Image for post
Image for post

Remembering Chinx — The Artwork

Andy Sheffield
May 29, 2016 · 9 min read

Lionel Pickens, aka the rapper Chinx (formerly Chinx Drugz) was murdered on May 17, 2015, weeks before the release of his first studio album. Beginning in 2013, I worked with Chinx and his team on several projects. In his memory, below are some thoughts, photos and artwork from that time. — Andy Sheffield, Creative Director, Cure for the Common Studios


I’ll Take it From Here

Image for post
Image for post
September 2013 at Kent Miller Studios, photoshoot for ‘I’ll Take it From Here’

The first time I met Chinx was at the photo shoot for the EP. I recall him not being entirely comfortable in front of the camera, not to mention being distracted by the 30+ people that showed up to hang out. Directed by myself and Rick, we listened to ‘In Ya City’ on repeat, and at the end of a few hours, a much more comfortable Chinx had his first photos ready to go.

Image for post
Image for post
Unretouched: Some of the most recognized and circulated photos of Chinx came from this first photoshoot. Kent Miller, photographer.

The question of ‘Drugz’

Image for post
Image for post
Early concept art exploring the removal of ‘Drugz’

Evolving the Logo

Image for post
Image for post
Left: Original Logo, Middle: Revised letterforms, Right: with Drugz wiped away

The EP & Feelings

Image for post
Image for post
‘I’ll Take it from Here’ & ‘Feelings’ artwork

Image for post
Image for post
Left: Early sketch for ‘Feelings’ | Middle: Unused Cover for ‘Feelings’ | Right: Unused Deluxe Cover for the EP

CR4 & CR5

Image for post
Image for post
Photoshoot for CR4 & CR5, 2014

After the EP, the logical next step would have been a full studio album but Chinx insisted on continuing his Cocaine Riot mixtape series, releasing music for his fans on a regular basis. Working with manager Doug Ellison at Four Kings Productions, artwork for CR4 and CR5 were both designed, produced and finished in under 24 hours to meet the release deadlines. The CR5 cover was always a favorite of mine in its simplicity, and was approved immediately by Chinx. It is now the most haunting image I ever made for him.

Image for post
Image for post
Artwork for CR4 & Cr5 — by Andy Sheffield, photography by Kent Miller Studios

Image for post
Image for post
Left: Creating the CR4 Logo, from baking soda. | Center/Right: Two unused concepts for CR5

Meanwhile

“Shout out to my dude Andy, I don’t fuck with nobody else with these graphics”

Image for post
Image for post
Left: At Jungle City Studios in New York | Right: Another successful photoshoot

One More time in the Studio

Image for post
Image for post
April 25, 2015 at Kent Miller Studios

My last conversation with Chinx was on April 25, 2015. We were back in the studio photographing the looks that would become the cover art and promotional images for Welcome to JFK, his first full-length studio album. It was a familiar team, Kent Miller behind the lens, Duckie Confetti styling, Doug Ellison handling the management, and myself for Creative. Things were business as usual. As he got his hair trimmed up in the hallway, we discussed his reasoning behind the title of the long-awaited album and heard several unfinished tracks.

To my memory of that conversation,Welcome to JFK represented both an opportunity and a trap. Far Rockaway, Queens, where Chinx grew up and resided, is near the iconic John F. Kennedy airport in New York. While so close to the international travel and escape that it provides, he was also trapped in the situation and surroundings of the Streets of Queens. Chinx had aircraft tattoos all over his body, the ones on his hands would eventually become the cover to the album.

Image for post
Image for post
Polaroids from the photoshoot for ‘Welcome to JFK’ — Kent Miller, photographer

After expressing some chiding jealousy at my ability to walk in and take a decent photo during lighting tests, Chinx told me that today,

“No poses Andy, I’m just going to do my thing.”

So we stepped back as photographers and art directors and let him work. They are some of the best photos we ever took. As was now tradition, we signed off with one last glass of Hennessy with the team before going our separate ways. 3 hours later, we were wrapped. 3 weeks later, he was dead.

