While Canada has a pool of some of the world’s greatest musical talents in this generation, it is also home to amazing visual artists such as Mihailo Andic who has designed memorable album covers for the likes of Lil Yachty, Lil Baby, and Don Toliver.
From a fresh graduate to an advertising agency in Toronto, Andic slowly steered into creating album art after feasting his eyes on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and The Weekend’s House of Balloons mixtape. While still working a nine-to-five job, he started cold pitching artists and caught the attention of Lil Yachty with ideas for the 2016 Lil Boat album cover.
Momentum started to pick up for the Oakville, Ontario native as he continued to shape up cover artworks such as Quavo’s Quavo Huncho, 6lack’s Free 6lack and Lil Yachty’s Nuthin’ 2 Prove while directing photoshoots and visuals.
Andic sat down with HYPEBEAST to discuss his come-up, design process, sneaker rotation and what it’s like to work with a few music artists from his ever-expanding roster. Be sure to check out Andic’s June 2021 playlist linked below.
HYPEBEAST: How did you get to where you are today with a roster of big names in the music industry like Lil Yachty, Migos, and 6lack?
Back in late 2014 and 2015, while I was working in advertising, I also did a side hustle designing for musical artists around the time that I just started working on Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and I was getting familiar with those programs. I really got attached to the Toronto music scene and it was on the come up at that point. Every time I finished my nine-to-five, I would kind of reach out to these artists and cold email them about contributing from anything along the lines of cover art, logo, branding merchandise.
Initially, I started with three people from Toronto. It was Safe, Prime Boys and Derek Wise. In 2016 that’s when one of my brother’s friends introduced me to Lil Yachty’s music. I cold emailed Lil Yachty with a breakdown of three to four cover options of what I thought his cover should look like. That night, I went to a party, and Coach K [Lil Yachty’s manager] said he loves the ideas I sent him.
That one-in-a-million chance paid off. He was the first person in the industry of that level to get back to me. This kind of side hustle turned into something bigger than what I was doing at my job.
I think a cold email goes a long way along with a few concepts that you think that artist or brand could benefit from. I kind of pitched it the same way that an ad agency would pitch a potential client because I was seeing what I was doing at work. Whatever I learned during the day, I would kind of put into my own business.
Coach K and Pee [Pierre Pee Thomas] from QC [record label] really helped me a lot in the early days by connecting me with those people. They really helped build my career up and give me so many opportunities that would have been hard otherwise to get at the time. And then the other artists it was just word of mouth. Eventually, some of those bigger acts would reach out to me, and that was really special as well.
What is your creative process when working on a new project?
I’ll usually get on the phone with the artist personally and obviously, you have that conversation with their team as well. But I love to get an artist’s perspective on what they’re thinking, whether it’s an album or a logo, a piece of branding or a visual for tour merchandise. I love artists that have input and have a vision for what they want to create. Collaborating is always great.
I always think of the fan’s perspective or the artist’s perspective — what’s a visual that’s going to capture the attention of somebody and tell the story or what’s the story being told through the music.
I would go through some references whether that’s on Tumblr or Pinterest and I just get a spark of creativity. In the past year, I’m starting to do a lot of work without references. If the artist is planning a photo shoot or something, I’ll just try to think of ideas on the spot and from memory or a fresh kind of idea that hasn’t been done before.
With the pandemic in full force, what does a typical workday look like for you right now? Is there anything you miss pre-pandemic?
One thing that has definitely been absent and I’ve kind of missed a lot is traveling. Just traveling to see the artists that I’m actually friends with and working with them side by side. Hopefully, with things clearing up and getting better in North America, I’m going to be able to travel again and just enjoy life and enjoy work in that capacity that was pre-pandemic.
Travel was so important to me for inspiration, creativity, and mental health as well. The way that I adapted to that I started taking on more work because I didn’t know how the landscape of the music industry was going to look like. I took in all the work that I was kind of getting inquiries for and accepting the smaller projects that I may have not have been able to accept before. I love that I love helping out people that don’t necessarily have that huge platform yet, but I love helping them build from the ground up as well.
Assuming you wear shoes when you go out, do you have any sneaker highlights in your current rotation?
So the two shoes that I personally love and are my go-to staples right now are the A-COLD-WALL* x Nike Air Force One Low shoes. So the white ones were a limited release that Samuel Ross designed, I believe. I think those are some of my favorite shoes of all time. I just bought these 2018 Travis Scott x Nike Air Force One Low in the sail color. I’m definitely looking into building my collection in the next few months and a lot of that is inspired by Lil Yachty. I have to step my game up like this guy. He’s inspiring me to get into the sneaker world more so he’s a big inspiration for that.
Do you have a favorite project that you’re most proud of?
Okay, so I actually had two and I’ll explain which two are my favorites. So one is most recent and one is from a few years ago. The Lil Boat album cover was the first time I ever shot anything like photography-wise.
We had limited time to put that out and just figure out what we were going to do with it. We flew out to LA and went to Marina Del Rey right before the sunset to shoot. I had no idea what I was doing with a camera. The next day we went to his favorite diner to go through the covers and he got a huge smile on his face. He’s like, that’s the cover. Don’t even think about it. That’s the one. I think that was the happiest I’ve ever felt about a project. It turned into this whole thing that the other photo that I took of him ended up in Times Square. I think that was the best. I definitely want to do more photography.
