Crate Diggers

Shepard Fairey Explains How Ice-T, Public Enemy Inspired the OBEY Giant

The street artist behind the OBEY stickers and Obama's Hope poster reveals which rap records get him ready to "go out and do some stuff I'm not supposed to do"
July 18, 2013

Before Shepard Fairey created the iconic "Hope" poster for Barack Obama, the influential illustrator changed street art forever with his influential "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" sticker campaign. You've seen it hundreds of times: It's the design that eventually morphed into the OBEY Giant image that graces everything from bathroom walls to t-shirts and hats sold at department stores.

In the latest episode of Fuse's Crate Diggers, Fairey walks us through his vinyl collection and explains how hip hop directly influenced the creation of the now-ubiquitous OBEY street art campaign.

"When I first started the Andre the Giant Has a Posse sticker campaign, hip hop had become the new punk rock for me," Fairey tells Fuse. "I made that sticker in the summer of 1989. The use of the word 'posse' was inspired by Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Ice-T, N.W.A. In fact, the line from Ice T's 'Power'—'I'm living large as possible, posse unstoppable'—was one of the things that made me embrace that. "

Although Fairey was more directly connected to skateboard culture, he explains he and his friends were "all sticking a toe into black culture. [Back then] using the word 'posse' was sort of a dangerous affectation, culturally. Malibu's Most Wanted hadn't come out yet," Fairey jokes, referencing the 2003 Jamie Kennedy comedy.

Rummaging through his extensive vinyl collection, Fairey reveals he would often listen to Ice Cube's The Predator before sneaking into the night to post his art. "It's intense, it hyped me up. It was like, 'I want to go out and do some stuff I'm not supposed to do.' Certain records can lyrically and sonically do that to you," Fairey says. "I've been arrested 16 times. You can get in trouble for doing art. Every time I would say, 'Okay, I want [a record] that makes me feel that I'm not thinking about the police, I'm thinking about the task at hand: Crushing it.'"

Watch the full episode of Crate Diggers above for more on how rap influenced Fairey's art and to get a peek at rare Beastie Boys and garage rock records.

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