It’s been a long day, as usual for me around this time of year. Three weeks into school I was already regretting my decision to re-enroll. I got out of class at 9:30pm angry at the world and already deciding to reschedule all of my commitments tomorrow in the name of good procrastination. I just wanted to listen to Sade and sip my whiskey herbal tea. For some reason, after the decision was made, something told me that there was one thing on my list of to-dos that I would regret. My interview with DaRaun had already been postponed till tomorrow but I began to reconsider. Something told me it was important and I try not to ignore my instincts even though I’m wrong like 96% of the time; it was midnight, I called DaRaun. Surprisingly, he picked up.
We had worked together before but that’s the internet, we had never actually spoken. After basics, we got into it.
I didn’t expect you to still be awake honestly what are you up to this late?
Just working as usual on some things, finishing the detailing on some pieces.
That’s cool. Is it the Frank Ocean album is it coming out soon what’s up with that whole deal man when are you going to let everyone know?
After a long pause he inclined to plead the fifth, sorry to disappoint you all. As I would soon learn however, the man of mystery had way more interesting things than the speculation surrounding his work.
You never say or reveal too much yet there is definitely consistent buzz attached to your creations. How long have you been working at this?
Yeah I really don’t talk too much about things I’m doing generally. I began in 2010 in clothing, the screenprinting industry where people could now make their own clothes had just begun to get big so I took advantage. It was a time where a lot of people didn’t even know where to get blanks or how to get a shirt from a computer to something tangible. I would just make all the clothes I couldn’t afford growing up, very BBC and N.E.R.D. inspired. That took off faster than I expected and by 2011 I had a pretty decent following. Overtime I was getting orders from different states and even a couple countries. The internet is powerful, I was just this kid in Kentucky getting messages from people in like Korea showing geniuine love and interest. I have even been called the Nigo or Pharrell of Ohio, which was pretty cool someone would think that.
Woah that’s a huge comparison. And then you transitioned into graphic design?
Yeah, I look up to those guys but I don’t think there will ever be a another one of those two, I’m just me honestly. I began by just seeing things come out that were underwhelming and knowing that I could come up with a better solution, plus showing people I can do WAY more than just make clothes, everyone has a line now or does something. I don’t even like labels of that sort, I just like for things to come out. Also for a long time there was a disconnect between music and content and the art that came with it and I just wanted for that to improve, so I began to improve it. For example, Drake’s Jungle Tour artwork was kind of subpar originally, so as soon as I saw it I knew I could come up with something better and I made it happen.
Born in Alaska and living in Texas before settling in Ohio / Kentucky for school, DaRaun credits his outsider view and perspective as what helped develop his style, signature and stamp in the art community. Drawn to the use of outstanding colour or incredible contrast, he was inspired early on from Adult Swim, anime, video games like Zelda, Final Fantasy and anecdotes of his grandfather’s travels to Tokyo to begin creating his own work. More recently though, he has tapped into the idea of creating his own little world to live and create in just like every major artist before him has successfully done. He draws inspiration from Flying Lotus, Kid Cudi, Pharrell and others, to everyday real life situations. These include randomly meeting gorgeous girls, going to New York off design work and partying on rooftops with models then having to go back in a dorm literally hours later and just being aware of his surroundings. In 2015, his portfolio has taken on an impressive form.
You had a slot in ILSMag Digital Madrid 3 showcase earlier this summer. What inspired your set and what did you think of the whole display?
Digital Madrid 3 was spectacular, there were some great artists involved. Wxllxxm and Dead Dilly stood out to me the most, they really killed it. My set Lost in Transmission involved some reflection. I started to pay attention to how different your lifestyle is if you drive compared to if you commute. During a month long period where my car was out of commission, a lot of strange things had happened to me out of nowhere. Like one day while walking I randomly began being chased by dogs down the street and it was like damn here I am this black kid running away from dogs in Kentucky, its not a very ideal situation for obvious reasons. Also another time during that period my bike gave out on me suddenly as I was riding and I really ate it. I was also heavily into Initial D again at the time which was about the car / drift scene in Japan . Also I love cars in general, there is something ethereal about taking a long drive through the rain, sometimes I will turn off the radio and just listen to the engine hum. I tried to put that feeling into the entire work.
It was quite cohesive. I’ve seen a similar cohesion with feeling and artwork from the work you do with T.E.N. How do you achieve that for someone else?
I work with T.E.N. very closely, we grew up together and were kind of outcasts in our own rights. He gives me concepts and I bring them to life, in that sense hes Pharrell and I’m Chad. lol One of my main focuses is making sure everything is cohesive and that the graphics match the feeling of the song. It works since I have such a close relationship with him.
T.E.N. is one of the musicians I began listening to at first because of the smooth attractiveness of the cover artwork it came with and it really sounds just like it looks. When I asked about other musicians he was vibing with hoping to find some new music for my playlist he mentioned GramFam as the stand out and when I checked them out I was not disappointed. I began to realize a trend, quality attracts quality.
You’re constantly sought after now as an artist, do you consider yourself successful?
I think success is relative. I have made progress since I started but I am nowhere close to where I want to be. I see so many artists out who have accomplished so much and they are just normal people. There’s no reason I can’t achieve the same and more. I look at everyone as peers to be honest, I would probably only fan out if I met Pharrell or Kid Cudi, being he’s from generally the same area. I want to design video games and just be apart of productions where you create entire worlds for ideas to live in, as well as create them myself. There really is no limit to what anyone can do, its a mindstate that I’m realizing separates those who just talk about these icons, to actually being the icon on otherside that appears in almost eveyday chatter, if that makes sense. I want to be the guy on the otherside of that. This is still just the beginning.
We spoke at length about life and the main difference between people who are connected to their energy and aware of what they can do versus those who aren’t. Some of the patterns that separate the two and the responsibilities that come with being on the side of those who are aware. I learnt a lot from our conversation; mental hurdles that I have yet to clear and from his perspective that was fresh yet calm. He spoke deliberately but effortlessly, a trend that is evident and abundant in his artwork. A true specialist at what he does and a student of his craft, I could tell I had just spoken to someone who was fully in control of their path. Before I ended our conversation I thanked him for his time and enlightenment, but I had to do one last check of character and taste.
DaRaun, what are your three favourite albums of the year?
I’m gunna go with Cherry Bomb, TPAB, and Rodeo. I like the energy that came with those, separately they are each doing what they are supposed to do.
He checks out.
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