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Meet the man behind Kanye's album art

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Already the year’s fastest-selling CD in its first week, Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’ is also among the most stylish, thanks to a designer cover by Louis Vuitton’s Takashi Murakami (above left). Via e-mail and a translator, the Japanese artist talks about his bond with rap’s self-proclaimed ”Louis Vuitton don.”

EW: Describe the visual concept of Graduation‘s cover.
Takashi Murakami: The cover is based on Kanye’s theme of student life. School. It’s a place of dreams, of righteousness, a place to have fun. It’s also occasionally a place where you experience the rigid dogma of the human race. Kanye’s music scrapes sentimentality and aggressiveness together like sandpaper, and he uses his grooves to unleash this tornado that spins with the zeitgeist of the times. I too wanted to be swept up and spun around in that tornado.

EW: How did you and West become acquainted?
TM: I was familiar with Kanye’s name as an important figure in the hip-hop world. All my staff members had his CDs. Kanye and I met face-to-face when he came to Japan [in 2006] to tour, and he was saying he was a fan of my work. We got along well and talked about doing jewelry designs, which eventually blossomed into this Graduation collaboration and other things, including the [invite] for his birthday [at NYC’s flagship Louis Vuitton store on June 7]. EW: What was it like working with another creative force? TM: It could get pretty tough, as he approached me with different ideas every day. However, [it] was a productive clash of ideas between two artists with strong wills and visions. Regardless of the fact that Kanye and I have not known each other for a long time, we’ve become very close.

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