In a long line of outstanding music partnerships including Hennessy Artistry Sessions from Hennessy South Africa, the #1 cognac brand in the market and producer of the finest cognac in the world, now brings one of the most published and most respected photographers in hip-hop culture, Jonathan Mannion: Beyond The Covers exhibition to Johannesburg, 2nd-5th November 2016. Featuring exclusive prints of hip-hop’s biggest names including Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake, Nas, Lauryn Hill, P Diddy, Usher, Outkast, Snoop : Lion, Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar, this one-of-a-kind exhibition will pay tribute to hip hop culture at Thirteen in Braamfontein.
Hip-hop music has been popular in Africa since the early 1980s following a widespread American influence. Today, hip-hop styles on the African continent range from American-inspired beats and rhymes, to bongo flava and kwaito, to the satirical hip-hop. Like its international influences, hip-hop in Africa is simultaneously the music of aspiration and the Hennessy brand is always in the mix. African hip-hop artists have also become the engine of political and social conscious rhymes. At its peak right now with its continuously new talent changing the game and the music genre and sound evolving, African hip-hop is putting the content on the map.
“Hennessy is a remarkable brand for many reasons including the world’s best-selling cognac with a 40% market share globally and our relationship with music is one to be proud of. Over 2 500 pop culture songs produced in the last 50 years have voluntarily been titled or mention “Hennessy” or “Henny”. All this from artists and musicians appreciation of Hennessy,” says Patrick Madendjian, Moët Hennessy’s Market Manager for South Africa.
“Henny” has been the de facto drink in the rap game for years. The love of and loyalty to the brand continues to be organic and one of natural development. Remarkably, no other liquor brand in the world comes close to having as many citations in music.
Partnering with avant-garde artists is a Hennessy tradition dating back to its founding and aligning with members of the communities in the countries where the brand operates has been key to Hennessy’s success and South Africa is no exception. Hennessy was one of the first major alcohol brands to align with an artist, speaking to the brand’s understanding of being for the people and being a brand that the people could mould into their own personal preference.
Widely known for producing eight of Jay Z’s album covers – Reasonable Doubt, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, Vol. 2..Hard Knock Life, Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter, The Blueprint, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, and The Black Album – it was also Mannion who convinced DMX to immerse himself in blood for the Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood album cover. Most recently he was the photographer behind the iconic Beats by Dre “Straight Outta” campaign.
Born and raised in Cleveland, hip-hop’s quintessential cameraman has combined his love for rap music with an infectious interpersonal savvy and tenacity for constantly finding different angles, turning passion and personality into capturing some of the most iconic portraiture to ever come out of hip-hop culture. Following a year working with world-renowned photographer, Richard Avedon, the Ohio native and long-time lover of hip-hop was commissioned by Rocafella Records, his first major record company contract, to take photos of Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z for the cover of his Reasonable Doubt album sleeve introducing the talented rapper to the world. Leading to a life spent photographing some of the biggest stars in the business, Mannion has since built a solid reputation as the gold standard for hip-hop photography.
“My goal was to photograph all of the up-and-coming rap superstars of the time. No one had done it before,” explains the noted photographer and film director, Jonathan Mannion about his artistic approach. He goes on to add: “My work is very intimate. Through my photos, I want people to feel like they are sharing a genuine moment in the lives of the international superstars I shoot.”
Mannion didn’t study photography, but psychology and art – an interesting combination that illustrates his different mind-set into the business. Some of his photo shoots he begins with a warm and patient process by engaging in in-depth conversations with each of his subjects or listening to an artist’s album. The final product is a medium format portrait born out of a genuine connection.
Through his unique encounters, Mannion has over the past 20-years captured the development of hip hop culture, initially confidential and “underground”, and has since become a global phenomenon. He has produced over 300 album covers for some of the biggest names in the hip-hop music industry. Through the Beyond the Covers exhibition, the portrait photographer gives a behind the scenes look at hip-hop artists and icons of their generation’s previously unseen images from his photo shoots. The exhibition is a selection of some of his favourites; images he would have chosen for iconic magazine and album covers if given the call.
The photography extraordinaire will also bring a wealth of knowledge with him that he will impart through a series of workshops during his stay in SA.
Steeped in a rich history of craftsmanship and a legacy of refinement and savoir faire, equally, Hennessy continues to remain relevant to its customers in SA. Having previously partnered with home-grown talents through the Hennessy Artistry series which brought together some of the most talented artists on stage for an eclectic mix of musical talents, today the brand is even more appealing to the local market. While this has seen the majority of the market has been based in South Africa’s financial hub of Gauteng, the brand is enjoying massive growth in other regions like KZN, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State provinces to name a few.
“It’s so much more than just our business model that has driven our success in Africa,” says Pascal Asin, Regional Managing Director for Africa and Middle East at Moët Hennessy, who has been supervising the Hennessy brand forward in Africa for more than a decade. “It’s about adapting the legacy of our brand in such a way that it is culturally relevant to the local market, while retaining its iconic essence.”