In spirit of the Financial Times and my constant obsessing over the visual output of legendary artist Shepard Fairey alongside the Obey Giant poster propaganda, this week’s release of the video shown above could not have come at a more suitable time. Featuring the first (and undoubtedly soon-to-be hit) single ‘Money’, it arrives well-ahead of the issue date pre-destined for N.A.S.A.’s highly anticipated album debut. Until The Spirit of Apollo hits shelves in February 2009, however, this visual feast bringing together directors Syd Garon, Paul Griswold, and the historically-influenced work of Fairey in animated format does more than merely satisfy one’s expectations. In almost word-for-word pictographic representation, the heavily posterized, brightly-rendered ‘Megalomaniac‘ paletted style is almost reminiscent of a blend between the works of David Scharf in digital animation, Marjane Satrapi in Persepolis, and the graphic illustration of the thematically similar I.O.U.S.A documentary by Patrick Creadon. I had always wondered about the degree of brilliance Fairey would be able to achieve had he ever decided to set his signature imagery into motion. Luckily, not gone to waste is such apt representation of lyrics surpassing the conventional depth of a great deal of hip-hop abound in recent years, and it is very much well-deserved by this pleasantly surprising group. Indeed there’s a lot more to N.A.S.A. than first meets the eye, other than the fact that the four-lettered moniker translates into ‘North America South America’.
N.A.S.A. are an international collective of cross-genre musicians fronted by Squeak E. Clean (LA-based Sam Spiegel) and DJ Zegon (Ze Gonzales from São Paulo) and founded in 2003. Bringing together artists as diverse as Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wu-Tang’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Tom Waits, they’ve been able to pool together a number of collaborative efforts enough for the fruition of an LP in full. The artistic and cultural variety, naturally, has brought along with it the themes of politics, language, and cultural identity; and this eclectic collection of musicians on a single album provides much food for thought in an age when the political and culture landscapes are rapidly transforming worldwide. They hope, it is said, that through their music they can demonstrate the superficiality of any divisions in the world still standing between us as people of different origins and backgrounds. Undoubtedly a refreshing conceptual deviation from the recent ‘I Kissed a Girl‘ hype and the Madonna/Guy settlement. With the single already released digitally on the ANTI- label, it comes bundled with the video and a remix by The Count Of Monte Cristal. And judging by the positive reception so far given to the single ‘Gifted‘ (the guest-starring of Kanye West, Santogold and Lykke Li pretty much says it all), N.A.S.A. will no doubt be successful in spreading their message of the importance of unity, collaboration and that rare genuine, non-discriminatory cross-boundary understanding to many listeners in the two Americas and beyond.
Sarah Badr © MMVIII
See also: ‘Itsu desu ka?’ (pieces at random)