The release these days of a new recording by a major star is as orchestrated as a presidential campaign. While Drake’s new long-player Nothing Was the Same won’t make its commercial bow for another four weeks, as ever there’s been a steady drip-drip of songs from and information about its imminence since at least February.
The Canadian rapper/songwriter has just made public another tid-bit, namely Nothing’s cover art, which he commissioned from San Diego illustrator/painter Kadir Nelson, 39. It’s a diptych, featuring one bright, crisply rendered profile of Drake as a youngster facing another of the artist as an adult, each head positioned against a blue, cloud-dotted sky.
If the image’s hyper-realism looks familiar, well it’s probably because the Washington-born Nelson has been an almost ubiquitous art-world presence for the past 15-plus years. It’s Nelson who did the striking cover art for Michael, the King of Pop’s posthumous 2010 release; and whose imaginative power has been tapped by clients as varied as the U.S. Postal Service, Coca-Cola, Scholastic Books and, in the mid-nineties, TV’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
You also can find his paintings in several public collections as well as the homes of Steven Spielberg and Ice Cube, among many others.
Earlier this year, Nelson released an illustrated biography of Nelson Mandela – but clearly it’s the Drake commission that’s going to bust his move to a whole new level of fame.