Meet Rhymezlikedimez: An Illustrator and Animator Changing the Look of Hip-Hop From Europe
"Once you lose that passion it is easy to become unhappy. It has to be fun. When it feels like an obligation I will quit. It is simple; I draw what feels nice and what makes me happy."
Sometime last year hip-hop surpassed rock as the most popular genre of music. Stateside, we have seen hip-hop’s influence weave into the rise of streetwear, as well as featured soundtracks on the big screen. But what about its relationship abroad? Who else is influencing hip-hop and in what capacity?
The sunrise crawls over a fairy tale cityscape. Shadows from 15th century crow-stepped gable roofs expand as the sun ascends, projecting symmetrical darkness against red brick roads. Within minutes, medieval reflections are cast into the city-splitting Grand Canal. Along the canal front, a rolling skateboard’s hum suspends dawn’s silence. Sunlight catches the marigold suede of forward pushing Golf le fleur shoes.
“Take me back, take me back, take me back, take me back,” loops in headphones. It’s Tyler The Creator’s “November.” A heartwarming track inspired by finding your nirvana. For 23-year-old illustrator and animator, Robin Velghe, this is his ‘November.’ “My process is pretty organic. If I don’t have inspiration I just grab my skateboard and go. I can work whenever I want,” he explained.
In 2015, Velghe began posting illustrations and short animations to his Instagram account, Rhymezlikedimez. Immediately, he grew a following. “One of the first illustrations I did was for Tyler the Creator. He actually liked it on Instagram. I was like, “oh shit!” I was hype for that,” he laughed.
Rhymezlikedimez now sits at over 100k followers and with less than 100 posts in nearly four years. Velghe purposefully chooses not to oversaturate his page with content. However, this has not stopped artists and record labels from seeking collaborations.
Recently, Atlantic Records reached out to Velghe and commissioned his first full-animated video for “Neon Guts,” a Lil Uzi Vert song featuring Pharrell off his platinum selling album, Luv is Rage 2 (2017). Additionally, NxWorries (Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge) personally contacted Velghe to animate a full video for “Lyk Dis,” a song off their sophomore album, Yes Lawd (2016). He has also done animated loops for Sheck Wes and Playboi Carti.
WE GON’ ROB THE BANK, BRING THE LOOT @playboicarti - Shoota Ft. @liluzivert Short looped animation for Playboi Carti and @interscope! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #playboicarti #liluzivert #trap #loop #animation #rhymezlikedimez #ferrari #money #hiphop #dielit @maalyraw
Additionally, Velghe is working on multiple paintings for Art Week / Art Basel in Miami this December. He plans on immersing his viewers into his animated world during the exhibit.
Read Velghe's full interview below: This interview was conducted prior to the release of the “Neon Guts” and “Lyk Dis” videos. “Lyk Dis” is featured below:
Where are you from? Explain your childhood
Lendelede, Belgium. It’s close to France, but a very small town. I grew up at the skate park. I have no brother or sister. I always brought paper and pencils to draw. I always say if I had brothers or sisters I wouldn’t do what I do now. I drew a lot of Pokémon. We had cookies and on the wrap were different Pokémon, so I would draw them larger on paper.
Coming from a small town in Belgium, how did you discover hip-hop?
The start of high school from skate videos and video games-like GTA. I got to know Clipse through the Team Ice Cream Vol. 1 video. I loved older hip-hop: A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Mos Def, DJ Premier. People would mock me, “oh you listen to hip-hop, you gangster,” but I loved the production of it.
In Belgium, dubstep, drum, and bass were big when I was in high school. I got distracted for a little, but hip-hop was always there. I loved Pharrell and N.E.R.D. when I was younger. I love to hear samples. I got to know Tyler through Wolf- It's still one of my favorite albums. Right around that time G.O.O.D. Kid, M.A.A.D. City came out then a bit later, Because of The Internet. At that time hip-hop seemed musical. I had these new guys and the old school guys were always there: A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Outkast, Souls of Mischief, Jay-Z, and Kanye.
Where and what did you study?
I went to Arts College in Ghent, which is in the Flemish part of Belgium and where I live now. Art school wasn’t the safest option, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try.
I studied storyboarding and illustration. Storyboarding is the first part of animation. I learned animating pretty fast. In my youth, I used post it notes and made flipbooks. I like to look at animation as an illustration that moves, not the other way around.
When I was studying I was like, “f***, I don’t have a style.” It really bugged me out. We would draw portraits and I would make them as perfect as possible without being abstract.
How did you develop a signature style?
After school I stripped it down and wanted to create drawings that could later be animated- something easy and recognizable. I wanted to bring my art to people, but I had to love it myself. That’s when I started the Rhymezlikedimez blog.
Rhymezlikedimez was something I started in my spare time. It’s corny, but I always believe if you do something you love people will relate to it.
Thanks to everyone who bought one or more print(s) already! Getting them ready for shipping. I’m very grateful for all the love and support Still a few left at rhymezlikedimez.bigcartel.com!! (Link in bio) ⠀ @theartplug ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ #prints #illustration #rhymezlikedimez #artwork #ChanceTheRapper #frankocean #marcelkatz #risograph
The MF Doom song, “Rhymes Like Dimes,” inspired it. When I started doing artwork I was searching for a name and I said, “fuck it this is cool.” I made it different with the z’s and made it one word, but I did not want to overthink it.
