'Schoolly D' (1986)

Schoolly D. is an American hiphop artist. He is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the gangsta rap movement. In the mid 1980s he enjoyed cult success with his raunchy and streetwise lyrics, but eventually faded away in obscurity. Apart from recording and producing music Schoolly D. also designed his own album covers. Some of them follow a comics format, with illustrated narratives. 

Musical career
Jesse Bonds Weaver, Jr. was born in 1962 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the early 1980s he started performing as a hiphop artist, picking out the name 'Schoolly D.'. He quickly gained notoriety with his uncompromising songs. Admiring the subversiveness of early rock 'n' roll he took rap to the same direction. Schoolly D. openly rapped about sex, violence and the gritty reality of living on the streets. At the time hiphop was still just a subculture and the only artists with some mainstream success were people like the Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaata and Run D.M.C. All of them, except Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, had a clean public image and avoided controversy. Therefore Schoolly D. struck a nerve. His songs 'P.S.K. (What Does That Mean?)' and 'Gucci Time' (both from 1985) became underground hits and albums 'Schoolly D.' (1986) and 'Saturday Night!' (1987) best-sellers. In 1986 Flemish MTV veejay Marcel Vanthilt and a Dutch TV crew made a documentary about hiphop, filming around in New York City. One of the artists they interviewed was Schoolly D.  When the documentary was finally broadcast on Dutch television as 'Big Fun in the Big Town' (1986) it converted many young viewers to hiphop. Thanks to this cult film Schoolly D. too gained more notability in the Netherlands. Decades later, the Dutch hiphop band Osdorp Posse sampled Schoolly D.'s speech about the rawness of hiphop in 'Big Fun in the Big Town' on their track 'De Wet van T.O.K.I.O.' from their album 'Harde Kernramp' (2000). 

Comic strip-style album covers
Schoolly D. was a self-made artist. He personally produced his debut album 'Schoolly D.' (1986) and also provided the artwork on the cover. It features a black-and-white comic strip starring himself. The first image shows him being cheered by fans. To the right we see how a crowd of literal blockheads dismiss his music, because they don't understand. In the left corner below Schoolly is talking to one of his detractors and manages to convince him he is "not fucking up the minds of kids". This leads to Schoolly being called "the star of the show" in the right corner below, because "he won yet another in his never ending battle against bitter's [sic] and squares." A variation of the same cover exists, but divided in more clear separate images.

Parkside by Schoolly D
'Parkside' (1987)

He also designed the cover of a 12inch single, 'Park Side' (1987), which features his face on the cover with a long piece of film coming out of his mouth. On this film scroll we can see several different sequences. The record cover also makes use of speech balloons. Schoolly D. created another self-portrait on the cover of his second album 'Saturday Night - The Album' (1987), where we see his face on a graffiti-sprayed wall. In the lower corner of the cover another small comic strip can be seen. It comes complete with a title, 'Saturday Night' and is told in a two-panel sequence. The first image features Schoolly D explaining in close-up how he felt "funny" on Saturday night. In the second image he encounters a nude, big-assed woman named Bertha. Schoolly D.'s next albums featured no comic strip art at all. His seventh record, 'Reservoir Dog' (1995), marked a return to his graphic roots but in the form of a simple self-caricature. His eighth album, 'International Supersport' (2010), also featured self-illustrated record cover art. The comic strip on the cover shows him being hit by a power beam, upon which he exclaims in a speech balloon: "Damn, bopped again!!!".

Voice acting in animation
Schoolly D. is also active in the field of TV animation. In the first season of the TV cartoon series 'Space Ghost Coast to Coast' (1994-2008) he and "Weird Al" Yankovic were special guest voices in the episode 'Banjo' (1994). He also provided the music and narration for the animated TV series 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force' (2000-2015).

Legacy
While Schoolly D. enjoyed a cult status in the mid 1980s he was never able to properly capitalize on his success. After 1987 he was soon upstaged by the many equally controversial rap artists who copied his style. His later records never had the same strong sales and since 2010 he is on permanent hiatus. Yet he is still acknowledged as a historically important rap artist. His music influenced the Beastie Boys, Ice-T and the Osdorp Posse. Together with Def PSerge Buyse and Adam Wallenta, Schoolly D remains one of the few hiphop artists to have made comics-related art. Like many other legends of hiphop Schoolly D.'s lifestory is featured in Ed Piskor's 'Hip Hop Family Tree'  comic book series, about the history of the genre. 

Saturday Night The Album by Schoolly D
'Saturday Night: The Album' (1987)

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