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Breaking Records, One by One

Greg Frederick’s 32-by-32 of The Notorious B.I.G. PHOTO/ Courtney Elder
Greg Frederick’s 32-by-32 of The Notorious B.I.G. PHOTO/ Courtney Elder

By Courtney Elder

Published: October 29, 2014

Distorted music blasted loudly from The Bishop in the Bedford Brooklyn Art Gallery in the belly of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Cameras flashed back-and-forth as a hefty crowd gathered towards the back- and right-hand side of the gallery. The entrance mirrored that of a New York City nightclub.

“Oh! My! God! I didn’t even recognize what this was because I was standing so closely to it. Once I stepped back I saw that it was Biggie,” said a woman from the crowd who wore a denim jeans suit and oversized red glasses.

A rosy-cheeked gentleman in an olive-brown-colored blazer stood near the camera-toting crowd. He mouthed most of the words to a song by deceased rapper Christopher Wallace, also known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie.

In a twist on photography, Greg Frederick uses broken pieces of old vinyl records to create three-dimensional portraits of a few of his favorite idols—including a portrait of Biggie.

Frederick, whose first love is photography, looked back to when he felt inspired to use vinyl in his artistic craft three years ago.

“One day I found a box of chipped 45’s [vinyl record singles] on the streets of Brooklyn and I started using those and then one day thought,” Frederick said. “‘What if I got rid of the photo and just used the vinyl?’

Originally from Phoenix, Frederick bounced around domestically and internationally while in London, where he studied photography for five years. He frequently visited Los Angeles and eventually made his way to Brooklyn, his current home.

It was in New York City where his work was first featured—next to Andy Warhol’s at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

Greg Frederick alongside his vinyl pop art at The Bishop on Bedford. PHOTO/ Courtney Elder
Greg Frederick alongside his vinyl pop art at The Bishop on Bedford. PHOTO/ Courtney Elder

Many have complimented Frederick for his art and have said that his work is similar to that of the late iconic figure. However, Frederick believes that there are also striking differences, such as the medium and the use of dimension.

When he found out that there would be an art exhibit to honor the late hip-hop musician, The Notorious B.I.G., Frederick wanted to be included. It was there at The Bishop on Bedford where his affection for music and photography collided once again with an audience of diehard Biggie fans.

“I’ve always been a music lover. Growing up I wanted to be a music photographer shooting bands,” Frederick said when asked how his love for photography and music mesh with his latest creations. “So, it was nice transition for me to move to the vinyl records.”

Thus, on a 36-by-36 inch canvas, he composed the ode to the Brooklynite in the form of a portrait, Frederick’s favorite work.

Frederick is constantly reminded how important of a cultural figure the rapper has been to the Brooklyn community.

“Since moving to Brooklyn, I just always have my windows open, and at least a couple of times an hour I’m hearing someone bumping [to] Biggie down the street,” he recalled.

Frederick has an immense attention to detail, as he used shard pieces to show Biggie’s broad and distinguished nose and puffy cheeks. Frederick also made sure to include the notable Kangol hat that the rapper often wore and talked about in various song lyrics.

“How did he think of this?” Cece Jasper, an aspiring photographer and hip-hop music lover, said at the exhibit.

Overall, Frederick believes that he will build upon the past as music and art expands and evolves.

“Media breaks down artists to build them back up in the media, and I feel somehow I do that with my breaking of their own vinyl record[s] and building them back up to be something glorious again,” he said.

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