In theory, art shouldn’t have to be shoehorned into Hip Hop’s collective consciousness as if it were Rob Kardashian being stuffed into a Mini Cooper. When the likes of Psy and Paris Hilton aren’t attaching themselves to the culture, Hip Hop is an art form, right? Despite decades of the fine arts looking down Hip Hop and banishing it to the proverbial kids’ table that divides high and low culture, the five elements of Hip Hop all exist within the realm of art. And yet, the last few months have brought a wave of pretentiousness so blatant even Drake had to tell Jay Z to chill with the art references for a bit.
Leimert Park’s Raven Sorvino and East L.A.’s Sand One don’t inundate each other or their fans with superfluous art references. The former is equally comfortable cleverly exploring gender dynamics via her rhymes or hosting a “40z N Strippaz” party (it’s exactly what it sounds like: large quantities of malt liquor and exotic dancers). The latter can wax philosophical about the “starving artist” stereotype while explaining how her friend—an accountant—doesn’t understand the concept of being a dreamer and creating art for art’s sake. Such waxing just happens to take place on the 37 floor of a Downtown Los Angeles penthouse, where Sand One is tinkering with new concepts for her signature character, Stacks.
“To me she’s a real person, so she does everything a real person does,” SandOne explains. “With Stacks, she’s really cute. But deep inside, she’s like a hustler. It’s just like right now when you see Raven walk in. She’s cute, but she’s got a strong presence, and I get along with her.”
Saying these two merely get along might be a bit of an understatement. Maybe Hip Hop’s self-proclaimed art mavens would get a better response if they just turned on some cameras and opened a bottle of merlot. It seemed to work perfectly well for Raven and Sand One.
Raven Sorvino & SandOne On Hip Hop’s Perception Of The Art World
HipHopDX: We hear rappers increasingly talking about Basquiat and all this kind of fine art. What do you two see as the link between the art world and Hip Hop right now?
Raven Sorvino: There’s rappers and there’s artists, so those that probably recognize real art, they probably consider themselves as an artist. Because what we do is we paint pictures with words, so it’s a similarity there—something we can relate to. When I look at her painting, I would do something like this, but I would write it in a rap. So you can respect it.
Sand One: I translate feelings and emotions through my artwork. If she was to do a song, I could translate that and put it in a painting. If she was to do a song about a guy breaking up with her and her being angry on the phone and calling her friend, I would draw a painting of a teddy bear with the stuffing out, like, “You’re dead, we’re done.” And maybe the girl on the phone would be crying, and that means she’s her calling her friend. And it would have a quote like, “He left me.” And I think that there’s four elements of Hip Hop, which is emceeing, deejaying, graffiti, and breaking, so… I know the four elements. I grew up with old school breakers, graffiti writers, and that’s very important.
Raven Sorvino: Absolutely. All those people would respect that.
Sand One: And more power to the culture. Like I can’t break dance, I can’t rap, I can’t emcee, and I can’t deejay, but she could rap. I can’t. But I’m the art side of it. We’re dreamers. Our dream is to create something and to make people understand a message with her music…with my art. And there’s no competition here. I think a lot of women don’t unite because they feel that there’s competition, but there’s not…
Raven Sorvino: Crabs in a bucket…
Sand One: We’re completely different, and we’re strong females. She struggles in her world, I struggle in mine, but we’re gonna get to the top.
Raven Sorvino: We’re supportive of each other’s careers. I’m very supportive of her…
Sand One Explains How Her Character Stacks Represents Feminism
DX: Earlier you talked about Stacks as a real person, but also the trademark eyelashes as a kind of nod to strong female personalities...
SandOne: I think it’s about feminism. When you see a woman that looks cute, you underestimate her. Then you talk to her, and it’s like, “Oh gosh, she has a strong presence! She has a very strong personality.” So with Stacks, she’s really cute, but deep inside she’s like a hustler. It’s just like right now when you see Raven walk in. She’s cute, but she’s got a strong presence, and I get along with her. There’s a certain kind of girl that likes my artwork, and it has to be a very strong kind of woman…cute chick. She’s stylish, modern and very ambitious. If you don’t have ambition, and you’re not strong, then you won’t understand my characters. There’s this cult of women behind my characters. Every woman that I’ve met… Every collector, every fan of my work is just like me. She could be a lawyer, a doctor, a Beverly Hills real estate broker, and it doesn’t matter. It’s like I know them, and my work speaks to all these women. And men.
