Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Sharkula aka Thigahmahjigee

Posted in art by Jason Gray on December 8, 2009

Cruising YouTube the other day, I came across a blast from my past in a short documentary style video on Sharkula, a rapper from Chicago who sells his music directly on the streets. Here is a journal entry that I did on him, when I knew him:

—The man known on the streets as “Sharkula” or “Thigahmahjigee” is an enigma to many, including myself. When I first encountered him, I was at work in Filter [a Chicago cafe], and he approached me soliciting a cd. My first thoughts were that he was probably homeless (he looks sometimes as though he might be), and that he was trying to sell off some stolen cds. It is truly admonishable that in our society, we are often reduced to judging others upon their appearances and therefore, harbor and nourish fictionalized expectations for their behavior. As it turned out, Sharkula was selling music he had MADE, and I am sad to admit that my inclined scepticism marred me from purchasing anything from him on that occasion. In truth, this man is a good-natured, if eccentric, nonsense rapper (in the paraphrased words of my friend, Natalie–stylisticly similar to Kool Kieth and MF Doom) who makes his dollars selling his albums on the streets for, “Whatever you can afford.” An interesting aspect of him is that his nonsense, rapping style often transcends into his speech, leaving you generally wondering what in the hell he is talking about, and occasionally, you get it only after he is no longer immediately around. With me, I have only seldom witnessed him follow through with an idea, from logical start to conclusion, while in conversation. In 2004, he released, “Martin Luther King, Jr. Whopper with Cheese”, to acclaim within the neighborhoods of Wicker Park/Bucktown. Slowly, we watched from Filter as he began to garner respect from the disc, and then a small following. He even landed a few gigs, which, on some of the recordings, sound as if he was drunk and mumbling incoherently. As it goes, Sharkula and I became acquaintances, and he is waiting for me to finish a portrait of him that he can include on his next album cover.

The last time that I spoke to him, he was putting up fliers in my neighborhood [then Lakeview], and he informed me that he had since become banned from entering Filter [I stopped working there in 2005]. I can understand why, he never bought anything, but when you begin to remove yourself as an establishment from even harmless, easy support of the neighborhood you cater to, then you also begin to close off the avenues that brought you there in the first place [Filter has since closed, but last I heard, was planning a reopening down the street from its original location].—

Back in 2005, I finished the portrait of him, but he disappeared from my radar just before it was completed. Well, here it is Sharkula, if you find it, you can can steal it, and use it however you want. Video of “School Fools” from his album, “Martin Luther King Jr. Whopper with Cheese”, after the painting.

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2 Responses

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  1. joshua Conro said, on May 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Hi Jason,
    I saw yr painting of Sharkula and thought it was pretty cool. I am working on a documentary about him and was hoping to be able to use your image on screen for a couple of seconds to show all of the different types of art that has been created on this man. I would of course list your name in the credits as the artist. There are lots of drawings of him out there as well as some paintings and I know of one girl who recently made a action figure of him. Let me know if I can use your image.

    best,
    Joshua


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