Everything trendy & cool is Hip Hop. Think about that for a moment. Whenever something has even the slightest hint of urbanized seasonings, be it a positive or negative energy, it’s ultimately slid into the ubiquitous, shapeless pile of pop culture known as Hip Hop. For the sake of this interview, we’re going to steer towards the higher spirited nuances of our beloved Hip Hop culture.
Back in 1994, when it wasn’t cool to be different (at least in California), I was hanging around with a bunch of cats who were just that; different. All were artists in their respective crafts: music, canvas, graffiti, pornographic (at least from the stories cats would tell ’round the campfire), etc. We had a buddy named Tyree Dillihay who was nice with the pencil & paper – illustration-wise – & his potential was obvious.
Fast forward to today & his story is just as Hip Hop as the next dude who raps or sells crack or does indeed have that wicked jumpshot. The only difference is the medium.
Instead of the recording booths & internet beefs that people so readily associate with Hip Hop, Ree’s world involves meetings for the animated FOX show “Bob’s Burgers,” & designing shoes & Twitter avatars & online comics & album covers. I caught up with Ree for a chat about Hip Hop, sneakerheads, & life in general. California represent.
Welcome to the other side of Hip Hop culture…
Tony Grands: How did you get involved with animation on a “professional” level?
Tyree Dillihay: I got into animation 3 months after college. I did an animated film called “HIPHOPOLIS” in my last semester at Cal State University Northridge that won Best of Show that year and made history as the first animated piece to EVER win best of show in the entire school’s history. I sent “HIPHOPOLIS” to an internet content distributor by the name of ATOM FILMS. A guy named Peter Ignacio saw my film, liked it & said he wanted to put it on the site. So, after that, I sent out a big email blast to all my friends and anybody else who would read the email. A good friend of mine, Kamau Talbot, forwarded my film over to some friends of his at a production company who alongside Jaleel White from “Family Matters” were in development on a show with Disney TV. At the time they were having trouble finding a style that Jaleel liked. But that was until an executive assistant by the name of Tizzie got the email about my film from my friend, & showed it to Jaleel. Then, they forwarded that info to then production manager, Stevan Levy over at Disney TV, & that started my 2 year run as a development artist for WDTVA, right out of college.
TG: When did your love of the sneaker start? & how did you translate that into art?
TD: It started with my first pair of Fire Red Jordan 3s in 7th grade. Then it just kept going all through college. I stopped off and on for a bit, but for the last 4 years, I’ve been at it again pretty strong.
How my sneakerhead comic, “SN’EADS” came about was I just wanted to combine as many of my “passions” as possible into art. When I was visiting these sneaker websites, I saw that there was a wide open lane for comics and animation. I do that professionally & kicks is just part of my lifestyle so I combined the two, made a strip with some hip hop flair to it & submitted to a few top sites.
Luckily, they welcomed me with open arms & I’m proud to say that I created something NEW for the sneaker community.
TG: Why do you think that shoes & Hip Hop have such a strong union?
Today, sneakers are like the new HIP HOP UNDERGROUND. Rappers that don’t have any or very little buzz on Hip Hop sites, will actually get more shine on sneaker websites based on what shoes they had on instead of what their music sounded like. Pretty funny, right? But it all comes down to acceptance. You can wear the hottest Nikes that 9 out of 10 sneakerheads will agree is hot. So if you’re consistently wearing hot shoes, the sneakerheads will endorse you as, “the new HOT dude,” but it’s only after seeing what you had on your feet do they become aware of you are & then – only then – will they go listen to your MUSIC. So this is what I mean acceptance. A man that makes music is now judged by what he’s wearing instead of what he’s creating.
Sneakers have become this trendy mass group of people that can agree on what considered “hot” & if you put yourself in the Hot category in their eyes, you are one of them. It works out because it is becoming a very over saturated trend in the youth markets.
TG: What current projects are you involved with?
Currently, I’m a director on Fox’s animated sitcom, “Bob’s Burgers.” I’m also a creative consultant on Rob Dyrdek’s cartoon, “Wild Grinders” for Nicktoons. When I get the time, I publish an online comic about sneakerheads called “SN’EADS.” I have a few other irons in the fire too, but these should do for now.
TG: Speaking of cartoons, “The Boondocks” is quite the polarizing phenomenon. People hate it immensely or love it exclusively. With that said, do you feel it’s popularity was/is more helpful or harmful to the “Hip Hop community,” or even Black folks in general.
TD: “The Boondocks” was only shocking to me because of its overt use of the N-word. But to black people as a whole, it satirized some things that touched nerves within the black community but in front of a predominantly white audience on Adult Swim.
