Drake hopes that his latest single, "Hold On, We're Going Home," will be played at weddings a decade from now, and according to Kadir Nelson, the artist responsible for crafting his Nothing Was the Same album cover, Drizzy had the same idea with his visuals, commissioning an iconic piece of art that would endure the years.
On Thursday, just a few days before he takes the stage at Sunday's 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Drake released the cover art featuring two side profiles of the Toronto native, one of baby him sporting a mini afro and another of him as an adult.
Nelson — a painter, illustrator and artist from New Jersey who transplanted to Los Angeles as a child — told MTV News that Drake reached out after seeing some of his work. "He was recording at a studio in L.A. where I have art on display, and asked me if I was interested in illustrating the artwork for his cover," Nelson explained, adding that they collaborated on the idea.
"He wanted a signature painting," the artist shared. "He didn't want something that looked like a hip-hop album cover — he wanted something that was a little bit more artsy and had more weight to it, so I did a number of sketches, and when we picked out what he liked, I sculpted it together."
Placed side-by-side, it seems that the YMCMB rapper is taking a long and thoughtful look at himself, through the past and present.
"Art is always open for interpretation, but he wanted something that represented his heart both as a kid and as an adult," Nelson shared. "I looked at a number of photographs of him as a little kid, and there was nothing I found exactly like that, so I had to imagine what Drake looked like as a little boy from the side. He was a cute little kid with big cheeks, so it wasn't that difficult to work out."
Though fans are seeing the image solely as an album cover, Drake actually received a full-sized painting from Nelson, which was crafted with oil and linen.
"Drake was looking for something that was iconic, that would be a signature painting of mine," Nelson said. "So I approached this as if it were something that would have resonance not only for now, but for all time. It's something that Drake and I both thought would last beyond what you'll see on most album covers now. We wanted something that was different from everything else."
Though Nelson isn't sure exactly where the original painting will end up, it's in Drake's possession. "I don't know where he'll hang it, but it's his," he added, laughing.
Kadir Nelson is currently working on a new children's book called "Baby Bear," which he'll debut next spring. In the meantime, is there any chance that he might pen Drake's biography, since he's already written about iconic figures like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr.? "You never know," he said.
Drake's third album, Nothing Was the Same, is due September 24, and Sunday night, he'll hit the stage at the VMAs to perform "Started From the Bottom," which is a contender for the coveted Best Hip Hop Video Moonman.