March 29, 2015 nyresthepoet

Trill League

 in this installment of indieSpotLight we interview Anthony Piper, creative genius behind “Trill League”- to find out what motivates him, the basis of his characters & why he loves creating
(indieTHI3VES™)- Tell us about yourself. How long have you been creating ART?
(Anthony Piper)– I have been creating art all my life. My grandmother always reminds me of how when I was a lil’ kid, she’d have to buy paper constantly to keep me from drawing on the walls. I’ve just always been a creative entity. From drawing, designing clothes, creating keychains, airbrushing shirts and shoes….I’m just not living if I’m not creating.
(indie)- Where are you from & where are you based now?
(Ant)- I’m from the South Side of Chicago. I just recently moved to California for a position with ADHD as Lead Character Designer for Season 2 of Axe Cop that’ll be premiering on FXX soon.
(indie)- Tell us about the mixtape covers you’ve done…
(Ant)- When I first got on my grind doing the illustration thing, I got hit up by this cat named Kenlo Key. He was a Chicago rapper and we were friends on Facebook. He took notice of my work and decided to ask me to illustrate his “The Sleeping Giant” mixtape cover. Mind you, I didn’t know anything about illustrating mixtape/album covers, so since this was going to be an “experiment”, I decided not to charge him…that way I wasn’t on the hook if that shit didn’t come out looking good. Ha. Well he dug it, and after he dropped the tape, a lot of artists who networked with him took notice. So that began my journey into the world of mixtape/album art. That what’s kicked off my freelance career. After awhile I started to be known as that “mixtape cover guy”, since a lot of artists were hitting me either just from noticing my work or being referred to me. I’ve worked with quite a few artists though. Most of them in the Chi, but in other areas as well. I’ve worked with Clark Airlines and Bad Nuze, who is from Cali, the most. I have a lil’ over 30 covers under my belt, but I’ve kind of slowed down on the cover thing. I’ll probably get back into eventually since I really dig doing design. I like the challenge of having to create a relevant illustration based on the title of the artist’s album, while also maintaining a “look” I have created for each recording artists. The shit I do for Bad Nuze will always look different from the shit I do for Clark Airlines.
(indie)- What inspires you?
(Ant)- Real talk….just life. I’m inspired by everything. Music. People. Art. Scenery. Shit, food. Conversation. Experiences. Sex. Colors. You never know what’s going to spark something in you to just start thinking and creating.
(indie)- Are the heroes in your comics based on actual people in the hood?
(Ant)- The characters in Trill League borrow from a lot of people I have spoken to, been friends with or seen in media. A lot of them are also pieces of me. A lot of how Sparrow/Trill Robin talks is how I talk to people I’m close to. Many of my people have said I based Swolemayne off myeself. Partially true, if I lost 35 lbs and got back into lifting weights like I used to. I’m more like my character TamTam right now. The thing about Trill League is a lot of these characters are people that we are all familiar with, especially if you’re from the inner city, or any hood. I just took them, blended them with the appropriate heroes, and I know it worked because other people just could see these characters being alive. I didn’t have to do much besides add a lil’ dialogue and people got it…cause we all grew up with or know people like this and we can see the hilarity in the situation.
(indie)- Who are some of the people who have inspired you?
