ALADDIN’S MAGICAL RIDE

by STACEY MARCUS photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

Ever since he was a young boy growing up in the California Bay Area, Aladdin has enjoyed the arts. Long before branding came into vogue, he chose an original name to express his creativity. Although he would not reveal his birth name, he shared the story of the genesis of his moniker, Aladdin. ”My mother gave me a necklace that was sort of Egyptian looking, and I was named Sinbad for a week by my high school friends, but then I changed it to Aladdin,” he wryly notes.

Aladdin and his brother, Tony (aka Grand Mixer TDC), grew up in the 1980s and were heavily influenced by the hip-hop movement, expressing their artistry through pop dance, breakdancing, turntable-ism and graffiti art. “We ran around with a crew and started to see graffiti art within music videos and documentaries,” says Aladdin, who references Blondie as an inspiration.

It was about that time when Aladdin’s art gene came alive. “I drew every chance I could,” he says, commenting that graffiti-stylized lettering was his chosen format. “The first commissioned gig I did was in San Jose, California, for a slogan for an anti-drug campaign. I was really excited because I knew that so many people were going to see it.” After his debut mural, he was asked to do another huge mural, and his name began gaining recognition.

“I got a lot of exposure on the street,” he says. “We weren’t exactly painting legally.” He whispers this last part, commenting that his work magically appeared on buses, trains, freeways and billboards. “I was really ahead of my time,” he continues, noting that he was in a different league than many of the taggers and graffiti artists who were making their marks.

After Aladdin was asked to do a couple of posters for the NBA, he created a robust body of work that is featured in magazines, books and videos, and has been covered widely by the media. Along with showing his work in galleries around the country, he paints murals globally. A favorite in Miami is in Wynwood, a neighborhood known for its rainbow of murals.

The mural for hair salon Danny Dillon Shampology’s side wall reflects Aladdin’s signature style, colorful and positive. The large-scale work depicts a woman with impossibly long locks and high cheekbones surrounded by swirls of magenta, cyan and lime green.

Miami’s creative vibe inspired Aladdin to become part of the tattoo circuit in 2003. Along with creating tattoos for clients, he also dons a few of his own. “To me, tattoos are like creating a piece of art to mark a certain experience in your life,” he says. His favorite personal tattoo is on his forearm and is dedicated to his experience in Miami. “I had it created at a moment when I thought I was going to leave Miami,” he says, adding with a smile that he decided to stay.

Painting remains his passion, though, whether it is on canvas, wood or a wall. “I am also a DJ producer,” he says. He fuses his passions together saying, “I am into mixed media. I am simply trying to promote positivity and enlightenment through my works.” His process is organic. “One day I am painting something with a message. The next day I am just creating what feels good and going where my heart leads me,” he says.

Aladdin is grateful to live and work in Miami, as he sees the art scene flourishing. “I see more galleries and studios opening. Just look at Art Basel Miami Beach,” he says. Since its launch in 2002, Art Basel has evolved into North America’s premier art fair, showcasing works of more than 4,000 artists over four days.

So what type of magic can we expect to see from the Miami legend? “I am working on a series of paintings and will be focusing on a large-scale mural project this summer,” he notes, adding that he is headed to Atlanta. While one never knows exactly where or in what format Aladdin will be expressing his art, one thing is for sure: It will be positively magical.

Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle, luxury and travel writer. Her works have appeared in Art New England, Boston magazine, Boston Common Magazine, Modern Luxury Chicago, Ocean Home Magazine, Playboy.com, RD.com and many others. A lover of big words and little white dogs, Stacey’s biggest joys are found in life’s simple moments.