In The Groove with Shepard Fairey

Seminal street artist & graphic designer picks three formative songs from three formative years of his life.

Fairey’s iconic “Obey Giant” artwork (courtesy of artist)

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation.

In the past 30 years, Shepard Fairey has become one of the most popular street artists in the world.

From his early creations — like his signature “Obey Giant” designs featuring the likeness of wrestler Andre the Giant (pictured above) — to his 2008 campaign poster for Barack Obama, Fairey has carved a path very much his own in contemporary art.

Now there’s a Michigan art museum that’s highlighting his early work with the help of downtown contemporary art gallery Library Street Collective.

Ahead of his new exhibition “Salad Days, 1989-1999” at the Cranbrook Art Museum, Fairey spoke with CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper about the influence music has had on his work over the years for In The Groove — CultureShift’s award-winning series where a wide range of guests look back on three formative songs from three formative years of their life.

Track #1: A Young Shepard Discovers the Sex Pistols

As a teenager growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, the music of the UK punk icons was a huge influence — but so was the iconic album cover design by Jamie Reid, whose work is also featured at Cranbrook’s new “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986.”

Track #2: Public Enemy Arrives & Informs a Young Artist

At just 18-years-old, Fairey says Public Enemy’s 1988 classic “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” was an eye-opening record and one that sounds extremely fresh and relevant today.

Track #3: Interpol Turns on the Bright Lights

Fairey isn’t a longtime fan of New York’s Interpol — he’s actually created a pretty wide range of posters and murals for the band.

“When I’m forced to pick only three, those would be the three,” says Fairey.


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.