Bejan Shambayati interviewed by Andy Moffatt back in November 2019
Fan art, whether music, sport or any other genre, has become a big thing not only for the artist but for the chosen celebrity. In the exclusive series, Tupac Art Inspiration, we’ve spoken to a number of talented artists that have created work spawned out of inspiration. In turn, the artwork created contributes to the lasting legacy of Tupac Shakur.
For 31-year-old Tupac and Outlawz fan, Bejan Shambayati, dreams have become reality. Going by the name Digital Depictions, the artist, based in Manchester, England, has been a fan of the ‘Pac and the Outlawz since he was twelve years old. Recently, he created Tupac art that’s now displayed in Outlawz member E.D.I. Mean’s home. We chat to him about how this came about, his history in art, Tupac inspiration and more.
Tupac Uncensored: Bejan, looking at your artwork, we can see you’re very talented. At what stage of your life were you introduced to art?
I started drawing from a very young age, when exactly I’m not sure, probably 3 or 4 I would imagine. I was encouraged a lot by my Grandma, as were my two brothers because she was very much into art. Both of my parents were very artistic too and I looked up to their work. I suppose you could say art runs in the family.
Tupac Uncensored: It’s our understanding that you took a break from art to enjoy your teenage years and only recently gone back to it. How has art changed since your first stint?
I left art behind completely after I had finished school. I’d say the main thing that has changed is my maturity towards the learning process. For example, I used to rip my artwork up if I wasn’t pleased with it. I rarely finished anything because I’d lose interest quickly. One thing that stopped me from progressing my skills back then was that my outlook was fairly narrow and as a result, I’d generally stick to drawing ghouls and other fantasy creatures, also, I would use the same type of media to do my artwork with every time.
When I’d got back into art, about two years ago (I would have been 30 years old), I pretty much started where I left off in terms of my skill set and ability, and if anything I was slightly better than I was. One of the things I regret doing as a kid is destroying my work! It would be so nice to have something to look back on and to show my 3-year old daughter, who is displaying a keen interest in art, that progression takes time and practice. I think it would have been a great example to her.
Tupac Uncensored: Your love of hip-hop spills over into your art. Whats your earliest memories of hip-hop in the UK?
To be honest, my family didn’t encourage that kind of music but I remember when Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ dropped, I loved that song. I didn’t even know who Tupac was until around 2001, when someone who was close to the family at the time, introduced me to his music and I loved it. The rest is history.
Tupac Uncensored: We can see that you’re a big Tupac fan. Has ‘Pac inspired you in your art or life, if so, how?
After listening to the ‘Greatest Hits’ album, I was hooked. I really resonated with most of his songs and his lyrics and delivery are amazing. He had this totally unique way of telling a story that would hit your emotions every time. I lost my father back in 98 and listening to Tupac’s music, I felt, guided me in some way. I think that’s what his music is about. What also inspired me is how much Tupac achieved at such a young age, he must have been working constantly. Most people don’t achieve in a lifetime, what he achieved in his last 6 years of life. He was never afraid to do or say what he stood for. One story in particular that I thought was awesome, is where he shot two crooked off-duty police officers for beating on an innocent man, most would turn the other way.
Tupac Uncensored: In 2018, you custom designed your own version of Riskie Forever’s Makaveli painting, honoring his work. Do you remember when you first heard the Makaveli album? What were your thoughts on Tupac Shakur’s deepest album?
The album was pretty dark and also very fitting for what was to come for Tupac. The mystery behind his death has interested the whole world and this album set the tone for his demise and the beginning of the end to a dynasty (Death Row records). I remember thinking, it’s like he knew his time on earth was imminently coming to an end. It was a perfect final project for him.
Tupac Uncensored: Fast forward to October 2019, you completed a painting of a scene out of Tupac and the Outlawz music video, ‘Made Niggaz’. What was the inspiration behind this magnificent painting and can you take us through the process of creating such an iconic piece?
I wanted to make something that every Tupac and Outlawz fan would be proud to have up in their home. I used Photoshop to sketch the outlines. What I normally do after that is lay down the base colors to set the foundations for the painting. From there I have the freedom to paint more expressively to create the final piece. It was a really enjoyable experience.
Tupac Uncensored: Not only did you paint a snapshot from this much-loved video, but you also caught the attention of none other than Edi Don, aka Edi Mean, of the legendary Outlawz. Impressed with your work, Edi has now got your painting in his ‘man cave’! Can you describe the moment when you started talking to Edi about the painting?
I actually reached out to him. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get a response at all but I thought I give it a go.
Tupac Uncensored: What does it mean to you for your Tupac art to be in possession of not only one of Tupac Shakur’s Outlawz but childhood friend as well?
It’s a huge milestone in my journey and it will be a difficult one to top.
Tupac Uncensored: Twenty years on and we’re still seeing the relevance of Tupac Shakur and the Outlawz lyrics in today’s society. What are your thoughts on the life of Tupac Shakur and his legacy that continues to grow?
The message in the Outlawz music, for the most part, is to never give up on your dreams. Also to keep pushing on and striving for more which is relevant because there are a lot of kids that grow up without any positive influences in their lives to set them on the right path. Tupac is the messiah of the culture, and always will be. He achieved so much in his short life and inspired so many. Most people could turn their lives around by operating with his work ethic. His music will be played and his message relayed for generations to come. Hopefully, they will build another Tupac center for the arts, and continue on with his legacy.
Tupac Uncensored: We can’t let you go without asking for your Top 5 Tupac/Outlawz songs and the reason why you chose them?
Such a difficult question! I can’t really answer this accurately as there are so many! A few that come to mind are:
- Dear Mama – It’s such a pure song about him showing his mother that he appreciates everything she went through to raise him.
- Keep ya head up – Another song that is pure! It addresses the issues of men leaving the house-hold which then means the woman has to play both roles and the impact it has on society.
- When we ride – It’s the first song with all of the Outlawz featured from the rap group, not the clique.
- Against all odds – It’s an aggressive song that destroyed all of his enemies and the final track from the Makaveli album.
- Check out time – It reminds me of some craziest parties/nights out I’ve had.