Writers have their work stolen, musicians have their work stolen, but visual artists might have it the worst in the digital age. Images and photos get grabbed at a breakneck speed without a second thought for payment or at least credit, even by other artists who should know better.
Case in point, if you looked at the album cover for Young Thug's new Slime Season 3 album - which regardless of what you think of Thug's music is an incredible piece of art - you wouldn't have known that you were actually looking at a jacked image from n.award's Instagram account. This look familiar?
It's one thing to steal someone's art for some social media likes of your own (word to Drake and Fat Jew), but this is a for-purchase album. The entire point of a great album cover is to grab people's attention, and by extension their money, and to use someone's art to help generate that revenue is to put it bluntly, fucked up. This is a major label release from a very popular artist, they should have known better. How could this have happened?
Lucky for me, the internet detectives over at Reddit have already done most of the heavy lifting here, tracking down Fano, Young Thug's frequent art collaborator, for an explanation:
Yoo Fano here.. thought I'd clear some things up..
I had nothing to do with choosing this album art. Thug randomly picked her picture and it was sent to me and asked to be edited. No one in the camp knew who created the original until yesterday. We tried to find the original artist before release to no avail. I spoke to her yesterday and she IS being compensated for her work. I never claimed to be the creator of the cover nor did I put my logo on it. The altered cartoon version that was made by me was just fan art and a reinterpretation of the cover. I was not paid for it and I tagged her as soon as I found out.
I call bullshit.
Not necessarily on Fano, I don't blame him, but on Thug, his management and the label. Thug picked the picture "at random"? Random meaning what, he was randomly scrolling through Instagram and came across the picture? Someone randomly showed it to him? Well then, it should be pretty damn easy to figure out who did it. He makes it sound like someone anonymously mailed him a print of the picture. And "we tried to find the original artist?" They couldn't have tried that hard if someone on Reddit easily figured it out. And here's a thought - if you can't figure out who made the art, don't use it. If there's a sample an artist can't clear on an album, the artist doesn't use it. It's really not that complicated.
I'm glad to hear she's being credited and paid now - I've reached out to her directly to confirm if this is true but haven't heard back yet - but it feels like a case of "sorry we got caught," not "sorry." They were clearly completely comfortable using the picture without payment or attribution before the album was turned in, I'm not so confident that they would have continued to work to find her, and that's a bit of a moot point.
Literally thousands of people have seen this talented young woman's art work - including Kanye - and she missed out on being credited for all of it, which is why I wanted to write this. It may be too little, too late, but at least it's something. It's hard out here for a visual artist, I don't envy you at all.
UDPATE: I'm not sure what this means, if it means anything at all in regards to this story, but Young Thug just switched his Instagram account to private.