What’s really important is in the quasi-artist statement below the gallery but first let me give you some facts about this mask and photo shoot. My 101st sneaker gas mask was created from a single pair of Nike Air Max 95s in the classic OG Neon colorway, I chose to opt for the premium ‘Animal’ release which features safari print and various reptilian textures in each layer of leather. It was shot in Washington DC at an abandoned church that has been transformed into Blind Whino, an art gallery and temple to creativity and culture. The mask was modeled by long time friend, fellow artist and Corcoran alum Keshaun Blunt. The ‘floating head’ images of the mask will release later this week, at that time the mask will be available for purchase on ShopFreehand.com.
This was a calculated move. I chose to work with these shoes because they’re a staple of sneaker culture but also as 101 because I was out to school some folks. Last year, following my Air Max 90 gas mask release on Air Max Day for the 25th anniversary of the Air Max 90, a Russian sneakerhead (who started making sneaker masks after being inspired by my work) was hired to make Air Max 95 gas masks by Nike Russia for their 20th anniversary celebration of the Air Max 95… Not okay.
I have yet to work with Nike. My approach to that is to keep bettering myself and my work, the folks that matter will take notice. Truth be told, and I have to remind folks of this all the time, I’m still very much a starving artist. That shouldn’t come as a big surprise if even Kanye is tweeting these days about being $56 million in debt. My dedicated following (mostly via Instagram) is a blessing but it doesn’t instantly translate into dollars. What that means is this artist was taking a concept I spent years developing and then he is using it to work with brands that have yet to work with me. And what makes things worse is that this isn’t even out of the norm. Every few weeks an imitator comes out, it’s extra troubling when the new unpaid interns at your favorite blog are calling the copycats ‘genius’.
It’s a double edged sword. I want to inspire other artists. If tens or hundreds or thousands of creatives find themselves inspired to make sneaker masks that can also speak volumes of the importance of my work as the originator. That influence and inspiration I generate doesn’t pay my bills or feed my family though.
The problem lies in that many times an artist’s influence can extend past their ability to continue making the work. I’m not mad another artist got paid, shit I’m happy for him to be making a living doing what he loves same as me. But what happens when your favorite artist can no longer keep that dream afloat. It’s a reality that’s just around the corner for not just me but so many artists and creatives. The general response we tend to have these days is “No one cares, work harder.” Maybe that’s true, but will it be true when your favorite art isn’t being made any more? Who will care then?
Let the jackals eat the rotting flesh I leave behind. I’ll kill more and eat fresh… but when my stomach starts growling so do I.
Originality is key. My work isn’t just about sneakers and the apocalypse it’s an extension of the Hip-Hop artistic process. Like a DJ cuts, like a producer samples, the way a B-Boy tweaks a spin, the way a graffiti writer twists letter forms. Biters have never had a place in Hip-Hop ( don’t get it twisted, all creatives are inspired by others but biters don’t have anything to add – there’s a big difference between emulating and imitating). Beef has always been a part of the culture though, for better or worse. So my initial idea was to write my artist statement for this mask was going to be diss track styled 16 bars chock full of Apollo and Sputnick references. Trying to express the frustration and duality of how I felt about it all in the way the artists who have inspired me. I even envisioned photo shoots referencing classic Hip-Hop beefs like LL’s ‘4, 3, 2, 1’ against Canibus – replacing the mic on his arm with an X-acto knife with a crown on my Air Max 95 masked figure.
But that’s not the me I’m aspiring to be. Attacking someone doesn’t show them the error of their ways. And studies show that cathartic releases of anger actually don’t release those negative feelings. I had resigned not to even bring it up. Ignoring a problem doesn’t solve shit though, plus it’s not in my wheelhouse. And while it’s not easy, I’m putting it out there for y’all to know and hopefully understand. – Freehand Profit