I first met Chops back in 1999 when the Mountain Brothers were at the peak of their powers. They came down to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA to perform at an event for the Asian Pacific American Student Union, a group I founded the year before. Needless to say, they blew the roof off of Webb Center and solidified APASU as a legit organization on campus. So after the show, and some late night IHOP pancakes, we bid the Bros — Chops, Peril, and Styles — adieu, and I was content with my signed Self: Volume One CD and brief brush with Asian American hip-hop royalty.
Fast forward a decade and a half later — and thanks to the wonder of social media — Chops and I reconnected. Weirdly, he remembered who I was. So we met up one chilly night in Philly earlier this year. That’s when he first told me about Strength in NUMBERS over some beer and cheesesteaks. He even previewed just the tiniest snippet of a track while we rode around in his big ass Buick. Instantly, I realized how historic this project was going to be. I mean, an MBs reunion alone would be game-changing. Now you’re gonna throw in 30 other artists (including the likes of Dumbfoundead, Prometheus Brown, Rekstizzy, Rocky Rivera and dozens of others)? What? That’s a who’s-who of APA hip-hop right there! Then, here’s the part that blew my mind. He wanted my help. Say wha?
So we brainstormed some ideas on how I could be involved. What we came up with was an idea to create 30+ “variant” digital album covers to complement the dope original cover designed by Hoya (who also happens to appear on the album). Each alternate cover spotlights one of the many talents featured on the album. All of the covers are illustrated by some of the best artists and cartoonists working in comics, illustration, and design, including Fred Chao (Johnny Hiro), Tak Toyoshima (Secret Asian Man), Jamie Noguchi (Yellow Peril), Tyler Chin-Tanner (American Terrorist), Ken Knudtsen (My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer), Jeremy Arambulo (HBO’s Superheroes), one of my SIUniverse partners-in-crime Jef Castro, and many, many more. We’ll be releasing hi-res versions of each variant cover over the next several weeks. But you get to peep some of the artwork in the sneak peek below:
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As if getting Chops and Adam WarRock to collabo wasn’t enough, I’m now peripherally orbiting two milestones in APA hip-hop history. Crazy, right? It really is an honor and a privilege to be even tangentially associated with a project of this magnitude. But that’s the lovely thing about this community we’ve all built up.