Takashi Murakami is well known for popularizing the term superflat. In the words of art critic Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, “The term [superflat] is Murakami’s own, his manifesto on the way various forms of graphic design, pop culture and fine arts are compressed — flattened — in Japan. The term also refers to the two-dimensionality of Japanese graphic art and animation, as well as to the shallow emptiness of its consumer culture.” He also works to blur the lines between high art and low art, using the superflat style to work both in fine art and commercial art scenes. Murakami has built up a significant reputation in the current hip-hop era by working with artists on album covers, music videos, and different clothing lines. Some notable artists Murakami has worked with are Drake, Kanye West, Pusha T, and Pharrell Williams, who are all substantial figures in their field. These artists have helped the music community embrace Murakami to the point that his name is used in lyrics as a symbol of a higher status. For example,
“Yeah, lot of Murakami in the hallway,” in Drake’s, “Going Bad”, on Championships.
“Diamond crosses, hang Takashi portraits,” in Pusha T’s, “M.F.T.R.” on King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude.
Murakami’s most recognized collaborations have been with music and fashion industry icon Kanye West, first working with him on West’s Graduation album cover and music video and more recently his album Kid’s See Ghosts. With these collaborations, Murakami and West built a somewhat close relationship that has lead Murakami to create works using West’s art. In 2017, Murakami took pairs of West’s highly expensive YEEZY Boost 350 V2s and crudely cut the heels and toes off, as well as adorning them with custom made patches of his smiling flowers, embracing his disdain for the consumer culture that West is so much a part of.
In February of 2019, Murakami came forward with a piece celebrating West and dissecting his strange, viral music video for I Love It. In this work, Murakami is cosplaying as Kanye in a similar custom made blocky suit surrounded by Murakami’s trademark smiling flowers on a glossy panel. Around Murakami are ten bullet points explaining backstory to different aspects of West in regards to his clothing choice, analyzing lyrical and fashion choices, and talking about how West is able to preserve his ego. This includes Murakami’s thoughts on the I Love It video, stating “When I saw this video, I felt that it incorporated every single aspect of how art is appreciated and consumed, which have constantly and significantly been changing over the past 100 years.”