You may remember Haze as one of the graffiti obsessed teens profiled in Style Wars. Or you may recall stories of Haze hanging out at the Mudd Clubb with his contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Or, maybe you know him as one of the pioneers of the early “lets-go-to-Tokyo-and-set-up-shop” days of urban street-wear. How about art director for too many seminal rap groups and rap labels from the mid-’80s to mid-’90s to list? Or his noted collaborations with the likes of Heineken, G-Shock, and Nike? You could compare the man to Milton Glaser on the hip-hop tip, but really, he’s in a class all of his own, and of his own making. Let’s just say that Eric Haze is a living, breathing, walkin’ and talkin’ man of many accomplishments who was gracious enough to take time from his busy schedule to let us know what records he holds dear to his heart. And leave it at that.
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1. Tommy James and the Shondells - The Best of Tommy James and the Shondells (Roulette, 1970).
Haze: The very first record I ever owned, “Mony Mony,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and all that. I can actually remember bringing it to school and playing it on a “Close-and-Play,” with all the little girls in class “go-go dancing” to it, and I still know all the words to the whole record by heart.
2. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are you Experienced? (Reprise, 1967)
Haze: This is almost too obvious to warrant explanation, but yes, I did my first “Haze” piece tripping my brains out listening to “Purple Haze” in 1974. A stellar album by one of my true heroes. Hearing “The Wind Cries Mary” still brings me right back to that bedroom and night every time. The album cover also remains one of the finest of the psychedelic era too.
3. Public Enemy - Yo! Bum Rush the Show (Def Jam, 1987)
Haze: The first album cover I art directed and designed from scratch for Def Jam, after Chuck D supplied me with his original sketch of the PE logo. Revolutionary and hard as hell, this album changed the game at the time in a big way… and, of course, was a big turning point in my design career too. I still have all the original drawings, typesetting and printers proofs for it, plus the original street snipe posters that went up before its release. My favorite memory of the album is when Dante Ross and I went out to LA in 1987 with a pre-release copy of the album on cassette, bumping “My 98″ ["You're Gonna Get Yours"] at full volume in our rental car on the PCH… we turned a lot of West Coast surf/skate heads onto it that trip too.
4. Beastie Boys - Check Your Head (Grand Royal, 1992)
Haze: Not the first Beastie Boys cover I designed, but by far the most influential and important. It was the first major design project I did after relocating my studio to LA in 1992, and also marked my return to doing pure hand style typography after years of working with a t-square on logos like EPMD. MCA told me while they were producing the album that he “wanted it to sound like it was recorded on a toaster oven” from which I took my cue to make the artwork totally organic and rough around the edges too. This record really hit a sweet spot between hip-hop, punk and rock and roll, colliding with Nirvana and the like at the time, and I believe it remains one of the most significant albums of our generation.
5. Haze Presents: NY Reality Check 101 featuring DJ Premier (Payday, 1997)
Haze: The one and only album I have released under my own brand name, along with Payday Records. Payday records was born out of the original NY underground hip-hop club of the same name in the late ’80s, for which I designed all the invites, posters and graphics at the time. The owner, Patrick Moxey, reached out again years later with the concept, which of course I was down with, and it was an honor to work and be associated with DJ Premier on this level too. The album itself is a good listen and has still aged well, with G-Depp’s “Head Over Wheels” being the standout track.