In 2016, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Shady Records and RBC recording artist KXNG Crooked. I had the chance to exclusively design all of the artwork for the album “Good vs. Evil”, which was released on November 11, 2016. Here’s a Royce Breakdown of how it all came together.
HOW IT STARTED
When I launched The Royce Project in 2013, my intention was only to get my art out to an audience. I had no idea what kind of reach social media had and how it could reduce the degrees of separation between people to just one. I found this out just by being a fan of rap music.
Back in October 2013 I started working on a poster for the rap group “Slaughterhouse”. It was a Halloween concept where all 4 group members (Royce Da 5”9’, Crooked I, Joe Budden, and Joell Ortiz) were drawn as zombies and Eminem was walking through some woods with a chainsaw, chopping “wack” rappers down limb by limb. It was a (fire emoji) concept that would have been an automatic hit, but like a lot of artists, I lost the motivation to complete the project and it fell into the unfinished archives. Long story short, I tagged all the rappers in the pic on Instagram and received a follow from KXNG Crooked. I thought it was cool that a well-known rapper was following me to check out some artwork that I was making for fun most of the time.
Fast forward to 2016 and I had just gone to a Royce Da 5”9’ concert in my hometown, Ottawa, Canada. I had also created some artwork which I was hoping to share with him during the concert…it almost worked…almost…Royce told me to send him a DM of the pic on twitter knowing damn well he doesn’t follow me, so I couldn’t send him any messages, then walked off stage, lol. I did get in contact with his brother Kid Vishish through IG a bit later though. Following the concert, I decided to make a new Slaughterhouse pic and created vector faces of all 4 rappers then posted it to Instagram. This pic lead to Crook contacting me directly to see if I design album covers.
GOOD VS. EVIL CONCEPT
I do a lot of work for personal reasons; however, if I’m doing any sort of commissions, I create the work as professionally as possible. This was my mindset going into this project and how I communicated with Crook. The dope thing about my interaction with him was that he was very down to earth easy to reach. He also basically handed me the keys to the entire project as he just laid down a concept of what he wanted the cover to include then told me to “do my thing”. He described it as a “concept album” which tells a futuristic story of political corruption, racism, and police violence towards African Americans. A few key words came out of the exchange we had…robots, pharaoh’s crown, futuristic apocalypse, evil puppet master, which all had to be transformed into a cover. I was also given the tracklist to the album in advance, just to get a better idea of what topics were going to be covered.
I was given a month to design the front cover so I took my time with it. I pulled my inspiration from movies, cartoons and animes I’ve seen in the past. These include Akira, Mad Max, Afro Samurai, Reboot, and Blade. I came up with the designs and drew everything on paper, then transferred it to my iPad to do finish the outlines and add colours. I later transferred everything to my computer to include colour edits, filters, logos, and add any required text. You can get extra details on how I use my iPad to create artwork in my Carmelo Anthony Breakdown. Once the cover was done, I flipped it to Crook for the thumbs up and he was happy with the product. My art matched what he had described well enough and I didn’t have to make any modifications. Initially I thought he just needed a front cover, but he hit me up about a month later with more work.
VALLEY OF THE KXNGS EP
Crook planned on releasing an EP entitled “Valley of the KXNGS” right before the album release. I had to design a new cover, but with less information. I was only given the title of the EP and a week to complete everything. I came up with a quick concept and put the cover together in a short amount of time. Crook was happy with the result so I had no complaints, but from an artist’s perspective, I felt like the work was rushed and it showed (to me). Nonetheless, the EP was dropped on Soundcloud shortly after and featured 6 new tracks. You can check it out below. I thought I was done one more time, but Crook hit me with a bit more work one more time.
GOOD VS. EVIL FULL ALBUM ART DESIGN
I was eventually asked to design all the artwork for the Good vs. Evil project. Personally, this is the kind of opportunity I’ve been looking for, to have my work be available for a wide audience to see and own. I took on the task openly, even if I was asked to complete 5 covers in a week! Once again I was given full creative control, so I had to come up with a bunch of concepts that I could draw quickly. I also had to get familiar with the diskmaker website and using templates for printing CD sleeves and disks professionally. Luckily I was put in contact with an executive producer who gave me a few templates and instructions to work with. You can notice that all the covers except the front one don’t have too much detail on them, but they’re still impactful.
Each cover was done using a lot of silhouettes. The back cover, which was influenced by the track titled “Welcome to Planet X”, was done using a mix of drawings and edited photos from google. Many of the other covers were a mix of drawings with added filters. I learned the importance of filters from my guy @BamboSlice (check his Twitter and Instagram), who has done cover work for all the Slaughterhouse members on multiple occasions. Go check him out! The cover with the robot police was also used to promote the single “Robocop Went Pop”. The Puppet Master was heavily influenced by Afro Samurai, the Joker, Batman, and Spawn. I used his silhouette, some glowing eyes, added some dripping blood and blood splatters to make him look extra evil. The CD tray was simple to make, and the design was also used for the actual discs.
Sometimes you have to get creative about how you put your art together.
The most important part of the entire album design was putting all the images on a template. I started out by putting the template on Photoshop and editing everything to fit the desired spaces. This approach didn’t work well when I had to include the text. You HAVE to use a program that uses VECTORS for text. I had to transfer everything over to my vector software Affinity Designer (good alternative to Adobe Illustrator). All the text was added in a single panel. The file needed to be saved as a .pdf so that the text didn’t lose any quality when it was printed. The editing is ALWAYS the longest part of any commission. There was a lot of back and forth and modifications that needed to be made before the final product went out.
Note: If you’re using any fonts that aren’t free for commercial use, do yourself a favour and buy the licenses for them. If for whatever reason the creator of the font decides that file a complaint for using their work without their permission, you’re held responsible as the designer/artist. I took the time to purchase the licenses just to be safe. They cost between $10 and $30.
The overall experience for making this album art was very interesting. I’m happy I was able to work on something that is available worldwide on Apple Music, Google Music, Spotify, and all music streaming services. The physical album is also available on KXNG Crooked’s website kxngcrooked.com so go get a few copies! Special shoutout to everyone I had a chance to contact throughout the project. Be on the lookout for the next project. Crook is working on Good vs. Evil 2 and I’m on board for designing some more artwork!