The Hip-Hop Art of Rick Cortes

Doctor Dre

My friend Rick Cortes is an accomplished illustrator whose work has appeared in both movies and on television.  He is so accomplished that he even has his own I.M.D.B. page (Internet Movie Data Base).  As impressive as all that might be (and it is), the work that I find most captivating are the illustrations he’s done of Hip-Hop artists.

I’ve found that to truly show respect for an artist – illustrator, photographer or otherwise – it’s important to acknowledge them for their work.  When I first asked Rick if I could use an illustration he had done of Hip-Hop artist Rakim, he responded with a yes, adding “I think you’re the first person who has ever asked my permission.”

Sadly, I’m certain he’s right.  Rick, along with many other content producers (myself included, as folks have re-published my own writings without permission or source credit) are caught in a precarious position in that – by publishing their work online – they are subject to piracy… folks using their work without permission, sometimes even at a profit.

It’s very difficult to track down such perpetrators, and once you’ve got them, it can be costly to pursue legal action against them.  Photographers, illustrators, cartoonists and writers who put their work online are continually pilfered, with little to no recourse.  The internet community is often lacking in common courtesy and ethics, which leaves these works open to repeated exploitation.

I ask, and usually I receive.  When I asked photographer Bob Gruen for permission to use a photo of John Lennon, he agreed.  When I needed a photo of Elvis Presley to use for a piece I had written, the nice folks at Graceland were pleased to oblige me.  Time and time again, all I have to do is ask and I receive, and with Rick it was no different.

I recently asked Rick again if I could do a feature of his Hip-Hop art here on our DJ blog, and again he obliged. My love of illustration is second only to my love of music itself, so it’s with great honor that I present to you the work of Mr. Cortes here on the Cutting Edge Entertainment blog.

Ice Cube

Rick has been illustrating professionally for over fifteen years.  When I inquired as to why Hip-Hop artists, he replied “Hip hop was the first music I heard that seemed like it belonged to me, made just for me even.  I started back with Nucleus, Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh, Whodini…the b-boy days.  Whodini was the first record I ever bought: the 12 inch of Friends and Five Minutes of Funk.  I don’t know.  It just spoke to me.  Corny, maybe.”

I don’t think it’s corny at all.  His passion for the lyrical artists is reflected in his art. Each of the illustrations I chose to feature here – as well as many others featured on his blog – show his respect for the artists he immortalizes with his art.  Personally, I find myself drawn to his work (no pun intended) because I have similar tastes in artists to Rick, so he’s only paying homage to the emcees and rappers that I, as a DJ, have a profound admiration for.  Rick is a kindred soul.


Please be sure to check out Rick’s website, blog, and I.M.D.B. page (links below), and if you want to use his art – or that of any other illustrator – please show them the respect they deserve and ask first, while being sure to give credit to the artist themselves.

This last one I’d like to believe I helped inspire, as I was speaking with Rick the day he illustrated it, and suggested that he do Biggie as it was the anniversary of his death.  Three hours later he had done this…


Thank you Rick for allowing us to feature your work.  Truly impressive stuff.

Craig Sumsky
Cutting Edge Entertainment

Rick Cortes –

Rick’s blog (Draw Heat) –

Rick’s I.M.D.B. –

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