One company to me that truly represents WestSide Culture is San Diego based, RareInk. The owners of RareInk, Tim Muret and Dave Sanders, capture art, music, entertainment and culture all in one package. I had a chance to interview them and find out a bit more about their company.
What does WestSide Culture mean to you?
When I think of West Coast culture I think of innovation whether it is in business, visual arts, or music. When you look at the history of rap, what Ice Cube and others did was create an entirely new form of rap that was uniquely West Coast. 2pac and others followed in his footsteps. From a visual arts standpoint, the West Coast continues to be a hotbed of some of the top graphic designers, street artists, and other types of art. And on the business side, the companies that are out here tend to dominate the landscape when it comes to technology and innovation.
It seems the West Coast has a history of this, whether it be industries like aerospace or subcultures like the hot rod or car cultures out here, so many huge innovations or movements have started out here.
How did you come up with the idea for RareInk?
Tim and I both worked at Upper Deck for several years on their sports business and always thought there would be an opportunity to offer music fans unique artwork, both autographed and unsigned, for their walls. If you are a fan of a particular music artist, there really isn’t much out there that is of high quality, artistic, and where you know the autograph is real.
From our past experience in the autograph category, what we see out there for music is quite similar to the sports memorabilia industry in the early 90s prior to companies like Upper Deck coming in and partnering directly with athletes to offer fans authentic items. Almost everything a fan sees on eBay or an online music autograph site is forged. Or, even if it is real, the art isn’t really something most fans would want to put on their wall in their home or office. So our goal with RareInk is to do real cool art while also partnering officially with the music artist so fans know the signature on the artwork is authentic.
Another component that was important to us is the idea of giving back to important charities and causes so that is why we built it in to our model. For each recording artist we partner with, a portion of the proceeds is donated to their charity or foundation.
Can you describe the process for getting Ice Cube involved as a strategic partner? Did you have a relationship with him prior to RareInk?
A good friend and advisor to RareInk had a strong connect to Cube through a friend of his. He set up a meeting at Cube’s office and it was instantly a fit. What some people may not know about Cube is that he has a visual background having previously studied architecture so he immediately understood what we were going for with the art and wanted his fans to have the opportunity for cool pieces on their walls. In addition to the art side, he also saw the need to offer a legitimate source for his autograph as he commented how everything he sees online that was supposedly signed by him isn’t real.
What is your favorite art piece that RareInk sells?
It is tough to choose, but the It Was A Good Day Mural by artist Mark Sgarbossa is a real cool piece as it represents our goal with RareInk and bringing meaningful pieces to fans. The imagery and lyrics that he was able to work into the piece really bring the original music video to life. It is cool to release an art piece that is based on a video that I grew up watching.
The Tupac and Biggie pieces just released from artist Tes One are also a favorite of mine. With the pair titled “Target Demo”, he was able to create pieces that are visually compelling but also have a commentary as to how 2pac and Biggie were marketed and how it possibly contributed to their unfortunate murders.
Who is the best rapper of all time? Tupac, Biggie or Ice Cube?
Tough question. That is more for a music writer or magazine to decide. To me whether it is music or visual art, it is all about how a particular artist speaks to you and what their art means to you. For me, growing up in LA in the late 80s and early 90s, Ice Cube’s music has more personal meaning and sentimentally means more to me. That is what is interesting about RareInk, is everyone has their favorite artists and then also their favorite moments, photos or albums that they’d like to see brought to life through unique artwork.
Even the box the art comes in is clean and well designed. Do you guys have art or design backgrounds?
While we both come from the marketing side of the business, we have an appreciation for design and small details that make the consumer experience and product value better. I had the opportunity to intern at Mattel while in college and it exposed me to a ton of highly talented designers, many of whom I continue to work with on projects.
So on RareInk, we took a lot of time making sure everything from the art itself to the Certificate of Authenticity that comes with each piece had a unique aesthetic and quality to it. We also wanted to make sure this carried over to how our pieces were presented online, from how they are photographed to our videos of Cube signing.
What challenges and obstacles have you been faced with while building RareInk?
The main challenge we face is just getting in front of more music artists and having them see the value in what we are offering to their fans by providing an official and authentic source for signed art, while also raising funding for their particular charity or cause.
What other entertainers do you have in the works to be featured?
While we can’t release any specifics at this time, we are in discussions with several entertainers currently who have seen what we are doing and want to get involved. We are also excited about the future releases in the Tupac and Biggie series as we have a number of great artists lined up, including Dave Flores (January) and BASK (February).
Editor: I encourage anyone who is interested in West Coast culture, hip-hop, graffiti, art, etc. to check out the RareInk site. You will be inspired by the creativity and energy of each piece. It features other artists who do extraordinary work and you will not be disappointed.
All photos are the reserved rights of RareInk, Inc. Please visit rareink.com for more info.