Photo: 215 Images
If you ask me who are my favorite underground artists, I'd have to name Craw the Sage as one of them. Not only is he a talented emcee, but he's also a visual artist and a digital media artist. I attended high school with him back in the day and although we never talked, I always noticed him as quiet and reserved. It's truly amazing to see how he has blossomed into the artist he is today and who he will continue to become. Check out this interview with Craw the Sage!
1. Introduce Yourself! (Age, Education, Location, etc. Anything you're comfortable with sharing)
My name is Eric Crawford aka Craw the Sage. I’m originally from Chicago; I stayed on the westside for the first half of my life up until high school. Then I moved to Maywood aka Woodside. I went to Providence St. Mel High School where I played varsity basketball. Fast forward a few years, I graduated from Knox College with a degree in Studio Arts.
2. You're definitely a triple threat when it comes to art. You're a hip-hop emcee, you create visual art, and digital media. How did you begin your journey as an artist and what made you interested in these three genres?
A triple-threat you can call it that, but I’m just an artist. You cant be limited to one medium, especially nowadays. I have an interesting journey in music, art and film. I started drawing at a very early age. My pops was creative always building things around the house. I took several art classes throughout middle school and high school. Mrs. Rhoades at PSM encourage me to continue to pursue art and push my limits. Not to mention I had several influential professors over at Knox who have had a huge impact on the direction my art has taken. I couldn’t thank the staff over there enough.
When it comes to music, I feel like it found me or it was something that was just innately in me. I started in college, in my dorm room, on a laptop microphone. I was just gimmick rapping with my homies but then I found out I could actually be good at this. I met DJ One Time later that summer at EBS Productions and I started recording tracks with him. That summer I recorded a couple tracks with DJ Dave from Successful Musiq, also a PSM grad. I went back to Knox for my sophomore year and that’s when I started taking hip-hop more seriously. I was just developing my craft, style and self. That’s when I met Griffin Belzer(GRYFN), who was also a student at Knox at the time. We started hanging out more then he showed me his beat catalog. We eventually found time to record at the radio station at my school, WVKC. We made some fire tracks and he did nearly all the production on my first project. Music has for sure been an interesting journey. I’ve met a bunch of other talented artist along the way like Rhino, Greediphresh, Wavi, Saano, and Desi. It’ll be interesting to watch the onslaught of new art that you’ll see from Chicago and Maywood.
Film is something I’ve definitely been passionate about since this past summer (‘16). I did some slight editing on my own material but I had never tried anything further than until the summer. I didn’t have employment so I had to create a stream of income. I started shooting docu films on my friends and they turned out to look pretty cool and professional. For me it was more about diving into a new medium and seeing what I was capable of doing with the Nikon D3100 that was past down to me. I like directors like Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee. I know everybody was upset with him. But everybody not gonna make the perfect body of work every time you know. On the video side Laka goes in, APlus Filmz is another one of my favorite collectives. Cole too… Cole goes in.
Photo: Zena Adad
3. What does "Sage" represent in your artist name and why did you choose it?
The name Craw the Sage came from shortening my last name Crawford. And the Sage part simply means a wise person. People tell me I’m an old soul all the time so I felt it was sort of fitting.
4. You have an unorthodox, creative style with your delivery and flow when it comes to your music and it pushes boundaries. What does it mean for you to be a hip-hop artist in this day and age?
In this day and age to be a hip-hop artist to me is an honor. The fact that people are supportive and appreciate what I do is enough for me. In today's era of music the market is highly over saturated. I mean, it’s sound, it’s everywhere, but in order to stand out you have to have an incredible fan base and team of individuals you truly love what you do.
I’ve seen a tremendous amount of support from people like yourself. Other people I hooped with, went to school with, made music and videos with. Whether it’s a like, tweet, text, phone call, email, Snapchat whatever it’s all love. Firebrand Arts Network is an organization out of Maywood that is helping me other artists in the area, as well as the youth continue their creative ventures.
