OriginalFani's got the look for Two-9

Artist leaves his mark on fliers, album covers, tees and more

When OriginalFani was a student at Tri-Cities High School in the mid-aughts, he was still deciding what he wanted to be when he grew up. He knew he liked listening to Lupe Fiasco. He had just become interested in fashion, and he had always been inspired by graffiti.

"It was like, man, I just want to be working with my friends," OriginalFani, 25, says, while hanging out inside a crowded suite at Disturbing Tha Peace Records. As Two-9's resident creative director, involved in the hip-hop collective's output ranging from mixtape artwork and music videos to merch, he's doing exactly that.

Born Khalfani Dennis, OriginalFani discovered graphic design while studying at Clark Atlanta University. Five years ago he landed a gig creating fliers for a friend's parties, and he met Jace and Ceej of Two-9 duo Retro Su$h!. The first single artwork he designed for Two-9 was for 2012's slightly menacing crew anthem "Scottie 2 Hottie," featuring Curtis Williams and former Two-9 member Key!.

The resulting design features a boy wearing glasses and a Mickey Mouse sweater, sitting in a car's front seat, his mouth blurred — a small but jarring detail. He's since drafted similar works in muted grays, greens, and sepia tones for other local rappers, including Que and Tuki Carter. For Two-9, though, he says his goal is to hint at how "rambunctious" the group can be. OriginalFani also designed Two-9's logo, an all-caps scrawl seen on the 2009 mixtape Two-9 Forever and on T-shirts. He worked on Two-9's "Everything" video with production company Rocksmith. In the video, some crew members appear with their eyes lit up like burning torches. Most recently, he made the art for FatKidsBrotha's Mike Brown-inspired "Riot." It shows hands raising spears, drawn as if inspired by European folklore so "it's not just about black people rioting."

At first glance, OriginalFani's minimalist approach seems like the opposite of the artists and designers he names as influences: Atlanta's Greg Mike, whose characters often feature oversize and crooked smiles; local artist Paper Frank and his trademark bunny suit threatening to come alive; and New York's KAWS, who specializes in cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse drawn with X-ed out eyes.

"They're artists, but they're graphic artists, and they got T-shirt brands and are doing ads and stuff like that," he says. "They're hitting you on all levels, and that's what I'm trying to do."

On Aug. 29, OriginalFani started selling his first branded T-shirts online, with help from his mentor Chilly-O. The apparel will feature his name on a solid-colored shirt. It's OriginalFani's first project intended to make a name for himself and himself only.