NEST HQ was created with the intention of being a platform aimed at promoting and encouraging the growth of artists of all genres and mediums. While we’ve worked mostly within music up to this point, we are expanding on a new content series that will showcase multimedia artists of various backgrounds including painters, graphic designers, architects, and others of the sort; this is installation. Every two weeks, we’ll post hand-selected pieces from our featured artists via our Instagram @nesthq, along with excerpts from the full interviews.
This week on installation, we have Black By Young.
Let’s start with a super generic question, the story of how this all started. A little bit of background on you as an artist, a skater, wherever you wanna start.
First time I picked up a skateboard was around 1999-2000. I moved out here and my brother gave me one and I didn’t really take it seriously. I’m an artist, so I was writing and doing plays at the time, but Black by YOUNG started at the end of 2011. I had just gotten finished producing this play and I felt like I needed an outlet for art that I could control. My good friend was a designer and basically had his own brand, so he told me, “Hey you know what, you should start a brand in Hollywood.”
The way I came to Black is kind of interesting: The thing that is Hollywood is not really as glitzy as it’s made up to be. There’s a lot of inspiration, there’s a lot of humanity, but I think people miss the humanity. One night, I wanted to spray all the stars black, I wanted to spray all the stars on Hollywood black, but I think that’s kind of a felony. I wanted to do that but I thought, no, let’s do something that is anti what people expect out of a brand, anti that whole idea, and so I dye-cut the word “black” on a board that was supposed to be basically a skinnier version of the 1975 banana cruiser. We had the jolly ranchers OJs on them and that was pretty much it, we just dye-cut the word “black.” I never thought that would really become a thing five years later and now we are making more boards and stuff.
The story behind that was always so interesting to me. Also I think it ironically ties into all the political things, intuitively and kind of accidentally.
The context is everything. It really matters because, to me, Black is not just a skin color. There’s a lot of things that are black, ya know. There’s a lot of things we turn our eyes from and that’s the whole concept. It’s like, to be black is to be forgotten almost, but then at the same time, black can be bright.
At what point did the brand turn political? Was there always kind of an undertone in the idea?
Always. I care about politics. It matters to me. In my writings, it matters. I graduated high school in 2008 and people would tell you, I don’t want to talk about politics- it’s personal. But now it’s kind of in your face. So, politics matters. You know, living in Hollywood, there’s mad politics. There are politics everywhere. At such a level even where it deals with where you live and the definition of who you may or may not think you are.
Growing up for me it was the same way. My parents, my parent’s friends, relatives, we don’t talk really talked about politics. It was personal and everyone knew nobody talked about it.
It’s like religion.
Yeah, you didn’t talk about it. It’s such an interesting discussion. We were just talking about it specifically because we just went to Form Arcosanti, it’s a festival that Hundred Waters organizes. Have you heard of it?
No I haven’t. Is it in California?
No, it’s in Arizona. So it was designed by an Italian architect – all the buildings are made out of certain shapes and geometries that work with the land and are natural in aesthetic. It’s a self-sustaining community, they have their own resources, cropping, everything. It’s really cool. However, post festival on the Facebook group, there’s been a huge explosion. I guess someone created a post because there were people in the community and at the festival that were wearing dreads who were white. For some reason, I don’t know what ensued it because in general the festival is pretty open minded: it’s all creators, tech people, musicians, artists. But there’s been a huge backlash in attacking people at honestly one of the most open minded and free forming events that exists in the US.
Well that’s the ironic thing is that the same people that will tell you they don’t want to talk about politics wanna talk about having dreads, which is really the most political. Having dreads is a spiritual thing, it’s a political thing. You know what I mean? Bob Marley was half white, but that’s not the whole point. The point is that the natty dreaded man was the person that was oppressed and that there was this brotherhood behind being nappy haired. There is a lot of pure things in the Rastafari community. I think if a white guy has dreads, then fuck yeah because if he is coming with the right heart and if he feels like he is a rasta and he is really about it then, yeah. But I think it’s a shame when it’s like, you know, somebody who is not a rasta, who happens to be black, who is completely corrupt having dreads. It’s equally as evil.
Let’s talk a little bit more about Black, and about the new projects. So a lot of the inspiration, or at least some of it comes from Shepherd Ferry and kind of having a new relationship with him, right?
Yeah I recently met him. He is everything you think he is. He is so for reals haha. I ran into him at the Venice Tommy Hilfiger fashion show. I wanted to give him a skateboard but he was kind enough to invite me over to his place. We talked about politics and art and skateboarding. I walked through his work and it really inspired me to have a story to tell. Because, I like writing and I love politics and he’s a unique artist in the sense that he’s embraced politics and he’s made it so relevant. So I was to help Black President with his campaign. As an artist, it’s freakin’ awesome to have influence, and if you do have influence what are you doing with it? I think he is doing everything I want to do.
I wanted to talk about issues that matter. One thing that is definitely big is our military defense spending and that whole machine, it’s getting out of hand. And corporations are having an influence in our lives. Sometimes it’s good, I’m not a die hard hippie where I’m gonna say everything corporate is bad, no. Not everything corporate is bad, but there are certain corporate practices and things that are literally sucking the life out of humanity wholesale, it’s not good.
Was that the inspiration behind the Pepsi artwork?
I think the inspirations are oncoming because there was a week in American history where everyone was applauding the bombings, everyone meaning democrats and liberals. In a time where we have been divided, both left and right could finally unite under the premise of bombing another country. Obama did it, Trump did it. And so the idea that dropping bombs is really just like how an American president or our government, or the three powers of branches, can just come together to kumbaya and can agree with each other under those circumstances, that’s not cool, to say the least. That’s not right.
A bad president just needs to have a military beef for the public to love him, and I think that is sucking the life out of the military. Ironically, the same week we had another example where a corporate entity decided to capitalize on the woes of people to sell things. [Pepsi, Kendall Jenner ad] What those two things have in common is the fact that at the end of the day, as much money as we spend in the military making bombs, most of that waste is going to contractors. Not military people. Not people who are wearing uniform. People who are literally companies, trying to make a buck off the military complex and we invest in that as a country.
So this image came to me of a bomb that is as refreshing as it looks because, you know what? I love Pepsi. And maybe I think Pepsi is the best drink in the world, but dropping bombs can’t be as easy as having a Pepsi. It can’t be that casual. We’re smart, we talk things out. We can be more sophisticated than just dropping a few bombs here and there and getting horny off of that. That’s fucked up.
Getting back to Black, and back to the company, what are some goals for the upcoming years, and for this project as a whole?
Right now, the goal, mainly is to be able to create more prints like these ones that we are doing now. And to create art that can kind of stay relevant to what’s going on. Over the past few years, I’m only 26, but I have been very inspired by brands like Obey and also brands like Supreme. So, one thing that I think I’d like to do is bring those two ideas together. This means having prints that really don’t shy away from things that matter, things that we should be discussing, but also focus on great design and art. Not because we want to prove somebody else right or wrong, but because it’s important to highlight points of conversations that we shouldn’t shy away from as a community. All the while, having quality cotton man, and some of the best skateboards. For the first time we have all four types of skateboards and we have a few stores in the LA area that support us. The goal also is to support Brick and Mortar because everybody wants to shop local and I think it’s good to invest in the people in your backyard and so, we are lucky enough to have a few stores out here.