Sculpture artist David Schwartz forever captures his hip hop gods.
Inspired by statues of the Greek god Atlas bearing the weight of the celestial world, sculpture artist and Buckhead resident David Schwartz created his own deity sculpture to celebrate hip hop culture and tell its story.
Currently on display at Buckhead Art & Company (price available upon request), Rhyme Capsule is a 1,200-pound Italian marble and lead-free optic crystal (often used for camera lenses because of its clarity) sculpture depicting an ambiguous b-boy holding a translucent boom box encapsulating the most iconic hip hop cassettes of the ’80s and ’90s. This modern Atlas wears a hoodie, jeans and Jordans, the original viral sneaker.
“He represents the fan. He’s the champion. He says to the other gods, ‘This is my offering. These guys, right here, are the gods of hip hop,’” says Schwartz of the popular piece that was recently featured as a part of Nustalgia at The Vault Art Gallery and Studios, an interactive exhibit that showcased the hip hop and pop culture collection of Larry “Nuface” Compton.
To create the sculpture, Schwartz collaborated with material experts to bring his vision to life. His marble partner used a machine to create the base before hand-carving the more intricate details. Once the materials arrived for the boombox, Schwartz painstakingly filled it with his collection of 180 tapes.
“There’s a lot of special work in here that should be preserved and celebrated,” he says. Artists such as NAS, Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill and The Notorious B.I.G. are represented, some more than once.
The top row of tapes is Schwartz’s favorites. “As a kid, when you got one of these tapes for a present or you could scrape enough money to buy one, it was really special,” says the 41-year-old artist. Like many from the cassette and compact disc generation, Schwartz describes listening to the album, liner notes in hand, picking apart every detail. “Back then, before you could connect with your favorite artist on Instagram, that cover was the closest you could get to them.”
Schwartz knows a thing or two about meeting your musical heroes. As a 20-something, Schwartz, along with his hip hop group mates known as the Fonky Bald Heads, toured with Prince and opened the legend’s shows.
While living in Minneapolis, hometown of the Purple Rain singer, he became friends with Prince’s bandmates and began making music with them. The tunes eventually found their way to the artist himself, and Schwartz ended up rapping on two Prince albums and appearing in Prince’s music video for “The Daisy Chain.” While he reveled in being a musical artist, in 2002, Schwartz found himself at a crossroads. He could continue working with Prince and fellow artist KayGee from Naughty by Nature on a solo album, or he could quit the industry and put his creativity towards graphic design and art direction to “start making some real money.” He chose the latter, embracing a more traditional career. He moved to Atlanta to design album covers and stayed for eight years before moving to Los Angeles for a decade and working at ad agencies with clients such as Paris Hilton and Gucci Mane.
Despite industry success out west, Schwartz soon found himself longing for the physicality and longevity of tangible materials. Speaking about his digital and print design work, he says, “It was here today and gone in a month. It just isn’t the same as having something you can appreciate every day that changes the mood of a room.” He began his work on Rhyme Capsule as a creative outlet and completed the piece in 2019, just before returning to Atlanta with his wife, Ania.
Schwartz’s affinity with the music that shaped his childhood doesn’t end with hip hop. “I hope to create more pieces in this series as well as make other art that isn’t so extravagant and big, so that it’s more accessible in size and value for all collectors,” he says.
Wellness columnist at Simply Buckhead and dog columnist at Atlanta Pet Life. Lifestyle writer specializing in women's interests, travel, people and interiors.