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Rappin' Max Robot!
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The First-Ever Figure of the
World’s First Hip-Hop Comic Book Character by Eric Orr

RAPPIN’ MAX ROBOT – Designer Toy by LBO Collective

 

Before Rappin’ Max Robot became the star of the world’s first Hip-Hop comic book, he was a head drawn in chalk throughout the streets of New York by a young Eric Orr, bringing together Orr’s passion for comics, robots, and sci-fi imagery. Orr’s friend and collaborator, Keith Haring, coined the phrase “robot head” to refer to this visual, and as the character’s look evolved, he was given a proper name: Rappin’ Max Robot (MAX being an acronym for Maximum Audio Xperience).

Orr’s graphic skill soon led to partnerships with various Hip-Hop artists, developing logos, art, and designs that helped define the look of the culture; Orr was not a musician himself, but found a creative home alongside MCs and DJs. In 1986, while working at Strong City Records with friends Jazzy Jay and Rocky Bucano, Orr brought together these twin passions and self-published a comic book featuring Max: written entirely in verse, with the robot as the rapper. Distributing the comic himself, Orr quickly sold out the initial print run of 500 copies, and followed up this success with a trio of “special edition” issues.

Years later, with the help of Pop Culture Historian / Curator Patrick A. Reed and Cornell University, Rappin’ Max Robot was recognized as the first Hip-Hop comic and a significant piece of American cultural history.

This 9” designer vinyl figure captures the iconic cover art featuring Rappin’ Max in his signature stance. Complete with arched back, tilted head, and crossed arms, Max drips with B-Boy attitude. While the original figure art was printed in black and white, the colors Orr selected represent his vision of classic sci-fi silver with fluorescent orange highlights and light blue faded lenses. This limited-edition collectible also features a poseable head and antennas. Max also comes with a stylized boom-box to listen to his favorite rappers. The specialty hat-style package is adorned with images from the comic as well as Orr’s famous robot heads.

Let’s Be Onyx is proud to debut its first project, the first-ever designer art toy based on the world’s first-ever Hip-Hop comic, Eric Orr’s Rappin’ Max Robot!

RAPPIN’ MAX ROBOT FEATURES
 

  • 9” tall vinyl figure

  • Signature b-boy stance

  • Poseable head and antennas

  • Boom-box accessory

  • Specialty packaging with art by Eric Orr 

  • Classic Edition Limited to 500 Units Worldwide

  • Preorder ends July 31, 2024

 

*Final product may vary

Legendary Artist Eric Orr

RAPPIN’ MAX ROBOT AND ERIC ORR: AN APPRECIATION

By Patrick A. Reed - Pop Culture Historian / Curator

 

Eric Orr is one of those figures who could only have emerged at a specific time and place in history, standing at the center of a venn diagram that encompasses some of the key artistic and cultural movements of the late 20th Century.

Growing up in the South Bronx 1970s, Orr was inspired by the colorful imagery and imaginative scenarios of comics and cartoons, and soon became recognized by peers for his artistic ability.

“Hip-Hop has always been influenced by comic book art & science fiction.” – Kwamé Holland – Rapper / Producer / Co-Founder LBO Collective

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Eric Orr's handmade Robot Head hangs in his studio.

At the same time, his neighborhood was ground zero for nascent Hip-Hop culture, as DJs, MCs, B-Boys, and graffiti artists pioneered vibrant new forms of music, dance, and visual art, surrounding Orr with an explosion of creative expression.

The sound and aesthetics of Hip-Hop quickly spread throughout New York City, influencing and intersecting with the similarly revolutionary downtown art scene that was exploding just a short subway ride away in Lower Manhattan, and as these worlds entwined, Orr’s work began to attract wider attention. He developed a “substitutive art” style of tagging that eschewed writing in favor of visual iconography, creating a distinctive robot that would serve as his signature and alter-ego, and a chance encounter in 1984 led to a series of creative collaborations with Keith Haring – the two joined forces for a series of subway station installations that featured Orr’s robot along Haring’s iconic “radiant baby”, and went on to produce a series of marker-on-paper works together.

