While there are tons of great artists making their mark on the world today, few times do I encounter real, bona fide CREATORS — ones who fully engulf themselves in the culture and history that bleed into each unique piece they produce. It’s this attention to — better yet, borderline obsession with — the most intricate of details that separates their work from the kitsch that seems to come a dime a dozen these days, and I dig that.
Tonight we delve into the mind of mystery man Elroy Jenkins, art director for Hot Peas & Butta, whose work speaks volumes of his commitment to authenticity and love for the genres, culture, and lifestyle that defined the 60s and 70s.
Name: Elroy Jenkins aka The 22nd Pupil
Representing: Sesion 31 / Brooklyn, NY
How you make your mark: I am the madman behind the art of the Hot Peas & Butta Funk & Soul experience.
L: So how’d you come to be the man behind the Hot Peas & Butta artwork? Do you have past “artist lives” that led you here?
EJ: By the time Hot Peas & Butta was started I was already running with Skeme Richards and traveling all over with him as a bboy in Sesion 31. He was spinning a lot of jams and competitions, but I didn’t really give a f*ck about all that. I just wanted to catch wreck in the circles, ya’know let that funky music move me. That’s all I cared about, the music and my connection to it. When Skeme and Ca$h Money got together to throw the first Hot Peas, they told me the concept and I was straight up all about it, but had zero intentions of being involved in terms of the art and promo. I just loved the music and the fact that heads that were true to the music and what’s behind it were doing something. They were not only spinning funk and soul 45s, but they were creating an experience with film, commercials, cartoons and other rare footage from the 60s and 70s. Then I saw the artwork that someone else produced for them. Now, I am not going to say it was bad, but it was f*cking literal as hell. It was hot peas and butter. I couldn’t have that, especially when Sesion 31s name was attached to it. I saw too much potential in this event, and it was too close to my heart to let it be represented by something like that. So, from there it became my number 1 priority to create an image for Hot Peas & Butta that truly represents what it is and will resonate with the fans. Before I even told Skeme what my master plan was, I turned out the first Hot Peas & Butta piece to make sure that he couldn’t refuse my offer to become the art director for the event. And sho’nuff I blew that sh*t out the f*cking frame and he and Ca$h were all about it. At the time I was already an art director for a clothing line and online hip hop community, but the love for that industry was dying out. I was tired of catering to an audience that liked to be spoon-fed regurgitated cliches, and basing work off a culture that I was more and more not giving a f*ck about. So Hot Peas was an opportunity for me to be a part of something I not only loved, but believed in, and produce the work that I wanted to.
L: You touched on the clothing line you used to design for & being tired of cliched designs that were constantly being pushed. How do you differentiate yourself as an artist today, and how much has your style changed/evolved from then (whether you were giving into those cliches or not) to now?
EJ: First things first, I am an artist, and choose to represent myself as such. I live by, “if you don’t love it, don’t put it out.” I had this mentality when I was painting and producing pieces for shows, but lost sight of that while caught up in that mass market sh*t. I am focused once again and making sure I am only releasing pieces that I can undeniably stand by and say, “this is it!” At the time that I took on the Hot Peas project, I was already working with and studying 60s and 70s blaxploitation movie poster compositions…funny sh*t, it was for the clothing line. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take that piece in the direction that I wanted, but I continued to research, study, and collect posters. So when the Hot Peas opportunity popped up, I was ready to really start putting this knowledge to work. Since then, I’ve continued to study and research cinema posters from 50s, 60s, and 70s. I haven’t limited myself to just blaxploitation either. I am into horror, grindhouse, martial arts, westerns, crime cinema, etc. If I am going to continue to push this style, I have to keep it fresh not only for the people viewing it, but for myself as well.
L: Take us through your creative process, idea to fruition:
EJ: The base for initial concept depends on what I am pumping into my brain at the time, what I am watching often sparks that initial idea…and then you just get stupid with it. Like that James Brown 8th Wonder piece, that was completely on some Bond sh*t. I had just come off of a major 007 kick and was already going crazy digging up posters and sh*t…James Brown as James Bond seemed like it was just made to be that way. However, there are times that a theme is predetermined and my research and elements come from that. This is the case with Bullies & Brothels: A Tribute to Seedy Time Square. The theme was completely based on the long gone Times Square theaters that showed porn, kung fu, and grindhouse flicks. I went in hard on this piece, really digging in to and pulling every piece of work and literature I could find that gave me that vibe…and once I had enough I went in on it 100%. The creative process behind any of my pieces is research and a sh*t ton of hours. I’ve seen a bunch of mother*ckers try to appropriate cinema art…but at the end of the day they all fall short because they don’t research, dissect, and recreate. Hahaha, that’s all you’re going to get and I’ve already said too much…I can’t have mother*ckers stealing my secrets.
L: Your Hot Peas & Butta partner is Skeme Richards . How much of his influence (and criticism, if any) play a role in your creative process?
EJ: HA! Skeme Richards, this mother*cker is a true collector king. If I can’t find something, I know he has it, period. When its time for me to dive into a new piece, I take that trek out to Philly, and spend a weekend immersing myself in inspiration. Watching Shaw Bros. flicks, cartoons, documentaries, classic commercials, listening to 45s, going through posters and lobby cards, taking notes and pictures, and playing classic games on the arcade console. Its only after a session like that do you emerge with the fervor to create and play. Creating the work should be just as fun as one of these sessions, and when it’s not…the work will come out f*cked up. I know this. Skeme knows this (because I learned it from him). When you are creating some new sh*t, you hit this moment where you get geeked out because you KNOW it’s some ill sh*t.
L: When do you find the time to work on projects? We heard you have a day job.
EJ: Simple. I don’t sleep. But during the day I operate as mild mannered…nah…you think I am going to divulge my identity so easily? HA!
L: Do you fantasize about living in the 70s? People say you look like Jim Kelly right now so…
EJ: Hold up. Fantasize? No fantasies here. I live life as fast as humanly possible and create my own reality. And for the record, I am like the Jackal, I have many faces.
L: Aside from the dope Hot Peas & Butta pieces we’ve seen, what else is E. Jenkins working on that we can expect to see in the near future?
EJ: A gallery exhibition of this year’s work on canvas is in motion for the end of 2010. Also some books are in the pipeline, but we can’t disclose too much info about that. Let’s just say your coffee table status will be upgraded for sure.
***Be sure to check Hot Peas & Butta BBQs, kicking off this Sunday 5/30 in Brooklyn, NY!***