Artist Spotlight: Jamal Shabazz

Awoken Gaming (AG): Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jamal Shabazz: I’m an artist from Mayesville, South Carolina/ Grayson, Georgia (Nawfside!). I went to Savannah College of Art & Design majoring in Sequential Arts and minoring Storyboarding and graduated there in the spring of 2015. I’ve been mentored by Kappas in Lawrenceville, GA in leadership skills which kinda lead to me being picked to be president of the Black Student Association at SCAD. Through BSA I was able to rejuvenate the club through various events and lay down the foundation for a much stronger club that just last year was named club of the year at SCAD (not through me of course but the ones who followed after my presidency lol. I’m just proud to say I was a part of something like that.) I specialize in character design, anthropomorphic animal caricatures, t-shirt design & writing. Cartoons have always fascinated me and I’ve always wanted to be able to make my own content that would make me feel as good as the shows I grew up on. My goal is to make my own animated films all told from the perspective of traveling storyteller named crowjones, who shares various stories with people all over the universe. I’m also a major music head and I like to dance.

AG: When did you know you wanted to become an artist?

Jamal: I knew when I was twelve. I’d been drawing since I could hold a pencil, but I remember distinctly when i was twelve watching DBZ and drawing the characters one day like i always did after school and having an epiphany that this was an actual job. So when i realized that, I went full throttle and just started creating my own stories and most of all I didn’t want to create them for anyone but for myself. I wanted to be my own boss.

AG: What are some of your influences or things that inspire you?

Jamal: Soooooooo many influences man. Akira Toriyama, Charles Schluz, Bill Watterson, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Jeff Smith, Sonic The Hedgehog, Will Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Nintendo, Marvel, Shinichiro Watanabe, Mamoru Hosoda, Hayao Miyzakai, John Lasseter, Walt Disney, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Genndy Tartakovsky, Craig McCracken, Cartoon Network, NIckelodeon, Old School Disney, I really like Gravity Falls, Amelie Flechais, Ulysse Malassagne and his crew at Studio La Cachette,  Sooo many artists man like sooooooo many.

AG: Are you inspired by any other artists?

Jamal: I like people who keep presenting new original stories you know? So like music is a huge influence on me. Like I have to listen to it all the time. Albums to me are like literature to me and often times I try to reflect that in my own work. Like that they present a whole new experience/story with each album. Tupac Shakur, Outkast, Kid Cudi,  Frank Ocean, Jay Electronica, Kanye West, MF DOOM, Janelle Monae, Kendrick Lamar just to name a few.  I’m influenced by NOI (Nation of Islam) the way they break down word of God is amazing to me and it makes me feel like I can do anything.

AG: For those that aren't familiar with your work, explain to everyone what/who Ame is and how this story came to be. 

Jamal: Ame is a fable about a young koala (Ame) who travels around the world after being inspired by the birds that would eventually fly away from his island. While traveling he meets a girl in search of legendary golden tower and the two travel together, feeling that their paths are similar all the while being pursued by a collective of wizards who seek to prevent them from finding the tower. It’s a story with a lot of different layers to it, but the overall message is about finding God within ourselves and not through others. “Love Yours” if you will. 

I came up Ame when i was in high school…I was daydreaming about “Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga" in my 10th grade chemistry class and I thought to myself “I should draw a koala” and start drawing right then and there. I really liked how he turned out and so I started developing ideas for a narrative.

AG: Where would you like to see Ame/your work go this year?

Jamal: I want Ame to get exposure. I want coverage about it, interviews about it. I want plush dolls and t-shirts. I want people to know that this is a very real thing for and that this and all the other stories Ame is my life! I want Ame to become and animated series. I’m working on a pitch for it as we speak that I’m looking to show to various networks! I want this year to be the year that Ame pops off like I’ve always planned it to.

AG: Do you have any advice to offer to aspiring artists?

Jamal: NEVER STOP GRINDING! BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT WHEN YOU DECIDE THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT! LIFE IS LIKE CLAY. YOU CAN SHAPE IT INTO WHATEVER YOU DESIRE! STAY FOCUSED & STAY POSITIVE. ENERGY IS NEITHER LOST OR DESTROYED! IT’S TRANSFERRED! YOU GET WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT SO DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO AFTER WHAT YOU WANT! TALK TO GOD, BUT MOST OF ALL UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE A GOD. NOT THE GOD, BUT A GOD, THE BOOK SAYS WE ARE MADE IN HIS IMAGINE IN LIKENESS AND WE ARE CALLED HIS CHILDREN! THAT MEANS WE HAVE THE SAME CAPABILITIES AS HIM! IF HE IS THE MASTER OF CREATION! HIS IDEAS STICK AND AFFECT EVERYTHING AROUND US! THERE WAS AN ORIGINAL TREE AT FIRST NOW THEY ARE ALL OVER THE PLANET! THAT WAS AN IDEA THAT CAME TO LIFE AND SPREAD! THIS MAYBE A BIT TOO FAR LEFT FOR SOME, BUT STUFF LIKE THIS IS WHAT KEEPS ME GOING AND INSPIRE, KNOWING THAT THAT KIND OF POWER EXIST WITHIN IN ME AND EVERYONE ON THE PLANET! EMBRACE YOUR INNER GOD PLEAAAASE! LIKE FOR REAL. ASK HIM FOR HELP AND GO TO WORK!!!!!! SERIOUSLY. HE IS THE BEST WHEN IT COMES TO TURNING NOTHING INTO SOMETHING.

AG: Fun questions! Top 10 albums?

"Me Against The World” By Tupac Shakur
“Aquemini” by OutKast
“Late Registration” by Kanye West
“Madvillainy” by MF Doom
“Songs in The Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder
“Actor” by St. Vincent
“Channel Orange” by Frank Ocean
“The Archandroid” by Janelle Monáe
“Currrents” by Tame Impala
“good kid, M.A.A.d city” by Kendrick Lamar

AG: Top 5 films?

Forrest Gump
Friday
O Brother Where Art Thou
Kill Bill
To Kill a Mockingbird

AG: Favorite album, film and/or show of 2016?

Album: “Blonde” by Frank Ocean
Show: Atlanta
Film: Zootopia

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