Hebru Brantley's trip to Miami Beach for the high-profile Art Basel art show was winding down when the Chicago-based street artist and De La Salle Institute alum was told there was one more potential customer who wanted to meet him right before his flight back home:
A mutual friend had introduced the hip-hop icon and entrepreneur to Brantley's work and set up a meeting between the two Dec. 9. Brantley brought with him the piece he felt Jay-Z would most connect with, titled "Everyone's Scared," and shared the story behind it with the "Empire State of Mind" rapper.
"It talks about certain underlying fears in the human psyche," said Brantley, 31, of "Everyone's Scared" Wednesday over the phone. "Some of us are not allowed to be honest with ourselves and are supposed to project ourselves in a certain way. As an African-American artist, I always want to be accepted within the contemporary African-American community. In the back of my mind I'd think, 'If I paint this way, how will it be perceived? Will they get it?' 'Everyone's Scared' was the first time for me as an artist where I sort of threw all that away to create free of worry, or how it'll be perceived. Jay-Z appreciated the story behind it. It resonated with him."
Jay-Z purchased the piece for $20,000, according to the New York Post, posing for a photo with Brantley that the artist posted on Instagram once he was on his flight. By the time he turned his phone back on in Chicago, Brantley said everyone and their mother had heard about it.
Brantley's latest solo art show, Brothers of the Robbing Hood, is taking place at Lacuna Artist Lofts in Pilsen through Friday. He has sold his artwork to celebrities before (he said basketball players and actors have purchased his work, and rapper Lupe Fiasco, whom Brantley calls a close friend, showed up to the Robbing Hood opening) — but no one as famous as Jay-Z.
"It was surreal," Brantley said of the meeting. "I'm a huge Jay-Z fan. I've been listening to him since high school. I'm a kid from the South Side of Chicago. My friends and I used to ride around in the car listening to Jay-Z and knew every lyric, and now I'm talking to him as an equal. I don't get starstruck, but everybody has that certain person on their list."
Bulls legend goes Broadway: NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen became the latest Chicago athlete to make a cameo in the Goodman Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol," appearing Friday. The Bulls great — who it was announced last week will star with wife Larsa in their own WeTV reality show, "Big Pippen" — appeared in the background of several scenes in "A Christmas Carol," as a top hat-wearing townsperson, along with 7-year-old La'Ren Kimble from Make-A-Wish Illinois. White Sox manager Robin Ventura and Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull have appeared in past years on behalf of Make-A-Wish Illinois.
Help wanted: Spike TV's "Ink Master" will hold a casting call for highly skilled tattoo artists Jan. 25 at the Westin Michigan Avenue hotel. The winner of the Dave Navarro-hosted reality competition — which is scheduled to return in the summer for its third season — wins $100,000. For details, visit inkmastercasting.com.
Sightings: Comedian Aziz Ansari was spotted Dec. 8 at Cuvee while in town to perform at the Big Event fundraiser hosted by Jewish United Fund's Young Leadership Division at the Sheraton Chicago hotel. Actress Jenny McCarthy hung out Dec. 7 at Cuvee. … Rapper/actor T.I. watched football Dec. 9 at Bull & Bear. … "Dawson's Creek" actor James Van Der Beek dined Wednesday at Sepia in the West Loop. "Friday Night Lights" actor Zach Gilford dined there Tuesday. … Pop duo Karmin dined Thursday at 25 Degrees. … Actor Jim Belushi had dinner Dec. 7 at the newly opened Baume & Brix in the River North neighborhood. … NASCAR driver Danica Patrick had lunch Wednesday at Foodlife in Water Tower Place mall. … The Bears' Brian Urlacher, Blackhawks' Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, and ex-Hawk Adam Burish watched country singer Gary Allan perform Friday at Joe's Bar. … The Los Angeles Clippers' Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups and University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino dined, separately, Dec. 10 at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse in the Gold Coast. The New York Knicks' Jason Kidd was there Dec. 7. … The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews had lunch Wednesday at Prasino in Wicker Park. Toews was also on hand Dec. 8 for the Issa Family Foundation's food drive for the Greater Chicago Food Depository at Global Luxury Imports car dealership in Burr Ridge.
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