Fader Magazine article
Rappers, oligarchs and mad popes

Father & son Alex & Dan Melamid get arty
By Edwin Houghton | The Fader – May-June, 2008

One of the most prominent and controversial Russian artists of his generation, Alex Melamid immigrated to the US in the late ’80s. Since 2003, he has focused on a series of meticulously realistic portraits of rap luminaries. Lucky for him, his son is former G-Unit video-guy Dan “The Man” Melamid, guaranteeing access to many of the artists Dan and his partner Whoo Kid brought on their G-Unit Radio show
on Shade 45. Melamid’s paintings were recently exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in an exhibit called Holy Hip-Hop, and he continues to churn them out, along with two concurrent series of portraits, one of various Vatican figures, and a new set of Russian oligarchs and oil barons.

When did your son’s work start bleeding into yours?

Alex Melamid: I was always interested in my son’s world, but he was not very generous to share.

Dan Melamid: Kids are always embarrassed of their parents, and my dad is the most embarrassing. He used to go into the supermarket and just yell “shit-stain!” in a Russian accent just to embarrass me. I think his real fascination started when 50 Cent mania became really crazy and I was touring with him all the time.

AM: I like painting these people because I’m really cold to them. I really have nothing to do with these people and I know even if I want to know them, I would never manage. It’s impossible.

It’s a window into another world.

AM: It’s not a window, it’s a keyhole. It’s snooping. How did they get elevated to this? I don’t believe in any god whatsoever, but when you see the cardinal you think, My god, there must be something.

[Pointing to a painting of Marley Marl] Why did he do this? All the people from his project, they say, “He did it.”

Who decides who should be in the series?

AM: That’s him [Dan].

DM: I’m trying to get Jay, Nas, Diddy. I want to finish off the greats that are here now. It’s like getting the complete set of baseball cards. Just like I collect videos under my belt, it’s the same thing with you, Dad. You collect oligarchs or rappers and it’s like, Ooh, I got another one.

Did your dad’s visual work influence you getting into video?

DM: No, I picked up a camera out of necessity. I always did documentary, storytelling kinda stuff. But recently I did that video for Styles P [“The Hardest”] and I collaborated with those Graffiti Research Lab guys, actual artists. We’ve been experimenting with some weird technology for my videos and I’m like, Holy shit, I guess I am an artist. I think it’s gonna come even more full circle, because I’m really embracing my Russian roots and I really want to pursue projects based on that.

So you’re going to start doing oligarch videos, while he’s doing rapper portraits?

DM: Basically. I think oligarchs are harder to get than rappers.

AM: Same. They’re the same.

New York Times

… then he thought of his youngest son, Daniel, a video director known in the rap music business as Dan the Man. At the time Dan the Man was working for 50 Cent’s G-Unit label, making the videos for “The Massacre (Special Edition).” He arranged for his business partner, DJ Whoo Kid — 50 Cent’s D.J. — to visit Mr. Melamid’s studio, then in SoHo, to pose for a trial portrait.
After that, 50 Cent paid a visit. He sat in a chair, rapping, while Dan the Man shot video and Mr. Melamid made preparatory sketches and photographs. The resulting portrait, which Mr. Melamid said took about a month to figure out, shows the rapper slouched in the chair, looking slightly wary. (The work, together with Mr. Melamid’s brush and palette, appear in the video for 50 Cent’s “God Gave Me Style.”) …