Hip hop is more than a genre of music: it's a cultural movement, continuously changing and adapting. Painter and illustrator Naturel has always embraced that fact. "From when I was young, I’d look at the packaging on CDs and records and stuff," he tells Fuse. "I would see and hear both of them at the same time. Before I knew what art was or what music was. It was kind of the same thing to me. Rapping, illustrating—it’s still playing on different metaphors and the way you compose things, the tempo of the details. It feels as if I’m rapping when I’m doing it."
It's that connection between the visual and audio that finds a home in Naturel's art. One of his recent pieces, "D.O.A: Dead On Air," depicts a very Dia de los Muertos-like image, a skeleton lying in a field of flowers surrounded by sneakers. "At the time I was listening to 2 Chainz’s 'The Birthday Song:' 'When I die, bury me inside the Gucci store,' you know what I’m saying? I had the idea, 'When I die, bury me inside the Jordan store,' so I figured, let me do the skeleton laid back like he achieved everything on his bucket list with sneakers and stuff. I’m a Jordan-head so these are all on my bucket list.”
Sometimes his art gets pretty heady, especially his 'Tupasquiat' series. Serrano tells him, "Tupac’s process was the same, he was in the studio everyday. He did a record a day… at least one record a day. He was always in the studio. You took both those work ethics and put together an insane series." Naturel agrees: "I was trying to come up with an idea to pay homage to Tupac’s birthday. As a joke I came up with ‘Tupasquiat.’ Through doing my due diligence and research on him and his aesthetic and style while also staying true to Pac’s story, I saw a bunch of glaring similarities between the two. They were both really passionate artists. They were real big both products of their environment. They both had this rebellious nature about them and they lived a wild life. Unfortunately it ended in early death."
At the end of the day, it's all about hip hop. "I’m in the world. I live it. I breathe it. The similarities between both worlds are glaring. I feel like I’m part DJ, part producer, part rapper when I’m putting it together."
Watch the full interview above.