This Designer Is Working For The Biggest Rappers, And He's Only 17
Most 17-year-olds are occupied with—well, I don’t exactly know anymore. Snapchat? Kylie Jenner Lip Kits? Synthetic weed? The shame and excitement of a growing and changing body, with hormones surging through them like a hurricane? I forget what it’s like to be young.
But, as always, some teenagers do far more than the typical high school business. Generation Z is full of young entrepreneurs and activists taking control of their careers. It’s both intimidating and incredibly impressive—teenagers aren’t the layabouts we like to stereotype them as. Case in point: one Benji Taylor, a British designer who has worked with major artists, all before he could legally drink, drive, vote, or smoke a cigarette (in America at least—my understanding of British pub culture is that actual children are drinking on the regular). Taylor is incredibly professional and polite; a boy who acts greatly beyond his years.
Taylor recently founded his own company, called Next Exit, which already has 12 contributing team members. He left school to focus on the business, like a hip baby Zuckerberg. Taylor has made waves in the music industry, working with the A$AP crew and Ram Riddlz; Dazed called him “the 16-year-old designer shaking up the music industry” (he’s since had a birthday), and projects with major artists are imminent. We talked to Taylor from his home in London to get the low-down on what it’s like to be a kid with the world at your feet.
I can’t believe you’re so young. Do you think that your age has been helpful to your career?
I think in some ways, yes. Publications are probably more inclined to write about me. I wish it wasn’t so much about my age, though. When I judge work, I judge based on what’s in front of me. I’d much rather be a person doing what I do, than a ’17-year-old ___’. I have to ask whether I’d be worthy of writing about if I was older. I hope the answer would be yes.
“I have to ask whether I’d be worthy of writing about if I was older. I hope the answer would be yes.”
What attracts you to someone’s work as a younger person? What about this art from an older person appeals to you?
I think it’s about consistency from piece to piece, which is something I’m always working on and trying to improve. I’m talking about aesthetics. I look up to people that manage to be great each and every time, with everything they do. This often comes with experience. A lot of older people I follow seem to always produce something better than what they did previously. They make their mistakes in private, and share what they’re proud of in public. That’s what is attractive to me.
What is your daily life like? Are you still in school, or do you focus on Next Exit full time?
I’m no longer in school. I dropped out to pursue Next Exit and my other projects. Next Exit isn’t quite full-time. I work with my team remotely via Slack, so I can balance it with my other ventures. My daily routine varies, so I guess it’s not exactly a routine. Usually I wake up later so I can be on American time. I respond to emails first thing, I update my to-do list on Clear. I work out my priorities for the day, and go from there.
How did you connect with hip-hop artists?
I started to design album covers for fun around two years ago. I was always pretty fascinated with art made for music. I shared the work on Tumblr, and picked up a small following. It grew from there and I received requests to work on real projects. Twitter has been a big help in meeting prospective clients, and friends. I found that a lot of artists were in need of great artwork. They usually don’t have a go-to designer, so they end up making something themselves that’s inferior, or they just steal someone else’s image.
Like the Future stock photo? [Laughs]
Exactly [Laughs]. I imagine he bought that, so at least he didn’t steal it. But it would be so much better to see him hire a team to make something special just for the album.
The Next Exit website is very mysterious. Why the choice to keep it so opaque?
I think it comes down to wanting to create a sense of mystery and intrigue surrounding who we are and what we do. I want clients to make the effort to find out more about us. Those are the kinds of people we want to work with. If they go the extra mile, so do we.
Where do you see the company going? What’s your goal for it?
It’s hard to know where it will go. I’d like to make my money elsewhere, and treat Next Exit as a talented team, instead of a company focused on paid projects. There are some projects I’d happily pay for to be honest. I’m in this to have fun, and want to be able to pick and choose what we work on. I’d like us to do some independent projects.
You’ve worked with rappers, you spent all this time in L.A. Do you have any crazy experiences or stories that you want to share?
Things always happen in LA that are a little strange. Not sure how much I can share. Every day is different, to say the least.
Every day is a new adventure.
Images courtesy of Benji Taylor
Check out more from Next Exit.
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