By the aught 2000's, Hip-Hop had made yet another shift in the paradigm of popular culture by becoming a billion dollar business. Seemingly, long gone were the days of social commentary, political relevance and literary substance. The now iconic 1990's, were officially over. The Hip-Hop fashion brand bubble, and the ringtone craze fad, both viable substitutes for declining records sales at the time, would soon be severely oversaturated. Because of declining sales, traditional record labels were scrambling to find other sources of revenue. Meanwhile, a handful of independent music moguls were continuing to take over the Hip-Hop landscape with an intelligence, style and focus all their own. Although this shift may not have been appreciated by some "purists" of Hip-Hop culture, the facts could not be denied that the Bill Clinton era had come to an end, the soul of R+B music was losing its way, and Big Business was probably trying to climb into bed with your favourite emcee.
In 2000, I was working in the corporate world as a digital designer, living in a studio apartment in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, DC. A transplant from New York, I made my way into the then small-yet-burgeoning DC Hip-Hop scene, deejaying, recording and performing some indie records for fun around town. I was also making album art and promo flyers for many local DMV artists, shows and events. That same year, thanks good friends who co-owned a local record store called "DJ Hut", I started making promo art for DMC/Technics. I created digital illustrations for flyers and posters for annual DJ competitions in the DC area, and went on to do so for the next five years.
Inspired by the times, and after some time sketching and researching spiritual and religious art, my goal was to create an image that sanctified Hip-Hop culture, but did not objectify any specific religion in doing so. I sketched out a few versions before finishing the image I called "The Shiva of The 5 Elements of Hip-Hop". When it first appeared on the promotional flyer for the 2000 DMC/Technics Mid-Atlantic Turntable Battle, the public response was positive. I felt like I had visually and symbolically sanctified Hip-Hop Culture.
I chose the name "Shiva" because it not only has a spiritual context, but also has many meanings in different languages, cultures and religions. "God" was too strong of a word, even with a lowercase "g". Ultimately, what attracted me to the word "Shiva" was that, in Hinduism, it could mean "auspicious", "pure", "kind" or "benevolent. In Judaism, Shiva means a period of mourning. At the time I created "The Shiva of The 5 Elements of Hip-Hop", I felt like Hip-Hop itself was in a mourning period. The Culture had consecutively lost several of its greats due to murder or illness, many of its pioneers were MIA, and something called the internet was making it a lot easier for anybody to get put on.
Since its creation in 2000, The "Shiva of The 5 Elements of Hip-Hop" has changed with the times while still remaining relevant to Hip-Hop Culture's past, present and future. Thanks to those who support, respect and appreciate its symbolism via Social Media, "The Shiva of The 5 Elements of Hip-Hop" has become the most recognized image in the world symbolizing the sanctity of Hip-Hop Culture.
There are so many examples of how The Culture can save lives and brings people together. It allows us to go inward to find our own sense of self, and then express that sense of self creatively to the world. It gives us an outlet. In its essence, there are rules, pillars and do's and don'ts to Hip-Hop Culture. To me, that's religion. That's spirituality. And, that essence needed sanctuary. It needed protection. Someone or something needed to bring it to a spiritual level to protect from complete and total corruption and/or destruction. That's how I feel about Hip-Hop. That's what inspired "The Shiva of The 5 Elements of Hip-Hop", and now, the Shiva Five brand.
Hip-Hop Culture has empowered so many people around the world. It gives us a means to express ourselves along with other like-minded people who maybe would not connect to each other through other belief systems. Hip-Hop Culture has no boundaries of ethnicity, religion, geography, class or gender. I consider that sacred, and something that needs to be appreciated, protected and held in high regard.