Two opposite ends of the world collide with art as matchmaker:
a fine artist from Manila, Skye Nicolas, chooses Harlem musician, Vado, as his muse. 

Meeting with New York artist, Skye Nicolas, in the library of the Trump Soho, he explained his decision to come to the states after graduating from a four year art education at the University of the Philippines, as an essential step. “I officially moved to New York in 1998 which came after living bi-coastally for years. New York was a welcoming place back then for creative people. Since there was no Craigslist, it was a cool thing to live out of your friend’s apartment for a bit. I had a band at the time and was focusing more on that than any fine art.” His big break in the art world came in 2009 when Nicolas collaborated with Marlon Richards, Keith Richards’ son. “I was very fortunate along the way to have people around me that took a chance, but, it was also fifteen years in the making to get to the point where I could actually live off my art.” Since then, Nicolas has been busy tooling with different mediums – from painting to prints and video installations – to much success. His latest work, ‘Buy Some Love’, is a clever critique on the worth of fine art itself. Emblazoned within a red ink heart centered on a dollar bill, ‘Buy Some Love’ has already sold for upwards of $2,000 each, proving his points on the subjects of presumed worth and 21st century art collecting. 


Enter Vado. The 27-year-old Harlem-native rapper recently signed to Interscope Records and protege to Dipset frontman, Cam’Ron. “It’s great to be here. This isn’t my usual ‘thing,’” he explains sitting down.

Like Nicolas, Vado, whose real name is Teeyon Winfree, grew up with friends that recognized his talent early and helped him reach his potential. “I grew up on music. I remember my grandmother cleaning up the house listening to jazz music. My mom would come home, she’d be playing music. It was all music, all the time – and I was the type of kid that’d be watching rap videos trying to mimic what the rappers were doing. I’d reenact their every move. I was infatuated with music and couldn’t get enough of it growing up. Then when I did grow up, I didn’t have music as much on my mind. It was my friend and family, Jae Millz, who helped me out of that shy period. When I wasn’t so into music, even though it was in my blood the whole time – Mills was the one who helped me find that love again. I have him to thank.” 

Nicolas, who had been commissioned to commemorate Harlem’s musical renaissance with a piece defining the burrough’s scene today, chose Vado as his subject. “Since the piece had to be about music, I got literal conceptually. I chose to work closely with a software developer and sound engineer to co-create a program that’d be able to scan a basic image to be used as a visual map to analyze audio data of a sound file. And in this case, that file was Vado’s street anthem, “Polo.”" The result is a plugged-in, internet-age experiment in artist-meets-machine. A portrait of hip-hop inspired by graffiti street art tags, hard beats, and commercial assimilation.

The 30 x 40 in. ink piece, when examined closely, is a set of pixelated dots, almost like pointillism, which Nicolas explains is “translated audio information. The song’s timeline is what determines the different rendering variations in the piece.” 

Vado, who just recently released an online mixtape with Cam’Ron entitled #UNlost Files, had a chance to meet with the artist for the first time and discuss the type of collaborating he’s used to. “I work with artists in the studio all the time, but, it’s not like this. I remember Cam locking me and Araabmuzik in a Harlem studio and not letting us out until we had material. Araab and I made some out-there stuff ’cause we collaborate so well together. What came of those sessions is what I hope to release as a collabo album with Araab soon.” Asked who his dream collaboration would be, the rapper replied, “Alicia Keys. She’s just special. She’s always had that music I could relate to – dudes coming up in the streets, they on they hip-hop thing all day, but, they still be listening to Alicia Keys ‘cause she explains street life in a real way.” Vado is currently prepping his second major label album for release.

Twitter: @SkyeNicolas, @VADO_MH


New York-based fashion stylist and writer Marcus Holmlund, is a contributor to: New York Magazine, V, VMan, The Fader, Interview, Paper, Huffington Post, NOWfashion, and Dossier Journal. He's on a mission to unearth parallels in high fashion and hip-hop and has worked for Nicola Formichetti, Robyn, Rushka Bergman, MAC Cosmetics,... View more among others. Photo: Therese Ohrvall