Behold, a Dungeon Family Pyramid on the Beltline
Fabian Williams is building a tribute to Atlanta's favorite cultural exports. And he's funding it through a pyramid scheme
- Courtesy Fabian Williams
A quiet driveway in suburban Decatur might seem like an unlikely spot for the construction of a 21st-century pyramid. But for Fabian Williams it's only natural.
We're standing under his carport on a Monday afternoon as he points out the details of his months-in-the-making monument, designed to pay tribute to one of Atlanta's most treasured cultural exports.
He’s in the process of building a Dungeon Family Pyramid. And it’s every bit as iconic as it sounds. Inspired in part by his esoteric interests in alternative history, afrofuturism and numerology, it’s scheduled upon completion for a year-long installation in the Art on the Beltline project.
But before he can complete it, he needs to finance it.
“Turns out building pyramids are expensive,” he says with a laugh. So he’s come up with a novel idea. After coming up short of his $10,000 Kickstarter campaign, Williams has conceived a new way to finance the pyramid’s completion: He’s starting a pyramid scheme.
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- Courtesy Fabian Williams
- A miniature mock-up of the Dungeon Family Pyramid
“After a certain point you become an investor in the pyramid,” he explains. “The catch is the money I collect for it is going to determine the value of the piece.”
With OutKast’s 40-festival tour drawing to an end, it’s perfect timing for Williams time capsule. He’s even holding out hope that his DF Pyramid might make a surprise landing onstage during next week’s three OutKast #ATLast shows at Atlanta’s Centennial Park.
But the idea was sparked before the twentieth-anniversary reunion became a reality.
“I came up with the concept before they even announced the tour,” he says. “I guess I’m moving a lot in my subconscious because I’m not really keeping track with where these ideas are coming from.”
That off-handed admission opens a window into the mind of the longtime contributor to the city’s fertile arts and music scene. Over the last decade, the Fayetteville, N.C. native has honed a local identity — through solo shows and his long-running WWAF art battle collaborations LINKS — as clever as his “Occasional Superstar” tag.
Like most of his creative musings, he traces the seeds of his latest invention back to his favorite TV show, the History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens.”
"I was watching it and there was this segment on pyramids. They were saying the pyramids were probably created by aliens because of all of the mathematics that went into making it," he says. “For some reason, the Dungeon Family occurred to me at that moment because of the way they take bits and pieces of things and mix it together. They have black righteousness and then they add some funk shit, then they have some street shit…. It’s a very American way of doing things.”
That same crossbreed is reflected in Williams’ aesthetic influences that range from hip-hop to Norman Rockwell to Italian renaissance.
“I feel like American music is that combination of African and European cross-section,” he says. “By African, I mean the pyramids and the precision of that, with the European beauty of execution. They were really good technical painters and I’ve always been drawn to that. So I’m just putting the two together.”
Williams’ eight-foot-tall DF pyramid will consist of four sides with a 12-foot-base, featuring respective portraits of Andre 3000, Big Boi, and the Goodie Mob on three sides. The fourth side will feature laser-cut hieroglyphics from a font he custom designed. Along the base will be portraits of the rest of the Dungeon Family members, including Organized Noize, Big Rube, Cool Breeze, Witchdoctor, and Backbone. He’s even received input from DF founder Rico Wade and member Backbone.
He’s using Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel as aesthetic inspiration for portraits that portray the members of DF as angelic figures floating in the sky.
“I don’t think people understand how funky it’s going to be when it’s done. It’s going to be immaculate,” he says. “I want it to be something where if you went to the Lourve in Paris you’d say, ‘I could see this being in there.’”
It’s not the first time he’s used the Dungeon Family as a muse. About a decade ago, Williams illustrated the cover for DJ Jamad's classic Afromentals mixtape of OutKast remixes titled "Outskirts." In fact, his portraits of Big and Dre inspired Jamad’s song selection and mix, he says.
He’s working to infuse that same sense of camaraderie into the design of the pyramid. It’s the first step in Williams’ plan to produce similar hip-hop themed monuments across the country. Over the next decade, he envisions everything from a Biggie and Tupac pyramid to an ancient Olmec head of Kanye West in Chicago.
The DF pyramid, which will be constructed out of wood, will be sold after its time on the Beltline. At that point, everyone who invested into the pyramid scheme will have the opportunity to get a return on their investment via a custom-designed Dungeon Family check, which they’ll be free to cash or frame as a tribute, Williams says.
It’s a way of “involving yourself in the journey of this project,” he adds. “I think that also relates to the family vibe of the Dungeon Family. You just felt like they were all related. They way they operated always felt like there was a lot of love between them.”
After the pyramid gets a preview at Art Beats + Lyrics on Oct. 3, it will be installed along the West End portion of the Beltline. Williams hopes the pyramid will ultimately serve as an artifact with cultural and spiritual resonance. “History is changing right in front of us,” he says. “Archaeologists are finding a lot of things that we didn’t know. A lot of things that we thought were fantasy are turning out to be true. So it’s an interesting time to be paying attention to all of that.”