(Ant)- There have been a LOT of people who have lent inspiration to my creativity and my grind. Joe Mad. Chris Bachalo. Takeshi Koike. Baba Dawud Anyabwile. Creativity is easy because you can get that from anywhere. It’s just a question of what do you like. What catches your attention. Getting on your grind though? That’s not as easy of a find because you need someone to relate to. Someone who’s experiences, interests, etc., match yours. But I recently contacted one those people who inspired my grind: LeSean Thomas (The Boondocks, Legend of Korra, Black Dynamite) to thank him. This brotha has been instrumental to a lot of what has taken place in my life. When I was at my lowest, I needed someone to look up to, someone I could be like so I could emulate them so I could get my shit together. Someone I could compete with mentally. Its like being a ball player. You aim to play like MJ, Kobe or Lebron. You use them as your target in order to push yourself and get better. Anyhow, he was doing everything I wanted to do and was creating the type of characters I wanted to put out in the world. All this with no expensive art school, which a lot of people claim they need to start their art career.  He did it with just paper and pencil. I told myself I was going to be like that cat and I would earn the same respect he has in the industry and amongst our peers. I never contacted him though, even though others urged me in order to get advice about getting into the pro art field. I was like “fuck that, I’m gonna make this brotha recognize me in some way shape or form without saying a word to him”. LOL. Thats real. When he shared my work with his followers, and said I was one of his new favorite artist…that shit changed every fucking thing for me. My career as an artist finally went to the next level. Thats my lil’ mental trophy I will always hold onto though cause I stuck with it, and that shit worked: to know I got one of my heroes attention without saying a word to him.
(indie)- What was your “Mama, I made it moment” ?
(Ant)- I think that moment was when I was finally getting a regular check from a studio! I mean, I had been on my grind for 4 years now, doing art, but none of that shit was paying all that well. I was just putting all my energy into art, giving cats killer products for the low, hoping it would just pay off in the future. While I was doing my indie grind, I didn’t have a car. I think I was cycling through 2 pairs of jeans, some raggedy cargo pants, and some fucked up Nikes for my gear. I couldn’t afford anything and had to sell a lot of my stuff just to get by. Shit was rough, but I was getting more and more recognition as I kept going, so I just prayed that shit would pay off.
(indie)- Whats your favorite song right now? What kind of music do you listen to?
(Ant)-“Bish Bounce” by Fabolous. Something about that beat and his flow. I grew up on Chicago House, so I’m heavy in repetitious, bass-heavy music.
(indie)- Trill League. Where did the name come from?
(Ant)- Someone commented on my photo about my version of Robin as being “Trill”. The name just stuck with me and I was like “instead of Justice League…Trill League”.
(indie)- Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up?
(Ant)- Plenty. I can’t tell you how many times the thought crossed my mind. Art is not an easy career path. Nothing “creative” is. But I knew I couldn’t because I went through a mad depression period when I was working in retail and the service industry. Like I stated before, I’m not living if I’m not creating…which, while I was working 55-60 hours a week, limited that time to do so. I had to find a way to get out of the rut of being down, and I knew this would be the only way. So I just stayed on my grind, hoping something would happen. And as you keep going, its hard to turn your back on something you put some much time and energy into. You’re like “shit, I’ve been working on this thing for 2 years non-stop. I’m going to figure this out”
(indie)- At your lowest, what made you believe you could make it?
(Ant)- My lowest is what made me turn shit up to the level I’m at now. I was covering a lot of my depression up with stupid shit…weed, drinking, hanging around fake people. A lot of wasted time. I took a step back and started to see; even with all that stuff I was doing to get my mind off of what was bugging me, I wasn’t happy. I desired more than anything to be an artist because it was something everyone in my life instilled in me. When you have people constantly telling you as a child, that you’re meant to be something because of your talent…and you find yourself as an adult not doing anything of the sort…it causes you to really evaluate some things and look into yourself.

