In a world where, unfortunately, art has become fast food for soul, we cannot but rejoice when we stumble upon artistic projects that lead to deeper conversations. It is the case with the unexpected collaboration between rapper Sadistik and painter Michael Hussar.
The pair worked together on the cover of the musician’s latest album, Altars, released by rock label Equal Vision Records in April 2017. The link between the two artists is their weakness for religious criticism, as well as their individual dark universe. The acclaimed painter has created an oil painting portrait of the rapper, inspired by his already Christic appearance. The thought provoking imagery between exorcism and provocation fits both aesthetics of Hussar and the music of Sadistik. The influence of the Californian master doesn’t stop to the artwork. Indeed, we can feel his gothic vibes in the videos directed for the songs of Altars, which are all connected. The song Free Spirit embraces the David Lynch-esque grotesque, burlesque phantasmagoria of Hussar for its freaky creatures and hues. The painter even makes a guest appearance in it.
Listen to Altars on Bandcamp.
Sadistik’s new video (premiered in this article) moves away from the artwork and allows us to get deeper in the musical ambiance of the album. God Complex perfectly illustrates the atmospheric and cynical spirit of Altars, and is one of the eerie bangers of the album, with Free Spirits and Sacrifice. If the rejects of gods and religion is at the heart of the speech, many other nerve-racking allegories are used, such as insects, drugs and science, to express the struggles of the musician with freedom, fame and fear of death. In the God Complex video, a mischievous tattooed nun sees him buried alive after carrying his own coffin.
Altars makes several references to art, from literature (Goethe, Stephen King, Poe) to cinema (Salo, Bergman) and, of course, fine arts (Dali, MC Escher). None of them is incongruous in the educated lyrics of Sadistik, veined with carefully crafted alliterations that are symptomatic of his signature flow. In the album, the latter is even more incisive, teamed with spooky beats and gorgeous instrumentation (especially on track Kaleidoscope). Throughout the album, powerful hooks are calling out listeners on contemporary society and driving them deeper in the artistic mind of Sadistik. Many rap experts are considering Altars as the best release of Cody Foster (the real name of the rapper) so far. His goal was to make a significant work of art, and seems that he achieved it.
Beautiful Bizarre Magazine had the privilege to talk with Sadistik and Michael Hussar about the permeability of arts and the importance to craft durable masterpieces for the sake of contemporary culture.
How did you meet each other and how do your creative universes collide/merge?
Sadistik: I initially reached out to Michael about doing the artwork for Altars in an email. However, we actually met in person a few years ago while I was on tour in LA. I initially sent him a few of the demos from Altars from which we had some initial conversations about the themes of the album. I think Michael was in Italy around that time, but he came up with the concept for the cover and I immediately loved it from the first sketch he showed me. From there we went to our respective dungeons and kept working on our projects for the next year-and-a-half. It was very interesting to see the artwork grow as I finished writing the record.
Drawing by Michael Hussar
Michael Hussar, what did you keep in mind about Sadistik when creating the artwork for his album?
MH: I wanted to focus on the darkness and pain that threads its way throughout Sadistik’s work. I knew this would be about capturing that weight and atmosphere. As a painter I wanted to not only create a potent image that would both capture his likeness physically, but more importantly define Altars musically and creatively. I don’t think his fan base would have accepted any other cover for this album. For this body of work. At this point in his career.
Painting by Michael Hussar
How does the music of Sadistik/Altars fit in your artistic evolution and do you share any parallels with your respective crafts?
MH: Emotionally I can relate to it in so many ways. It’s really an extension of what I’m already doing. It parallels seamlessly, so it fits very well. Although I know little or nothing about how to compose or produce music. I’m never surprised anymore to hear the echo of artistic processes that runs though creating, regardless of the medium or craft. Between booze, chemicals, and chasing tail, one sets to work starting with nothing and shaping it into a fully realized idea whether sonically or as an object. It’s magic. One less obvious parallel, I suppose, is that even as a painter my work starts with words. Typically just a title supported by an extended phrase or phrases. I find that lyrical type passages help drive the idea or concept of a piece. Words give support to a vision before I develop it into a full-blown oil painting. If anyone in the future scans below the surfaces of my paintings, they’ll find underneath the oil these passages and be able to read my mangled thoughts.
