When you think of the most well-rounded Emcees in the entire DFW, it would be a total disservice to not mention poetic storyteller Complete of the Fort NoxHip Hop group! His single, “Play for Keeps,” which is produced by Big Hub is a reminder that the journeyman still has much to say and offer to the world, as he discusses potential realities from the pendulum swing of life.
What I enjoyed the most about, “Play for Keeps”, is the fact that Complete knows how to paint a gloomy picture, but still keep hope alive, and I think that is a great representation of his strength as a man! For instance, in the first verse he said, “They call it a game, but I don’t see it as such/ You can lose real quick just being out of touch/ It ain’t luck, life is either bad streets or blessings”. These are the type of lines I have grown to love from Complete, as he exudes the kind of wisdom you would hear from a Chinese Kung Fu grandmaster in the Han Dynasty! Stream, “Play for Keeps”, off Complete’s debut album, “My Three Cents”, below:
On today’s featured Read of the Week on Da Gas Block, Black Mysterio gives you in-depth Q&A withvisual artist also known as, “The People’s Artist”, Christopher “C. Ray Art” Rayson of Dallas, Texas. In this great piece C. Ray goes into detail about his career, life, and inspirations below.
BM = Black Mysterio
CR = C. Ray
“I’ve always had family and friends who inspired me”
Tell me a little about your beginning before art, or was art apart of your beginning?
I’ve always loved art ever since kindergarten. It’s crazy because growing up in Dallas you have sports such as Football, Basketball, and everything else. But I’ve always been about art. For example, my kindergarten teacher saved one of my first drawings ever, which was a picture of Kermit The Frog. She knew I would do something unique, because everybody was drawing with stick figures, but I had color and structure to my designs at an early age. Growing up in junior high I was always a part of the Art club, whether I was: painting or drawing, I was always a part of something. I just had love for it to never stop drawing and painting. It’s just always been ingrained in me to do it since an adolescent.
Wow, that is interesting! Although, you became an artist at an early age, did you go to college for it, or did you build upon the knowledge gained from your formative years?
I actually went to school for it at Lancaster High School, and I received a scholarship from The Art Institute of Dallas, where I received my degree in Business Communication. I was taught to do CD covers, corporate layouts for magazines. Many people don’t know I’m still working a full-time job, and doing my art. Turning my part time into a full time one step at a time, since I give 8hrs to my day job, and 8hrs to my Art.
I went to school but a lot of things I use now, as far as my art work is stuff I used before school. School was good because I learned different aspects of the game: such as business, color theory, I learned how to airbrush, and picked up other techniques. With my painting style, I’ve always been doing that on my own. I just furthered it without instructions, art history,and knowing different aspects of the Art game..
That’s great background information, that I never knew about you. I’ve only seen you winning on social media… I’m curious about, who or what were your inspirations in the beginning of your career?
I’ve always had family and friends who inspired me, even different guys I looked up to that were in my art classes that were just dope! I’ve been around people of different nationalities, friends in the Philippines who draw a certain way, and I could soak up game from them. I find inspiration from life, family, and friends. And I have guys like: Ernie Barnes who has done all the great works for things like Good Times, I have a few guys that I look towards like Kevin A. Williams (AKA W.A.K.), Who is a very established artist who does a lot of contemporary and fine arts dealing with Black culture. I feed off of Sports, or anything that’s my interest, and that’s what I do with my art.
“I’ve never even worried about the money. I’ve kinda coined a phrase as, “The People’s Artist””
Yes, I’ve noticed that a lot even from the different celebrity figures, whether they were activist, actors, athletes, artist, and musicians. I find that really cool!
And what’s crazy about my art is there really isn’t a blueprint on being a successful artist. I’ve never been a traditional artist in the regard of my biggest goals being to get pieces in museums, or sell pieces for millions of dollars. I’ve kinda coined a phrase as, “The People’s Artist”, It started from me creating pieces for people in the community. And, that further translated into me completing pieces of art work quickly, versus majority people taking weeks to complete pieces. For example, on average I take 24-48 hrs for a piece, I trained myself to know when I’m done with a painting… I just follow my lane, and the style that I have has grown to a point now where people like you can say, “Wow man I really like your style”, when they see a Black & White piece. So, I never try to mimic other people’s style. I’ve had people say to me, “Can you give me something like this guy”… But, I want to keep my work C. Ray! I want people to know when they see it, that it’s a C. Ray Art piece.
I enjoy a lot of pieces of yours! And, you know I think the way you present your work is authentic. What are some of your favorite pieces?
