In Conversation With Sajjad, The Artist Behind Burna Boy’s ‘African Giant’ Cover

August 2, 2019
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A week ago, Burna Boy released his career-best album, African Giant to much critical acclaim. Every single aspect of the project was incredibly well-thought-out, including its alluring cover art, put together by the talented New York-based artist, Sajjad.

(Photo: Sajjad)

First rediscovering his passion for creating visual art after completing a photography program in Italy, Sajjad has since broadened his artistic scope, now utilising whichever medium best allows him realise the creative visions inhabiting his mind — from photography to digital renders.

Inspired by his childhood obsession with making money, Sajjad began his work with different currencies from all around the world, in a bid to reflect how currency “[serves] as a medium of exchange to reinforce community, commonalities and global collectivism”, Sajjad tells Konbini.

It was this affinity for working with currencies, specifically his Break Bread currency collage series, that formed the basis of Burna Boy’s African Giant cover art. And given how his work so accurately visualises Burna Boy’s African Giant imaginations, we had to chat with the multi-disciplinary artist.

Konbini: How was it working with Burna Boy on this project?

Sajjad: It was great. His team and I collaborated constantly to make sure our ideas were authentic to his message and story.

Describe the process of making the African Giant cover art?

The process started with the theme and messaging. I believe great art is about storytelling and ideas. We began by conceptualising a culturally relevant idea that also related to the song and album theme. The theme was then developed into a collage-like scene. Next, the scene was etched in the currency style and dropped into a bill template we developed.

Were you given the chance to hear the album before beginning with the artwork? If so, how did it inspire you?

Yes, I had snippets of the album, which heavily influenced the themes going on in the currency. Burna balances making songs that knock in the club but also songs of freedom. 

You have done a lot of work with notes, how come you are so drawn to currencies?

It really just comes from being raised as a kid in NYC. We were always so focused on getting money. One of my childhood friends pointed out to me the other day that it’s ironic that I’m making money off of made-up money.

What has been your favourite project to work on?

I would say the work I do recontextualising vintage black ads. Some of those vintage ads are derogatory and it’s great to just flip them into something positive. You can find these on my Instagram.

What has been your career high, so far? 

The Burna project is definitely a career-high, but there are other smaller projects I’ve done working with local communities in NYC that I’m just as grateful for.

What’s next for you, Sajjad? 

Currently, I’m interested in doing some commercial work with the new movement and design studio I founded, called STOP1. It’s all about embracing inner-city, specifically, NYC themes and elevating them in places and spaces they’ve yet to be seen.

For example, we collaborated with 8thflr to create a sculpture of an NYC Icebox to talk about immigration custom enforcement. You can find out more here.

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