28 Days of Black Joy: The Art of Chuck Styles

A photo of Chuck Styles 'Tupac BHM' piece on a wall in Panama Jackson's home.
Photo: Panama Jackson

It all started over the past year when like many of us, I made a very hard turn into damn near exclusively buying clothing pieces by and for Black people. While I’ve always been very much into F.U.B.U. as a philosophy (while oddly never buying an actual FUBU apparel) my Buy Black meter hit an all-time high. Apparently, Instagram noticed and started promoting T-shirts and shops that had Black messaging, etc. One shirt, in particular, kept showing up in my feed. It featured Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X standing in front of a black and white American flag. Except they were positioned in the same manner as André 3000 and Big Boi on the cover Stankonia, Outkast’s fourth studio album.

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I noticed the shirt showing up on a random assortment of stock T-shirt sites, which means that none of them was the origin point. So I decided to do some digging and landed at the online shop ArtofChuckStyles, whose namesake Chuck Styles, was the creator and painter of the original work featured on the T-shirt. And it was then that he, Chuck Styles, instantly became one of my favorite artists.

It’s almost as if he and I share a simpatico sensibility when it comes to our personal politics and their marriage to hip-hop. For the record, I’ve never met nor spoken to Chuck Styles, so that musing could be entirely off base. But his art speaks to me, damn near directly. The day I discovered him, I bought one of the T-shirts with Martin and Malcolm. And then I bought the iPhone wallpapers that featured Black Excellence and then Dope Black Women. And then Air Dancer (an ode to Michael Jordan) and then the one for Activonia (the official name of the project featuring Martin and Malcolm).

And then I decided I wanted some of the artwork. So I copped Activonia (if you can tell I REALLY love that work; it’s like my entire ethos wrapped into one artwork), and then I bought a Poetic Justice piece for a friend (and the matching hoodie for myself, along with the shirt with Sade on it; I may be an addict). I have a Tupac piece hanging in my workspace and a canvas of Lauryn Hill on the way. And I will buy more. I have no doubt about this because Chuck Styles sees what I see, except he creates art out of it and then separates me from my money. But I couldn’t be happier to spend it on his collections and work. They bring me joy, actual Black joy because if I were an artist, I’d want to be like Chuck.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.

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