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— uhh... safer ?"
Julian Alexander: At the time we were shooting this album, 50 was still very much building a new relationship with the label, and… there was concerns for safety. So leading up to the shoot it was decided that the whole thing would be done in a studio as opposed to on location.
They didn’t want him outside at all.
Julian Alexander: No. It was the better way to handle things just for the safety of everyone involved. To have the whole shoot in a studio. One set location. We don’t have to move. And I got the sense that he was cool with that.
Sacha shot locations separately, and he shot the locations first. We would review them together, figure out what outfit we're gonna try, and then we matched the lighting on set, on 50, to the background light [in the previously shot images].
The shots where 50 is tucking his money, his hands full of money, that was something I definitely wrote in the [project] brief. There was a shot where 50, Yayo and Banks are sitting at a table going through a money counting machine. That was in my brief. So there were some very specific shots that we were trying to achieve. That required a lot of joint effort between Sacha and myself.
Do you recall people’s reactions to the cover when the album finally came out?
Julian Alexander: Right before the album came out 50 was performing in East Hartford in Connecticut. And I’m from Connecticut, so he tells me, “Come to the show.” So I brought a whole bunch of my friends. Right before the show, 50 [introduced us to] DJ Whoo Kid, telling him, "This is the dude who did the artwork," and Whoo Kid’s just like, “It’s incredible! He looks like a superhero on the cover!” And he’s just going on about it, and I’m like [to myself], “I think I did good.” [For other projects I've worked on] people would say, “Oh, you did that? That’s cool.” But this [time around] was a different kind of response.
But the thing I feel the most proud about with that [album package is that] I can look at things that came after and see where that had an effect on music packaging. And I guess I’ll say “within that genre,” but I saw a lot of things happening as it related to the [booklet] through these types of packaging. And it’s not the first time it was done, but the way that digital photography was utilized, the format that was used. So I look at it and I can see that it had an impact on some things that came after it. That's a huge honor to me.
It was very influential as far as certain aesthetic trends at the time.
Julian Alexander: It’s the gift and the curse though. Because on one hand, you do something that is so visible, and then it’s all that people [request] from you. While I’m proud of that, that’s not my goal to continue doing one thing; it’s to keep growing as a designer. This worked well 'cause it fit for that project. And I think as a designer and as a creative director that is what I pride myself on: deciphering what is best for this project. But people are like, “I want you to do that other thing.” That was the downside of it.
Working with 50, just in general, he changed my life. [During] GRODT he was undoubtedly the most important artist at that time. I remember the day that album came out, talking to people that were like, “Yo, I went to the store to get it and it was sold out!” The day it came out! He sold 800,000 copies the first week, and that’s 'cause that’s what they shipped . The album sold out in places 'cause they knew it would be big, but they couldn’t anticipate how big it would be. And he could've gotten anyone that he wanted and he came to me.
And you were moonlighting on this!
Julian Alexander: Yeah! In fact, my name was in the "Thank You's" [in the liner notes] and I took it out because I'm thinking, “Yo, my boss is gonna see this!” They didn’t know what Slang Inc. is. That’s the first album with Slang Inc. in the credit. And I knew there was gonna be attention paid to [that album]. So I took my name out, and I still to this day kind of regret it.
Whether I work with 50 again or not, I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity. Because of two things. One, he could have [hired] anyone, but he kept his word that he wanted me to work on this project. And [two], that he created a scenario for me to be able to launch my business, which was my dream. And it happened in a way that gave me great exposure because of the opportunity it extended and it benefited me and my family greatly, and I’m eternally appreciative of it.