My style is a result of me listening to a variety of music. My pops use to play soul music and r&b in the crib. My uncle use to play Biggie and Pac. My mom played gospel and Mary Mary so I was exposed different music. When I was in college it was mostly drill and trap being played around me. Elixir has splashes allusions to all these elements that’s why GRYFN called it experimental trap. Yeah, but sometimes I’m just flowing with whatever patterns may be in my head at the time I’m writing and recording.
Photo: Gabe Thomas
5. What's your next hip-hop project and when is it releasing? What should we expect from it?
My next hip-hop project will be called "Elixir". It’s a project I've been working on since my last year in college. Every project you grow as an artist and for this one it’s been so much growth as a person and artist and learning more as you go through the journey. "The Elixir" is a potion that provides the individual with cell healing, regeneration capabilities. The album get’s deeper into my life while I was in college, Maywood, and Chicago. It’s largely produced by GRYFN and DJ OneTime engineered a handful of the songs tracks as well.
6. Describe your creative process. What's the most enjoyable thing about it? What's the most difficult?
When it comes to painting I’ve been fortunate enough to paint at the Quinn Community Center in Maywood. At the center, I’m able to make paintings, have open mic events and engage with other artists in my community. I usually start a painting by sketching a piece first, then I might decide what I should do as far a color. Sometimes I make that decision as I go. It’s a very active spur of the moment process a lot of the time. It’s more of a feeling thing for me when painting. I might pause of a second think about what’s going on compositionally, but other than that I just gotta go in. Some of my favorite art to create is found object sculpture. I usually go out and find objects to build this sculptures out of. I like this process because it’s a lot more random. You never know what you might or what found object might speak to you.
A visiting professor by the name Mario Moore introduced me to Afro-Futurism. The style fit me perfectly so I just ran with it ever since. When I make found object sculptures and collages I try to depict dystopian futuristic facets using an Afrocentric influence. The most enjoyable part of creation is the moment you are in creation. It can be rapturous and slightly chaotic but that’s where the beauty is. That goes for hip-hop or life in general. You really just have to find that space where you’re in rhythm with the painting, time, music, the sculpture and the planet.
7. Your visual art has an abstract, graffiti-like style to it and I always notice a character called "Boxer Cat". How did you establish your current visual art style and what's the story behind "Boxer Cat"?
I have developed a sort of abstracted graffiti style as of late. Last year I started drawing a cat in my notebook in class and I started developing Boxer Cat. He’s basically an inter-dimensional cat that travels through galaxies and alternate dimensions with training in fighting depression and anxiety. I would always draw this character if I felt like that. I’ll surely be making more those.
8. What inspired you to jump into digital media with your brand Aquinas Visions? What's your favorite thing about it?
Glad you asked. Aquinas Visions started out of necessity. I knew I had to continue to produce content, so I started shooting short videos of my friends. I started there then expanding. I started making documentary films this past Summer. I began by recording my friends everyday activities and making everyday things just look entertaining. Then I met up with Charlie Copeland and Damen Silos. We shot some photos for Elixir now we’ve been making things happen ever since. I just really want Aquinas Visions to be fun, entertaining and educational for people to interact with across platforms.
9. How do you plan to take your artistry to the next level in 2017 and where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?
I feel like I’m always trying to reach my greatest self. This year I’m just gonna produce as much content as I possibly can. I’m releasing the "Elixir" a project that I feel will harness some attention. I plan on being apart of several music videos. Chelsey Sincerray over at 215 Images is producing the INVISIBLE Docu-Series which documents the lives of some pretty cool artists.
I’m glad she asked me to be apart her project. Also, I want to have a show with several Boxer Cat paintings, that’d be dope. We’ll see what I can make happen tho. In 5 years man a lot can happen. I plan on directing a movie or two, traveling the world, and doing an art/hip-hop show at MoMa.
10. What are some words of encouragement and honesty that you would give to aspiring artists and younger artists?
To the young artists I would say, enjoy the process. The pyramids weren’t built in a day. Try to help others build too. Just keep working and document...document. This era is for the creatives so make what you wanna see happen happen.
We appreciate you, Craw!
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