Welcome to Generation AP, a weekly spotlight on emerging actors, writers and creatives who are on the verge of taking over.
Los Angeles-based designer Blazzy is becoming one of the most respected artists at the intersection of music, fashion and high art. Creating everything from bold and striking graphic tees that reflect social issues (the opioid epidemic, police brutality, etc.) to products that transform everyday objects into meaningful art pieces, Blazzy has created a colorful world for his wildest creations to live in. With his latest venture Nothing Personal, Blazzy has found success with several items, including the “Say No To Fentanyl” T-shirt. Another highlight is the “A.C.A.N.D.L.E.” — a subtle play on the acronym ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards) — which allows the user to burn a candle replica of a cop car and was inspired by the 2020 George Floyd protests and the need for police reform nationwide.
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Music has always been a driving force for the young designer, and his “GREATEST MATCH-HITS” series spotlights his love of music from both coasts, packaged in a record crate replica that holds five sets of matches adorning classic hip-hop album covers. Unsurprisingly, Blazzy’s close ties to the music industry have also led him to design tour merch for everyone from Lil Wayne to Trippie Redd. While Blazzy is on top of the streetwear and design game, it’s all a result of hard work, dedication and embracing his failures.
Growing up in South LA, what drew you to creativity during your childhood, and did you ever imagine that design would become your full-time job one day?
I feel like creativity was introduced to me first when I was playing with Legos as a kid. As I got older, music became more prevalent to me and my friends. I had a bunch of homies in bands, and I wasn’t too gifted at the guitar as much as I was with graphics, so they had me help them. I just wanted to be a part of a community. Did I think I would be a professional designer when I was older? To be honest with you, I was still sold in my head that I was going to be in a band, but regardless, it all stems from music for me.
You’ve worked with and designed merch for several high-profile artists, including Lil Wayne, Trippie Redd and many major brands. How does following their creative briefs compare to working on pieces for yourself and your brand?
At this point, I have a tight relationship with [record labeles] UMG and Atlantic. I think from the jump, they understood my style and let me take the lead on these projects. I get a lot of creative freedom, but there are of course going to be those finishing executive touches from the client. I try to honor and embrace the artist’s project. When it comes to creating my own products, it’s a completely different experience and different criteria that I judge it on.
What’s so fascinating about your designs is your ability to insert meaning and topical social causes into your creations. What are the social causes you hold close to your heart that you want to continue to explore through art and design?
I really want to add more awareness to fentanyl and the dangers of it. It’s literally the crack of our generation. It’s in all the party drugs, whether it’s cocaine, Percocet and even cough syrup nowadays. There’s not enough light being shined on it, and I feel like I played an indirect role in the popularity of making Percocets a joke. I made a jersey a couple of years ago called the Perc-30 jersey.
I had never done Percs. I thought it was just a funny joke, and through releasing it, I met a lot of users. I started to find out that a couple of them died, and then my own friends overdosed in front of me, and it was heartbreaking. I didn’t want to encourage Perc-30s, but I indirectly did with a product. I don’t want to add to this culture, so I released a shirt that says “Say no to fentanyl,” and I honestly poured my heart into it. When I released this product, I never got so many DMs in my life about my shirts affecting them. I think it adds to the conversation, and there needs to be more safety and awareness.
[Photo via Blazzy]
[Photo via Blazzy]
It feels like juxtaposition is such a central part of your design style. With the A.C.A.N.D.L.E. product in particular, it feels like you can take a mundane object such as a candle but create tangible meaning and an act of protest from it. Where does this come from?
It’s one of the main ingredients in everything that I do. Whether I’m designing a candle, piggy bank or mug, I’m always thinking about metaphorically what I want to set on fire. I think everyone at one point has wanted to burn a cop car, so that’s why I decided to drop one.
[Photo via Blazzy]
You’ve been open about your rise to success being a slow build, whether that was working odd jobs, soul-sucking security gigs and then finally scoring opportunities to prove your skills. When you were able to do design full time, was it daunting in any way?
It was extremely daunting. I’m 27 today, but when I was 18, I was doing door-to-door sales all over California. With that being said, the culture around these sales jobs is that there are a lot of self-help videos that we’d watch, which got me a little too motivated and encouraged me to quit the job. When I was 18, I quit the job and fell flat on my face in three months. I felt stupid and defeated. I had worked shitty airport jobs and worked as loss prevention at Ross but always told myself that I was not allowed to quit until I could sustain myself. I held myself down for three years and would show up to my warehouse job with my laptop because I had that many [design] jobs to do that day. In February 2018, I was finally able to quit and just kept hustling. Those were some of the best times, really, and all it took was perseverance.
What do you envision for the future of your design work, your brand Nothing Personal and the potential of opening your first flagship store?
I always have that fantasy in the back of my head. I see myself as a curator — I show people brands, and my come-up revolves around a lot of brands showing me love early on. With that being said, it would be great if I could make my own Zumiez or Dover Street Market, so that’s definitely in my future plans, but that is a full-time job itself. When I was in high school walking into Supreme or places on Fairfax, it was the most unwelcoming experience, and I felt like an outsider in a world that was supposed to be for outsiders. I never want to give off that energy to anybody who could be a potential customer. I definitely want to focus the space on being welcoming, fun and a place people will want to kick it at.