The second favorite thing that I’ve worked on kind of fell into my lap. When I put it out into the universe that I wanted to work with this person I just did. Don Toliver’s official logo — his personal logo. I remember posting on my story in late 2020 the three people I want to work with in the future and one of my friends was like I’m gonna connect you with Don’s marketing team. Three or four months later, somebody from Don’s team reached out and said hey, we love your work.
This is a full-circle moment. He’s one of my favorite artists ever. He gave me the same feeling that I had when I started working with Lil Yachty, so that was a special moment for me.
What was it like working with Don Toliver?
So we’re actually working on a lot of stuff now. It’s amazing working with him because I think one thing that Don does really well is he puts out quality visuals that match the sound that he’s going for, and the music that he’s putting out. It was free-flowing, like very easy to work with him because he knows what he wants. When he saw the logos that I put together, a lot of people from his team were just like, yes, Don loves a lot of these, it’s going to be difficult to pick. He is amazing with giving feedback and he knows exactly what he wants and what he doesn’t want, so he’s a blessing to have as a client.
What was it like working with Lil Baby on the My Turn 2020 album cover?
That kind of fell into my lap as well. So Pee of QC — he’s a great manager — he comes to me with this project and said, “Hey, Lil Baby has a project coming out. We’d love if you could put together some ideas and see if you can just kind of show us where you would take this cover.” A lot of the stuff that he was mentioning was goats and being the person that’s next up in the rap game.
When I put together that idea along with maybe five or six other covers, that one stood out to him most. I wanted to just flip it on its head and do something completely different — something out of his comfort zone that people wouldn’t expect for him to visualize. I didn’t think he was going to like it because maybe it was a little too different from his previous visuals, but he loved it. He definitely knows what he wants, so it was great working with him.
Have you worked with Drake on any certain projects?
Yes, the OVO fest visuals. So one of my really good friends, Adrian Martinez, who runs Sturdy, which is an amazing creative collective of people based in LA who also works with Tyler Henry, PARTYNEXTDOOR’s manager texted me, “Yo, I’m going to be in Toronto we’re working on so and so.” He texted me later that day like do you want to work on the visuals with us? That was also a crazy experience to work on visuals of that magnitude. We would show Drake at the venue and he would go through stuff with us late at night to approve stuff. It was amazing when I saw all the visuals that I worked on, on that big of a stage. It was surreal.
What was your inspiration for Lil Yachty’s Michigan Boat Boy mixtape cover?
So I love that one. I’m happy that everyone appreciated it because it was such a left turn from what we usually do. Yachty and I started talking about it and he’s like, okay, so I’m putting out a Michigan tape with all the artists from Michigan and it’s gonna be more of a mixtape. We had three ideas. So that was the first one where I kind of wanted to do something for the Michigan football team, and just relating to that. The second idea was doing an EA Sports build-a-character type thing where I would render him out or take a photo of them and make it like the loading screen on the Madden game. The third one was him as a QB action figure like a large figurine of him as a quarterback for Michigan. He ended up loving the first one I sent him. I think that was the first cover that we put cryptocurrency and that was the first thing that we thought like let’s put an Easter egg and a Bitcoin in the cover just because it was obviously a big thing at that moment. So I said, let’s just do it for fun and see what people think. They loved it, so it was a great cover.
What is it like working with Lil Yachty?
One thing that I’m lucky to have is that we’re friends. Obviously, at the start, it was more work and business. But we started hanging out more and built our relationship. That’s one of my very close friends I consider. He’s also given me a lot of opportunities as well, something that a lot of people don’t know. He already tells a lot of people and artists about me, and he’s brought me a lot of work. A lot of credit has to go to Lil Yachty because without him I don’t think I would have been at this level and would have reached this point if it wasn’t for him and how he brought me in and stayed on my side. I became his creative director and anytime he ever needs anything, I’m there. I literally stopped work for anyone else because I’m so passionate about putting the work out with him. It’s amazing all the time. I love working with him because he works with me. I love his input and he knows that every time I’m going to give him 150%. He’s given me that creative control and freedom to create, so that’s like a blessing. Like you don’t have many opportunities where you’re that close to the artist, and they just let you create freely like that.
Are there any other artists that you would love to work with in the future?
The first one I’ve always wanted to work with is The Weeknd. One thing about him, he already has an amazing team. We all see his creatives and it’s top tier — it’s always setting the bar. I’d love to work with Snow Aalegra. I think she’s a very talented artist and the music she’s putting out is very unique. I don’t think anyone knows this, but back in the day, I always wanted to work with Adele. If I was able to work with Adele, I think that would like just kind of put me in another category. My all-time favorite artist who I would be able to say I could retire and I would just be happy with everything I’ve done up until this point, is Sade. I kind of modeled my brand and myself around her career and how she came up into music. She’s timeless.
Are there any upcoming projects or plans you’re excited about that you’d like to share with us?
I’m actually putting together my first design show with all my work showcase, like a gallery, and invite all my friends, all my artists that I work with. Looking into the future, that’s definitely going to happen in 2022. One thing that I’m focusing on right now for the rest of the year is growing myself as a brand and just the amount of projects that I put out plus the quality of it just to grow a little more before I put this out into the world. Hopefully next spring or summer, I’m just going to start a full rollout for that and just make it a huge event in Toronto. It’s gonna have a storyline in terms of my work and how I got started.