Art Basel Miami Beach

Art, Beats, & Lyrics Returns to Miami Art Week for Its 17th Annual Showcase

Founder Jabari Graham and curator Dubelyoo Wright combines Black visual art and music at Art, Beats, & Lyrics.
Founder Jabari Graham and curator Dubelyoo Wright combines Black visual art and music at Art, Beats, & Lyrics. Photo by Jorge Sigala
Presented by Jack Daniel's and Cult Creative, Art, Beats, & Lyrics is returning to Miami for its 17th-annual showcase. It's set to take place on Saturday, December 4, at LoanDepot Park — a change of scenery from its usual Wynwood location, but also a spacious backdrop to kick off the 2021 art tour after a brief hiatus last year.

A fusion of Black art and hip-hop, the event has evolved into a staple for local Black artists since its visit to Miami during Art Week 2012.

Art, Beats, & Lyrics founder Jabari Graham says he started the pop-up in 2004 in Atlanta after noticing the art scene didn't cater to urban culture.

"I got laid off from one of my jobs," Graham recounts. "I used to work at UniverSoul Circus, so from that, I wanted to do something in art and music. I pretty much took what I learned from the circus to incorporate something for myself."

Along with the show's curator, Dubelyoo Wright, Graham established Art, Beats, & Lyrics as a platform for emerging and experienced visual artists and performers. A year later, they joined forces with Jack Daniel's and eventually took their show on the road to introduce the concept to different markets.

"Urban-themed art wasn't considered mainstream art at the time," Wright says. "We provided a platform for those visual artists to show their work because the galleries wouldn't accept it."

Graham and Wright carved out a lane for alternative artists who seldom had a space to display their work. Their events never "earned them a pat on the back from galleries," says Wright, but it invited attendees to interact with a breadth of cultural installations from artists like Charly Palmer, an Atlanta-based artist whose work has graced the covers of John Legend's Grammy Award-winning album Bigger Love and Time magazine's July 2020 "America Must Change" issue, and Shepard Fairey, the street artist and graphic designer whose Barack Obama "Hope" poster was ubiquitous during the 2008 presidential campaign.

"Over the years, we've collaborated with hundreds of [artists]. We try to mix it up with established artists and those who are up and coming. That's a part of our recipe in the visual arts and curating it," Wright says. "It gives that younger artist a chance to get their shine on as well as have the audience see these people are the ones to watch in the years to come."
click to enlarge Art, Beats, & Lyrics provides urban artists a platform to display their prints and paintings. - PHOTO BY KAT GODUCO
Art, Beats, & Lyrics provides urban artists a platform to display their prints and paintings.
Photo by Kat Goduco
Wright and Graham have relied on that same formula for curating their annual Miami Art Week event. In the past, they’ve showcased Miami artists Melissa Mitchell and Kaz “Kazilla” Williams; their 2021 exhibit will mount pieces from Mwanel Pierre-Louis, a local Haitian artist who combines abstraction with elements of realism, and Nate Dee, a South Florida native whose work is influenced by his Haitian culture, Greek mythology, and the art nouveau movement.

As attendees admire and interact with the art, a surprise roster of DJs and musicians are tapped to vivify the experience. Pairing new talent with vets, previous Art Week shows included performances from Masego, Sango, D Smoke, and Little Brother.

The performances are meant to be an accompaniment rather than a focal point, so you won't get advance notice of who's playing — attendees must wait and see who takes the stage at the Miami show.

"We don't want the show to be overshadowed by the talent, so that's why we tend not to say, 'Well, we're going to have XYZ here,'" Graham says.

Though Graham and Wright are tight-lipped about the music, they did share that they'll be adding on and rebuilding past installations as well as revealing new elements to their show.

"This show is almost like knocking the rust off," Wright explains. "Doing Art Basel is the Super Bowl of the art events. [But] in a way, we're looking at it like it's preseason because we have more cities to go."

Miami will mark Art, Beats, & Lyrics' first stop on its eight-city tour, which includes five new cities and showcases in Los Angeles and Cleveland for the Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Game.

As the event continues to grow, the partners say they're constantly finding inspiration in travel, tech, and culture for new ideas.

"We like to go to conventions, and we like to see what's new," Wright says. "If it's cool, we think, How can we include this in the show? And the cool thing about it is having this partnership with Jack Daniel's [is that] they listen to our ideas so we can make it happen. It's about being creative and making it happen, and we're always going to do that."

Art, Beats, & Lyrics. 7 p.m. Saturday, December 4, at LoanDepot Park, 501 Marlins Way, Miami; artbeatsandlyrics.com. Admission is free with RSVP via jackdaniels.com.
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A Deerfield Beach native, Shanae Hardy is a South Florida-based culture and copy writer. When she’s not pressed over deadlines or Beyoncé, you can find her fixated on a book.