FIRST NAME GETSUM, LAST NAME BUSINESS: Who the F*ck is Brandon Thompson?

May 18, 2019

Niggas frown when you up and smile when you down. And when you change for the better, shife fools stop comin’ around. – Pimp C

You know when someone has this genuine flare as a person, it flows into every work of art that they produce. Brandon Thompson, better known as @Brndnthmpsn on Instagram is exactly that type of person. From the golds that he wears in his mouth to his art, there’s nothing but genuine vibes, unadulterated narratives and Unapologetic Blackness. What a beautiful thing.

Being an artist, there is a certain freedom that you have to reflect what you want. In that freedom, you’re also able to take on whatever role you want. Historian. Psychologist. Teacher. The options are boundless. In Brandon’s works, his juxtaposition of History and Now, allows us to see the very light and freedom that a Huey Newton or even a Pimp C had is inside all of us. We are one.

We share the same experiences. From every little black girl getting their hair straightened and ears burnt with a hot comb on the stove to every black boy starting his waves with that orange tin can of Murray’s that he still has from 10 years ago; We all feel that.

 

His art really speaks of the beauty and the pain of even the smallest crevices in the Black experience especially that of the South. There are many misconceptions that people have of the south especially about the black people that live there. But he reminds us  of the resilience and strength that it took to sustain a lineage from Slavery to now as a black person in the South. And he does it in such an effortless, light hearted way. He makes you proud to be from the hood and if you didn’t grow up there, you unravel the beauty in it when the media tells us to do otherwise.  He doesn’t make it super complex to understand either. It’s all just fucking great. Meet the artist himself.

1. Tell me about your childhood, how/where you grew up and what/who influenced who you are and your art?

Spent most of my life in Cedar Hill, TX. It’s a little suburb outside of Dallas; pretty reserved kid probably would not talk to you if you didn’t talk to me first. My early life I grew up in the typical black southern baptist church. Spent most of my time playing basketball with the neighborhood kids. I drew a little bit like my favorite basketball players, rappers, and like Dragon Ball Z characters like any other kid until we got a computer and internet; where I got introduced to like graphic design. Most of my influences come from my family, from the city or when I would go to East Texas with my Dad to see my family out there and my friends I grew up with. I grew up with an older sister, seven years older than me. So I got into like clothes and hip hop music through her. We used to watch Flava TV (local show that played hip hop videos and local acts) Rap City, 106 and Park when we got cable.

Also influenced by my uncle for style and interest like southern hip hop, screw music and remember wanting to be clean like he was. A lot of my inspiration comes from just what I see on the daily, the people, the neighborhood and just the environment of the south. It’s spacious, quiet, a lot of grass, things just a lot slower. I’m also big into history, especially really old kinda obscure stuff. So I paint some of my favorite historical figures or based things from like folklore, some poems, and stories from the bible.

2. I know you started painting within the last couple of years. What prompted you to start and why painting?

Yeah pretty much I went to school for graphic design and while attending I found graphic design to be pretty freaking boring. Just doing like flyers and making client’s dream come true kinda bloooooowwwwwssss. And I really just like to do my own thing without anybody’s input because who needs em. Then as an elective I chose painting. (I’ve painted before but nothing crazy just little stuff) While taking the class I found that I kinda digged it and just kept at. Then I just wanted stuff on my wall because nothing I could have bought wasn’t exactly what I wanted so I just created my own vision.

3. “The South Got something to say” what significance does this phrase have to you?

(Even though Pimp C said ATL wasn’t the south)

To me that just goes back to people thinking folks from the south is just slower or dumber than the average. So I think a lot people down here got a little chip on they shoulder especially when they out of town and might gotta deal with someone assuming they don’t know nothing. Like when southern rappers were first getting national attention, a lot folks wasn’t accepting them and what not but now every rap song gotta southern influence on it. When Texas rappers was coming out, they was clownin’ em for the Drank and now all these lil rappers think they the damn Barre Baby or something. Or people just look over the south in general. For the most part plenty of the east coast cities and Chicago, LA, Oakland, Detroit are normally what I see when people show the “black experience” but never coming from a southern perspective, (other than Atlanta recently but barely) where most African Americans are at. Then the south gets a bad reputation because people automatically think about the racism but probably never been no where down here, because it ain’t really like that, southern hospitality is real and you will see it. And if somebody don’t like you at least you’d know but that’s probably only in those really small towns where you have no business being there anyways.

