Iconic and Bada$$.
Q: You also design for the clothing brand for Pro Era, the hip hop collective that Joey is apart of. Which do you enjoy more: designing Joey's album covers, or the clothing brand?
A: Ahhhh, lol. That's a tough one.
I love music design but I also love communicating messages through garments. I might have to go with designing the clothes. There's a feeling I get when I see people wearing things I've made. I don't usually get to see people with the music unless it’s album time and we're doing Physicals. The clothes are like walking billboards and I appreciate everyone supporting the vision.
Q: Tell us about your collective, The Whlgn.
A: The Whlgn® was formed in 2009; in my hometown, Detroit. My friends and I came to a mutual conclusion. We believed in each other’s progress and growth in the individual skill sets we each possess. We encourage creatives and individuals alike to be entrepreneurial, live out their dreams, follow what they believe to be true, and not conforming to what society believes will make us happy in our lives. Our objective is to open the door of imagination & inspire individuals that can relate. What makes us Whlgns, is that we do what we want, because we love what we do.
Q: What can we expect from you personally, in the future?
A: Honestly, you can expect more Artwork, on more levels, and more consideration for the things that go on around me on a daily basis in my Artwork. My solution to issues and certain subjects conveyed through my Art will be followed up with only action. Hopefully, It'll spark another to do the same and use the voice they have. It's my responsibility as an Artist and a Black to use my platform to communicate my ideas and emotions for the change I want to see in our world.
instagram: @tonywhlgn / @thewhlgn
twitter: @tonywhlgn / @theWhlgn