Waajeed Explores The Harmony Between Art And Music
The Detroit legend provides us with original pairings of visuals and sonics.
Waajeed is no one-trick pony. He’ll tell you that himself. The visual artist, DJ, photographer, producer, painter, and illustrator is incredibly prolific, taking his talents beyond the purely creative to also manage his record label, Dirt Tech Reck. A few months ago, I was able to sit down with the Detroit multi-hyphenate to discuss his crossover approach to his craft.
When Waajeed first started making beats, he got a scholarship to the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit for Illustration. “So my mind kind of set the two [visual art and music] in the same place,” he explains. “To me, music and art is the same thing,” says Waajeed, “Taking a photograph and making a beat is really the same thing. To take a photo, you got this rectangle that you have to make your composition fit inside of. And it’s similar to making a beat. You got 4×4 bars that you gotta make this composition happen within.”
The idea of comparing photography to beatmaking not only intrigued me, but it inspired a sense of creative calm that I hadn’t had since I first moved to L.A. a couple months ago. To demonstrate the sentiment, Waajeed has dug up his old visual works, some of which go back to his high school days. These works of art incorporate many different mediums of art including drawing, photography, and video production. He has paired each of these works with a song he’s produced (and one he hasn’t) to echo his profound love and connection to art, in all of its forms.
Eighteen / Garden of Eden (by Jeedo)
Eighteen is painted with Ink and water. The second of a series of Tutankhamen paintings done when I was 18. It’s approximately 18 X 36 on crescent board.
I’ve Seen Rivers/ MFA (Electric Street Orchestra ft. Theo Parrish, Andres, and Duminie)
I’ve Seen Rivers is done with Mixed media. Based on a portrait and poem by Langston Hughes.
It’s approximately 15 X 24 on crescent board.
“The Composition” (May 1999) / “Proud” (by Jeedo)
Proud I’ve taken thousands of photos of Slum Village and Dilla for almost a decade during the ’90s. One of the most enriching experiences I’ve had was in the studio with Preemo, Alchemist, D’Angelo, and Dilla in Electric Lady Studios in May 1999. I don’t believe in invasive photography. Like with street photographers, they don’t care what you’re doing. They’ll just run up and take a picture to catch this look on your face. So, when I was in that session, I was filming on the low; eventually I pulled Dilla out of the studio and I was like, “Look man, should I be taking pictures?” He’s like, “Man, this shit is history, and you’re the only person here to get it, and I wanna see these pictures when we get home too, so get everything.” I got video footage and photos of that session for three days straight. I was doing double duty. This photo was a once in a lifetime moment in music history. I’m was one of the only photographers to document it. I’m happy about that.
One Million Men/ Weep (by Jeedo/Church Boy Lou)
A lithograph from a photo I took at the Million Man March. I made 40 prints of this one. A short run for friends and family. It’s approximately 11 X 17.
Bling47 Breaks: DJ Amir Talks About “Love” by J. Dilla/ ”We Must Be In Love” by The Impressions / “Jorgy” by Dabrye and Waajeed
This video was inspired by:
I started documenting with film and in the early ’90s. There is close to 80 hours of footage in my archive primarily of Slum Village, Dilla, and Detroit’s emerging hip hop scene. Freestyle battles, Studio sessions, trips to Europe, and other paramount moments in our careers. I had the vision to make a documentary with my archive in 2011.
I started a series of short videos called Bling47 Breaks as a way to my practice editing, animation, and creating music to film. I did a new episode every Monday.
Fuck! This wasn’t easy. No budgets and each episode took close to 10 hours to create. Dilla was the subject, but not the purpose. The goal was to inspire. The combined views at one point were over 1,000,000. My goal was reached.