Design
Where form meets function

Tyga made quite a splash with the initial announcement of his new album Kyoto, out everywhere this Friday. The rapper’s sixth studio LP was heralded with an album cover that was… eye-popping, to say the least. Depicting a tiger-woman hybrid in a barely safe for work position, it – perhaps, unsurprisingly – lit up social media shortly after its unveiling.

As he noted in his announcement, Tyga’s album cover comes courtesy of acclaimed Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama, an illustrator primarily known for his eroticized portrayal of robots. He has been working for decades now, and has had his artwork utilized by everything from a Playboy TV special to an album cover for Aerosmith.

Sorayama granted us a rare interview to discuss the story behind the visually-arresting Tyga album cover, ‘future aesthetics’ in the digital world, and why he’s only known for his robots because his gallery “insists” on it.

So, how did your collaboration with Tyga for his ‘Kyoto’ album art come about?

My gallery at the NANZUKA brought the idea to me through the Bangkok branch [EchoOne ArtSpace]. It seems the Bangkok partner Kong is friends with Tyga. Apparently Tyga is a fan of my work and requested it.

Are you/were you familiar with Tyga and his work previously?

No, I don’t listen to hip-hop. But when I gave him a listen he had a nice style, so I gave the OK.

Did you have any instructions or discussions creating this piece or did you have free reign to make it as you like?

This is a poster that I started drawing in the ‘70s and then followed it up in the late ‘80s and changed it into a hybrid creature. I wasn’t asked to do it, it was just a piece I drew back in the day as I liked. It probably would have never surfaced and would have been buried, so I’m really happy that Tyga came across this particular piece.

This is not the first time you’ve created album art for an artist – do you think there is something about that medium that translates well for your work?

With the sheer amount of artwork I’ve done, only a small number of them have been used for this purpose. I suppose there are artists who like them and it speaks to them. I’m not particularly thinking about these things when I draw.

Untitled, by Hajima Soryama, courtesy of NANZUKA

Your work is widely known for its depiction of mechanical or robotic elements, yet this piece is very organic and animalistic. Was this a departure for you?

Like I said before, I drew a few of these styles in the past so this piece was just one of them. Robots aren’t the only thing I draw, so just go and buy my collection. It’s just that the stupid gallery NANZUKA insists on always showing robots (lol).

You have described your style as ‘superrealism’ – do you feel the advent of the digital age has aided or helped realize this definition?

I’m not the one calling it that. In the ’70s and ’80s, before people had computers, it was trendy to call things ‘super’ or ‘hyper.’ Nowadays you can do pretty much anything with a computer, so maybe my fossil-like artwork is deemed unusual and rare? (lol)

As we face more and more global crises, has your perception of what the future will look like changed?

I will be dead before I can witness this, so I don’t know. As for my generation, we experienced the Cold War era and the ongoing conflicts that arose from that time. There is nothing new there (I was also feeling the nervousness). History has proven what happens when fools come to power. Perhaps that’s just how things will be.

Looking back on your career, what would you say is one of the greatest challenges you’ve ever faced?

My latest work always becomes my greatest challenge; I face each project as my greatest challenge.

Tyga’s ‘Kyoto’ is out on Friday, February 16. Fore more of our features, read our chat and editorial with the legendary Dita von Teese.

  • Cover Image: Ken Ishii/Getty Images
Words by Jake Boyer
Music Editor
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