Friday, February 18, a unique event combining hip-hop and art takes over the Metropolitan. Featuring edgy artists like Charlie Z, City of Ink, and Ernie Paniccioli, “Gentleman Jack’s Art, Beats and Lyrics Tour” combines several artistic disciplines into one “interactive” environment. While the concept sounds abstract, it boils down to a tour that pairs art with live music—but definitely focusing on the art. Eight-by-eight-foot walls feature huge installations that tower over viewers. Beyond the walls, musicians introduce beats and vocals throughout the night, layering hip-hop sounds with the bold urban art on display. Themes of America’s urban sub-culture weave a common thread throughout the venue.
While the art focuses on urban American themes, the event exemplifies hip-hop’s ability to attract people from different races, classes and ages. According to AB+L publicist Russell Trotter, the crowd tends to be very diverse. In 2004, Atlanta native Jabari Graham threw a successful urban art showcase in Atlanta’s Little Five Points Art District, which was the founding event of what would later be named AB+L. The success of that showcase led him to team with Dwayne “Dubelyoo” Wright, another figure in Atlanta’s art scene that created urban art shows. The duo dubbed their showcases “Art, Beats and Lyrics,” and debuted their first event at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. The show was a hit. Eventually, they pitched their urban art concept to Gentleman Jack, a premium sub-brand of Jack Daniels. The company partnered with Wright and Graham to produce the traveling show that will visit New Orleans this weekend.
“We want people to get excited about the arts again—to get exposed and excited,” said Graham in the tour’s press release. The goal of Graham’s first showcase was to promote unknown but talented underground artists and the tour continues to display work from local artists in every city. The artists selected for the tour vary from unknown up-and-comers to established artsts like hip-hop photographer Ernie Paniccioli, whose work has been displayed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This Friday, the tour stops at the Metropolitan. DJs (Dynamite Dave Soul, Wop, and Best of the Beat nominee DJ Chicken), soul band YVPG, Stooges Brass Band side project Jumpshive, local buzz-heavy MC/producer Nesby Phips, and drummer Alien will perform. There will be visual art from Gilbert Young, Shannon McCollum, Michi and over 20 other artists.
The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are free, but you must preregister at gentlemanjackabl.com.
Update, 1:50 p.m., Friday, February 18: Online pre-registration is now closed, but you can still register at the door, at least if you come early.