Illustrator Darius Moreno Talks Hood Rich Visuals for Goldlink’s Debut Album

By on March 27th, 2017

Photography By Valentino Watson

The cover art for Goldlink’s feel-good new single, “Crew” is simply breathtaking and artist illustrator, Darius Moreno, depicts the city limit compatriots as hood royalty using a drawing style reminiscent of the early 2000s. The artwork reminds us of something distinctly east coast and, even more specifically, it references the vibe and feeling of D.C. aka “Chocolate City”. This name was given to the city in the 1970s by MLK Jr. due its large and lively black population. Unfortunately, the city no longer lives up to this moniker due to rapid gentrification and the relocation of natives to the city’s suburbs. Despite the changes the city has seen over the last forty years, its rich art history still lives on in today’s generation and has united the area’s artists more now than ever.

 

Moreno, a fellow D.C native himself who attended the city’s premiere art high school, was tapped by Goldlink to mastermind the visual concept for the album using the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia)  as inspiration. His work can be seen almost as an ode to early Hip-Hop, women, dance, Go-Go and the overall black experience. Charged with creating the visual palette for Goldlink’s debut album, ‘At What Cost’, Moreno had free range to bring us into a world that is familiar and yet new and transcendent. His musical portraits are bold, vibrant and humorous as we see the gold-dripping characters that he dreams he up. His artwork draw us into an important moment. This collaboration of two young black men that grew up in an area that hasn’t yet had it’s full time in the Hip-Hop light are reintroducing their city’s legacy to the world — together.

We caught up with Moreno via email to chat about the art that influences him, his ties to the DMV and more. 

I attended college in D.C. and even as a New York native, I have to say that D.C. has the most creative youth scene. What do you attribute that too? Is it the art high schools or the history of the city in general?
I think it has to do with the history of the city and how the city keeps certain traditions alive. Like, especially if you go to school in D.C., you have the same freedom as a high schooler in New York. I rode the bus and train to school every day, and because of that, you’re forced to interact with people from all over the city, from different neighborhoods. D.C. also has a summer youth program where they assign jobs to youth all around the city and just participating in stuff like that helps you take in the culture of the city, it forces you to respect each other even if you don’t like each other. People from D.C. have a certain appreciation and respect for every art form because we are exposed to it all around the city.

What made you move to New York City? Do you hope to return to D.C. one day?
I moved to NYC to go to Parsons School of Design, but I knew that even if I didn’t get in, I wanted to move to New York. I already have family from Harlem, but I wanted to go somewhere I knew had a major art scene, and Los Angeles wasn’t an option at the time. I’ll probably buy a house in D.C. or Maryland when I get older and have kids, but that’s way down the line. I mean, some of my best friends are in D.C and Maryland, so I’ll always have homes there — but I don’t like to go backwards. If I moved from New York, I wouldn’t have intentions of moving back.

Your artwork has an early 2000’s feel to it. What does that time in music and art mean to you?
I think the early 2000’s celebrated being ghetto fabulous in the best way. It felt authentic because their were so many black publications, award shows, cartoons and networks like UPN and BET happening all at once. I remember taking The Source magazines from my dad just to rip out the caricatures in the back. I think we’re going through a similar period right now, it’s just a new variety of people being broadcasted now.

What is the your favorite medium of visual art to practice?
Painting in acrylic or oil is always going to be my favorite medium because it’s the fastest for me to express myself. It’s also unpredictable for me because I never draw before I paint, so I never really know how it’s going to turn out, which keeps it exciting. You can add as little or as much as you want to.

Goldlink’s sound is distinct and unlike much of the music coming out of the DMV. How did you use Goldlink’s music to come up the concept for his cover art and “Meditation” video?
Goldlink made it clear he wanted to go in a completely new direction as far as visuals for his album, and that it had to represent everything about the DMV. Nothing represent the DMV better than Go-go, so I just told a narrative in a sequence from growing up as D’Anthony in the DMV, to turning into Goldlink. I also used certain things people from the DMV would only get, like chopping in the “Meditation” video, the photo booth style paintings, and even clothing brands. I wanted to keep the art distinct like Goldlink’s sound, but also make it nostalgic and for anyone to relate to.

What is the current music scene like in D.C.? Is Go-go really dead or has it taken a new form?
The current music scene in D.C. is flourishing more than ever to be honest. There are so many artists from the DMV finally getting recognized on different platforms, and still everyone’s sound is distinct. Go-go hasn’t died either and never will die in the DMV, because that’s apart of the history. It’s always taking a new form because of most Go-go songs cover songs out at the moment, but you can play a Go-go song from the early ’90s and little kids will know the lyrics because that’s something that’s passed down and played at all functions.

Who were some of your favorite artists growing up?
Musically, my favorite rappers of all time are Project Pat and Lil Kim, but growing up I loved Three Six Mafia, Kanye West, OutKast, Juvenile, Missy Elliot, and Busta Rhymes. Basically any artist who always had strong visuals and exaggerated personalities attracted me. Visually, I love cartoonist like Bruce Timm (he did a lot of D.C. comic shows on Cartoon Network like Batman Beyond and Static Shock) and Bruce W. Smith who animated The Proud Family and Bebe’s Kids. Also Kadir Nelson who illustrated a lot of children’s books. One of my favorite books growing up was Brothers Of The Night. I loved how expressive he drew faces.

Who are some artists that you appreciate now?
Goldlink, NAPPY NAPPA, The Khan, the Internet, Frank Ocean, Alem Worldwide, PeeWee Longways, Abra, Kelela, and Bbymutha are some of my favorite musicians right now. I think they all have the full package of a musician as far as complete individuality. I can’t think of artists I’ve seen like them before. Visually, I follow a lot of great artists on Instagram and Twitter, my favorite painter is Rahm Bowen and one of my favorite illustrators is Jamilla Okubo.

What’s in the near future for you? You’ve mentioned that you would love to work with your sister on a cartoon series… anything else in the works?
The near future is me graduating from Parsons in May, finishing my website, and having a solo art show this summer in New York. I also plan on releasing a few animated shorts over the next few months, working with more artists and traveling.