Just like the MC or the producer, graphic artists are a vital part to giving life and character to hip hop culture. Be it music videos, cover art, or an artist’s general aesthetic, visuals create an important first impression and we must recognize the artists responsible for such influence. Based in Washington, Steez, aka Steven McCracken, specializes in both digital and hand drawn graphics, runs his own clothing brand, and has worked with enough big names that any startup designer could use to learn a few things from the boy, the one and only, Steez.
Emcee had the opportunity to speak with Steez, and we spoke on his aspirations, lessons learned so far, and more. Check out the exclusive interview below to find out more about the innovative and quickly rising artist.
First, describe your style.
“My style is a tough one to explain, mainly because I don’t think I’ve pinpointed one yet. I used to think that sticking to one style would limit me as an artist, but now I’m seeing how important it is if you want to build an identity. In the end though I think I’ll continue to draw the things I always have, things that I think are cool.”
What’s the most important thing to establish in a design?
“You really have to find balance between making complex enough designs so that it’s interesting, but at the same time if you add too much it’ll look like shit. And I think a lot of these new cover artists with not too many followers are trying to make cover art with either the wrong programs or just bad editing. For digital art you have to have the right programs and really learn how to use them if you ever want more attention.”
I always hoped I'd get to make some art for him, I think he would have liked it.
Rest in Peace Peep pic.twitter.com/yzAOhwITZv
— Steez. (@SteezDesigns) November 16, 2017
Can you touch on finding inspiration when you’ve lost it and general influences?
“I remember a couple months back I felt like I was losing all inspiration and really started focusing on what other people were doing and trying to create my own version of their work. And after about another week or two of that I realized I was losing touch with the part of my drawings that people actually liked, which was my originality. From there I sort of returned to my roots and I think I’ve worked my way to a new level of my art, where I’m combining my hand drawn art with my digital ones. Similar to my style, my general inspiration comes from whatever I think is cool, which usually involves street art, animation, or some other artists I follow on Twitter, people like @PAPIKODONE, @AustinSteiner, and @Killastrator are some of my favorites.”
What’s the ultimate goal? If this path took you everywhere you wanted to be in life where would it take you?
“This question is probably what I think about more than anything in the world. As of right now cover arts nice money but once I’m established enough I want to return to clothing. My dream is to be at like Virgil Abloh’s level with Off-White, and have all my favorite artists wearing my clothes. Pretty much all I listen to is rap so even doing cover arts has been fire. Still though I’d say I’ve only accomplished about 1% of what I plan to, this is the only the beginning.”
Most important/helpful lesson you’ve learned thus far?
“Probably how important it is to stick to what I like making, I’ve tried doing what seems popular and I really didn’t even like my own designs. I also stopped drawing for myself for a while and strictly did commissions, and I think that was just as harmful to my creative process as anything. So recently I’ve been trying to draw something Steez related everyday even if it’s just a doodle.”
Creatives in the music industry and culture know just how important visuals are, as they are the first thing that creates an emotional connotation between the artist and the consumer. Not only is Steez a talented and driven artist, he’s a great person and I’m proud to call him a friend. With his own clothing brand, and having created visuals for artists like OG Maco, CHXPO, Matt Ox, Lucki Ecks, Nedarb, and a ton more, Steez has already left a significant imprint on the culture and we’re excited for his continued output.
Follow Steez on social media and check out his store.