Mark Bijasa is a Los Angeles based artist and designer who recently collaborated with artist and musician, The Koreatown Oddity, on his latest project — Little Dominique’s Nosebleed. Little Dominique’s Nosebleed is much more than just Ktown Odd’s third full-length album, it’s an intimate window into his most impactful life experiences. The cover reads, “When I was a little kid, I was in two serious car accidents that would change the rest of my life.”, this along with the musical accompaniment and instagram art installation share with us the profound effect that a reoccurring nosebleed can have.
I was fortunate enough to chat with them both about the design surrounding this musical documentary and how they managed to create such a perfect presentation of life and experience.
Bryan Sims (Interviewing for DesignToast): Dominique (The Koreatown Oddity), when did you get started on Little Dominique’s Nosebleed?
Dominique: My last album (Finna to be Past Tense) on Stones Throw came out in 2017 in January and I started to put stuff in for this album in September 2017… The first track I recorded was the one called “The Koreatown Oddity”. When I started the album, I already knew what the title was… after that it was pretty much just making stuff and putting it in, listening to it, you know, trying to get the whole vision out there.
I knew there was a certain way that I wanted to do it that was different from a lot of the stuff I’ve done. To me, all my stuff is concept heavy, whether people realize it or not, but with this one… people are going to get it. I wanted to do something that really showed my capabilities, from the production, to the raps, to being able to put together a whole project… that was my mission.
Bryan: Can you walk me through the process of building the cover?
Dominique: As soon as I started working on the record, we started talking about “what are we going to do for this?”. I think it was always, definitely, going to be me, with a nosebleed, you know? How we put that together was what we were trying to figure out.
Mark: Working with Dominique, he’s a real visionary, so it’s just a matter of following his lead and creative direction. We were linking up every Friday night, he would come to the house, we’d smoke a few, I would have the laptop connected to the screen, and we would get busy.
We went through different phases, so we had different versions of the album cover… there was this one with this crazy maze. There was also one where I shot this photo of Dominique and his Mom, and for a while we sat on that, we were like “yo, this is it!”. We even went to a Stones Throw meeting and we’re like “This is the cover!” but they had more questions, so we had to simplify it.
Dominique: One day he was telling me about Archie Boston, this famous black graphic designer.
Mark: Archie Boston is a legendary graphic designer and copywriter, he’s actually the first guy to bring civil rights awareness to the mainstream in advertising and design. He did all of these really controversial posters and graphics in advertising, I think the most famous is the Black Klansman. It’s a black dude in a straight klan outfit, that’s the poster. He’s a true revolutionary in Art and Design.
He has a book called “A Fly in the Buttermilk”… when we flipped through that book we were just like “Oh man, the way this guy used words, the way he laid stuff out in simplicity.” He influenced using that “loveline” as the hierarchy on the cover.
Dominique uses “loveline” as a play on words for “log line”, a technique used in movie posters to catch a potential viewer’s attention and give them a brief summary of the film. — author’s note.
Dominique: Imagine if Jay-Z had his album and on the cover he said, “Yeah I used to sell crack rocks on the corner and I got shot at but I never went to jail”. If that was the cover you’d be like “Damn! I gotta hear this shit”.
When you look at the poster for a movie you only get one chance to pull people’s attention. If the poster is “whatever”, then they’ll just move on but if you look at a poster and go “Yo, what the f*** is that?”. That’s basically what I wanted people to feel, and if the music goes with that, they’re going to want to find out more information. “I looked at the cover, I listened to it, it matched. Now I want to know, who the f*** is this person and I want to know more about what’s going on here.”
Bryan: What about the back cover?
Mark: The back cover is, I would say, remnants of the first cover we did. We did this whole concept with Dominique and his Mom, being in this endless maze, going through all these challenges dealing with these two car accidents.
We also knew we wanted to do something where we were playing with the letters, making this interactive element.
Dominique is always sending me record covers from the shop (Record Surplus), he’s like “Yo look at this lettering!”, I could go through my phone and I probably have 50 texts from him with different covers. So we had a mood board put together over time and we were kind of looking at constructivist type stuff and Russian graphics, international records. Most of the records Dominique sent me had weird abstract letters.
Dominique: I feel like they got no boundaries cause they got the flyest, craziest, fonts and arrangements on covers. Its crazy to me! I wanted that feeling that I get looking those international records. You know, when you find some crazy record from Columbia or anywhere and you’re like “Yo this record looks so crazy!” You almost want it just for the cover.
There’s a lot of details on the back, for example, there is this lettering on the back that says “Ktown Odd” that’s taken from an actual Korean sign from back in the era of the riots.
Mark: The famous California Mart photo that shows the armed Koreans on the rooftop, you’ll see the California Mart sign and there’s another red sign with Korean lettering. I remember we looked at that and we were like, “Yo, that says Ktown on it!”. So we took that, flipped it a little bit and incorporated that in there, there’s a lot of little elements that are pulled from different places.
Bryan: What kind of challenges did you guys face while working on the record?
Mark: As far as challenges go, it was really about trying to get all of our ideas out. We chose to make Koreatown the universe we worked with and Koreatown is filled with so much inspiration. There’s no buildings that look the same, there’s no sign that looks the same, all the people are different, so there’s an endless pool of inspiration we could pull from. So we had to create an Instagram for it, the Little Dominique’s Nosebleed Ephemera and Art installation.
Dominique: I have all of this stuff that I grew up with that my mom had, Zulu Nation shirts and her Zulu Nation membership card, raps that she wrote for me when I was a kid, videos of her making songs, talking to the camera about stuff occurring during the late 80s and early 90s, polaroid’s that she took of Ice-T and Donald D…
Mark: So we got all of the ephemera, photographed it, scanned it, and used it to help tell more of the story and where the story goes. The Little Dominique’s Nosebleed Ephemera and Art installation is something you want to scroll through while you’re listening to the album, it really brings you there.
Dominique: The first thing that starts off the Instagram account is a rap called “Dominique”, my mom wrote this for me as a kid. The fact that that exists and then I have an album called “Little Dominique’s Nosebleed” some 30 years later and she’s on the album rapping a verse with me, if you’re looking at that page and really understand that, this is some crazy shit.
This is something that’s like nothing else and is really giving you a piece of a certain time in LA and Koreatown.
Interview by Bryan Sims.
Bryan is a documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles, CA.