B4XVI remixes rappers with pre-16th century art

A new Tumblr traces the mysterious parallels between hip-hop stars and medieval art

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Left- Detail of The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence oi
Left: Detail of The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, oil on wood, by Masters of the Acts of Mercy (Austrian, Salzburg, c. 1465). Right: ASAP Ferg b4-16.tumblr.com

The tumblr B4XVI confirms what we already knew: rappers are immortal. No–one can be that confident without having eternal life on their side, right? New York-based art director Cecilia Azcarate describes her ongoing Tumblr project with Ferdinando Verderi as "highlighting an invisible conversation between hip hop and art before the 16th century".

In translation, that means comparing rap heavyweights like Kanye and A$AP Ferg with sculptures, paintings and art pieces through the centuries. The results make for some uncanny viewing. Who knew Wiz Khalifa looked so much like one of the kings from Adoration of the Magi

According to Azcarate, it all started with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and seeing the furs, chains and gold depicted in Italian and Flemish paintings. "I got interested in the iconography of power," she says. "Is there a timeless representation of swag?"

From there, she also got into pre-Columbian art via her friend, the film director Ferdinando Verderi. "People represented in these paintings and sculptures were not there by chance," she tells us. "They were people of power, being it religious of political, or economical. Intellectuals, gods, saints, and people whose fame survived their lives. Today we call them celebrities." 

For Azcarate and Verderi, rappers held an allure way above politicians or rock stars. "Hip–hop is not afraid of showing pride for its own power, and to translate that into an aesthetic of regality which is beautiful and timeless. You won't find this in rockstar nor in politicians."

Have you ever noticed that Dre looks like one of your favourite pieces of Greco-Roman art, or that Kendrick has a real Byzantine quality? Send your images to Cecilia on Twitter - her handle is @ceciliaazcarate.

Virgin and Child Enthroned with Scenes
The painting that inspired B4XVI: Virgin and Child Enthroned with Scenes from the Life of the Virgin Morata Master (Spanish, Aragonese, late 15th century) b4-16.tumblr.com
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