How art director Mihailo Andic helped Lil Yachty realise the artwork for Teenage Emotions

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If there’s something the divisive ‘mumble-trap’ rapper can do, it’s tap into the teenage experience. In a feature with Crack last year, the Atlanta rapper was still coming to terms with his fame, admitting that he thinks about college a lot. The self-proclaimed ‘King of the Teens’ has recently revealed the details of his forthcoming album, Teenage Emotions, which is slated for release on 26 May. His announcement was accompanied by new artwork photographed by Kenneth Cappello and art-directed by 23-year-old graphic designer Mihailo Andic – who handles Yachty’s logo and has produced the covers for Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2. Arguably, the new cover marks a milestone for album artwork in hip-hop.

The visual pictures Yachty in a movie theatre surrounded by friends. In the image, he can be seen placed in the centre, dressed in a matching pink ensemble whilst sporting his signature red beaded braids and rainbow grills. His friends aren’t the typical crew you’d see gracing hip-hop covers or being featured as the popular kids in American high school films either: girls with green mohawks, girls with Vitiligo, albino skin, guys with long hair and guys locked in a kiss. On Instagram Live, Yachty said, “If you have Vitiligo or if you’re gay or whatever it is, embrace yourself. Love yourself. Be happy, positive.”

The visual is a perfect alignment to Yachty’s playful aesthetic and sound – one that’s progressive, youthful and all about letting the kids have some fun. It’s this buoyancy in his work that’s raised the ire of old-school hip-hop heads which, in turn, highlights how great a departure Yachty’s aesthetic is.

In an article for Billboard, Mykki Blanco shared his thoughts on the use of two men kissing on the cover: “I think it’s groundbreaking because for someone of this age who has the audience that he has – for him to even use a small amount of his platform to do something like create his first album cover – and it has two men kissing… I know some people in radical circles would say, “Oh, he couldn’t have chosen two men of colour or he couldn’t have chosen this or he chosen that?” But it is what it is, and I do think it’s groundbreaking.”

While Yachty is a divisive character, the album cover doesn’t embody a provocative spirit but instead contains an inclusive slant. Like Blanco said, “He’s young in that way where when you see an artist like him do stuff, you just can read the purity in it”.

Below, we catch up with art director Mihailo Andic to discuss the cover for Teenage Emotions.

Tell us a little bit about yours and Yachty’s vision for the artwork. What was your brief?

The vision was to come up with something progressive. I’m really happy we took a different approach with this visual, it was nice to see that it had such a positive impact on everyone. For us, there’s definitely a standard when it comes to Yachty’s art direction; we both strive to make something memorable each time. This is his debut album so it had to be very special. I wouldn’t say there was a specific brief; we began talking about it last year and, over time, the idea was brought to life. We collaborate pretty closely so the overall plan/brief is something we did together for this project.

How do you think the image represents Teenage Emotions?

I think everyone in it represents something special. Each person in this cover is unique, and they all have their own story. This album is going to capture a lot of different things teenagers may be going through. And just like the music, this visual represents those teens and their emotions, feelings, etc. Another important thing I hope people take away from this cover is the importance of being yourself, and to embrace how unique each of us are.

Tell us a little bit about the cast of models in the movie theatre. How were the models selected?

Once we came up with the idea for the cover, we also brainstormed who we wanted to be in it along with Yachty. The plan was to have a very diverse group of kids. All of them were amazing and we really appreciate them bringing the cover to life.

What were some of your inspirations for this cover? Did you use a moodboard?

I began looking at references as soon as I was given the name of the album. When I was collecting imagery and building the first set of mood boards for the project, I was drawn towards work from Petra Collins, Maria Svarbova, Juno Calypso, Samuel Burgess-Johnson and this one girl I know personally who’s incredibly talented at curating and editing photos. Her Tumblr is amazing and always inspires me. The work these artists create captures that ‘teenage’ visual style I was looking for. Some of the work I was looking at felt very nostalgic. That was the original inspiration for me, then it shifted over time. The one piece of inspiration that brought it together was an image I found on Instagram that we referenced for the background – a picture of a vintage movie theatre. Before I begin any project I always make sure to do my research and referencing, that’s the most important step for me. Also shoutout to Instagram for their saved section feature on the app, that’s a game changer.

© James Pearson-Howes

Were there any other ideas you had?

There were a few other ideas but they didn’t make it past the concept stage. More in line with the past cover designs.

Have you heard the album? What’s it like?

I won’t say too much on the album, I want everyone to experience it for themselves. I’m really proud of my friend and what he’s accomplished in the last year and a half. He’s one of the most creative people I’ve ever met in my life. I think this album is going to surprise a lot of people, and it’s going to be a big moment for him to show everyone what he’s capable of.

People have been calling this cover an all-time classic for hip-hop artworks. How does that feel?

I’m really proud of this cover and it feels amazing to see everyone’s reaction. I remember when Lil Boat was released last year and the feedback was incredible, this one was on another level. I’m happy people connected with it in such a positive way and embraced it. Kenneth Capello was amazing to work with and he did an incredible job on the photography. We have some amazing visuals for the packaging that I can’t wait for people to see. He killed it. I also don’t think people expected something like this; a lot of people were thinking we would do something in the same lane as Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2. It’s nice when you can exceed people’s expectations and surprise them. With that being said, my mind is already thinking how we can take it to the next level and how we’re going to top this one day. This was definitely a big step in the culture and it will be remembered for a very long time.

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