Past drawings 4: Jay-Z “I Am What I Am” Reebok Ad

Jay-Z I Am What I Am Reebok ad drawing

I drew this almost five years ago after visiting the Walker Art Center on a field trip for one of my American Cultural Studies classes. I am not too excited about the picture because the shading is off.

Near the end of the piece, I decided to list Jay’s albums on his jacket sleeve because his works represent him to the fullest.  It was meant to symbolize how Jay “wears his albums” (the lyrics, stories, lessons, insights, etc) on his sleeve similar to the idiom of “wearing your heart on your sleeve”.  Just as one can openly display their emotions, I figured Jay equally displays his life through his art.

I probably should have done something better with the album list, but I remember being so worn out from shading in his pin-stripe suit, that I just said forget it…it took an entire #2 pencil for the suit alone…  When it came to trying to draw the other half of the Reebok ad, I figured that it was going to be such an easy piece that I chose to skip it.

The advertisement alone is an interesting piece to examine.  The juxtaposition between the colored left image of Jay-Z dressed in a suite, sitting in his office, overlooking the New York skyline from above, and the black and white right image of Marcy Projects (in Brooklyn, New York) with the steel gate, project building, and a faceless image of a man (clearly a street hustler/drug dealer) with a forearm full of rubber bands – referencing how much product he has for sale…Didn’t know that, did ya? #AmericanCulturalStudies to the fullest.  Least we forget the quote at the top of the right image, “I got my MBA from Marcy Projects” illustrating Jay’s reference to how his early life shaped his future.  He literally got his Masters of Business Administration from surviving the environment of Marcy Projects, and he is not ashamed to tell everyone of this fact.

~ by Adam Maikkula on January 31, 2010.

One Response to “Past drawings 4: Jay-Z “I Am What I Am” Reebok Ad”

  1. I’m wondering, do you know where the phrase “I am what I am” comes from?

    Also wanted to say congratulations on getting pressed on your later post about hip-hop maturing! 🙂

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