I really just started it for my passion and keep drawing for myself. Once you draw for school or work, you often forget to draw for yourself. It’s a project that just grew and it has reached more people than I expected.
Why focus on music?
Music, besides drawing, is my biggest passion. While creating illustrations or animations, I always needed music to set the right vibe. When I was a kid I was inspired by video clips from MTV. It was a no-brainer to combine these two passions for the Rhymezlikedimez project. I listen to every genre, but hip-hop has always been the most important. It has the ability to captivate a feeling and a story to create an atmosphere.
Back when MTV played music videos I loved the clips in between the programs. They were always creative and cool. MTV contacted me to be a part of an artist series.
I’m very proud to share my official ident I created for MTV worldwide! They asked me to interpret the word ‘Flawless’. I used to watch music videos on @mtv for hours when I was a kid. LINK IN BIO Sound by @father_insta Special thanks to @mtv.wcs ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀#mtv #skate #flawless #ident #animation #nostalgia #rhymezlikedimez #robinvelghe #illustration #skateboarding #nosegrind #trasher #freeskatemag #faboulus
They assigned me a color and a word. I was team 'flawless' and my color was gold. When I think of 'flawless' I think of makeup and selfies, but that was too cliche. I wanted to do something with skating. I thought it would be funny to combine the laidback / gnarly skating attitude with the perfectionist attitude of gymnastics. I guess he's a 'sassy skateboarder.'
What were your first hip-hop projects?
I did artwork for Belgian artists, Woodie Smalls and K1D., and worked on visuals for Montreality. Then I got commissioned project for A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. Unfortunately, the video got canceled so it never came out. It was the first video clip I did on my own. I still got paid and it was nice practice. The only fucked up thing is the world will never see it.
For Lil Uzi, the people at Atlantic Records approached me on Instagram. They asked me to do an illustration for him to post on his social media. It did so well they made merch of it- they sold at Urban Outfitters.
Have you done anything else for Uzi?
The “Neon Guts” loop. Atlantic Records did a contest where they assigned artists a song to do a short loop. I won the contest and got to do a full video for “Neon Guts.”
Pharrell is one of my biggest ideals. I am a big fan of Tyler, but it is obvious that Pharrell also inspires him in a huge way. I actually couldn’t depict Pharrell in the video because of the rights. I made an alien that looks like him. It is crazy to see that he is still this important. Only him and Kanye are still so relevant for the youth and they’re in their 40s.
Who else has contacted you?
Jeff Jank, who is one of the founders and the art directors from Stones Throw Records, reached out to me before the release of NxWorries first album. I did an illustration for that album cover. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the final cover.
It was quiet for a long time, but a couple months ago Jeff Jank asked me to do short loops for their remix album. The “Lyk Dis” clip blew up on Instagram and Facebook. It is a couple chilling in bed the record player is playing and you see the palm trees outside. I think people can relate to that one.
They asked me to do a full video clip for “Lyk Dis.” I love that song. That was the biggest project I have done. The budget, responsibility and workload were a lot. I teamed up with Andy Baker, from England. He does animation. Andy and I went back and forth for this project. I created the storyboard and drew the illustrations and he would make my work move. It was a great collaboration. I am very happy with how it ended up.
How did you capture that California vibe?
That California vibe has always attracted me. The fact that skateboarding started there. I love the movie ‘Lords of Dogtown.’ I’ve watched it 1,000 times. When I traveled there I finally got to feel it, so bringing it to life felt natural.
Andy and I actually had a chat with Knxwledge and Anderson .Paak. They were involved in the process and were super kind. We didn’t really talk about the content of “Lyk Dis.” A cool fact is that Knxwledge loved to have some 'Friday' references in there. That’s why the main girl is inspired by Debbie. He also wanted a BMW in the video. Aside from those little tips, they gave me total freedom in creating the video.
We worked on it 25 days straight without stopping. Overall, it was a little over two months. I wanted the video to look like it could play on the early days of MTV.
Where do you get your music news?
I follow all the blogs-everything from Hypebeast to Complex and interviews with Hot 97 and The Breakfast Club. I work on my computer a lot, so I listen to the interviews while I work.
I work at the desk in my house. I want my own studio space where I can hang more things for inspiration. For now it is limited, but I still love it. My process is pretty organic. If I don’t have inspiration I just grab my skateboard and go. I can work whenever I want.
Who is your dream collaboration?
Of course I would love to work with Tyler, but he draws a lot of his own work. I don’t really like to think about whom I want to work with because I like the surprise of it. So far they have come to me, which feels natural. If you over think then you forget to do what is intuitive.
How have you grown as an artist?
I have drawn on a daily basis throughout my life. I learned a lot about illustrations and animations at my internship. I see myself, as a perfectionist and I never want to to deliver a piece if I’m not happy with it. I think that pushes me to evolve my work.
I try to only work on projects that honestly trigger my interest. I'm afraid I won't love it anymore if I keep doing the same exact thing. If I ever get bored, I'd rather do other work to get paid, and keep Rhymezlikedimez as a hobby.
Once you lose that passion it is easy to become unhappy. It has to be fun. When it feels like an obligation I will quit. It is simple; I draw what feels nice and what makes me happy.