For many of us the Golden Era means hip-hop of the late 80s and 90s, when hip-hop largely transformed from rote rhymes over disco breaks to a more sophisticated, innovative, and sonically diverse genre. The creative evolution during the Golden Era made hip-hop globally influential and deeply impacting upon youth everywhere who grew up listening to it.
As a young kid in the 90s, Chris B. Murray lived in a small town hundreds of miles upstate from the Golden Era’s fertile crescent, yet he was captivated by its music. Hip-hop became imprinted on Chris’s imagination and worldview. As a teen, hip-hop continued to influence Chris, and when he discovered illustration, he’d sketch his favorite rappers alongside superheroes. Chris found his creative passion in drawing, and left his small town to major in Illustration at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
As a professional artist, Chris’s work has been featured in globally recognized news and culture publications including The New York Times, and The New Yorker, as well as in niche music publications like XXL. Chris has worked as an illustrator for major studios including Marvel Comics, Avalanche Studios, and Paramount Pictures. In a relatively short career, Chris has won several prestigious awards from the illustration community, and been featured in well-respected galleries in the U.S. and abroad.
Last Friday marked the opening of “Re-Illustrated Classics. Paying Homage to the Golden Era of Hip-Hop… the 90s”, an exhibit featuring key Golden Era artists, each illustrated in a way that pays tribute to the artists’ unique styles and personas. We sponsored the opening, and joined Chris and a couple hundred guests to check out the exhibit and listen to golden-era classics courtesy of LRG’s resident DJ, Norm Rockwell. We took some pictures at the opening, and chopped it up with the man himself:
What is it about the Golden Era that makes paying homage important to you?
CBM: The 90s was a huge part of my childhood and teenage years- everything from movies to comics, and clothes to music. The 90s was my favorite era for most everything. "Re-illustrated Classics" show is my way of saying thank you!
How do you decide how to depict the artists?
CBM: It really depends on what mood I'm in when I'm making the work. For some of the artists the concepts are already there for me to execute. For example, Big Pun was a larger-than-life persona for NYC hip-hop in the 90's before he passed. So it was only natural to have him on top of Lady Liberty battling his enemies.
Have any of the artists seen your work?
CBM: Yeah definitely. DJ Premier saw it all and loved it. Big Pun’s wife and son (who also raps) saw it and loved it too. A few others saw it and showed love so that's always a great feeling.
If you were to continue this series depicting current artists, who would you likely include and how would you draw them? Would anyone be wearing a skirt?
CBM: Haha I'm not in that business of causing any beef...although I used to draw funny rapper images like that back in the day for XXL magazine. I had to terminate one illustration because the artist didn't like being made fun of and threatened to sue the magazine. As for doing another series with current artists, probably not for a while. If I do another collection like this, there's a long list of classic hip-hop artists for me to choose from.
Lastly, do you have any advice for young creative kids?
CBM: Work hard, develop thick skin for the criticism and be persistent!
Thank you to Chris B. Murray, 1988 Gallery, and everyone who stopped by and showed love. The creativity and aspirations of the Golden Era laid the foundation for positive cultural change we still strive for today. Come support Chris’s exhibit in person at Gallery 1988 (East), located at 7021 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038.
If you want to buy any pieces from “Re-Illustrated Classics”, click here.
Check out Chris B. Murray at chrisbmurray.com, on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Check out Gallery1988 at nineteeneightyeight.com, on Instagram, and Twitter