One of the things I enjoy the most about Dro's work is the way he's able to dynamically combine words and pictures. Every illustration has some kind of textual component, either ironically commenting on the action or pushing you to look closer at the images. According to Dro, that's because he has always seen himself as a writer primarily. "I'm a writer who just happens to be an artist," he said, chomping on a burger with everything on it. "Writing was always easy for me. Drawing was work."
When it came time to finish a Funkadelic album, George Clinton would come to Dro and pitch him a concept.
"Bandleader George Clinton and writer-artist Pedro Bell were the primary sources of an endless flow of offbeat black philosophy that mocked the self-importance of religious and political doctrines wile subtly creating their own...Bell was also guilty of perpetrating a bizzare, Afro-centric mythology on long Funkadelic album cover essays, which complemented his felt-tip marker-drawn mutant-scapes of urban black life. Bell's visual imagery had the seamless layering of twisted symbols from the uncocnsious that Salvador Dali was known for, whil Bell's dark ghetto eroticism and hyperbolic grammar forged a new realm of black language."If you haven't copped that book, you need to, by the way. Dro says his best cover is Electric Spanking of War Babies ("Because I had the time to work on it!"), even though it was censored by the record company after they deemed it too controversial.
This was the original:
And this was the censored version:
Despite the censorship, Dro understands the importance of the visual component to Funkadelic's success.
"If you have have group that has a concept that's visual, people will by the product," he said. Groups like Mandrill and The Undisputed Truth were impressive, but didn't have the longevity of Funkadelic because they lacked a coherent (literal) vision of themselves, and the world they were creating. "If you want to survive, you better have some visual concept, and if you really want to survive you better have more than that."
He thinks contemporary groups have learned the lesson and gives props to the Wu-Tang Clan for having "blended multimedia concepts" that will help their longevity. He also notes that this kind of production has to be collaborative. "All of that can't be done with just one dude, man."