While this was happening, Orr became firmly entrenched in the Hip-Hop scene. He worked as studio manager and designer with Jazzy Jay and Rocky Bucano at Strong City Records, creating cover art and logos for a number of foundational rap acts.

“His pedigree deserves the recognition. We are talking Warhol, Basquiat, Haring – he shows that there were so many others who created.” – Acori Honzo – Artist / Documentarian / Co-Founder LBO Collective

 

Then, in 1986, Orr brought together all these threads when he self-published Rappin’ Max Robot #1, a slender comic book pamphlet that developed his visual trademark into a full-fledged character, a robot borne from and immersed in the world of Hip-Hop, playing cassettes on his boombox, rapping and breaking alongside B-Boys.

And though there had been a handful of instances where Hip-Hop elements had appeared in mainstream comics prior to this, they were inevitably treated as novelties or asides, employed to establish context or cash in on a current fad – Spider-Man swinging past street performers spinning on their heads, Archie attempting to impress Betty and Veronica by taking breakdance lessons.

This was something very different, and as a result, Rappin’ Max Robot is today recognized as the first-ever Hip-Hop comic book: a publication that grew out of the culture, created by an artist who was an active participant in the culture. Orr’s formative graphic influences are evident in Max’s charming, instantly identifiable design, which blends classic animation motifs with sci-fi aesthetics and understated elements of urban fashion – a character who would be equally at home starring in Saturday Morning cartoons or controlling the mic in a freestyle rap battle.

 

“Max the Robot specifically is layered. There is comic-book culture, there is Hip-Hop culture, there is art history, there is American history.” – Acori Honzo – Artist / Documentarian / Creator / Co-Founder LBO Collective


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Rappin' Max Robot's ties to the greater art and Hip-Hop communities are also reinforced by the circumstances of its creation: its printing was partially funded by Keith Haring, who purchased ads for his Pop Shop boutique on the back cover of issue #1; successive issues included contributions from artists including Haring, ‘Seen’, Joeski Love, and DJ Goldie.

“I was designing for Hip-Hop music culture in 86. I wasn’t a rapper, so I created this robot, and he became the rapper.” – Eric Orr, Creator of Rappin’ Max Robot and the World’s First Hip-Hop Comic

In addition to four original issues of RMR, Orr produced an ongoing series of ‘Max Robot’ comic strips for Rap Masters magazine from 1987-1988, and has contributed to various anthologies and special projects. In recent years, Max has been featured on posters for the New York City Department of Health; been the face of United Way campaigns; appeared within the Guggenheim’s ground-breaking ‘Basquiat’s “Defacement”, The Untold Story’ exhibition; starred in a series of limited-edition Serato DJ products; and been seen in publications such as Juxtapoz, Mass Appeal, Sketchel, Complex, and the International Graffiti Times.

“Eric Orr embodies Hip-Hop. Taking just the idea of simple robot head to a one issue comic book, then taking Eric to the far ends of this planet and ultimately to ending up as a high-end resale piece, statues in museums, and now toys…that’s totally Hip-Hop!”  – Kwamé Holland – Rapper / Creator / Producer / Co-Founder LBO Collective


In 2014, Orr’s personal archives were acquired by Cornell University for the Hip-Hop collection in their archive of rare books and manuscripts; in 2015, Columbia University added copies of his works to their permanent collection; in 2016, he was the spotlight guest at University of Oregon's inaugural Hip-Hop & Comics festival; he has been a featured guest at numerous comic conventions and art festivals. Eric currently serves as a cultural ambassador at for New York’s Universal Hip-Hop Museum and continues creating alongside the museum's Executive Officer / President, Rocky Bucano.

 

“Rappin’ Max Robot is the perfect debut for LBO! It represents historic significance, crosses cultures, and captures the spirit of our mission that everyone has fun!” – Steve Forde – GoHero Principal / Creator / Producer / Co-Founder LBO Collective

Rappin' Max Robot

WORD!

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