Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am took heed of Steve Jobs’ “think different” but perhaps more so, he has kept it all the way 100 by being fresh and original — the core values of golden-age hip-hop. Today, the group released an augmented reality app, available on iOS and Android, to go with its graphic novel Masters of the Sun: The Zombie Chronicles.
The story, co-written by Benjamin Jackendoff and illustrated by Damion Scott over five years, follows Zulu-X who battles an ancient alien god who turns drug dealers and gangsters into zombies. The action-packed allegory is a blend of conspiracy theories, Egyptology and street smarts. The printed copy is available now.
The AR app, led by internal creative team Pasha Shapiro and Ernst Weber, make the story come to life with animated talk bubbles and voiceovers from hip-hop and R&B juggernauts Rakim, Queen Latifah, KRS One and Mary J Blige, with narration from the legendary Marvel icon Stan Lee and musical score from Academy Award winning composer Hans Zimmer. The team plans an Oculus VR partnership set for early January 2018.
What the tech industry doesn’t understand is that hip-hop at its core is DIY and all about creative freedom, like slangin’ mixtapes out the trunk.
“That’s the benefit of working the way we work. There is no freakin’ hound, there is no freakin’ limitation on what we can do and how we should go about doing it. It’s like ‘let’s figure it out,’” will.i.am tells me. “You do not put out the same ‘ol shit if you’ve been gone for six years,” says will. “You better push the boundaries or do not come out at all.”
will.i.am says we can expect at least two more announcements in 2018 hinting at a possible gamification of sorts with the ability of unlocking and collecting characters, vehicles and weapons.
The AR comic is a first for both the comic and hip-hop cultures. Did will.i.am and the BEP crew knock it out of the park this tech go-round? Will will.i.am’s for-us-by-us hip-hop mentality help or hurt future ventures in tech?
It remains to be seen, but with co-signs from various industry pillars and the enthusiastic response from Comic Con LA, it certainly is a step in the right direction.