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Wolves illustrated

Every line in Kanye West’s song "Wolves", illustrated in 3 days

I wondered how to bring together my fascination for (1) the Lean Start-up approach (2) the increasingly fast pace at which rappers were releasing albums. When the latest Kanye West’s album dropped, I picked a song and illustrated every line in 3 days — treating a creative project like a Minimum Viable Product. I published the drawings on Instagram.

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BACKGROUND

I had spent most of my 2015 time and money on the 500 signatures project: I was exhausted and broke. I got lost in details and greatly overspent on them. I wondered if I could make faster and cheaper projects that still had impact.

I noticed that major hip-hop artists like Future or Young Thug had increased the speed of their releases. The New York Times’ dubbed this "workaholism". Besides, projects like Kendrick Lamar’s unmastered album reminded me of Eric Ries’ book The Lean Start-Up: better fail fast rather than burning too much time, cash and energy for something that people won’t even like.

Is releasing a lot of stuff, fast, the way to make it in today's world? Are the finishing touches mere overkill? Should artworks be shipped as MVPs? In hip-hop, the creative industries and business, is scaling fast (or blitzscaling, as coined by Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman) the way to succeed? If Silicon Valley thinking could be transposed into hip-hop, could it be the case with creative professions in general?

Long before the project, I made silly puns/collages of hip-hop stars (here, Yung Lean) and Silicon Valley books (here, The Lean Start-Up) = Yung Lean Start-Up.

PROCESS

When Kanye West introduced his album on a Thursday night of February 2016, I knew that I had an opportunity to experiment with my own practice. I picked the track I liked the most and decided to draw every line of it, with a self-imposed deadline of one week-end.

On the Friday, I picked a song, according to those criteria: manageable number of lines / lyrics relatability / potential for interesting drawings. Then, I picked a platform and a medium. YouTube was a no-go because of audio copyright, but mostly because the only released audio file was a dirty rip from West’s public album introduction (the album got officially released a week after.) Instagram was a great work-around, plus the viewer would be free to enjoy the drawings at its own pace, with or without the music.

I eventually sketched ideas while wondering if it was a good idea at all. The answer was not really, but the investment was so low that I went on.

I first protoyped different options of the execution, which I tested on friends and family. I went for the illustration one, that felt more personal.

On the Saturday, I made rough drawings of each of the 62 lines. I also felt uncomfortable about (1) time running out (2) the poor quality of the drawings. On the Sunday, I scanned the drawings and added colors in Photoshop. I set up the Instagram account and sent it to the media — with little background about the project. Overall, I was unhappy with the result but happy about the journey.  

Drawing before Photoshop + prototyping how the colors would look in the Instagram page

RESULTS AND LEARNINGS

On the Monday, hip-hop media talked about the project. Tech media did not, so I sent them another email explaining why I did it. Eventually, some wrote about it. This taught me the media would not write about a project without a pitch explaining its background.