DX: So Stacks attracts the alpha personalities?
SandOne: Stacks attracts girls and guys because I created a clothing line for her. I see girls and guys wearing her, because she represents the hustlers in everyone. I want everyone to get familiar with my characters and understand my characters. I think people are starting to become aware and understand it’s not just a cartoon. There’s a meaning behind them. There’s this strong, empowered chick behind them that loves to paint. It’s just like how you guys love what you do. I love painting.
My best friend—my childhood friend—came over two days ago. She was like, “What is this, Sand?” I asked her what she meant, and she goes, “What’s the point of all this? What are you gonna do? What are you trying to do? Are you trying to sell your artwork? I don’t understand?” She’s an accountant, and she works at a small factory downtown. It’s a nine-to-five, and she has an apartment and a little daughter, so she doesn’t understand. It’s about the hustle and being a dreamer. We’re dreamers. We’re chasing after a dream that’s incomprehensible to normal people. She can’t comprehend why I love to paint so much. She can’t understand how art can open doors.
It’s just like when you want to be a singer, and people are saying, “Oh my god! Mariah Carey was already made. You’re never gonna make it.” But if you keep pushing… Look at Kendrick Lamar. There are all these rappers that are coming out. Yeah, there’s been rappers—been there, done that. But there’s always someone new, and everyone’s searching for the new thing.
So with my art, she was like, “What is the point of it?” I told her, “I don’t fucking know! I just know that it’s going somewhere.” Look, in my world, I’m a dreamer. There’s dreamers just like me, and I see my art going very, very far. And she was like, “I don’t get it,” so I said, “Just eat the food I cooked for you.” I can’t explain my crazy dream of being an artist to someone who’s normal.
Raven Sorvino & Sand One Connect Hip Hop With Fine Art
DX: When did you start painting?
SandOne: This year makes five years now. I’ve always done my cartoons as girls, but now they’re more stylized. I have this iconic character, and it’s all in the eyelashes. She can change into different clothes, but when you see the eyelashes, you know it’s her. People understand it’s me behind the characters. It’s like if you see a Picasso, a Van Gogh or any kind of artist you love and look up to. If you see a certain video, you know who directed it. My signature style is the big eyelashes, and it’s crazy because there’s all these people that love them. When I do murals, I invite them all to come out—men, women, little kids.
DX: Where do you get inspiration from?
Sand One: I just think we’re dreamers. At the end of the day, we’re dreamers creating something out of nothing. We’re dreamers trying to make it in a world where not a lot of people make it. And we’re gonna make it. My art people know my art, and she knows my art. Her music… She was just in Texas, and she went on tour. I’m proud of her, and I know you’re proud of me, right?
Raven Sorvino: Hell yeah, like ultimately proud of you.
Sand One: She knows art. I met her in East L.A. And it’s crazy because our worlds are completely different, but at the same time, we move the same way. As artists we have a lot of alone time creating and thinking. I spend a lot of time alone. A lot of solitude comes with our craft where we have to be alone and close a lot of windows and doors to everybody and just create.
Raven Sorvino: We’re girls in a male dominated industry, but we’re not letting that hinder, handicap or pigeonhole us. We are doing the takeover, so get ready and just respect it and fuck with it. It is what it is—takeover, female movement, girl power. That’s what it is. The girls is coming in, man. That’s what it is.
Sand One: I can hear your anger right now. No, I’m just kidding.
Raven Sorvino: You know what? It is anger, but I’ve translated it into...it’s a drive. It just gives me more power to just go, and the wheels keep turning.
Sand One: Our time is limited. I think a lot of girls start and they just see the struggle and they’re like, “Forget it.” If you’re a girl, once you start, you gotta keep going.
Raven Sorvino: It’s perpetual motion.
Sand One: You could have really thin skin and be very sensitive. The more you keep popping, grinding and building towards your dream, it builds thick skin. I remember when I started, I had a thin skin, but now I’m strong. If you tell me something, you can’t….
Raven Sorvino: It’s like, “I’m not famous already? I haven’t made it already? I can’t.” A lot of the people saying that only put work in for like a month or two. It’s like, “Really? You gotta pay dues, man. You gotta put in work.”
Sand One: The richest people in the world have been doing it for years. They’re 30, 40, 50 years old. It gets there but, Raven, I’m glad to know you, and we’re on the same team here.
Video shot and edited by Jordan Tucker.