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Cey Adams: Shaping hip-hop’s visual identity

Cey Adams: Shaping hip-hop’s visual identity

"Hip-Hop Identity"

Cey Adams, a hallmark figure in developing the aesthetic of hip-hop visual culture, has shaped the industry’s visual identity from the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s. His work is not limited to album cover designs but extends to marketing campaigns, posters, and merchandise for notable artists such as Biggie, Run-D.M.C., Jay-Z, and Mary J. Blige.

Originating as a street artist in Brooklyn, Adams’ career soared when he began creating logos and cover designs for Beastie Boys leading to a meeting with Russell Simmons from Rush Artist Management. His collaborations expanded to notable artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Kurtis Blow, Run-D.M.C., and giving him a reputation as a versatile artist.

Further in his career, Adams became a crucial creative force at Def Jam Records, co-founded by Simmons and Rick Rubin. Adams credits his success to the rich art culture of New York and his collaboration with a range of artists from early hip-hop pioneers to industry leaders like Mary J.

Cey Adams: Crafting hip-hop’s aesthetic culture


Also venturing into commercial collaborations, Adams worked with major corporations such as Mattel, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Apple. His most recent works are displayed at the Gary Lichtenstein Editions gallery within MASS MoCA until June 14, and a retrospective of his career began in 2022 at Boston University’s Stone Gallery.

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Highlighted in the “Silkscreen Prints and Multiples” exhibit at MASS MoCA, Adams’ art stood with pieces by fellow artists, notably Gary Lichtenstein. Adams credits collaboration with artists like Lichtenstein in fueling his creative process.

Adams likens his career to the rhythm of a band, alternating between solo projects and collaborative works. He believes this pattern encourages continuous creativity in his contributions, particularly in art and hip-hop.

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