The Hot Box Sits Down w/ Trap Bob To Discuss Her Emergence As D.C.’s Premier Visual Artist
D.M.V. based artist Tenbette Solomon a.k.a “Trap Bob” has built a name for herself in the nation’s capital with her bright and bold designs. From oil and acrylic paintings and graphic designs to photo illustrations, Trap Bob’s art is an expression of childhood pleasures and the newfound possibilities of contemporary art. While continuing to grow as an artist and businesswoman, the 24-year old finds success in the creation of her fantastical, densely colorful progressive pieces. The Hot Box recently caught up with her to talk about her creative process, love for Gucci Mane, inspiration behind her artwork, and how she became the artist that she is today.
What’s your background and how did you get started?
I’ve been drawing and creating my whole life. My dad is an artist and he taught me a lot and raised me to have a creative mind. I always loved art but never took it seriously until I got sick of school and started spending more time creating. I fell in love with it and I can’t live without it.
What influenced your name “TRAPBOB?”
I got the nickname Bob in high school and always made my usernames different versions of the name. When I started taking my art seriously, Gucci (my idol) had dropped the first “Trap God”. I just put my spin on it and never wanted to change it after that lol.
What does being creative mean to you?
Being creative to me is about self expression, because anything you create is an expression of how you feel or think about it. When you’re creative you start thinking of extra things everytime you face a new challenge because you can’t help it, you’re always looking for another way, another solution. Your mind is always going and it feels natural.
Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
I always felt good when I created growing up, but when it really hit me I was in like my junior year of college at UMD. I was studying marketing and really just fell into the major when I came from high school because there was nothing else I really felt passionate about. I just knew I could use my business skills for whatever I wanted to do in the future. When I started to feel really lost about what I wanted to do with my future, I started drawing again and taking art class to relieve stress. Once I started I couldn’t stop it was like a drug. I couldn’t look around a room or scene and not think about how I would draw it or how I would paint it. I was always blurting out ideas for drawings and talking about art because that’s all I was thinking about. So I put my entire self into it and I knew there was no way I could spend my life doing anything else, I would just be lying to myself. And I need to be happy.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
I don’t think I could ever pick lol, but my favorites are probably my hand illustrations. My work is all over the place and covers a lot of different topics, but those are the only thing I’ve ever wanted to continue to create.
Tell us about your technique/creative process. What inspires your work?
Everyday life really influences my work, people I see at the store or walking down the street. I like seeing how people interact, if I feel an emotion seeing that it makes me think of something to create. My work is a reflection of my ideas, I’m always looking for a creative way to express them. Music also really inspires me, the lyrics are so clever and effective like a good painting.
What/or who are your main influences?
Gucci Mane and Curren$y really inspire and influence me, not only through their music but through their hustle mentality, consistency and style. I’m also very influenced by cartoons, they are my favorite thing to draw and amazing to me because you can create a whole world of your own with no rules. You can draw anything you want.
How has being an artist shape you into who you are today? Art imitates life and life imitates art. How has art affected your take on life in the sense of your personal style, likes, and dislikes, or vice versa?
My personal style is very similar to my artistic style. I’m all over the place and I don’t like to be categorized. I only really enjoy things that give me a feeling, that are interesting or creative. Art made me want to be a better person and take care of myself and reflect more.
Being a female artist, What are the challenges that you’ve faced?
A lot of the time people think I’m a guy when they see my work because of my style and street/trap influence. I like to create art that isn’t gender or race specific, I don’t think we should be categorized by those things. I think there is a lot of support and movement from and for female artists today so we can overcome any hate.
What’s your best piece of advice for anybody coming up in the art world right now?
Practice all the time, challenge yourself and be true to yourself. You don’t want to start making things because they are popular or trendy because you won’t truly be expressing yourself. Also get yourself out there, don’t be shy and don’t think of yourself as a beginner, carry yourself and work like the artists you admire. Don’t make excuses for yourself.
What’s the inspiration behind your latest “Legalize Speeding” campaign?
It’s about living with no limits. Rebelling and living young and fast, not following the rules.
At what point did you decide to do clothing, and what made you make that transition?
I’m always looking for different ways to spread my art, and clothing is great because people wear it, it’s not just hanging on a wall. I wouldn’t call myself a clothing designer but if I like the way a design works on a piece of clothing or hat then I’ll go with it.
What messages do you like to convey in your pieces?
I create work that spreads positivity and humor, I also like to motivate others through my work. I use bright and bold designs to catch people’s eyes and also nostalgic subjects like cartoons or video games.
How does it feel to see your influence expand throughout the DMV area?
Its pretty cool, it’s always crazy to me when people I meet say they’ve seen my work or heard of me. But I love talking to supporters and hearing how my work affects them. I’m just happy to do what I love and share it with others and I hope I’m inspiring them to do what they love.
What’s been the most rewarding moment in your career so far?
Probably my work with the Trillectro Music Festival. I got to curate a live art installation during the festival and bring together artists from different backgrounds and styles together to make a huge collective mural. It was really inspiring to work with other artists I admire and to bring my vision to life.
What can we expect from Trap Bob in the future? What big projects are you currently working on?
Right now I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and create a bunch of new paintings. My next show will be RAW DC: CUSP at Howard Theatre February 22nd, so I’ll have all new work there. I’m also planning out Trapathon 2017 which will be in March. There’s going to be a lot of art, music and surprises. I’m really excited for this year, it’s only up from here.
(Photos by Africanist.)