Painting by Michael Hussar
About how long did it take you to complete the artwork for Altars?
MH: It was a long journey but that’s not unusual with most of my work. All in all I think the process spanned a couple of years.
You’ve never worked with any other musicians until this project. What about it inspired you to collaborate?
MH: I’ve had opportunities in the past but never saw the fit or the timing wasn’t right. I think with Sadistik, I connected with his sense of isolation and coping with loss. I could relate to the difficulty in navigating a deeply rooted darkness and the demons that lurk within. I believe I either was on my way to Florence, Italy or was already there when we first began discussing the possibility of me doing the cover. The timing was perfect. I had cut myself loose from my responsibilities in the States. The hotel I was staying at in Florence was built over the ruins of a medieval monastery that is rumored to be haunted with the spirits of the dead monks. Thematically, Altars was going to be about idolatry, challenging organized religions and established power structures. At that point it all started to make sense so I decided I’d commit to the project and channels that energy as the voice of the painting.
NEW VIDEO from Altars: GOD COMPLEX
Sadistik, apart from music, you seem to have other types of artistic expression: you’re (co)directing videos, I can also see you have tattoos… how do they connect and tell about who you are? Also, is your unconventional appearance (for a rap musician I mean) is a part of your artistic process/independence?
SAD: Yeah, I guess I consider myself a pretty expressive person in general. I’ve written and directed a lot of my music videos; I also write poetry and hope to be involved in film in some capacity. Rap is one of the first niches of artistic expression that I really fell in love with, so naturally it was one of the first areas that I experimented in creatively. As for my appearance, I don’t really put too much thought into it. I’m a multifaceted person and artist, so contradicting people’s initial expectations of me is just business as usual.
Photo by Phil Emerson
You said that the artwork for the album was important to fight this common contemporary idea of fast-consuming music; can you develop your opinion and goals for our readers?
SAD: A lot of the lyrics in Altars are rooted in frustrations I have with the day-to-day around me, one of which being the devaluation of the things I love (music, film, art, etc). Things are speeding up to a point that it’s affecting the way these things are consumed and created, so I wanted to push against the grain and do the opposite of that. I grew tired of the microwavable aspect of our culture so I felt this album needed something as symbolic and tangibly beautiful as a painting. Michael’s work is so uniquely provocative and fearless that I knew he was perfect for this project.
Why did you think Michael Hussar was perfect for the collaboration, and how does his aesthetic fit the specific universe and state of mind behind Altars?
SAD: Michael is my favorite painter and I relate to his pieces so much that I knew he would be absolutely perfect for Altars. He was the ideal for this record. I’ve loved and followed his work long before we were met so it really was an honor for me to be able to work together.
Do you feel you have reached your apex, or do you already have more ambition and ideas for the next one?
SAD: I’ve never felt a shortage of ambition and don’t plan on discovering my apex anytime soon. I’m always growing.
Photo by Phil Emerson
Can you explain why you think that rap music (and maybe especially yours) has its place on a contemporary art magazine as any other type of art?
SAD: I think rap music is an art form as meritorious as any other. It’s such an expansive culture that really does span the gamut from low-brow to high (and everything in between), and even though I’ve dedicated myself to creating my own distinct brand of hip-hop, I can usually find a lot of value in the other styles as well. I think a genuine artist will create regardless of the medium or the challenges presented from it.
Photo by Doze Photography
Sadistik also inspires artworks from his fans on internet.
Fan art by deyloka
Fan art by shadowlander
Fan art by Michael Estrada