EGODEATH: a story about seeking purpose, overstimulation and mumble rap
Alexander Hellebaut, a young animator, illustrator, graphic designer and street artist from Ghent, just finished his bachelor animation movie for Luca School of Arts, named EGODEATH: a story about fame, commodity, extentialism and mumble rap.
Alexander clearly has a message for the world, although he doesn't like to present it to you on a golden platter. The young Ghentian wants to reach out to all artists within this commodified art world, and warn them about the many traps the industry has layed out for them. Art should be the externalisation of thoughts from the one to the many in form of a dialogue. But nowadays we see that art as a whole has become increasingly more commodified. Art shouldn't be commercialised so much.
EGODEATH attempts to look for answers, not by pointing the finger, but by means of plain observation, a creative use of the hip-hop genre as a metaphor and a strong dose of being 'down-to-earth'. This animation tells us about the transformation of hip-hop in today’s world, from voice of the underdog to the sensational rollercoaster it is today. In recent years we’ve seen the rebellious image of hip-hop turn into a profitable and marketable concept. As a result, the mainstream urban music industry is making millions off the back of a once revolutionary genre.
EGODEATH is critical towards modern, and commercialised hip-hop and creativity in general. How did you come up with this idea?
Remember that moment when radio stations practically used to play Pharell Williams' 'Happy' on repeat? It got me thinking. How would it feel as a creative to be constantly confronted with your own metamorphosis from artist to commodity? It seems to me that fame is a harmful side effect of creativity where the artist himself becomes the product.
Why did you use mumble rap a metaphor?
I enjoy mumble rappers like Future and Migos as much as the next person, but what I find troublesome is this form of “guilty pleasure rap” that is dominating the urban culture and kids are going crazy over it. It has become the culmination of our commercialised society. You can’t ignore the influence it’s having on our culture as a whole, it’s creating this creative laziness.
The content doesn’t seem to matter anymore, the only thing that counts is a solid beat and a decent flow. It seems to work because it’s as easily digestible as it is forgettable. It’s the musical equivalent of fastfood really. Chances are you’ll still be hungry after indulging into this type of rap, combined with an emotional hangover consisting out of shame and disgust. (Laughter)
Why a clown?
The clown represents the mainstream and the cartoonesk imagery within modern hip-hop, the fact that it's not about the content anymore, but about the ridiculousness of its appeal. The clown’s sole purpose is entertainment, anything he would say or do is part of his role as an entertainer. He creates this façade you can’t look past, just like modern rappers.
All modern rappers?
Ofcourse not! Look at rappers like Kendrick Lamar, who uses his voice and creativity to invest in his roots and the old area he grew up in. You'll always have this counter evolution within music. It hasn't been a one-sided evolution towards this meaningless style of rapping. It’s just that a more conscious style of rap isn’t represented enough in the mainstream, it’s always been this way.
An example, for instance, was the difference in airplay between ‘Public Enemy' and 'LL COOL J' back in the early nineties. Public Enemy, although widely famous at that time, was way too anti-establishment to get airplay on a mainstream radiostation. LL COOL J on the other hand rapped about love and sex, safe topics to get a lot of attention from the mainstream. The medium is the message. If your message is "Fight the power", you're not going to get played. Radio and political influence goes way back.
So EGODEATH is your Bachelor movie. Had you already been playing with this idea of a critical analysis on fame and hip-hop during your forming as an animator?
First of all, before I started studying animation I made hip-hop inspired stickers and started establishing my name as a street artist and illustrator under my pseudonym of Yung Sandwich. Like most artists I wanted people too see my work, I wanted confirmation from my peers that I was making great stuff. I started putting my stickers and other artwork on Instagram to get more exposure.
Soon after this I started experiencing social media as a reference for my creative succes. I felt myself grow more and more hostile and jealous towards other creatives in my sector, mainly based on the amount of likes. It became a personal competition and started to feed my ego in a way I never experienced before in a search for fame.
The decision to move on to animation was based on the idea that animation is mainly a team effort with no room for egocentrism. So to a greater extent my movie is also a reflection of my own role as an entertainer and an attempt to kill off my ego, hence the name EGODEATH.
Now that your bachelor movie is finished, what can we expect from you in the future?
Right now I’m living and working in London for Golden Wolf, an animation company working for names like Nike, NBA, Disney, Adult Swim and Marvel. I feel very grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. At the same time I’m still planning on making my own stuff, so keep an eye out! Stay humble.
Keep up to date with Alexander Hellebaut on his website and Instagram.