"Hawaii" Mike // Follow
NAME: Ola Kudu
OCCUPATION: Creative Director, Filmmaker, Visual Storyteller, Big Poppa
WHY: Focus, discipline and a passion for being creative coupled with love for hip-hop culture. You know his work at The Source and Loud Records as well as BET Networks and national commercials.
Born in Berkeley during the height of the Vietnam war protests and Black Panther movement. Only child to a Vietnam vet and anthropologist/school teacher/hippie. Grew up in NYC loving music and movies. Raised on Stevie Wonder, Bruce Lee flicks and Kung Fu Theater! After whacking myself in the head enough times with some wooden nun chucks I was enrolled in a martial arts school. Focus, discipline and an interest in Asian culture resulted. I wound up with a degree in East Asian culture and I've lived in a few Asian countries.
Out of college, I started as an intern at Vibe magazine, and within 6 months I was the Art Director for The Source magazine. It was all a dream - doing photos shoots with Biggie, LL, Naughty by Nature, Wu-Tang Clan - I made a lot of rookie mistakes at first. It's really hard to look at my early work, but there were some gems, and I learned from the greats, including Chi Modu, Cey Adams and so many dope photographers and illustrators that I was exposed to. After a particularly popular Wu-Tang cover featuring Meth, Rae and RZA, I was recruited to work at Loud Records. Suddenly I was collaborating with some of my favorite artists: Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Tha Liks, Sadat X and Pete Rock.
I took my experience marketing entertainment and used that to build a career in advertising and television. I've worked on major campaigns for Verizon Wireless, Nike, Coca-Cola, Corona, Chrysler - all while infusing the essence of the culture into what would otherwise be just another boring ad. Oh yeah and I worked at BET for a bit, flipped their brand, logo, and the whole look and feel of the network. Currently crushing the world of multicultural advertising, which is really the new mainstream, in big part thanks to Hip-Hop.
HOW DID YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO FOR YOUR CAREER?
I failed miserably as a recording engineer. I took the classes but didn't have the patience for the slow pace. So I 'borrowed' a copy of Photoshop from the place where I was working freelance and taught myself digital design. I always want to dive right in and start creating. It's an Aries thing.
MY BIGGEST BREAK WAS…
Toss up: Getting a phone call to Art Direct the SOURCE magazine and getting recruited to become Loud Record's Creative Director. Big-ups to Noodles and Life Long for looking out!
TELL OUR READERS WHAT YOU'RE MOST KNOWN FOR (CAN BE MULTIPLE MILESTONES IN YOUR CAREER)
• I'm known for helping to establish the Notorious B.I.G. as "The King of New York", since I used that phrase on his first SOURCE cover. It came from his lyrics, of course.
• Helping launch the careers of Xzibit, Big Pun and dead prez.
• For almost killing Nas during the making of the "I am" album cover. We used a professional face mold but one of the two straws helping him breathe got clogged. For a minute it was sketchy but he's a pro and stuck with it. The result was worth it.
• Otherwise, I'm known for being able to sell a good creative concept to anyone, from the streets to the suites.
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE MOMENTS, ACCOMPLISHMENTS OR AWARDS SO FAR IN YOUR CAREER?
Watching Biggie sing along to Tupac's "Dear Mama" when it came on radio in the studio where we were shooting. He loved the line "Feels good putting money in your mailbox!" We could all relate, having been raised by single moms. Winning an Emmy for an HIV/AIDS awareness PSA. After all the work at BET it was great to win for creating something that actually helped people. Having my work featured in an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art was a nice moment. Awards are dope and I have several but nothing compares to the joy I get from the actual creative process.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The ability to tell the truth. The best artists I have worked with are uncompromising - Biggie, Jay-Z, the Wu, Mobb, Nas, Jamie Foxx, Pharaohe Monch - and it shows in the strength and longevity of their work. I look at men like Bob Marley and Malcolm X and I try in some small way to model that kind of courage and ability to speak truth to power.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT WOULD SURPRISE OUR READERS.
I have 'prestiged' way too many times in every version of Call of Duty. I will own you. I'm a gamer nerd. gamer tag: kokujin2000
IF I WASN'T ME I WOULD BE…
…fucking frustrated, because I'm just starting to get good at this.