There’s something exciting about experiencing hip hop through a visual artists eyes, seeing their interpretation through their brush stroke or their image of hip hop in a piece of handmade artwork. One such local visual artist that is taking the hip hop art world by storm is the super talented Sophie Al-Bazouni aka Sophieaye,representing South Western Sydney and capturing the art of hip hop through her incredible painted portraits of some of the genres greatest.
As a deep seeded fan of hip hop and its culture, Sophieaye was always drawn to the music and its message from a young age, as a fan of the legendary Tupac and Notorious BIG. Starting out with a passion for drawing characters and hip hop artists in particular, Sophie eventually started dabbling in painting and her passion for the music and culture spilt over into amazing pieces that captured the essence of the artists who inspired her daily life. Taking part in this years celebrated 4 Elements Hip Hop festival in Bankstown in March, Sophieaye’s works hung pride of place in the gallery foyer of the Bankstown Arts Centre leading into the festival and garnered praise and attention from festival goers and council members alike. She has since gone on to ignite her local hip hop community with her impressive works and building a name for herself and her beautiful portraits of influential hip hop leaders such as Tupac, Notorious BIG, Lauryn Hill and the like.
In her first interview ever ( as she excitedly exclaims), this Bachelor of Fine Arts student shares what motivates and drives her passion for painting hip hop portraits and how she hopes her artwork is received by those who are drawn to it. Very excited for this truly talented, humble and inspiring young artist putting her passion to higher purpose.
Thanks so much for your time Sophieaye, I truly appreciate it. How has life been treating you thus far?
Thank you for the opportunity! Life has been good, I can’t complain. Busy as always, I’ve got a lot coming up!
Your artwork is something that is truly unique and symbolic of the art and culture of Hip Hop. How would best describe your artwork, what it is you create and what you enjoy most about the process of creating these hip hop inspired pieces?
When people ask what I do, I always say that I paint Hip Hop portraits. I’ve explored other subjects but that’s mainly what my practice has consisted of. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I’ve painted 2Pac and Biggie. My English teacher once told me to write about what I know, so I took that advice and applied it to my art. Music is second to art for me, and it’s a lot easier to paint something which you’re passionate about.
How does inspiration come to you and how does the world itself play a part in your creative process?
It usually comes from the songs themselves, especially the lyrics and the flow of a song. Whenever I listen to a song I paint it in my mind. The way certain lyricists can rap, I want to be able to paint. I love the atmosphere that’s created with Hip Hop, music is the first thing I pay attention to when I walk into a place and if it’s anything I like don’t even attempt to have a conversation with me (my friends can vouch for this).
What is it about being an artist appeals to you so and what or who encouraged you to take the first step in your artistry?
I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember, but I’ve come a long way from drawing anime characters! I could never see myself in an office job, and for a while I thought that I couldn’t make it as an artist. It’s only until recently that I realised I could, and I’ve started taking steps towards making it my career. It’s very rewarding to give something back to a culture I appreciate so much. I’ve been blessed, and there is no way I’m going to let it waste away as a hobby. I’m inspired by the rappers I paint, my high school art teacher and my mum and dad, who has never questioned me when it comes to the decisions I make. The support and love I get from my family and friends can last a lifetime. I want to immortalise the influencers and cement my name in Hip Hop culture.
When you are in your creative zone what keeps you motivated and do you have any particular rituals or music that inspires your artistic flow? What are your favourite musical artists / songs and why?
I always have something playing when I’m painting whether it’s music or something on the TV. Lately I’ve just put Fresh Prince on, or I’m listening to the latest album drop (currently SchoolBoy Q’s Blank Face LP). Sometimes my friends keep me company with good conversation and argheli but I’ve found that to be a bit distracting! My favourite rapper is Biggie because I love his flow, voice, lyrics, everything about him. I have a large list of favourite artists and songs so this could take a while but my top five albums are:
- Illmatic – Nas
- GKMC – Kendrick Lamar
- Ready to Die – Biggie
- Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill
- Friday Night Lights – J.Cole
Where are your collections currently featured at the moment? (Art Galleries, Museums, Public Spaces) and what is the general public feedback on your works?
I have my largest work to date hanging at BMCP, a shisha cafe in Parramatta. I’m a regular there and it’s always the first place I recommend to people! Right now I’m working on my first exhibition so I’ll have some works hanging very, very soon. I’ve always had the best reception to my work, it motivates me to keep doing what I do. Usually it starts with “Did you do that?!” followed by “Can you paint me?” In all seriousness though it’s very humbling and really warms the heart.
What do you hope is the feeling that people get when they look at your incredible pieces?
I just want to take them back to a place where they listened to a certain song and make them admire their favourite artist even more than they probably already do. I’m just painting what I love and I want viewers to feel that love when they see my work.
Your motto in life?
Love Yourz. “What’s money without happiness? Or hard times without the people you love?”
For more information on Sophieaye and her artwork visit her on:
Always Hip Hop