All the talent in the world doesn’t mean shit if you’re not willing to put in work.

I don’t think it was more so I believed I could make it. I had to prove I could make it for the people who did believe in me. My family most importantly.
(indie)- “Sleep is for broke, broken people with no aspirations”…do you believe that?
(Ant)- It depends on your position in life. Some people have shit handed to them or their parents set everything up for them to succeed in life. If that’s the case, then you can get some good sleep in and you can still be a motivated person. But when you’re on the bottom, you’re going to have to lose a few hours.

I’m a firm believer that if you REALLY want something in life, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

Niggas will go through hell and high water for some pussy or to stay out kicking it, playing video games, smoking, drinking…but that dream they’re always telling you about…thats shit is always on delay.
(indie)- What made you want to tell hood stories?
(Ant)- I don’t want to say my stories are “hood”. They are more so my experiences in life, but I’m packaging them in a different way.
(indie)What do you want from your comic?
(Ant)- Trying to turn this joint into a cartoon series! The Boondocks and Black Dynamite put black animated series on a whole new tier. I honestly feel with all my soul, Trill League is the continuation of what those two series set up. It’s going to be tough though, no doubt, but I’m ready to put my energy into making it happen. The comic will allow readers to see where I’m trying to go with this series. The shit I have in my head…it’s insane. I mean….I made Michael Jackson and Prince characters in Trill League and gave them super powers. Do you know how epic that fight is playing out in my head. I’m dying to get this shit drawn out.
(indie)– What’s the connection you have with your characters
(Ant)- Honestly, I love these characters. People don’t realize my entire life changed for the better not too long ago. I could barely afford to live. Struggling to buy groceries and pay bills. I didn’t even have a car. After Trill League dropped, one of my Facebook friends, Anthony Rollins, who is an animator, hit me up and asked me if I wanted to get into animation. After that Trill Robin drawing went viral online, Anthony threw my name to Damil Bryant, a director at ADHD, and they offered me a job. Grateful to both of those brothas. That steady check just allowed me to change so much shit in my life. Without these characters, I don’t know where I would be man. Just so much has changed for the better, so my connection with these characters is deep because it took having to interject myself into my art in order to really get my first big break in the animation industry.
(indie)- Have you ever had to take a moment because a story you came up with hit too close to home?
(Ant)- Not with Trill League. Trill League is straight fun. I have another story thats called BPM, which is something I have been writing since I was in 4th grade. I remember I came up with all these characters, wrote out a story and asked my mom to mail it to Capcom for me. Funny shit…cause I don’t think she did it. LOL. But that story is gonna be super deep since its about growing up without a father, losing a girl you care about, and having to deal with being an outcast in the world. But I probably won’t be touching that for some time.
(indie)What do you believe in?
(Ant)- I believe in hard work. I believe in surrounding yourself with positive people. I believe in being respectful of others regardless of their philosophies about life. I believe in happiness. I believe that you can change around any negative situation in your life if you align yourself with the right people.
(indie)- You said that someone online said to you, “You and Trill League would be the reason for the next Trayvon Martin incident”. How did that affect you?
(Ant)- I was upset about the absurdity of the comment. To think a comic would escalate racism to the point where another one of our young black men would be killed is ridiculous and to put that on me showed me that what I was creating was going to be divisive. I had to accept that since I never really got that when I was just doing art. When you want everyone to like what you’re creating, it can be difficult to accept, but I’m way past it now. The support I’ve received is enough for me to keep creating and not worry about the nay-sayers.
(indie)- You said “Everyone has a gift, but only a few were also gifted with the tenacity and persistence to achieve their dreams”…what did you mean?
(Ant)-I think only a select few people will ever realize their dreams. I honestly believe everyone has a gift/talent. It might not be as obvious as being able to sing or dance, but you might have the gift of talking to people and being likable. You can translate that into success, but it takes work and I think there are just too many people who give up on themselves. You have to have persistence to let the world know your worth.
(indie)- What do you think of the Dame Dash BreakFast Club Radio Show interview?
(Ant)- I definitely fuck with what he said. I agree he was a lil’ arrogant with his commentary, but you have to understand, when you speak strongly about a subject, you are going to divide people because not everyone is going to see eye to eye with you. Those who want to work for themselves and are trying to build, understood where he was coming from. You don’t have to agree with everything he said, but the overall theme of the message resonated with those who are like minded.
(indie)- Shout outs?
(Ant)- Yea, I got a few. My homie Cary whose been in my corner since day one. My homie Stephane Metayer. He’s dropping his Tephlon Funk series soon which is gonna be dope. My homies at the studio, Howard, Anthony, Dom, Damil. That brotha Chase for schooling me on the game. Its a lot man. I’d be all day. Also shout out to indieTHI3VES™ for the interview. These were some real ass questions! HA.
(indie)- Any thing else you want to say?
(Ant)- Yea. I have a lot of appreciation for people who believe in what I can do with a pencil and helped me get to the point where I’m at now. My goal is build for others who are in the same position I found myself in not too long ago, because I know the pain of being an artist and not being able to create on a regular basis. I think we need to create more venues for all artists, especially black, so they can have more outlets to use their talent. Thats where my focus is at now.

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