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beyond the wall #2
BIGGIE & TUPAC
The first time I walked by this painting of Tupac & Biggie, rue du Sergent Bobillot, it really affected me.
With a tight throat and prickly eyes, I said to myself 'If only they could really be like that, stood next to each other, and alive, what a waste..."
It sent me back to the exact moment when I learnt about the death of Tupac.
I was sitting at a terrasse in Angoulême in the south-west of France having just arrived as a student a couple of days before. I was reading the Guardian and there was a big article on the incident...as a huge hip-hop fan I was devestated, I shed a few tears.
As we know only 6 months later Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G. was also assasinated.
But now, every time I see these two, it makes me smile and their hits start to go round in my head.
When I decided to create this site and this section of it, I really want to know who was the person behind this artwork, it was just sooo cool!
I loved the unique style and his interpretation of these legends. I said "I must meet him/her"
And I'm glad I did because I discovered a talented, very discrete artist, passionate about hip-hip and the gangster lifestyle over the pond..
An accomplished artist who's already completed lots of projects and collaborations, most with his cartoonesque characters taking centre stage
HIS RETURN TO DRAWING
The artist behind these characters is Guillaume, aka Lil'Thugs. Being a very discrete person Guillaume preferred to draw himself in next to Biggie & Tupac, rather than having his photo taken, here he is next to his mates!
Originally from the suburbs of Lyon, Guillaume came to Paris aged 23 after having completed a college course in Applied Arts and a Degree in Fine Arts in Grenoble.
During his degree it was the beginning of computer-assisted creation and he went more towards multimedia creation, preferring audiovisual to actual drawing.
When he came to Paris, he hooked up with an old class mate from Grenoble and they started the production house "Addictive Image".
It was the start of digital TV and they did lots of TV programmes' opening credits design and jingles.
They also produced a lots of video clips and documentaries notably one on the famous French hip-hip DJ Cut Killer and the history of rap in France.
It was their last contract together that lead Guillaume back to drawing.
They won a bid to create all the multimedia content for the Ceramic Museum in Lezoux
He took care of creating all the 2D elements and created funny cartoon characters for kids for the museum videos.
He loved the experience, he was drawing again and creating characters, since then he's never laid down his pen again!
THE BIRTH OF LIL'THUGS
Guillaume started producing videos on his own .
At the end of one of his clips he drew the rapper as a cartoon character (Despot Rutti pour le clip Arrêtez).
It was the first Lil'Thugs character he did.
"Everyone seemed to like it, I liked it so I started drawing the big American rappers and I didn't stop. At the time everyone was on Myspace so I sent my drawings directly to the artists on their profiles and I got some anwsers. It was quite mad! Fairly quickly I was getting feedback from rappers, like Snoop, and I thought OK maybe I've got something here."
Thanks to his connection with Snoop, Guillaume started getting some cool jobs, his charcaters were on the cover of a 12" for the legendary rap group Tha Dogg Pound and he created a collection of T-shirts for the brand Serious Pimp.
Here we see Snoop holding a T-shirt in hommage to his cousin Nate Dogg
On the bandana it says "Rest in Peace Nate Dogg"
BIGGIE & TUPAC...AND EAZY-E IN MONTREUIL
The artwork we're talking about here was the first one Guillaume had ever done in the street.
His charcters were usually on T-shirts or on records.
It was the local artist Popof who asked him to do something for the wall.
Guillaume chose Biggie & Tupac because for him they're not only emblematic for the history of rap but were also emblematic for him during his teenage years.
"Their story is so closely linked, but I wanted this drawing to be fun, colourful and positive,
and I find it very positive."
He painted directly onto the wall so it's not a collage, if not I think the 2 rappers would have disappeared by now!
What's even better is that we find another painting of Guillaume's behind this wall, this time of Eazy-E (NWA).
For Guillaume he's the father of West Coast rap and this is his hommage to this enigmatic artist.
He worked with the artist Lexa, who created the lettering of the lyrics which surround Eazy from the song
DON'T FORGET THE TAGs @ #@ #@ #
Lots of stars have worn Guillaume's T-shirts, notably the biggest rapper on the planet at the moment Kendrick Lamar.
Drake & Maisie Williams (Arya from Game of Thrones), both posted a photo of a Drake collage in Paris.
500 000 likes for Drake, 77 5000 for Maisie.
Unfortunately… neither of them hashtagged Guillaume with #Lilthugs or @lilthugs ...a viral buzz that he missed out on and which could have brought him thousands of followers!
And it's often the case, it's frustrating for him.
But despite these missed opportunities he's still happy that his work is being recognised and shared.
Guillaume had put on several exhibitions in his career.
The first one was called "213", which is the Los Angeles area code and it came about, once again, thanks to Myspace and the contacts he made through that platform.
He contacted members of gangs who had their profile online and asked if he could create their character.
He wanted to create a gallery of tattooed faces and bodies.
He went to LA 3 times (2 months each time) to meet them, spend time with them and draw them.
This field work became quite dangerous. One time he was at a birthday party in a huge house when there was a raid. Like in the films the SWAT time burst in, there were lights, a helicopter above...
He ended up against a wall, with no shirt on being searched by the officers.
No one can deny it was an authentic experience but maybe a bit too realistic, especially as Guillaume's preganant wife was with him at the time.
He met gang members who, because of their gangs signs on their faces, could only navigate in certain zones, only get 1 bus. Once you mark on your face who you belong to, there's no going back. It's for life..
"I met some amazing people, I was really warmly received. People were friendly and positive. I went to places I would never have been able to go to without them, where probably only a few outsiders have ever been. It was really interesting and it stays with you for life. I wasn't scared in the projects, what struck me most was the stark poverty and living conditions. You would have thought we were in a John Carpenter film."
"In the States, everything goes fast. Projects get done. If someone likes your work they take you under their wing and get it moving. Meeting people is easier. If you work hard, things happen From a work point of view, the US is great for that."
COLLABORATIONS & FUTURE PROJECTS
Lil'Thugs has done many collaborations in his career, notably with Paris Saint Germain (PSG) where he created characters for all the players and they were made into a capsule collection for children and adults (more than 20 000 shirts sold)
He also worked with the very trendy Colette store on a collection called "Freaks of the Industry" which led to a project with the photographer Pete Best who had brought a book out "Deeper than Rap" about the Houston rap scene.
They did a collective exhibiton and he created an interactive 5m long mural of rappers where you pointed your smarthone at a character and their video would automatically play on your phone.
He recently held an exhibiton at the Fat Café in Paris on the theme of Biggie & Tupac and you can still see it until March 2019 (see album below)
For the future Guillaume has lots of ideas. He's currently working on an off-beat cartoon series about the life of a 40-something, and he would love to produce a book on his tattooed friends from LA.
I hope he'll continue to create his cute Lil'Thugs characters for a long time to come and that he finds new collaborations to showcase his talents.
Let's hope that his work is better hashtagged in the future and he gets the recognition he deserves, and who knows one day the Lil' Thugs might be as recognisable as cult classics like The Simpsons or Southpark!