You know the piece I did for Martin Lawrence is always going to be one of the top, I love Martin Lawrence. One day I was focused on completing a “Martin” piece from the episode where Martins CD player got stolen and he was interrogating all of his friends with the stuffed Rottweiler around the table. So, I did the picture and what’s crazy is… You have to move on God’s time! I did the painting and people liked it and tagged Martin, but a year went by and I was wondering would he ever see it… You know these guys are so busy and never see stuff sometimes, but a year later Martin messaged me on Instagram about how he loved the piece, and I said, “Man I did this a year ago”, he reposted it and asked, “How much you want for it?”, I told him, “Hey man it’s an honor, the piece is yours, it’s just an honor you have it”. You know somethings fall in your lap… And, my whole thing is to get a lot of trust from people. For instance, it has to be about confidentiality when you’re dealing with celebrities… they’re regular people.
One of my biggest things, I tell artists is you have to be patient and it can’t be about, “I want to meet this person”. If you really love your art, sometimes all you need to have is blind faith. For example, with Martin he gave me one of his publicist contacts, therefore, I had to maintain faith and send the piece. Martin followed up when he received the piece, and sent me a video saying he loves the painting, and the only artists work he has in his house is mine… And this is coming from a guy like Martin Lawrence who I would think has a lot of art work in his house!
As far as my other favorite pieces, God has led me to do a lot pieces dealing with death. For example, Andre Emmett was just killed here in Dallas, he was a former NBA & Texas Tech basketball standout. Usually when I do a memorial piece like that 9/10, I receive a call from the family asking for the piece. I give it to them, because my gift is to bless them! I don’t look for big paychecks, but by all means God has blessed my life in many other ways with opportunities. In addition, the piece I did of Botham Jean is one of my favorites. He was the big historical case in Dallas last year, his family latched onto the piece I made, and that was special. One of my pieces were auctioned off at his Memorial Gala for $8,000 with a purchase from Cynthia Marshall, the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. The proceeds went to his foundation. I’m making history, not even trying, but by doing right with what’s in my heart and my gift. I reflect on the Art I’ve created, the people I have met, and it is an absolute blessing!
“I’m making history, not even trying, but by doing right with what’s in my heart and my gift”
Wow, tapping into the Almighty power Mr.C Ray! I think it’s great to hear you express so much gratitude, I think that’s something that’s really lost these days, especially with people lacking in principles and integrity. It’s refreshing to hear an artist speak with that kind of warmth. So, at this point in time I ask, why are you an artist?
I’m an artist because I know it’s my purpose! Some people go through their life trying to figure out: what their purpose is, what’s their gift, and why are they here. I don’t have to ask that question anymore, because when I create a piece I do it so fast. Sometimes I come home tired from work, an idea will hit me and I have to thrust it outward. Therefore, my choices are slim, for example, I can call it a day and go to bed, or I can stay up to create a piece that might test the world… Usually it’s the latter choice. Whatever the piece is, I’ll stay up 9-10hrs to finish it, and wake up at 6am off of 3-4hrs of sleep. However, I know I’m doing what my purpose is, because God is constantly showing me when I do things like that it’s opening doors in other aspects of my life. That is why I make art, art is life for me!
Wow, and that is why you’re so amazing, you exude master level focus, with a high level of creativity, making you a clear cut winner! So, within this journey, what is next for you?
My goal is to help as many artists as I can. At first, I wanted to have my own gallery, but then I started thinking on a bigger scale. I know a lot of artists from all throughout the world, and I’ve been able to meet and do a bunch of great things, because I’m not a crab in a barrel. Many people think it’s one big secret once you have success, however, it’s all about giving back! What I want to do is create a school that receives government funding: so I can have summer classes for kids and adults, and create a platform where artists can have art shows/gallery’s. That’s something to give back to the community, the kids, and the culture of art.
I want to leave a legacy of Art that can still grow within the new era. It’s all about putting the right pieces together, there’s people who are business minded that have business degrees. On the flip side, a lot of artists just have raw talent, but don’t know about the business. It’s many people that I know who write grants that I have been in talks with. God has put the right people in my lane and I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, and He will connect the rest!
If you could give a struggling artist some real advice right now, what would you tell them?
Never give up, have faith in your work, don’t take No for an answer, follow your heart, you can’t please everyone in this world. However, if you can realize something you don’t like is the same thing somebody else will love, then you are a step closer to being a success. You know, I’ve tried to do art alone as a full-time artist for 2 years and it was such a struggle. The thing about art is it’s an acquired taste. People love art, but there’s only a certain amount of people that will value your art to pay you what you’re worth, and it’s hard to make a living on it without a part time or another job. So, it’s easy to write stuff off like, “Damn, this didn’t work at all”. Therefore, always make art whether or not you keep a job, always do what your gift is, and it’s going to pay off in the long run, there is no blueprint to this, it’s just about hard work and consistency.