Timelapse of Chinx’s last photoshoot for ‘Welcome to JFK’. April 25, 2015

May 17, 2o15

“Is this shit with Chinx real?”

It’s an odd feeling to sit by yourself with your phone and Facebook and learn how someone you saw a few weeks ago was murdered only hours ago. As the reality sunk in, all I could do is pause, reflect, and put some remembrances out in the world.

Image for post
Image for post
Instagram posts from May 17, 2015. There was some confusion around Chinx’s birthday which was eventually resolved to be December 4.

An Unexpected Task

Image for post
Image for post
Funeral Program for Chinx

It was several days before I eventually talked with Chinx’s management to regroup. Through the grief there was still work to get done. My role as designer for Chinx and member of the team came to fruition in a way I’d never considered — we were laying out his funeral booklet. Collecting photos, putting together a prayer card, making sure everything was up to the quality Chinx would be proud of. The first use of the new photos we just took was for the service.

The funeral was a surreal experience, and thankfully a peaceful affair. Fans gathered, Stop the Violence demonstrators stood by, reporters swarmed and the NYPD came out in force. Throughout it all, cars drove by with the windows down, Chinx on high volume.

Image for post
Image for post

Image for post
Image for post
Visitors outside of Chinx’s Funeral — May 26, 2015

New Music

Image for post
Image for post
Single Art for ‘On Your Body’ & ‘Yay’

Image for post
Image for post
Unused alternates for ‘Yay’, ‘On Your Body’ and ‘Welcome to JFK’

Welcome to JFK

Image for post
Image for post
Chinx’s son ‘Nugget’ with manager Doug Ellison, July 2015
Image for post
Image for post
Left: Chinx’s Wife Janelli Caceres-Pickens listening to Welcome to JFK, Right: With Rick Steel, Executive Producer of ‘I’ll Take it From Here’

Welcome to JFK was released on August 14, 2015. Focusing only on Chinx’s clasped hands, highlighting his aircraft tattoos, the entire packaging kept a strict black and white color palette. In a detail I didn’t realize until later, the front cover visual of JFK is reminiscent of the not-often-seen back cover of I’ll Take it From Here, our very first project.

Image for post
Image for post
Bookends — Left: Final cover for ‘Welcome to JFK’ | Right: Back cover of ‘I’ll Take it from Here’

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Poster artwork for ‘Welcome to JFK’

Legacy

Image for post
Image for post

Lionel Pickens came from a real life on the streets, lost a close friend to murder while in prison on drug charges and rapped a tough game. From the outside it’d be easy to characterize him as some rapper who got shot, but he was far from it. As a middle class kid from Ohio, our differences likely outweighed our similarities, but we still ended up intersecting for a short time pursuing our creative dreams. I’ll remember a guy who didn’t like getting his photo taken in a room with 5 people but could walk out on a stage in front of thousands.

Image for post
Image for post
Unretouched: Left: The very first frame from the first photo shoot, September 2013 | Right: The very last frame, from the last photo shoot, April 2015. Kent Miller, photographer.

He was an artist, son, father and friend. A guy from the streets trying to make it, and now unfortunately another statistic of rappers, young black men, and Americans who are gunned down by the thousands every year in our country.


May 17, 2016

Image for post
Image for post
Cover Artwork for ‘Legends Never Die’ — Releasing summer 2016

A special thanks to everyone that I worked with during my time on Chinx’s projects. A long list not limited to: Lionel ‘Chinx’ Pickens, Rick Steel, Tim Bello, Doug Ellison, Kent Miller, Marco Giannavola, Vashon ‘Rap’ Straws, Lola Plaku, Dafina Zeqiri, Blickie Blaze, Meet Sims, Matt Brevner, Jon Thomas, Duckie Confetti, Terence Osborne.

Andy Sheffield is a Designer and Creative Director living and working in Los Angeles, CA. You can find more of his work at andysheffield.com | His favorite Chinx record of all time is Track 1, from Project 1: Wake Up with Dafina Zeqiri from I’ll Take it From Here.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store