Mysterious, controversial advertisements for the MTV Video Music Awards have gone up in Brooklyn, which the MTV communications department denies being involved in. The ads show loose line drawings of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman with the accompanying Kanye West "New Slaves" lyrics, "He'd rather be a dick than a swallower." The creator even went so far as to include the new VMA logo featuring KAWS' Companion figure and two symmetrically-aligned #VMA hashtags.
Similar to the fake concert posters that street artist André Saraiva put up in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris in June, these are causing a bit of controversy, whether or not MTV actually has anything to do with them. The text is Sans Serif and slightly resembles some of Curtis Kulig's non-cursive "Love Me" tags in NYC. If nothing else, these posters blatantly connect the Trayvon verdict, Kanye West's lyrics depicting contemporary racism, and the VMAs (where Kanye is said to be performing "Black Skinhead" on August 25). It's possible, both visually and conceptually, that the posters can be attributed to Kanye West and his creative agency, DONDA.
After all, DONDA enlisted Jim Joe, minimalist (and secretive) illustrator and street artist, to design the iTunes artwork for Yeezus. He gets shouted out on DONDA creative director Virgil Abloh's Instagram frequently in the context of "2 a.m. creative conversations" and as "the next important artist of our time." The #VMA #VMA callouts also aren't totally dissimilar from the double-hashtagged #BEEN #TRILL slogan and collective that Abloh co-founded.
In May, Kanye and DONDA executed an impressive street poster campaign that called fans to action with the words "Please Add Graffiti." It even got its own YeezyGraffiti.com website to compile all the pieces fans creatively interpreted on and offline. Of course, DONDA also projected and premiered the song "New Slaves" onto buildings all over the world for multiple weekends in a row, so a pre-VMA viral street poster campaign is actually pretty believable.
Funny enough, in January 2012, Kanye tweeted that he and DONDA would like to design the MTV awards. The posters could easily foreshadow Kanye's performance, even if he's said to be performing "Black Skinhead" at this year's VMAs and not "New Slaves." Performing either song in the context of the devastating Trayvon Martin verdict would be a powerful statement.
Whether or not we every learn who made these posters (we still don't know who's behind the Ai Weiwei "Where Is My Passport" street art, for example), it's obvious that they've juxtaposed the Trayvon verdict, "New Slaves," and the VMAs in a very meaningful way. DONDA and Jim Joe could be behind this, and if it's to foreshadow the kind of groundbreaking performance we expect from Kanye at the VMAs, even better. We'll see how this all unfolds.