Last month, rapper Gucci Mane dropped “Woppenheimer,” a well-timed, presciently titled play on the Christopher Nolan atomic bomb epic “Oppenheimer,” which premiered a week before. A single off of Gucci Mane’s upcoming October release Breath of Fresh Air, the song felt familiar for its classic Gucci flow. But perhaps the more notable part of the story is the one behind the unforgettable art that accompanied the single.
Depicting Gucci as Robert Oppenheimer, the almost-surreal image was so perfectly Gucci Mane that I, for one, assumed some ultra-creative rap fan cooked it up. That’s pretty much exactly the case. The image was designed up by creator Shakya Germany, who shared it on Twitter to viral success. The punny title, “Woppenheimer,” a play on the nickname Guwop, was Germany’s idea too.
“I wanted the cover to look authentic, like something that could have been released during Gucci Mane’s earlier days,” Germany told Passionfruit.
Within the same day Germany posted it, the tweet reached Guwop himself, who liked it so much he not only used the image and gave the single the name she thought of, he also compensated her. Germany didn’t disclose how much Gucci Mane’s team paid for the image, but she said that it was handled “professionally and fairly,” adding that “Gucci’s team treated me with respect and ensured that I felt appreciated for my contribution.”
It’s a great story, especially since stories about creators getting ripped off are far more common. Germany, an Atlanta native like Gucci himself, told Passionfruit how it all played out.
Can you tell me a little about how this all unfolded? You posted the image on Twitter, and it clearly went super viral. At what point did Gucci Mane’s team reach out to you?
It all started with my husband and me unwinding from our day by sharing random jokes over a few drinks. We stumbled upon some jokes online about how Gucci Mane, in his early mixtape years, would use the Oppenheimer/Barbie movie theme for a mixtape.
As soon as we heard this, the name “Woppenheimer” was thrown out. The idea instantly clicked, and I saw the potential for it to become a visually enjoyable meme that would resonate with our social media following.
The goal was to create a mixtape cover that gave off a nostalgic feeling, just like the mixtape covers from Gucci Mane’s early days. I wanted to capture that essence while maintaining the humor and cleverness of the “Woppenheimer” concept. It had to feel authentic, like a real mixtape cover, and evoke a sense of excitement among my social media followers. I was determined to make the cover art perfect and visually appealing, so it could stand on its own as a meme and generate interest in my graphic design work.
Stories where a big artist, influencer, or public figure with a huge following takes, copies, or uses work from smaller creators, are all too common. I heard (but hadn’t confirmed) that he actually compensated you for the art. Can you tell me a little about that?
As a big fan of Gucci and having been in the heart of Atlanta during my college years at Georgia State during his mixtape era, the whole situation felt like a dream come true.
In the world of art and design, it’s unfortunately common to see big-name artists, influencers, or public figures use the work of smaller creators without proper credit or acknowledgment. So, when I saw that Gucci’s team not only acknowledged my design but also expressed that Gucci himself loved it, I was overwhelmed with joy and validation for my work.
The fact that they went a step further and wanted to fairly compensate me for the design was beyond my expectations. It was a true testament to their integrity and respect for the creative community.
You have really cool housewares on your website, but tell me more about your graphic/digital design work. Do you do this full-time?
I fell in love with the art of creating floral resin homewares and abstract paintings. The process of crafting unique pieces for my own space, and eventually sharing them with others, brought me, and a large number of my peers that turned into customers, immense joy. It was during this time that I made the bold decision, with the support of my husband, to leave my corporate accounting job after eight years to pursue my passion as a full-time business owner and freelancer.
I’ve reached a point where I’m ready to transition back into a professional creative design role. I’m actively building up my portfolio to enhance my chances while applying for such roles, and I’m excited to take on new challenges and opportunities.
In terms of my graphic and digital design work, it’s always been a realm where I love to dabble. Before the Woppenheimer image went viral, I created a “Mercury in Microbraids” graphic as a play on the astrological phenomenon Mercury in Retrograde. This graphic resurfaces on social media every retrograde (every 3-4 months) since I tweeted it on Twitter in 2019.
Talk to me about the process of creating the image that went viral.
It was both exciting and more challenging than I expected, since I wanted to ensure I captured the true nostalgia of mid 2000s cover art. I started by researching Oppenheimer posters to draw inspiration on how to blend that theme into Gucci Mane’s lifestyle.
I immersed myself in Gucci Mane’s mixtape covers from a specific time frame, looking for common visual themes that defined his early to mid-2000s era. High contrast graphics, overexaggerated Photoshop effects, and bold typography were some of the elements I wanted to incorporate to evoke that nostalgic feeling of the mixtape era.
And how has this all been for you? I know it can be overwhelming to go viral.
The response to the “Woppenheimer” design has been overwhelmingly supportive, and I’ve been incredibly grateful for the positive feedback from my peers and even strangers. The experience of having my notifications constantly buzzing for at least a week across several social media platforms was both thrilling and humbling.
One of the most exciting moments was when Gucci Mane himself named his next single based on the graphic I created and used it as the cover art. It was surreal to see my design become an integral part of Gucci Mane’s music release, and I felt honored that a big-name artist embraced the fun and acknowledged the original artist behind the design. This validation from a prominent figure in the music industry has been a tremendous boost to my confidence as a graphic designer.
I must admit that there have been moments of self-doubt and concerns about living up to the hype it generated. I don’t want to confine myself to a specific art style or feel pressured to replicate the same level of viral success. It’s important for me to remember that the main lesson from this experience is to stay true to my creative instincts, enjoy the process of creating, and have fun with my skills and passions.
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