4. You reflect your hood in your art a lot. A growing problem is the gentrification of black neighborhoods and spaces. With problems like gentrification fucking with the very culture that we cherish so much, do you see yourself reflecting on that issue through your art any time soon or have you already? How do you feel about it? Is it happening in your city? To your neighborhood?

I was pretty young when my family moved from the majority black neighborhood of Dallas. I was like in the 1st grade when we moved to Cedar Hill, and back then the city was more of a lil country town, majority white but a fairly mixed town. I was like one of the few black kids in my class. But due to gentrification and more economic stability more African Americans started to move to the southern suburbs of Dallas like Cedar Hill. My sister’s high school class picture is like majority white and my class picture, seven years later, is a bunch of niggas. So I’m really seeing a different perspective. Cedar Hill is and becoming more of a black neighborhood. There are a lot black owned business here. I mostly see people who look like me. So gentrification is taking African American areas of Dallas like Oak Cliff, West Dallas, Highland Hills, but in return due to movement to the suburbs like Cedar Hill, De Soto, Lancaster and Duncanville; these areas are starting to be where most black families are living and the culture is still thriving. But black folks been moving and creating cultures in different cities since like the Reconstruction period, we’ll be alright, where ever we at, that’s the culture.

5. If your art could fit into a classical movement which would you think it’d fit into? Or what would you call the art movement that it’d be in if you had to make up a name?

I’ve heard folks refer my style to Impressionism and that’s cool I guess. But I don’t really know. The way I paint is the way I paint. I couldn’t paint any other way if I tried. I wouldn’t even say it’s a movement. Most of this stuff just comes from me just messing around at the crib.

6. Fav album and rapper/s of all time and why? Did they have any influence on who you are as a person and maybe even your work?

Favorite album ever is probably “Ridin’ Dirty” by UGK. It’s a pretty flawless piece of art. Like it’s perfect, that ho sound like the south for real. From Pimp C’s production, him singing and his sound is just in ya face, arrogant and country, then Bun B’s voice and lyricisms just gives it a perfect balance.

Just the sound of it is perfect, it has a soul, gospel influence to it and it’s live instrumentations on the album, which a lot niggas not from down here wasn’t even doing back in 1996. It’s just pure Country Rap Tunes. Also big influence probably Curren$y, his month after month series like “Super Techmo Bowl”, Welcome to the Winners Circle” got me through high school. Also really into Big K.R.I.T., Outkast, Devin The Dude, The Hot Boy$, 8 Ball & MJG, and Z-Ro. I most definitely learned a lot of game through Jay Electronica and Ras Kass.

7. What impact would you say that you’ve had on your city through your work?

I honestly do not know and I honestly don’t care. I guess some think it’s relatable, so thats cool that people around here see themselves in it. Reason to why I started painting my own vision, I just wanted something to really relate to.

8. I love your clay sculptures. My favorite in specific, is your catfish basket recreation. I thought it was real when I first glanced at it. What was the inspiration behind it?

Bunch of people be thinking it’s real, it’s really funny. But the clay sculptures just be random stuff that come to my head, just like objects I like. I come across clay and just make stuff whenever I feel like. I never learned how to really sculpt the clay, I just have fun using my hand forming shapes and what not.

I’m going to be honest, when he first posted this on Instagram I sat there and looked at it for 15 minutes trying to figure out if it was edible. I think it’s really the fucking bread that got me. Or maybe the fries and the meat with the sauce on the paper. Truly unbelievable to me.

9. When I see your art and the cryptic yet relatable captions it makes me feel a sense of pride without literally saying #BlackPower. What do you feel when you are creating? Explain.

