12" x 24"
Acrylic on Masonite
From the private collection of Derrick Thompson
This is the first piece in the Music Machines series.
One of the most formative periods of my musical experience was the time between 1983 and 1988. It was then that I discovered hip-hop. In my mind, there is nothing more appropriate than playing hip-hop loud on a portable stereo system. I always go back to the image of a young LL Cool J bum rushing the office of Russell Simmons, slamming his blaster on the desk, and kicking the ill shit in a Puma suit and Kangol Skimmer. That’s what hip-hop is all about.
My first real box was a Toshiba with detachable speakers, and it was the shit. We waxed up this set of curbs in front of my boy’s house and rode skateboards in circles forever, feeling that shit. These days, technology is made to fall apart in around a year or two, but at the time they built these things like tanks and I beat that box up –blasting a steady diet of cassettes by Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Eric B., and NWA.
When you roll on to the set with a box, people are going to listen to what you are playing whether they like it or not. If you wanted to play music softly and keep it to yourself, you would have chosen a set of headphones. The natural musical exhibitionism that is inherent in playing sick shit on a loud box in a public space only got better as electronics designers started making the boxes bigger.
When I was a kid, there was this swap meet in the area. There was this group of dudes with a blue tent that sold records and mixtapes. They were also selling these monstrous blasters. They got so big that they were just about anything but portable. We are talking about a system with three cassette players, a staggering graphic EQ, as many speakers as you could fit on the 2’ x 4’ frame, and yes – a lighting system. I went to my first concert around that time. It was the Run DMC ‘Raising Hell’ tour. A now historic line-up, LL, the Beasties, and Whodini opened up. LL comes out, and Cut Creator is perched in this ridiculous boombox, so massive that it forms a backdrop for the stage. At 11, I thought that was about the coolest thing on the planet.
These are the images have stuck in my mind ever since, and have thus inspired me to pay homage to this seminal icon of hip-hop culture, the boombox.
This particular image was inspired by Derrick Thompson. He is the head of Urban A& R for BMG Music Publishing. He spends his days listening to tons of demos, and has a truly gifted ear for finding what is just about to blow the fuck up. Better yet, he is totally and effortlessly cooler than just about anyone you know. People of his weight don’t have to be, and typically are not. I created this painting as a tribute to Derrick and his work.
This piece is currently living in Derrick’s plush West Hollywood condominium.
This is the first piece of a series. This is a three-color piece. I had initially envisioned a blueprint type of look – thin blue lines on a darker blue background. As I explored the technique, I decided to add an additional layer of black to give the piece more depth. If you look through the perforated screens on the front of a blaster, you will see that the speaker compartments and ports falls back into space. The black helps create that look. The dark blue layer is so dark that against the black, it is nearly imperceptible. I used a matte acrylic varnish to flatten the image and bring up the dark blue. Derrick has since had an amazing framer create a blue velvet shadowbox frame for this piece. Stay tuned for photos of the final framed piece.