By Sammy Smith
On the evening of Monday, November 13, in a dark art classroom on the second floor of the Lamar Dodd School of Art, a young man walks in the room for an interview, sits in a chair and asks me one question.
“You sure they won’t be able to see my face?”
Celebrity and attention are two of the things that come with the price of fame. And while most people who chase the admiration of their peers love the spotlight, this man does not — so much so that he values his anonymity above all else.
After seeing an image of himself, he says, “Yeah that’s dope. Thanks for doing this. I know it’s a hassle, especially for me. Cause I really ain’t s—.” For a brief moment, because of the seriousness of his tone and the inflection of his voice, the statement is believable, but a humble man makes room for progress and after talking to him, it’s evident that his entire brand is based on humility.
The incognito hip-hop artist, AteloMidas, allows his work to speak for itself, keeps his identity sealed and encourages people to “wear your flaws like a crown.” However, there is much more to AteloMidas than the man in the shadows. The Athens rapper operates on three tenets: the artist, the brand and the charity.
AteloMidas: The Artist
The cornerstone of the identity of AteloMidas is the art.
Having shown glimpses of lyrical prowess at the age of 4, subconsciously, the unidentified MC always knew music was the path for him. It wasn’t until sixth grade, however, when he enrolled in a band class, did he truly realize that art was a powerful tool.
“My director, Ms. Brooks, taught me how to visually look at music,” said AteloMidas. “[She showed me] when you’re playing music, how to add the emotions and set the scene.”
His visualization of music and love of cinematography and film crafted a unique style of hip-hop that he describes as “cinematic” — a style he would spend the next decade enhancing. A lifetime of work culminating in January, when AteloMidas crafted a concept for a project combining visual art, cinematography and music.
Earlier this month, in preparation of his debut, untitled project, AteloMidas launched his 28 Days of Weakness, a 28-day long promotion, starting on November 1, where he showcased the artwork local artists, Rakel Johnson, Osaze Akil, Xavier Rashad, and DopeNorTeria and used students as models. Not to sell the artists short, the pieces aren’t just meant to promote, but rather to accompany the full-length project to provide a new and innovative listening experience.
“How I see it, the project is like a picture book and these visuals are like the pictures in the book. Everything is very very very detailed,” said AteloMidas. “I wanted to try and bring the project to life in multiple ways.”
AteloMidas: The Brand
Despite going by the stage name, AteloMidas, the rapper considers himself a “vessel” of the concept of AteloMidas.
According to the MC, AteloMidas translates to “imperfect gold.” “Atelo” stemming from the word atelophobia, meaning the fear of imperfection and “Midas” coming from the story of King Midas. The name is meant for everyone to see themselves in the concept — one of the reasons why the artist does not attach his identity to the name.
“Everyone is AteloMidas. Everybody is imperfect gold. Everybody has flaws. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody is imperfect, but at the same time, everybody is perfectly imperfect.”
The brand, originally meant for the artist as a form of therapy for his everyday problems, now represents a message of self-love and self-confidence. The very same message is represented by the brand’s logo, which pictures a crown that is half-perfect and half-scribbled.
That logo, also featured on official merchandise, spawned the brand’s motto, “Wear your flaws like a crown,” and has created a frenzy among fans, as four colorways of hats are currently sold out.
“People like to hide or be ashamed of their flaws,” said Rakel Johnson, the co-creator of the logo. “But the brand sends the message that flaws are worthy of being on display, royally.”
The “vessel” of the AteloMidas concept hopes to see the message of the brand fully realized in the near future.
“Through so many events, like philanthropy, we try to express the notion that you’re just human who is just trying to be the best you can be, but sometimes you make mistakes,” AtleoMidas said.
AteloMidas: The Charity
Continuing with the meaning of imperfect gold, the artist known as AteloMidas believes in the concept of delivering golden moments not only through art, music and branding but also through philanthropy.
“Whether it’s giving a good experience to someone or serving someone or community service, these type of experiences that you can do as a servant can bring a lot of happiness towards people who are truly in need,” said the rapper.
Despite pushing himself to his artistic ends and developing a brand, AteloMidas has a lengthy record of philanthropic work, beginning with his work in Flint, Michigan, where he joined another student, Rachel Tooley, traveled to Flint and delivered bottled water to people in need of clean water.
In September, using his brand, AteloMidas also launched the Pink Hat Project, an endeavor where all the proceeds from the sale of his pink “Love” hat go towards breast cancer survivors who need help with medical bills.
Finally, the rapper is in the midst of establishing a non-profit wing of AteloMidas called “AMidasTouch” that will act as a platform for community service.
Sitting back in his seat, his face still shadowed by the light behind him, AteloMidas post the latest piece of art for 28 Days. Just like every day since the beginning of the November, he posts at 7 p.m.
“Seven is an important number,” he says. “I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll see why.”
Ever the humble man, he says thank you for the interview and says, “I really appreciate it. This made me feel special. I really ain’t s—.”
For a man that is doing so much and not wanting to be immediately recognized, it’s hard to see that as true. For he knows that in a short amount of time, all of his hard work will be corroborated.
“As an artist, [November 28] is my born day,” he says. “I start this day. This is where my music and artistry begins.”
Thus, that’s where AteloMidas, in all its forms, officially begins.
Until then, however, he’s just like us: wearing his flaws like a crown.