US Rapper Drake Shines Spotlight on Harare Digital Artist
Updated: Sep 28, 2021
Social media is buzzing about digital artist Nyashadzashe Warambwa. The 19-year-old has been slowly coming up on the culture radar this year since he released the now-iconic image entitled “We’ll Meet Again” on Instagram in honour of the death of US rapper DMX. The piece features the eponymous rapper, Kobe Bryant, Aaliyah, Tupac and Chadwick Boseman. What made Zimbabweans pay attention? A small Zimbabwean flag is discreetly placed in the background.
Warambwa says, “This was a tribute to DMX when DMX passed away. I also took the opportunity to pay tribute to other icons who had passed, Chadwick, Kobe, Aaliyah, Nipsey. It’s a surreal image of them all enjoying themselves in a proposed afterlife just to honour DMX. I started adding the Zim flag bit after I first started getting recognition from Chris Brown. I just wanted to show where the art is from, to represent in some way and to get international recognition from these artists.” DMX was from New York and not long after this, an appreciative New York artist reached out to Warambwa and helped to put “We’ll Meet Again” on a billboard in Times Square, New York.
“To this day, that piece is the most popular one. It really catapulted me to an international crowd. A few legends reposted it. It definitely made some rounds online.” he says. Since then, Warambwa has made a good chunk of change selling his work as NFT art.
Warambwa started doing digital art as a hobby at the beginning of lockdown last year. Born and raised in Harare, he studied art at Gateway High where he went to high school. But in March 2020 he began experimenting with different digital styles and techniques on his Instagram where he uses the handle @huliodraws. It soon grew into something bigger.
“At first I was drawing some friends and local rappers in Zim. I was trying to learn how to draw different styles and drawing different things. My first turn around to draw something different was when I was first noticed by Chris Brown. Soon after that, I moved onto anime.”
After entering an illustration contest hosted by rapper and producer Torey Lanez, he switched from drawing with a mouse and a keyboard to drawing with an iPad and a stylus to produce a style that was smoother and more realistic. Warambwa’s latest piece released this week is a tribute to Drake and features different iterations of the rapper through the years welcoming the latest incarnation, Certified Lover Boy, his much-anticipated album which was released last week.
How did Warambwa find out that Drake had just shared his latest piece on his Instagram page? “It was absolutely crazy and kind of weird. I just got home today and there was no power. My phone battery was on one percent. I connected to the internet. Drake had followed me a few weeks before actually. I DM'd him and he liked it but he didn’t reply. But when I got home today someone commented that Drake had shared my artwork. He doesn’t really post fan art like that, so it’s something special. It felt incredible!” Warambwa recalls.
What advice would he give to aspiring digital artists? “I wouldn’t want to sell a dream to everyone. Definitely, the most important thing is to not give up. It might be cliched. Work on the craft continuously, just keep going and don’t be discouraged by any naysayers.”