RhymezLikeDimez Immerses Fans in his Animated World at Wynwood Pop-Up during Art Basel
Evan Dale + Mitch Dumler // Dec 18, 2021
Wynwood is always bustling. Just North of Downtown Miami, the culturally explosive neighborhood is one that owes its virulent nightlife in 2021 – ridden with bars, restaurants, galleries, music, fashion, and a plethora of streetwear shops – to more than a decade of cultural capital at the grip of a can of spray-paint. Though Wynwood Walls – a redevelopment project turning warehouses into stories-high murals and stamps of graffiti – was itself founded in 2009 and continues to give local artists the chance to paint the neighborhood today, the area has long balanced its industrial nature with a socio-cultural flare. A proud Puerto-Rican neighborhood set the precedent starting in the 1950’s, where though already at the time becoming heavily industrialized, restaurants, bars, and nightlife brought people out in droves. Now infamous for its art, fashion, and technological districts, Wynwood is, like many neighborhoods with creatively oriented persevering pasts, struggling with a battle against displacing gentrification. Alas, art and fashion in particular continue to thrive. And during the whirlwind paroxysm that echoes outward from Art Basel Miami Beach across the Biscayne Causeway, Wynwood is undeniably the center of all things localized, hype, modern, and street-level. From an expansive mural festival brimming with street food, mojitos, and craft beer, to local spots, like Asian food hall, 1-800-LUCKY hosting global musical acts, Wynwood bustles with its most buzz during the opening week of December.
During Miami Beach’s annual installment of Art Basel, a mosaic of artists, fashion designers, and musicians descend on Wynwood, even when they and their work aren’t linearly connected to the gala. And of them in 2021, it was Belgian-born and based Robin Velghe – better known as his project name, RhymezLikeDimez – whose illustration and animation brought to life the most fitting of identities to land itself in Wynwood. Inspired by the intersection of street culture, music, and skateboarding, RhymezLikeDimez is an exploration of visual art directed by the tenets of hip-hop music. Rhythm and poetry, rolling film on paper, his is the kind of work that bridges more than cultural movements, but builds that bridge in particular towards a generation of art-starved youngsters searching for simple, relatable meaning and motif in an increasingly complex world.
RhymezLikeDimez is first and foremost impeccably accessible. Formatted not only for the visual screen, but for the ever-shortening attention spans of viewership in the age of social media, animated loops attach themselves seamlessly to the tracks that inspire their creation. Instagram is a natural landing spot for the work to exist, crafting cartooned musical stars in the animated world of Velghe’s hip-hop melodied daydreams. And yet, brought to life and in person as it was at its unique Wynwood installment during Art Basel, RhymezLikeDimez takes on another scale and immersive id that bridges the gap between the visual creatives of Instagram, the storied murals of Wynwood, and the contemporary beauty of Art Basel.
Meet Me On Cloud Nine, written in Sharpie, spans the back wall of a small, well-lit, partially swept shop space repurposed for a RhymezLikeDimez installment under the same name. A half-block off the main axis that dissects Wynwood from North to South, the space is unassuming from the outside. But inside, anyone familiar with Velghe’s work – anyone who even follows him on social media –instantly recognizes the fact that they’re in his world now, simply another animated figure, colorized and caricatured upon entrance unto Cloud Nine. Unavoidably the first thing to be noticed, a floor-to-ceiling blow-up balloon figure of the protagonist in his new collection, named Puff – seemingly a near-self-image – that silkily skates through the collection of shorts defining Meet Me On Cloud Nine at length. Greeting attendees to the whimsy, color, and immersive world that he’s crafted, RhymezLikeDimez’s towering float was the perennial hello that one would expect to find in the physical world as his digital one so, too, bubbles with positivist immersion. And to the left, on a wall high with mirrors and low with clothing racks, a one-off series of white tees commemorating Meet Me On Cloud Nine’s installment space at Wynwood during Art Basel Miami Beach. Sure to become a grailed addition for anyone lucky enough to attend, the streetwear world will be the first to flock to the ubiquity of the tees, just as in many ways they were – as a corner of the street culture sphere in their own right – the first to absorb the artistic ingenuity of RhymezLikeDimez’s hip-hop inspired animation. Think of Kaws’ rise in the ranks, or Arsham or Lorenzo or the late Abloh, and see what the future has to offer a young creative like Velghe crafting a new world for those searching for a space to transcend the art of the existing one.
But beyond the tees, the ballooned figure, and the backbar squatting beneath skateboard decks adorned with stills from the animated shorts on display, the real focus was on the string of screens encircling the other half of the transformed shop space. Here, cuts of Meet Me On Cloud Nine loop individually, all the while coming together to tell a greater story of influence, inspiration, and aspirations come to life and yet to be fulfilled for young Velghe. A series of eight visuals in all – each of which will be for sale as an NFT through digital marketplace OpenSea – seem to curate Velghe’s own world, where much of his previous work has been defined by granting new life in animated space on his vision for the work of other artists and musicians.
A first and necessary note orbits music. After all, it’s music – with a particular emphasis on hip-hop – that has been a seminal influence for the entirety of the RhymezLikeDimez universe. And here, Meet Me On Cloud Nine calls an old collaborator and a cornerstone figure of the modern street culture spectrum to score its duration. Chad Hugo, producer for N.E.R.D. and The Neptunes, crafts silky, funky, and fun-loving beats to soundtrack young Puff’s floaty voyages through worlds that any viewer with parallel interests to Velghe would likewise love to experience. On Cloud Nine, they can. The Hugo beats allow Velghe at once to tear through the shimmering galaxies of his own inspiration, to a tune that allows the series to be detached from specificity in musical influence. Though specifically, one of the animations focuses on Hugo, N.E.R.D., and the Neptunes themselves.
“I remember the first time I experienced what the word ‘cool’ meant. It was when I heard 'She Wants To Move' by N.E.R.D on MTV. You either know Chad Hugo or you don’t, but there’s no doubt you know at least 10 songs he’s worked on. The Neptunes provided the color in my life that pushed me to create. From the moment I got in touch with Chad, I knew this project was going to be the most special thing in my career so far,” Velghe details in the description of the first piece released from the collection.
Further pieces delineate – through his own animated vision – other wildly influential, medium transcendent, neo-cultural creatives who have influenced Velghe personally, the creation of RhymezLikeDimez from base level, and the street culture world at large. Streetwear collector and fashion icon, Nigo; Studio Ghibli founder and master animator, Hayao Miyazaki; Kanye West; Jay-Z, Pimp-C and UGK; The Sopranos; and a subconscious ode to Dali, also bring into focus the well-rounded cultural pillars that themselves have birthed the new-age genius of RhymezLikeDimez. And in person, in Wynwood, fans had the chance to truly dive into that physical world for themselves.
Check out our photo gallery of 2021's Art Basel Miami Beach edition here:
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