By Maurice Bobb
Popping bottles is all the rage in hip-hop circles, but Hennessy chose to interrupt that treatise of excess to start a new trend: tagging bottles. After deciding to move the focal point from cash to cachet was made, there was only one graffiti artist the world’s number one selling cognac brand considered in bringing that idea to life: Futura 2000.
As one of the most famous artists to ever spray a can of Krylon, Futura brought his infectious energy and signature atom design to 360,000 limited-edition V.S. bottles (200,000 reserved for the U.S.) to celebrate street art. As part of the 10-city tour to connect with fans, the artist born Lenny McGurr dropped by the Spec’s Megastore in Houston to tag bottles of Henny for everyone willing to shell out $34 and stand on line.
“It’s a great opportunity obviously, I would think, for any artist to get to collaborate with a huge brand like Hennessy,” Futura told RapFix. “I’ve actually been involved with a lot of commercial projects over the last decade. I have my store in Japan which, unfortunately, I had to shut down recently. But I’ve been coming back, doing more visual painting and I’m very happy.”
Futura is happy and he’s productive, bringing his visceral street art to mediums to such brands as Supreme, A Bathing Ape and others. And while his aerosol art has moved from illegal street art to the sophisticated embrace of the commercial world, the internationally renowned graf artist who used to create alongside Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat is well aware of his status as the Futura of the funk for all things hip-hop.
“Obviously, we gotta go back some 30 years to the early 80’s when that culture in New York was sort of coming together and we were discovering, you know, the elements of hip hop,” Futura told RapFix. “But, in fact, I predate the words “hip-hop,” it hadn’t been labeled yet, so I’m not as connected to it now as I obviously was back in the day. I like Kendrick Lamar, Dre… I’m still into it. I heard Snoop’s a lion now, he’s not a dog anymore, so you know, everybody’s moving forward doing things, you know, me too. And I do love some Jay-Z. So what can I say? I’m still connected emotionally to hip hop. But not as much of a fanatic about it when I was younger.”
And even though Futura doesn’t keep up with beats, rhymes and life as much as he used to, artists like Swizz Beats and Shawn Carter are steering new ears to the benefits of appreciating and collecting art.
“There’s this new crop we have of talented collective, whether it’s visual artists such as myself or obviously rappers, writers, poets, musicians,” Futura said. “Everyone’s coming online. I think technology’s helped a lot, to bring everyone’s awareness up to speed. I did hear Jay sing about Basquiat which I thought was pretty interesting. Yeah, I mean, I see this decade, we’re actually approaching 2013, so we’re still pretty early in this decade, so I give it another three years to see a lot of these influential individuals in that field maybe even investing in our work. You know it’s one thing to talk about ‘em, it’s another thing to actually buy them and collect them, so let’s see what happens. Nobody’s bought any of my work yet, so I’m not seeing any proof of it.”
And lest any of the new school artists think they were the first to land a famous singer on their arm, Futura used to roll with one of the most famous singers of all time, Madonna.
“Wow, you heard about that out here in Houston, huh?” Futura said. “I mean, yeah, obviously we were great friends and you know I still have fond memories of all that. But that was just a couple young kids in the same area doing things at the same time. I mean that even predates her rise to stardom. But I always shout her out. What’s up, Ms. M? Lady M.”