Local artist aims to spark new conversations about Blackness

Local emcee St. Paul Slim (aka Meyer Warren) has found a new voice through art, and he’s using it to challenge images and stereotypes often associated with African American culture.

His latest body of work, “#HysterioTypes,” features a vibrant collection of graffiti collage paintings that reimagine watermelons, pay homage to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and recreate Jaybo cartoons from the visuals to Jay Z’s song Story of O.J. (which were themselves inspired by the 19th century Sambo character).

Meyer Warren artwork paying homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat Stephenetta Harmon/MSR News

In his artist statement, Warren says, “#HysterioTypes is the redefining and redesigning of what it means to be Black in America. The show looks to manipulate the negative images and stereotypes…and flip all of those images on their collective heads.”

The images are celebrations of Blackness: striking, abstract, bold, and in-your-face. And, if you take a deeper look, you’ll find phrases and symbols worked into the designs.

“They are blessings and spells that I write in graffiti styles,” Warren told the MSR. “I bless the canvases with positivity so that I get that same energy in return.”

The former Marine-turned-rapper has always had a knack for art. Warren grew up doing graffiti and tagging buses and trains. “That’s the type of stuff I used to do as a kid,” he told the MSR at his exhibit at H. White Men’s Room in North Minneapolis.

“But, I was always drawing. I was the one making the flyers for shows and drawing characters. But, when you grow up and get older, you think you gotta put that stuff behind you.”

Warren said he started painting again in 2013. “It’s been about five years, but I kinda kept it tucked [away]. You know, that whole Erykah Badu thing: I’m sensitive about my ‘ish’. I started doing this just to be creative.”

Since then, he has held five solo art shows, been featured as an artist for the Made Here series #Represent and #Future, and was one of only 10 artists featured on the 2016 Summer Arts Discovery Series at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. Last year, after watching and experiencing Jay-Z’s 4:44 album, he was inspired to join the conversation of reshaping Black history through artistic expression.

Stephenetta Harmon/MSR News

“With the Jaybos, I said, ‘Let’s do it in a different light.’ I want to put them in gold chains. I want to put them in Dolce & Gabbana. I want to put them in all types of stuff and spark new conversations.”

He started painting pieces from the collection last year in July. He said it was also a turning point in his artistic career.

“I think for awhile, [after] I got out of the Marines, I was never in a place where I felt like I could ‘art’ how I wanted to do it. Once I got into a comfortable space, I realized I was really just standing in my own way – especially when people started buying pieces. Now, it’s like, damn, I should have been doing this a long time ago!”

At the end of the day, Warren wants to uplift the community. “I want people to walk away with light, positivity, joy, understanding, inspiration, and clarity,” he said. “And an appreciation for abstract graffiti art and me as an artist.”

He is now working on securing grants to further his craft and expand his presence in the art world. He also has a limited edition clothing line in partnership with HWMR. His next show, called #WarReady, is also in the works, set for an August debut.

To view more of Warren’s works and for more information, visit stpaulslim.com.