To find out how I turned this:
check out my interview with Rob Fitzpatrick of WORD magazine:
WORD: Why Sgt Pepper? Was is an album you particularly liked, or was it just the iconic-ness (sorry) that appealed?
dk: The Beatles were bigger than Jesus in my house growing up. My mom and dad both loved them and that’s the music my brother and I were raised on. And it’s clearly one of the most instantly recognizable LP covers of all-time, so both of those things really. I remember looking at it as a kid and thinking “I don’t know who all these people are, but they must be pretty important.” And that thought carried over, because I wanted to create a visual that even if you don’t know all the players, it’s obvious they did something big to get there.
DJs talk about ‘cutting’ a record, and I really felt like this was the visual version of sampling – cutting up pieces of another reality to form a whole new context.
WORD: How long did it take to do?
dk: Six weeks from conception to cd cover. This includes time and help from others for the photo shoot, post-production work, and art for the key on the inside. It took me about two weeks to build the piece, and then another four weeks to turn it into a finished product.
WORD: What did you use to make it?
dk: The foundation is two pieces of cardboard – one holds up the cutouts, the other forms the base with the dirt, lettering, and flowers. The people in the collage were printed out on a color printer, cut out by hand, and taped into place on a light blue piece of paper attached to the cardboard backing. I used coffee grounds for the dirt. The H-I-P-H-O-P lettering was made out of one of my wife’s scarves that she encouraged me to shred for that purpose. I cut out cardboard letter forms and glued the shredded scarf to them. Most of the props came from e-bay (the microphone, turntables, crates, mini-Hennessy bottle, figurines, etc.). I printed out and cut and glued the tiny records to scale with the crate. The flower shapes were actually little tiny real flowers that my wife cut and shaped to match the original cover. The only pieces that were photoshop’d in were some of the greenery on the upper-right hand side, the graffiti lettering in the middle, and the parental advisory label. The marijuana was made out of, um… marijuana.
WORD: How did you choose the people? Who got left off?
dk: I sat down and drew a diagram of the thing, and made a list of the people I wanted to include [see below]. This swelled to more than 100 names. I ended up using about 80, and that squeezed more people into my collage than were in the original. I felt that this was one place it would be OK to slightly stray from the original, if only to get more faces in. The toughest omissions for me were clearly in the old school. Google didn’t turn up a lot of pictures of Funky Four + 1, Treacherous Three, Cold Crush Brothers, Rahmelzee, and others, so I had to go with what was available. I would also love to have included more females – Salt n Pepa probably should have been there, but then who gets bounced? Jurassic 5 is one of my faves and they didn’t get in, same with Blackalicious, although I got a few of the Quannum crew in there. Gang Starr shoulda/coulda, same with Michael Franti, The Roots, and many many others. I agonized over this part of it.
It also bears saying that Jeff Chang’s awesome book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop played a huge role in influencing not only my choices, but my desire to take on a project like this. Anyone with even an iota of interest in the genre should check it out.
WORD: Did anyone worry you might be losing your mind?
dk: No [laughs]. I joke about that in the liner notes, but everyone who saw this and got a copy knows me well enough to not be phased by it. Honestly, I was living and breathing this project so much around the time we shot the photo that I think I was the only person worried that I might be losing it. And mainly because I was totally convinced that I was going to get really close and ultimately not pull it off. Once we got that picture though, I knew we had something good.
WORD: What do you think is the greatest hip hop cover of all time?
dk: I’ll take Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s LP cover for The Message. I love the pure joy of that picture – those guys look like they’re having a great time and to me that’s what Hip-Hop is, or should be, all about.
WORD: How did you choose the tracks?
dk: This cover was made for my compilation of ‘The 20 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums Of All-Time’. I simply lined up my favorite Hip-Hop albums from 1 to 20 and picked a good track off of each.
WORD: What are the connections between The Beatles and hip hop?
dk: At first I thought the only connection was me. I love the Beatles, and I love Hip-Hop, so it seemed like a no-brainer. But the more I worked on it, the more little things I started to see that made me think this is a natural fit. Both camps were incredibly inventive and changed the face of modern music, both had characters that were eminently quotable and newsworthy, and both were impeccably dressed and way ahead of the curve in terms of style. Also, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s and while I was in the midst of working on this, Grandmaster Flash was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall Of Fame. I thought both of those facts lent even more purpose to what I was doing.
WORD: I spoke to DMC recently and he told me that he only listened to “classic rock” these days (in fact, his favourite ever album is Sgt Pepper, I think) – do you think that’s the future for a lot of hip hop guys?
dk: I think people like good music. I see more similarities than differences between The Beatles, Run-DMC, Curtis Mayfield, Johnny Cash, Hank Mobley, Jimi Hendrix, Woody Guthrie, Fela Kuti, Billie Holiday, John Fahey, and [Bon Scott-era] AC/DC. They all captured the magic of good music, and that’s a pretty rare and special thing. I know lots of classic rock fans who dig Hip-Hop too, so I think that equation works in all directions.
WORD: What LP sleeve are you too intimidated by to attempt anything like this with?
Herbie Mann’s Push Push has an intimidating amount of chest hair, so I’ll probably stay away from that one [laughs]. I bought my six year old nephew an acoustic guitar for Christmas last year and I’m really looking forward to recreating London Calling with him in a few years. You got a dare for me??
Here’s the full diagram with the complete list of artists I considered:
Check out the original posting of this cover for more information and artwork.