James ‘Creative’ Shields, a 2008 Howard University graduate has made headlines recently with his unique take on hip hop and artistry. He has a gift for drawing, and has combined that with his love for hip hop to give the children of today another way to express their creativity.
Shields has taken his love for the hip hop culture and transformed it into a coloring book, “The Hip Hop Coloring Book Vol. 1.” The book is a 28 page coloring book and a history lesson for young children to learn about art and hip hop while exercising their creativity.
Shields understands the important role Hip Hop and the youth play in our community. He is utilizing his talent to not only help give hip hop a more balanced image, but wants to uplift the youth through creativity. Learn more about Howard University graduate James Shields.
HBCUBuzz: What led you to create this hip hop coloring book? Was it a project you felt you were born to create?
JS: While in the process of creating a graffiti inspired art curriculum for a local school, I decided that I would much rather enjoy creating a Hip Hop Coloring Book and using that as the foundation of the lesson plan.
I wouldn’t say that I was necessarily born to create this book, but I’m grateful for that I live in a world where I have the opportunity to pursue this type of passion.
HBCUBuzz: What inspired your love for hip hop? Do you have a favorite artist or album?
JS: My mom played a huge role in my love for hip hop. My parents didn’t allow us to listen to music with cursing but she knew we loved rap so she would buy us tons of gospel hip hop. I think that set me on the path to listening to alternative types of hip hop (conscious, underground, global) instead of what was happening in the mainstream.
Some of my favorite emcees are Ghost Face Killah, Mf Doom, Mos Def, & Cee-Lo Green.
JS: The demo was released and we got some great feedback. However, the app is still under development while I work out some new ideas with my design team. I’m hoping to release the full digital version this summer.
HBCUBuzz: The Hip Hop Coloring Book serves as a bit of a history lesson in hip hop. Was that your intention in the creation of this book?
JS: Definitely. Hip Hop is a huge part of recent African-American history so it was my goal to tell our story in a way that was culturally relevant. The book also bridges the gap between young and old generations, because you have some people that enjoy the nostalgic feeling they get from the content and others who love that it’s a coloring book that they can relate to.
HBCUBuzz: What lasting impression do you want to leave on the youth through your art?
JS: I want the youth to be empowered through their own creativity. I want them to take pride in their individuality and know that its okay to be themselves. Once they embrace their uniqueness they’ll realize they can accomplish whatever they desire.
HBCUBuzz: It was said in an NYDN article that your parents did not fully support your decision to leave your corporate job and pursue art full time. How did you stay motivated to achieve your goal during that time?
JS: I put my heart into pursuing my creativity and I made the decision that I wouldn’t let anything stop me from giving my all. Antoher thing that helped keep me going was the support I received from my Howard University family. I feel an artist is only as successful as the community that supports him/her and my Howard family supported me 100 percent. They really showed me the power that we could have if we all worked together toward a common goal, which in this case was lending expertise, time or resources to helping each other pursue our respective entrepreneurial endeavors.
HBCUBuzz: Did you ever imagine that hip hop would play such an integral role in your life?
JS: Yes and no. I love hip hop because it’s not just an art form or entertainment for me, but a lifestyle. I’m just glad that I have an opportunity to not only be a part of, but also shape this culture through my art.
HBCUBuzz: How did you find your way to Howard University? Was attending an HBCU always a desire of yours?
JS: In high school I knew very little about HBCUs and even less about Howard. During the Spring Break of my first year of community college my parents sent my younger brother and I to DC to hang with my older cousin for a week. My cousin (who studied math at Cal Berkeley and Maryland) took us to visit Morgan State, Hampton, and Howard. He really opened our eyes to a black educated lifestyle on the east coast.
Howard was the last school we visited. We walked on the yard at noon on a Friday. It was the first warm day of Spring. Needless to say my decision was made right then and there.
HBCUBuzz: How did Howard help you prepare for the world after graduation?
JS: Attending Howard and seeing the diversity and richness of Black people across the world gave me immense pride in who I am. I’m very greatful for that experience and all the people who helped mold me.
I was a marketing major in HU’s School of Business. And aside from learning and developing a solid business theory foundation, HU also groomed me and taught me how to be a professional. I also got my first taste of entrepreneurship when a friend and I launched a t-shirt business called Daydreamer during my junior year (Daydreamer would evolve into an art collective).
HBCUBuzz: What does it mean to you to be an HBCU alum?
JS: It means accepting the responsibility to expose others to the possibility of life through higher education, especially young black males.
HBCUBuzz: Is teaching something you see yourself doing in the future?
JS: Yes. I would love to be a professor one day. Really for the sake of sharing my life experiences and helping others accomplish their dreams.
HBCUBuzz: Is there a message that you want to convey to the youth of today through your art?
JS: Just be yourself. Express yourself. Stay true to who you are.