Meet Darren Holtom of Chuck D’s mADurgency

December 30th, 2015

Meet Darren Holtom of Chuck D’s mADurgency

The album artwork is very important in the music industry.  It is what people first see when deciding if they should buy the album. Chuck D realizes this and so has had many of his mADurgency artists get involved in designing art for his label and for his internetwork of sites.  One of his artists, Darren Holtom just worked on designing the cover art for some of the singles off the new Public Enemy album, Man Plans God Laughs.  Recently, I had the chance to talk to Darren, finding out how he moved into the art field, learned the process of what goes into designing the covers, and found out how he met Chuck D, as well as understand his role in mADurgency.

The SpitSlam Record Group (Kate G): When did you first start getting into art?

Darren: Ever since I could hold a pencil, I have always been very interested in art. My dad used to work as a printer and periodically he would bring home huge sheets of card  stock for me to draw on. I would draw characters from comic books and always liked to create drawings from the top of my head such as robots, spaceships and monsters.

When did you start working for Chuck?

Darren: I first started working with Chuck about 3 years ago. I did a digital portrait of him and DJ Lord from Public Enemy immediately sent Chuck the artwork. To my amazement Chuck sent me a message saying how much he liked it. Then I did a PE poster and presented the picture to Chuck and the PE crew back in the UK. My first commission from Chuck was for a radio show called Shemovement, which was played on RAPstation.  He wanted a collection of female rappers from past and present, which represented the female hip hop community.  

You have been working on most of the single covers for the new PE album, Man Plans God Laughs. Tell me about the process that goes into designing the covers.

Darren: I always start with a rough layout to give me an idea about how the cover is going to look. Once I am happy I will then start to go over the rough lines and start adding more detail. I will then color in and tidy up any rough edges. The last thing I will do is add text and then the famous PE logo.

The artwork you have done for the singles of the new album, MPGL’s captures the music.  Tell us how you create your art to incorporate the meaning of the lyrics into the covers.

Darren: I first start to read the lyrics to give me an insight into what the track is about. I also Google images to give me reference ideas of how to incorporate them onto the cover.  The 3 tracks I designed had a very strong message in the lyrics and I wanted the message of the songs portrayed in the artwork.

Tell us a little about Chuck’s artist network, mADurgency and your part in it.

Darren: mADurgency is a collection of artists who specialize in digital, print, branding and merchandising for the music community. I am very lucky to work with a great bunch of highly talented artists from the U.S.A, UK and Italy who each have a very distinctive style. 3D design, print design, Photoshop, Illustrator and traditional work such as pencil, charcoal and watercolor are used to suit the customers’ requirements.  At the moment the team consists of 9 artists including myself, but Chuck is always on the lookout for new and exciting artists to join the team and expand the creativity.  Along with the collaboration of the mADurgency team, I contributed single cover artwork towards the Public Enemy album Man Plans God Laughs. It is a huge honor to work with Chuck D and other talented artists. I look forward to working with the mADurgency team and Chuck D again very soon.


Kate G is Kate Gammell for Update Reports on The SPITdigital SLAMjamz Recording Label Group