29
Apr 09

Blu Tang Clan

FT5 comments • 768 views

This set of Wu-Tang Covers imagined as Blue Note covers, by designer Logan Walters, is both gorgeous and thought-provoking.

What kind of thoughts does it provoke? It makes me think about sleeve art, and how that art often ties records to a particular time, locality or culture. The original comic-book style sleeve art for Liquid Swords, for instance, is not particularly good but says more about the record’s roots and concerns than Walters’ far lovelier update.

Sample-based hip-hop is a conversation between the past (the records producers draw on), the present (the scene it emerges from and the audience who embrace it), and the future (its reception, and the possibility of crossover). Remaking Wu-Tang sleeve art as Blue Note sleeve art is making a point: this music, like that music, is classic African-American art. But it’s also tilting that ever-delicate conversation towards the past – which is why Logan Walters’ beautiful sleeves won’t replace the ugly, vibrant originals in my digital collection.

Comments

  1. 1
    Jonathan Bogart on 30 Apr 2009 #

    I’m not convinced it is tilting it towards the past, except for those familiar with the famous covers he’s basing his work on. (Which may be nearly everyone who sees them. I’m no judge of how popular memes are.) One of the things the project does for me is to point towards a future in which graphic design is as important as other forms of proficiency in music. (Thinking about Blue Note as a label, I’m not sure there was ever more sheer skill — instrumental, compositional, engineering, design, marketing — involved in the making of individual records at any other time in history. This is surely something to aspire to, rather than to say “wasn’t it better back when?” about.) Although I would note wryly that intriguing graphic design has far too often fooled me into wanting to listen to terrible music. (Franz Ferdinand and Panic! At The Disco come to mind.)

    On further reflection, you’re right about the pastness of the exercise, in the sense that it locates the Wu-Tang records firmly IN THE PAST, which they indisputably are. Not that far past, perhaps, but the telescoping of history is part of the passage of time. By flattening the timeline, Walters removes the records from their time and place (which even though it exists in the memory of more living people is still as unrecoverable as 1957) to a more timeless/eternal (your word “classic” says this) plane and out of their current dialogue with the present. As someone who mostly was not present for the music of 90s, I’m not terribly bothered by that, and am in fact eager to begin new dialogues with the decade rather than the same ones that those who remember the 90s have. Loose the moorings and let us drift out a bit, so we can take a good look at the shore. These covers are a step in that direction.

  2. 2
    pink champale on 30 Apr 2009 #

    somethng that occurs to me – books regulalry get new cover designs, sometimes desingned to make the old contemporary – jane austen as chick lit, sometimes for purposes incomprehensible to humanity – yesterday i saw ‘the world according to clarkson’ with a damon albarn t-shirt penguin cover. this pretty much never happens to records.

  3. 3
    o sobek! on 2 May 2009 #

    it happened far too often during the initial cd era, thinking in particular of that almost hilarious cover for kind of blue that had a fusion era miles shot and the impossibly dull cover there’s a riot goin on had on cd. these aren’t bad, and i do like the color scheme for iron man, but surely these are even more lol nineties than the originals. i think removing any piece of pop from time and place might be a bad idea (or at least pointless), but in the very least hip-hop seems incredibly rooted to it, to its benefit.

  4. 4

    [...] The Blu-Tang Clan… or Wu Note Records? 2009 May 7 tags: Album art, Blue Note Records, Hip-hop, Wu Tang Clan by johnlepak Sample-based hip-hop is a conversation between the past (the records producers draw on), the present (the scene it emerges from and the audience who embrace it), and the future (its reception, and the possibility of crossover). Remaking Wu-Tang sleeve art as Blue Note sleeve art is making a point: this music, like that music, is classic African-American art. —FreakyTrigger [...]

  5. 5

    [...] ground-​breaking today, and most have aged wonderfully. Conceptually it also makes sense. Tom at FreakyTrigger offers some analysis: Sample-based hip hop is a conversation between the past (the records [...]

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