When you think of a classic album or mixtape, you often think of what songs make that project timeless. You remember the mood it puts you in.
The thoughts you had when your ear was first introduced to the album come full circle as you listen again. As you sing every word, what sticks with you most is the cover art. The cover art is a part of who the artist is and what the album mood embodies.
When you debate music amongst your peers, the cover art conversation is the most intense. It’s what inspired graphic designers Ogulcan “Olly” Tas and Abidul Ahad to join forces and take over the game. I had the chance to speak with both of them recently and learned that it took a lot of hard work to get to where they are now.
At the end of 2011, Olly was working solo. He was building a huge buzz in the Netherlands and Amsterdam for his dope graphics. A couple of years later, his work caught Abidul’s attention online. After an artist he was promoting got signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Abidul knew instantly that there could be something special and contacted Olly.
Abidul told me,
“I said this is crazy man. How are you not officially designing for anyone? Let’s join together and do something crazy. I think we can work with Lil Wayne.”
When Lil Wayne dropped his highly anticipated Dedication 4, the mixtape itself was exceptional. However, the cover art for it is what some would say “trash.” Months later, DJ Stevie J let the word out that Wayne was working on his fifth edition of his Dedication series. Inspired, Olly and Abidul got straight to work.
“When I knew what cover arts were, I knew I had to get into it, ’cause that was a chance for me to get Wayne to know me. Even my designer name is dedicated to Wayne, so I could always be reminded why I do it.”
In July of 2013, OllyCarterzDesign was born. The duo snagged Tha Outlawz and Young Buck as their first official clients despite both being only 17. Their next mission was to get to Wayne. With Olly posted in Vlaardingen, Netherlands designing and Abidul living in the United Kingdom handling the business side, distance did not stop their grind.
Having yet to meet face to face, Olly made over 15 different art covers for Dedication 5, while Abidul was networking. In August, their dreams came true. Lil Wayne’s Young Money team responded to Abidul, informing the duo that they will be using their artwork.
“We approached as many people around Lil Wayne as we could, from Mack Maine to Gudda Gudda, Tez… and the crazy thing is they all responded. By the time they replied I was starting to lose hope. I was working on it day and night all summer trying to get this done.”
Keeping contact weekly via Facetime and Whatsapp, Olly and Abidul’s hard work was about to come full circle. In the same year, OllyCarterzDesign and Lil Wayne finally met for the first time. It was a surreal moment they’d never forget.
“I remember when I walked in his tour bus to meet him, he [Lil Wayne] was standing in front of me looking at me and saying ‘So you’re my Dedication designer,’ I swear I was starstruck and couldn’t say a word for 20 seconds. The first thing I said was ‘Is this f*cking real?!’ Wayne laughed and said ‘I don’t know, it might be.’ It was amazing to meet my biggest idol. I can talk about it forever,”
Over a five year span, OllyCarterzDesign has done over 14 official art covers for Lil Wayne, including recent mixtapes Dedication 6 and D6: Reloaded. It took Olly over 16 hours of nonstop work to birth both mixtape covers. Young Money even entrusted the duo with the design of all Dedication 6 merchandise and BumBu Rum.
OllyCarterzDesign is proving that hard work breeds success, producing official cover art for mainstream artists like Future, Young Thug, Chief Keef, Nicki Minaj, and French Montana. But don’t get it twisted, they also produce graphics in any genre for underground and independent artists as well.
“I want to make it more apparent that we are open to working with independent artists. It’s one of our main goals, but a lot of people don’t actually know that. We don’t have any barriers.”
Unknowingly in 2008, Olly and Abidul both had the same dream of working with Lil Wayne. Their passion, aligned with their determination, enabled two strangers to form a bond, and turn their dreams to reality. 10 years later, OllyCarterzDesign’s artwork is on the phones and computers of millions of music listeners around the world.
Olly told me,
“I started to make artworks because of Wayne, because I promised myself in 2008 when I started to listen to him that somehow. Wayne has to acknowledge me, I couldn’t be a stranger to him.”
Never satisfied, the duo is still landing more clients. There are no limits to OllyCarterzDesign’s success. Abidul is currently in school finishing up his medical physiology degree. Olly works full time as a sprinkler mechanic, but still might pursue a career as a tattoo artist and merchandise designer.
Nevertheless, they are thankful for the many blessings and opportunities bestowed on them. You can reach Abidul and Olly on Twitter and Instagram at @AbidulAhad and @ollycarterz.