Thanks, that’s a great compliment. Most of my work I just try to put something that I would like so it’ll be authentically me. But for the most part, I’m just being myself. I wouldn’t say my goal is to be all black power and tryna uplift the community or anything. But if it comes out that way it’s because that’s just me, I’m black so inherently my works reflect that. Also I see too many artist just tryna force that like “woke”, black power notion or just taken the work waaaay too seriously and I’m just like “bro shut yo dumb ass up.” So which made me want to have fun with and if it comes off as like black pride, it’s just because it’s natural.

10. I appreciate your depiction of the entire black spectrum. You reach back to historical moments and figures like Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers and Black Union Soldiers while also appreciating Donk Chevys and 30 inch rims or a good dice game. Sometimes they may even be in the same painting. Why do you do this? Tell us more.

Mainly because all of that ain’t really nothing new. They played many different dice games, had different dances, did creative things with clothing, since before and during slavery. So it’s pretty much a cycle. I’ve seen too many old photos of my family and just vintage pictures of black folks from way back doing the same things and posing in the pictures the same way we do now. And that goes for everything, people think the Drank or lean some shit from like the 90’s and DJ Screw, Lil Wayne, or Future, but that’s just some old dirt road shit from like the 50’s like my grandma was on that. Same for golds, the first person I ever seen, my mom got golds in her mouth. So it’s nothing new, I just consider it all a part of my culture. I don’t think African Americans have that like solid culture foundation, so I think when people outside of the culture can misinterpret as like “ghetto” or “ratchet” but most of that shit mean a lot to us. Also people think just because somebody talk a little different with a bunch of slang or sagg they pants they don’t respect themselves as a black person or just ignorant. And it’s just like dawg, I know just as much as you and got more flavor with it.

Break down “Backyard Mississippi.”

It’s based off a song from 8-Ball’s solo project “Lost” titled “Backyard Mississippi” with Goodie Mob. It’s really about they view of the south and the culture then and now. I really like 8-Ball’s last verse where he says

“South of North America, racist with no love

Plantations turned to neighborhoods, slaves turned to thugs

The cats with all the drugs, children of the cotton pickers

Pimp niggas and the big thick gold diggers

Soul deliverers, prayin’ God deliver us

From evil serpents with the purpose to get rid of us

Throwin out the minimum, now I want the maximum

Motherfuck askin ’em, we robbin and jackin ’em

Baldhead, natty dread, braided or faded

We got separated, broke the chains and migrated

Mouth full of gold, on the porch lookin hard

Them country niggas stay in my backyard”

And I just thought that pretty much sums up the environment. Then decided to flip the Confederate flag to Pan African colors really based on the David Hammons African American Flag, just because of my southern heritage and the impact of blacks on the American South.  

12. Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve created thus far?

I like all my pieces. I can’t even choose just one, they all pretty much have different meanings and work for different things. So it’s pretty much hard to choose and I’m definitely my biggest fan and want all my works to myself. Reason why I don’t even care to sell or push my works too often.

13. Words of encouragement to young artist?

I wish I did but I don’t, I really don’t know what I’m doing. I kinda wing it as I go and if it works out it works out and if not oh well I’ma still shine. But I guess just do you, I know people say that all the time but it’s true. If people like what you doing that’s cool and if they don’t who careS they ugly ass can go play in traffic or something. The young artist probably could give me some advice.  

14. Name three not so famous fine artists that you love.

I love and really influenced by many “folk” or “outsider” artist from the south like Clementine Hunter, Sam Doyle, and James “Son Ford” Thomas they never had any traditional training from schools, all self taught and just made works just because and they’re works seems really authentic and pure.

If you want to see more of Brandon’s work follow his Instagram and check out his website   for updates. Buy some of work and merch. #SupportBlackBusiness

Author: Nave Sizon

Founder of Naveszn.com - I'm a FL native, a Howard and Columbia grad and a creator of many things. As a polymath, I do so much. I care about so many things. Naveszn.com was the perfect tool to utilize my gifts and my love for highlighting the talents and stories of black people and culture.