Spank Rock - YoYoYoYoYo

Los Angeles-raised, Brooklyn-based Brent Rollins designed this cover for one of the freshest sounds of today, Baltimore act Spank Rock.

Brent has been deeply involved producing iconic hip hop imagery over the years. From way back with Spike Lee’s Mo Better Blues and the Boyz N Da Hood logos to his recent involvement in the Stussy World Tour (where I first heard about him). He has also designed covers for Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Dilated Peoples, Gang Starr, Quannum Projects, Blackalicioius, covers for Tokion magazine as well as being part of the Ego Trip collective and holding numerous art shows. With so many crap covers out there in the hip hop corner of record stores, there are the few like Brent who are holding it down.

Brent Rollins Work
Works by Brent Rollins

I post this particular cover because it worked for me when I first saw it. I was drawn in with the YoYoYo’s and wanted to find out more about the group. The detail and style of the type and the low key black/gold tone with the cut and paste imagery made me pay attention to it. Noticing the hip hop references made me wonder what kind of sound it would be. Being curious, I tracked down Brent who was generous enough to provide in-depth insight into the story behind the cover and the design process which I will post here in full.

Brent: “There was another cover created for it by someone else. i think Darko from the group did it. (The type treatment for that cover ended up on a tee shirt). The label didn’t feel that the original cover was iconic enough, or inspire enough curiousity at first sight, so it was scrapped. They brought up the Sex Pistols “Never Mind the Bollocks” cover. Not so much to be a source of direct inspiration, but because of that cover’s cultural relevance. The idea of the album heralding a voice for a new generation, and being so complete from an image standpoint. The folks at Big Dada had the marketing savvy to see Spank Rock’s “Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo…” as one of those rare generation-defining recordings. I tend to agree. The music is so fresh and different and naughty and yet naive, experimental yet accessible and that is a dream assignment.

Brent Rollins - Spank Rock cover references

Originally I wanted the color scheme of the cover to evoke Eric B and Rakim’s “Paid In Full” but at some point I took any instances of green out of the cover and left the gold and black.

Brent Rollins - Spank Rock early type only cover
Early type only cover

The fact that the title of the album is actually just endless “Yo yo yo’s…” going on to infinity made it somewhat obvious; right there the title is pretty much dictating that it’s gonna be a typographic solution. At first it was gonna be just type with a few weird elements floating in and out of the letters, but Naeem (Spank Rock) made mid-process request to include their faces on the cover. He was being kind of shy about appearing on the front, and then he came to his senses and realized how much girls he could get from having his mug on the front, so he made the executive decision! But the joy for me really was in playing with the typography and then illustrating the content of the music.

I’ll make cover art from whatever I can find… the legs and other elements are scanned from men’s magazines. I had the gold chain laying around from a previous photoshoot so I put it on my scanner. The photos of Spank Rock and Alexxx are taken by friends of theirs and given to me. The name “Spank Rock” were original letterforms I created. So things came from all kinds of disparate sources. I just had to make it all work.

Brent Rollins - Spank Rock early logo designs
Early logo and type tests

Of interest to designer and design geeks, the most challenging part was creating the plate for the fifth color. The cover is actually 4 color process with gold ink added. And the gold ink is sort of duotoned over cmyk gold color. The ink is integrated into the gradations and subtle shades of the images. That’s not easy to create, even via computer. In fact, it was a pain in the ass. If the metallic coverage was only in solid areas, it would’ve been 10x easier. But of course I took the difficult route.

That’s about it I guess. There was that one time when I was wrestling an alligator while trying to proofread the liner notes, but that’s more of post production issue. It was a really big alligator though.”

On a separate Spank Rock note, Devlin & Darko (DJs from Spank Rock) have released a remix of their FabricLive 33 mix titled FabricDead 33.3 revealing their design nerdery for vintage print presses. They even have a video of them having fun with a heat gun sealing the cds, check the site.

Devlin & Darko - FabricDead 33.3

“The packaging was printed on a 1969 Vandercook Universal III proof press and have been individually numbered on a treadle powered Chandler & Price platen press, made in 1886. Limited to only a thousand copies, this one-time release was printed on 100% recycled (18 pt) 4-Panel chip board sleeves and contain real glass mastered CDs. Dimensions: 5.5″ x 4.9″. Printed, hand folded, glued, assembled and shrink wrapped in-house by Daniel Morris at The Arm Letterpress in Brooklyn, NY.