The older black generation has this issue with “airing out its dirty laundry” in front of white people. However, the question comes up, “who else was going to do it?” These things aren’t secrets. They’re topics that need voice and commentary. That’s why you gotta give dap to Aaron McGruder for breaking down barriers, being brave, & giving it that voice & using the animation medium.
You can’t start a revolution quietly. You have to “kick in the door, wavin’ the 4-4.” My hope is that “The Boondocks” has opened up the door for more challenging black entertainment, in particular for myself & my projects. There are some on the way already and they are good.
TG: What’s you take on the violent undertone that rap music can’t seem to escape. In fact, it’s getting worse.
TD: I don’t mind the violent undertone because I’m not a violent person. & for most listeners, I would wager to say they aren’t violent either.
But since rap music is an art form – much like action movies or dramas – sometimes when you’re listening you want to escape to a place that you normally wouldn’t go to. Granted, some of these stories are real. Some of them are make believe. Some of them are “based” on a true story. But in the end, what we’re experiencing is modern day oration mixed with new age street poetry over dope beats and that creates the fantasy. It’s Scarface the movie…but as music.
I look at all music like theme music. I can go from Bach to the Beatles to Bun-B. I’m seriously only thinking about what mood I want to be in when listening to this music. However, there is a negative side because young minds can’t differentiate fiction from facts & at times, when misguided, they can make decisions that might sound great on record but turn out to be the dumbest life decisions you could possibly make.
Music is powerful. I give it that. Be careful.
TG: The year we met, I remember you illustrated a single for Bone Thugs N Harmony. Earlier this year you created the cover artwork for Iggy Azalea’s ‘Ignorant Art’ also. What are the stories behind those? & have you worked with anymore musicians for art?
TD: The Bone Thugs N Harmony story is kinda cool…
It was the summer of 1994 & I just graduated high school at age 17
& really didn’t know what the fuck I was going to do with my life. But one thing was for certain; your boy knew how to draw. As luck would have it around that time, a childhood friend of mind worked at Ruthless Records.
& he was in charge of Bone’s album packaging. Luckily, he remembered I was nice with the drawing skills
& he put me on my first major illustration gig for Bone Thugs. I wasn’t even 18 years old yet.
I did the cover for their first smash single, “1st Of The Month,”
had stickers of my artwork given away in an issue of The Source magazine, did the back cover for the single “Crossroads“
the inside illustrations for the full length “E. 1999 Eternal” album
and the artwork on the actual CD (that CD went like crazy multi-platinum).
Summer 1994 I was a hood star.
I had the advance copies so I could vibe to the music while I was creating the cover art. I was bangin’ that new Bone Thugs for all my boys in Inglewood before anybody else heard it. But the respect was there because I was the only dude in the hood that drew. So when the Bone shit started dropping & even before then, the respect and love was there.
So, fast forward damn near 20 years to the Iggy Azalea’s “Ignorant Art.”
My boy George Robertson is Iggy’s manager. I’ve known George for about 12 years & we’re the same age. He was climbing the ranks in the music business, while I was climbing in animation. One day I meet him for lunch at his office up at Sony & he says I want you to listen to something.
Then, he puts on this track with this chick spittin’ these dirty south rhymes over some crunk beats. Shit was hot.
So, as a visual person, my next question was, “what does she look like?” He pulls up her youtube page & then tells me she’s from Australia. My jaw hit the floor & I just told him, “dude, you got a star on your hands.”
Long story short, he wanted to put us together to make a statement for her album cover. It was her concept to flip the Warhol x Basquiat collaboration from the 80s & reboot it in her own image.
Iggy’s a very creative girl. She doesn’t just RAP. She’s an actual recording ARTIST. A lot of people don’t deserve the artist nomenclature but Iggy Azalea does.
So I did the album cover in a day…a Saturday. Probably 3 rounds of notes. They dropped it that same Tuesday and it caught on FIRE!
Then, maybe a week or 2 weeks later randomly on twitter a guy hits Iggy on her twitter asking for the ORIGINAL album cover art. She then tweets me and connects us. Long story short, this guy was from London (shoutout to James McCann) wanted to BUY the original “Ignorant Art” cover art from me.
We came to a nice agreement on the procurement of the piece & now James McCann from the London is the proud owner of the original cover art to Iggy Azalea’s “Ignorant Art.”
Timing, man. Timing.
Keep an eye out for this young man’s name in the future. Follow him on Twitter: @SneadsByRee•