The room was dimly lit, the tables bustling with local patrons, and a thick aroma of delicious food greeted me as I opened the door. This was my first time venturing into Kazoola Eatery and Entertainment on Dauphin Street, where I would soon be chatting with four of the most talented and ambitious cultural artists in the Mobile community.
Visual artist DeAnthony Dulaney — founder and leader of the Red Cup Revolt movement — ignited an inspiring conversation that would challenge the standard perception of graffiti artists and their connections to the human spirit and local community. His fellow artists were thrilled to join in and offer their profound insights as well.
Now it’s your turn to meet DeAnthony, Brandin, Conzi and Michael or — as they are better known in the art community and with each other — DIPLOMAT, Stallworth, conz8000 and Deedz.
DIPLOMAT: We got started around 2011. I was living in Atlanta at the time, trying to find my niche. I came up with “Red Cup Revolution” as a name for the group because I was really into the party scene, the “red cup life.” [Solo cups] I initially started thinking about the idea of an artistic revolution. How could I do something that would help bring people together from different walks of life? I thought, “Well, I’m an artist, so I could use that.” I decided to get with some friends I had known for a while from the area. I got with Stallworth and Conzi [and a few others] and formed Red Cup Revolution, which was eventually shortened to Red Cup Revolt. We wanted to have a platform for artists to really showcase their talent. A lot of artists don’t have the skill or the know-how to do their own art shows or put their work out there. In that process, we met Mike and everything, and we were like “Well, you’re part of the crew now.” (He and Mike laugh.)
conz8000: There was already some mutual connection because most of us went to LeFlore High School together. It was a performing arts magnet school at the time. I’m a few years older [than the other guys], so I graduated ahead of them. But, DeAnthony contacted me. We were both in Atlanta and then came back [to Mobile] at the same time. He contacted me around 2013 on Instagram because he had seen some of my work and he asked where I was from. I told him I was from Mobile, and we eventually found out we were from the same school. But it still took me about a year to realize that this was what I wanted to do. I thought it was cool, but I was also working on a whole bunch of other art projects and I also started tattooing, which took up a lot of my time. DeAnthony actually came to the shop one day. He was real persistent. When he did that, I realized he was serious. He wasn’t playing around. (Group laughter.)
MB: You guys formed your own group as artists. Are making connections with other artists important for your craft?
Deedz: I had been doing stencil art until around 15 years old. I went to New Orleans one weekend and seeing it again really took me back. When I returned [to Mobile], I got back into it seriously, and I’ve been doing it ever since. When you see another artist’s work [like on Instagram], and it’s incredible, then it really inspires you. Honestly, Red Cup might not have even happened without seeing other people’s work on Instagram. That’s the awesome thing about art. My passion has never been stronger than it is right now, having met these guys and gotten into this group. Mobile doesn’t have many platforms for art. But, no matter who you are or where you’ve come from, everyone has had a red cup — a Solo cup — in their hand, partying and just being together with other people.
DIPLOMAT: Connections are key. I didn’t realize it back then, but my tattoo apprenticeship was actually around the corner from Stallworth’s studio. That’s where we ended up having our first Red Cup meeting. There were about 10 artists in the group at first, but that all dwindled down to the main four. When I left the tattoo shop and went to Stallworth’s and saw all his artwork and fashion, it was inspiring. I hadn’t done anything like that in a while. I used to do shirts and canvases in high school.
MB: Tell us a little about Stallworth Studios.
Stallworth: Oh, it was just my house and garage. (Group laughter.) But yeah, I started out painting T-shirts. It really took off. We did shirts for various groups, social clubs, fraternities and all kinds of stuff. When I moved to Atlanta, I was living in a house with my cousin, doing music at the time. I took on some hip-hop projects. One day my cousin saw I was drawing on a digital tablet. He was like, “Yo, you draw on a screen?” I was like, “Yeah! It’s 2012! What’re you talking about?” He said, “No, man. That’s not the way to go.” And he got me back into drawing the real way. Period. I realized I had just bought the tablet because I had some money. But when I realized the kind of true art he was doing in Atlanta, that’s when I started really taking it seriously.
MB: What has the response to your work been like at the local art walks and events?
DIPLOMAT: Overall, the response has been good for real.
Deedz: More than not. (Group laughter.) No matter what, there are always going to be haters. Some people are just going to hate because they’ve got hate in their hearts. (The group agrees in unison.)
MB: Where do you all draw your inspiration from as individual artists?
Stallworth: Energy, like from what I see in the culture and around me.
Deedz: Instagram. I pop on there and see stuff [by other artists]. Then I go to my art room and start messing around.
conz8000: Life experiences. The same things don’t inspire me all the time. Sometimes it might be what’s happening in the news, other times it could be my mom. I just want to contribute to creation.
DIPLOMAT: Energy for me, too. Also, getting on Instagram, keeping an eye on what’s happening in the culture. I’m also big on pop art and I like to do things that people will recognize. I want to leave my mark so that people will remember I was here.
MB: If you were to go viral as a group at the national level, what would be the message you would want to send to the culture, particularly the younger generation?
Stallworth: Just to be inspired. You can do this.
Deedz: Hate is baggage. Life is too short to hate. If everyone would understand this, life would just be so much better for everyone.
conz8000: We got to coexist together.
DIPLOMAT: Chill out. Take time to meet your neighbor. Learn about them. We all have things in common, whether you’re black, white, gay, straight, Alabama fan or Auburn fan. We want people to see that if you just pick up a red cup and put something in it, no matter what it is, and chill out and talk with other people, everything will be okay. We’re all in the same boat, and if it sinks, we’re all going down together.