The United States Postal Service stamp program has been honoring and celebrating the people, events and cultural milestones unique to the history of the United States since 1847. And now it’s released stamps celebrating hip hop, with photos by award-winning Cade Martin.   Cade told Capitol Communicator: “I couldn’t be more honored – or school-kid excited – to be a part of it.

“What I loved about this project is everything. I worked on a stamp! *4 stamps – and it’s a pretty cool feeling.

“I think for the USPS to commemorate hip hop is an indication of its deep and far-reaching cultural significance. The word “iconic” can be overused, but to be on a stamp? That is actually iconic.”

Capitol Communicator asked Cade how you came to be a part of this project?  How did he and art director Antonio Alcala collaborate on this project?  He told us that he admired the USPS Star Trek forever stamps that Alcala had worked on, “and reached out to tell him so. Jump to today, through collaboration with Antonio and I now have images attached to this series of stamps available for purchase in 2020. It was one of those “life comes at you fast” situations. I had a great time working with Antonio. He is an outstanding art director and very collaborative. Flexibility, comfort level and openness were the keys to our success. Like I’d seen in the Star Trek Stamps, I feel like we were able to capture and translate a beloved cultural phenomenon in this unique medium.”

Cade was asked how he decided what elements of hip hop to honor?  His response:  “As most projects, I was approached with a brief and asked to bring the concepts to life. This project was no different in that the elements were decided upon before I was brought on board, the hip hop elements: MCing (rapping), B-boying (break dancing), DJ-ing, and Graffiti art were already chosen. I got to move straight into the “how” portion of the project.

“These images were meant to appear to be in motion. We wanted to have the images and the people as authentic as possible, ensuring the movement would be authentic as well. We didn’t want actors playing or trying to play a particular role. The DJ, MC and Graffiti Artist talent were sourced from the Washington, D.C., area of working hip-hop professionals, while the B-boy came from Philadelphia. Once on set, we had them do their thing – let’s really spin and break dance, let’s really rap, let’s really DJ. Let’s forget about the photographer and get lost in our actions. My job was to be a fly on the wall making images of them while they created their craft.

 “In the design process, Antonio highlighted the motion filled images with bright colors, each representing a pillar of hip hop. The color helps lend to the feeling of movement.

“While we couldn’t show the faces of people – the images and figures had to be iconic and representative – they were actual people so the images are grounded in that authenticity. We had a great crew and lit the images in such a way that the faces of our subjects would be obscured in shadow. I grew up loving movies and comic books, so I embraced the idea of mystery. We tossed ideas back and forth, settling collaboratively on the right marriage of form and narrative. As with any great character, you want to know more, what’s next, what will they do, I wanted these images to invoke that same curiosity and sense of adventure. Music is both universal and personal, and these images allow the viewer to see who they want in these representations.”

Cade was asked what kind of tone or emotion do you think the stamp art evokes?  He responded:  “That’s a hard one. I really like the images and they have gotten a really nice response so far.  As all of my images, I like the image to stand alone and let the viewer come up with their interpretation.  But if I can hope for an emotion, it is a personal one. I like the thought that these images might bring forth a feeling tied to hip hop music for the viewer, that they draw to mind an experience, a time or a song that has meaning.”

Cade told Capitol Communicator that one thing that made this project unique “was the non-traditional casting of the talent, as well as the secrecy surrounding the project. A signed NDA was a requirement to be on-set and the talent wasn’t privy to what the end product would be.

“Working with the USPS on a project was new, but I love the unknown and finding beauty in the unfamiliar. One of the beautiful things about our industry is that you never know what is coming around the corner, and this project was one that I never thought to include on my wish list. I relished the opportunity to have my work featured on a stamp. Stamps are so iconic – now I’m overusing the word, but it fits – they are mini pieces of art.”

Cade Martin is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.


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