Queen B (Beyoncé) by C. Ray
Blu Ivy by C. Ray
“It may not be a million dollars in the bank, but if you touch millions, that’s better than a million dollars in the bank to me”.
Do you have a final statement you would like to leave?
Yes, for artist to try to leave their mark in this world! Don’t get caught up in social media, cause social media is just that… a social media. Many people are unhappy, and it’s easy to put out there what you think people want to see. Life is hard, you’re going to have difficulties. But, the main thing is to do what you love,find your passion, never give up on your passion, and put God first! It’s never about you, always give it up to God, and you’ll be a success one way or another. It may not be a million dollars in the bank, but if you touch millions, that’s better than a million dollars in the bank to me.
Sweet, I appreciate you for your time on this great interview! I think people will be able to take some positive things from this, and gain value for themselves during the process.
When people tell me that “Hip Hop is Dead“, I reply, “Dead, where you’re looking at”. We are in the year 2020, and more diverse styles of Hip Hop artist are emerging.
Therefore, today I have compiled a list of 6 Unique Hip Hop artist that I am looking forward to see progress in 2020.
Social media: @aliza1k
San Antonio Stand out Aliza1k has been building a solid name in the Texas underground music scene with Grimey lyrical onslaughts over thunderous 808 driven anthems. The 21 year old artist is coming off the release of her critically acclaimed, “PRESSURE”, project back in October of 2019. I look forward to seeing Aliza1k evolve more artistically in 2020, in regards to subject matter & production. Stream her latest project, “PRESSURE”, below:
Filling the position of the fifth pick on this list is none other than BTG Records standout KB YUNG HUSTLE. Originally from Miami now residing in NY, KB Yung Hustle is the definition of a skilled emcee. I knew he was special after my friends at Ablaze Radio contacted me about his bubbling record, “NOD YA HEAD”, and this dope record he premiered on Ablaze Radio titled, “Believe”. The former Stones Throw signee, has received the nod of approval from many respected in the industry including legendary Detroit emcee, Royce da 5’9. Stream his fire track, “NOD YA HEAD”, below:
Social Media: @scuttinoblues (Twitter) & @latexvell (Instagram)
Hailing out of Oak Cliff, Texas, Hip Hop artist Scuttino brings the warmness, poetic grace, vibe & aesthetic of a Billboard Hot 100 artist. I stumbled across Scuttino after watching him perform in Dallas back in 2019. When I tell you that Scuttino has the makings of the next modern day DFW star, I am not lying. Just listen to his standout tracks: “Wake Up”, “Beautiful Day” & “No Contact”. Then you can tell me how you feel! I look forward to seeing Scuttino blossom in this game. Stream his latest project “KID TAPE” below:
Social Media: @jiggsthegreat (Twitter) & @john_jiggs (Instagram)
Long Island, New York standout John Jigg$ is Bar for Bar, one of my favorite emcees to come out of New York within the past 10 years. The level of consistency from Jigg$ is unmatched on this list, with a discography that has gained him an international fan base, and sent him on many tours. Jigg$ is the journeyman on this list of artist, and 2020 should be another year of Consistency from Jigg$. He recently performed at the Amway arena also known as the home of the Orlando Magic, Jigg$ continues building momentum each time I see him. Some of his standout records are “Everyday”, “Nights Like This” & “Revolvers”.Stream John Jigg$ Latest record “Self Made” below:
Self Made by John Jiggs
2. Lex Lu
Social Media: @lexluofficial
When you talk about what it means to have the “IT” factor, you have to mention Lex Lu of Los Angeles. The Four season 1 alumni, has shown she can entertain a crowd of any size. To watch an artist deliver cool rhymes, sing, and have amazing choreography to go with it, says a lot about how much of a great artist that Lex Lu really is. Some of her standout records for me are: “So Far”, “Kill Bill”, “Twerk”, “All In” & “Money”. Checkout Lex Lu content & music starting with “All In”:
ATL Hip Hop artist Jaye Newton is the kind of artist that understands how to effectively convey true emotion in his music, the way he paints a picture with his lyrics is very special, I haven’t seen a young artist so mature as Jaye Newton in such a long time. I enjoyed the theme, flow, production, and arrangement of his 2017 album, “Real Men Wear Pink”. In addition, to that project Newton has built a name for being one of ATLs hottest young performers. I look forward to watching Jaye Newton reach new heights in 2020. Stream his latest album “Just Pray for Me” below:
So, again to revisit my opening statement, when people say “Hip Hop is Dead”, that means they aren’t looking hard enough (No shade)! They can start by looking through the discographies of the six talented acts mentioned above, and sharing their music to someone who they think will enjoy their music!