For about 3 years Cherry Collaborative has been behind-the-scenes, organizing the art direction for some of hip-hop’s burgeoning acts. Chances are, you’ve probably seen their infamous Bape-inspired camo print for California-based hip-hoppers Peas & Carrots. Not only have they worked with up-and-comers like Casey Veggies, Reese and Chase N. Cashe, they’ve also linked with established O.G.’s like Fabolous and Pusha-T. The New York based collaborative has almost acted as a mini-hip-hop label, providing cover art, merchandise, logos and web design, for the right price of course. We sit down with half of Cherry Co., 27-year-old Chandler Easley, to discuss some of his favorite cover art, high-end streetwear, and the future of Cherry Collaborative.
What is Cherry Collaborative and who are the partners?
Me and Jerry, also known as SAIS. It’s actually a combination of our names the ‘CH’ for Chandler and the ‘Erry’ from Jerry. Our logo actually references fruit, but it has nothing to do with fruit itself. It’s just kind of ironic. James Watts, a rapper from New Jersey came up with the idea that me and Jerry should do a project together. Jerry serves as the creative end and I handle things from more of a graphic-technical side. When our friend Reese came out with a tape we decided to put it under the umbrella Cherry Co. Music and since then it’s kind of evolved.
Do you feel like you force your artwork on artists?
That’s been the most difficult part. I’m not musician, so how do I get this to marry with the music? I’ve had artists from Young Jeezy’s camp hit me up and they have this initial interest, but then they dig deeper, and they figure out it’s not very Young Jeezy-esque, hood or whatever you want to call it, and it’s not. But by the same token, I feel like good design is good design regardless of who you are. Could I push it more towards a realm that’s safer for a Young Jeezy? Sure, but I’m not going to give that to Casey Veggies. It’s about understanding where anyone’s at.
What music do you listen to?
Mostly hip-hop. To be honest, it’s mostly what people send me. It’s about understanding where that music sits sonically. I can listen to as much early Cam and Dipset or whatever, but I want to be invested in the music that people pay me to understand. [Is there] value to listening to Chase N. Cashe’s album before I do the artwork? Yes because if he talks about Rolex’s twenty times, I know that dudes really into Rolex’s. Maybe an artist has an affinity for streetwear, like Casey Veggies. His music isn’t necessarily Californian, but I feel this air of California street culture, so it’s a matter of how do we finesse that in the artwork. With Reese, I used to call his music Bape Trap because that’s where it sat at. He wears Jordan One’s and Balmain Jeans. I’m sure he’s not the only one to do that but it’s definitely an interesting dichotomy. If that’s the lifestyle they’re living, that’s what I have to represent from an artist standpoint.
What influences your art direction?
From an art standpoint, I’m influenced by how other artists choose their art direction like Kanye West, for instance. I didn’t really like where they took it with Graduation. I like Murakami, I just didn’t feel like it sat well with Kanye. He might be friends with the guy, I just didn’t feel like it was the right look. The 808’s & Heartbreaks and Kaws Collaboration makes sense to me artistically because understanding both artists.
What did design school do for you as an artist?
The biggest, most valuable thing in school is the acumen. Ferris Bueller was here the other day and he wanted to use this certain artist’s work as an inspiration for Pusha-T’s project. If you have the acumen, you know what to do. There’s a lot of information that’s not out there on the Internet. A client can pull out one picture and I know where to go.
Are you worried about the brands being upset for playing with their icons?
Am I worried about Nigo being mad about the neon camo? No, because it’s so far removed. They’re the direct inspiration, but they don’t have ownership over the idea. Picasso has a quote that says, “ Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” When he says steal, he means make it your own. If I steal something from you, it’s in theory mine. But if I borrow, it’s under the intention that you’re going to get it back. It’s like saying, I’m borrowing Givenchy’s aesthetic from Ricardo, I’m really sort of half-heartedly taking it, when I could steal it and be like your whole swag is mine. I figured you out. Givenchy may have had a monopoly on the mirror print. Well, not anymore.
It’s about taking what people have done a step further. That’s my problem with people who say you shouldn’t rip off Bape or Supreme. There’s no one out there who’s doing anything that’s explicitly original. No one’s willing to say Bape is my inspiration for the Casey Veggies art direction or Supreme is the business model for Peas & Carrots or Givenchy is the art inspiration for Reese. It’s like hip-hop, you rep where you from. It’s genuine to people.
Have you ever considered making Cherry Co into a label?
My sort of interest is more of an art director. Like, Casey Veggies, if we go back to his merch. I don’t need to make this line sheet, someone else can do it. But from a time standpoint, some of the growth of a company is about doing it yourself. Cherry Co could grow at into a label? Yeah, if we had someone who was good at promoting, or whatever it is that labels do.h
Below, Chandler Easley breaks down some of Cherry Collaborative’s best cover art
Casey Veggies: Customized Greatly 3
It released on a Monday, the brief from Casey and Anwar was given to me the Friday before at about 5pm. Most of the time artwork and anything that accompanies it is done at least a couple weeks in advance, but I believe they originally planned for one of Casey’s personal friends to do the cover, but that fell through last minute. So over that weekend I basically dedicated myself to coming up with a custom geared camouflage that was used throughout the design assets. Aesthetically it’s cross between the previous volumes of Customized Greatly that I had nothing to do with and the Peas & Carrots/Casey Veggies art direction that along with the guidance of Anwar, Josh and Casey we’ve been building since 4th quarter 2010.
Reese: Reese Vs. The World – Hosted by Don Cannon
I feel like it’s a testament to what we’ve built with CherryCo. that the first music project I handled was hosted by someone like Don Cannon, that as his namesake reads is “The number one cosigner.” Honestly, I look back at this and cringe and think I should have had Reese’s image professionally retouched like I do with the vast majority of images I shoot, but this project opened doors. Because Chase N. Cashe had a beat on the tape, he checked for it and it led to us building his art direction from scratch at the start of his career as a rapper/mc.
Chase N. Cashe: Gumbeaux
Chase initially came up with the idea for this cover artwork; taking ransom note letters from magazines and such, creating this gumbo of typography and I thought it was kind of cliche and not particularly good. And the concept in general, the ransom note style I think still is in general very cliche. As I recall I don’t think he took that particularly well but once he was set in stone on the idea I just had to figure way to make it work. So I had him make list of the things I thought were gumbo of himself everything from fashion he wore now or growing up to stuff he saw as iconic or inspiration be that luxury or artists. And from that list picked apart stuff I thought was encompassing and aesthetically provided diversity, everything from the Blueprint “U” that ties back to Jay’s connection to New Orleans essentially cosigning Juvenile with the “Ha” remix to the Bally “B” that has always in urban culture as a status symbol of wealth, each letter represents something near to Chase so felt it allowed an otherwise cliche idea to have life.
Fabolous – The Soul Tape
I rarely get starstruck but I was actually given the design brief for this from Loso himself via iChat video conference while he was in the studio and still to this day the interaction was wild to me. Usually when I work with artists of that caliber which isn’t often but the handful of times I end up dealing with a middle man of some sort, most often it’s some kind of marketing person or part of the management team acting as an intermediary, but with this project we spoke via iChat video conference 3 times and I don’t think I acted different or anything, I just found it somewhat surreal to directly interact with someone that famous.
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