“To be an artist is to create your own happiness and surroundings…” 7 Questions with Perry Porter

One of my favorite local hip hop artists is Perry Porter. Perry is one of the few artists that’s recognized both for his hip hop ability and also for his work as a painter in the fine arts community. The first time I saw him perform was at the 2019 Capitol Hill Block Party. He had decorated the stage with tarps, easels, brushes, and a number of his paintings. As part of his set, he invited members of the audience to come up, and paint his clothes while he performed his set. It was as if we were at his mini art studio and he was the canvas. The show was great, his songs were fun, and it motivated me to continue following his work. His artwork is amazing as well and there’s a chance you’ve probably seen one of his murals around the city. This past Spring, Perry was part of the team of local Black artists who provided their talents for the “BLACK LIVES MATTER” street mural near Cal Anderson Park (Perry did the first “L”). His work also hangs in the office of former Seahawk, Marshawn Lynch. I reached out to Perry and had an opportunity to do a short interview.  Here’s my short interview with Perry Porter:

1.) The first time I saw you perform live was last year’s Capitol Hill Block Party. At that set you invited the audience on stage to paint on you while you were performing. To me, it felt very punk rock in approach, especially when you decided to jump off the stage and try to make a mosh pit, while still covered in wet paint. What was your inspiration to have a show with this level of audience engagement?

Oh, Local punk shows for sure! I skated as a kid so my friends always brought me to wild ass shows (haha). I never knew the bands but I really enjoyed the energy. I’d also have to say hyphy music and crunk music played a really big part. Three6 to Mac Dre.

2.) I read a prior KEXP interview of yours where you talked about how, since you are both a modern arts painter and also a hip hop artist, that you at times will refrain from discussing both within the same circle. Like if you were at a modern art show, you might not bring up that you are also a hip hop artist. In the same interview you mentioned about how your works are an expression of your creativity and they just manifest as paintings and hip hop, but you’re open to trying movies or other mediums. I would say your work blends mediums, like the “color wheel” that accompanies your album “Bobby Ro$$”. It’s both fascinating and admirable. You’re an artist with definite ownership of his expression. With that mind, how would you personally define what it means to be an “artist”?

That’s a loaded question (haha). To be an “Artist” is to “create” and that can be as simple as the food you make to the house you build, down to the job you have. To be an artist is to create your own happiness and surroundings, ya know? That’s what I’ve learned from all this shit. I’ve got the freedom to explore my own thoughts and question my own behavior fully.

3.) Speaking about your paintings, everything from the “L” in the Black Lives Matter mural on Capitol Hill to the sketches you post every now and again on your Instagram, some of the common themes I see are a Black person intermixed with images of butterflies, sharks, striking colors, among other themes. Were there any artists that helped shape your style, and are there any underlying regular themes you try to express in your work?

Man, I’m pretty much inspired by every artist in one form or another, but here’s a few Kerry James Marshall, Nosego, Agnes Celie, James Jean and Soey Milk. Some underlying themes – The sunflower shark (Leo the LemonHead Shark) is kind of a self portrait, the grenade butterflies are a concept based off the idea “Butterfly in my stomach” Ya know? “love at first sight” vibes (haha).

Something I like to do to create a through-line for all the folks I interview is I ask the prior interview subject to provide 3 blind questions for the next interviewee with no knowledge as to who I would interview next. These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject, Claire George. Claire asks:
4.) What albums have you discovered lately that you love or old ones you’ve revisited?
Old Stuff: Jay-Z “Reasonable Doubt” , Curtis Mayfield “Superfly”, Snoop Dogg “Doggystyle”, Whitney Houston “Whitney”
New Finds: The Movers “Kansas City”

5.) What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on stage/tour?
We stopped at this one bar and the only black in the bar asked us why would we choose to stop here? And we should’ve kept going… lol, We stayed.

6.) If you could make a record with one other artist, who would it be?
Erykah Badu or Curtis Mayfield

7.) As my final question, something that comes up in previous interviews and also in some of your songs is a fandom for Anime. In your opinion, what is the best Anime of all time and why, and what is the most underrated Anime of all time and why?

Some of my favorites: Cowboy Bebop, My Hero Academia, Fullmetal Alchemist (Brotherhood), and Samurai Champloo.
Underrated: Paranoia Agent, Michiko and Hatchin, and Monster.

(I want to thank Perry Porter for taking the time to answer my questions.  Check out Perry’s work on his website www.perrypaints.com/.  T-Shirts, Art Prints, and Albums are all available on his site. Follow him on social media at “perrypaints“. Check out his albums “Bobby Ro$$” and “Grey” (in collaboration with Oldmilk) on all streaming platforms. And if you have an opportunity, check out his recent (streaming) performance at Refill Music Fest.)

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