Artist, author, and entrepreneur Howard C. Hudson has come a long way. Originally from Chicago’s North Side, Hudson found an early love for hip-hop and graffiti artwork.
As a youngster, Hudson would go home and try to imitate the same colorful images he saw on buildings in the neighborhood. For Hudson, it didn’t matter which gang tagged the graffiti, as long as it was artwork.
Eventually, Hudson would become a graffiti artist himself, going by the name Kase 1. In the early 1980s, he started tagging trains, murals, airbrushing apparel, storefronts, and flyers. His artwork landed him in the book, “The History of American Graffiti” by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon.
Over the years, Hudson turned his artwork into a business. The T-Shirt Kings was “born out of the union of hip-hop fashion and social expression” to bring the heart, soul, and essence of the streets to apparel, according to the website.
“I enjoy the culture,” said Hudson. “All genres of hip-hop move me. Hip-hop is infused with R&B, jazz, funk, soul, dancehall, reggae, and rock n’ roll. I love it all.”
He continued, “I’ve been drawing and doing canvases for the last 30-35 years. In 2012-2013, my brother acquired a heat press machine and started making t-shirts and he soon became frustrated because he didn’t understand the business aspect.
“I purchased the machine from my brother and my creative skills kicked in. I started putting my drawings and images on t-shirts. I would draw artwork and take popular images off the internet.”
But Hudson’s path was not without stumbling blocks. He moved to Minnesota from Chicago in 1992, “fresh out of prison,” he recalled. “My children’s mother came to Minnesota beforehand and got us situated. But I came up here with the same mentality I had when I left Chicago.”
It wasn’t long before Hudson fell back into old habits. “I hooked up with some guys I knew from Chicago. Started selling drugs again, [living a] carefree lifestyle, not caring about the impact I was making on my kids and community.
“One day all that changed—something tragic happened and I was involved and went back to prison. I was younger and didn’t understand the ramifications of what I was doing. I do regret it to this day,” lamented Hudson.
While in prison, Hudson had a change of heart. “In prison, I realized that I did this to myself. If I did this to myself, I could stop this for myself. I learned a lot in prison. It changed my life and perception on life.”
Hudson wrote a few novels while locked up, “Nation Business: Sins of the Sons,” “Kick 21 Bad Habits in 21 Days,” and an outline for “99 Things I Learned in Prison.”
“It started with me journaling—that’s when I began to realize I had a voice,” said Hudson.
He was released from prison in 2009 and got a job as a taxi driver. Now he works as a driving instructor for Metro Transit.
“Today, I am a better father and leader. I have a healthy relationship with my grown kids. When I came home from prison, I promised my kids I would model what a productive man is supposed to be to his family,” said Hudson.
Hudson credits his street background with enabling him to understand how to make something out of nothing. “I was able to create nice, dope art. Stuff people like and stuff that sells. From t-shirts, I went to hats, jogging suits, etc.
“I outsource now,” he continued. “I can make it, but I want to focus on the creative side. I’m a consultant with a company called Rich Influence. I want to turn my novels into movies. I would like to write full-time. I’m still learning about the culture.”
He added, “I have knowledge of hip-hop, street, prison, and recovery culture. I want to share it with people.”
For more info about T-Shirt Kings, visit tshirtkings.biz. To find books by Howard C. Hudson, visit Amazon.com.