Napkin Killa! (Probably) The World’s Highest Paid Napkin Artist!
He’s animated. He’s a character. He’s your wildest cartoon daydream sprung to life. And he’s sitting at the bar capturing all of your obnoxious statements on tiny squares of slightly absorbent paper. He’s the Napkin Killa, a 21st-century caricaturist taking the art of impromptu cartooning off the carnival boardwalk and into the party zone.
He has gone from anonymous dude to the self-proclaimed “highest paid (napkin) artist” in the world, due to a cunning sense of the absurd, his ability to capture the bizarre ego-centrism and fameballing clamoring at the edge of New York nightlife, and by putting it all on Instagram.
Napkin Killa’s plans stretch far beyond just keeping a stool warm. His vision transcends the paper goods section at Party City, with patches, stickers, shirts, handmade Valentines and commemorative footballs have burst from the Killa’s brain so far. But the real fire is his Da Wipe Me Down Mixtape Volume 69, a satirical collection of Snoop covers and Drake beats that highlight not only the bizarre and often hilarious world of contemporary hip-hop, but his own rise to infamy.
When did you develop the Napkin Killa persona?
A year ago. It was just kind of by accident. I had just moved to Bushwick and I was kind of hanging out at a local bar all the time, down the street from my apartment. I didn’t have my own art studio but I wanted to practice drawing and also have a drink after work, so I just combined the two.
And I didn’t ever want to take my sketchbooks to the bar, 'cause you know how that works. You might leave it at the bar. I’m very precious about my sketchbooks. They all have names, birthdates, end dates. [laughs] I mean, that sounds crazy, I don’t celebrate their birthdays. [laughs] I log when the sketchbook was started and finished, give it a name. I’m very precious about it. I didn’t want to bring my sketchbooks and so I just started drawing on what was available, which would be napkins.
I started posting them on my regular Instagram, and one time I hashtagged it #napkinkilla. I thought, Oh, that’s a funny name, and then just really for fun, I’m gonna start this second Instagram account. With no intention of it ever being a thing or making money off it ever, just as a pure goofy joke. Then it started to gain followers quicker than anything else I had done.
New York magazine saw me and hired me to draw at a Fashion Week party during September of last year. And that exposure just kind of turned into all of these big fashion brands hiring me to draw at their shows. I did it on the side—I’ve worked in animation and advertising for a long time, always doing cartoons, but it’s turned into a thing on napkins in the last year.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while drawing?
I’ve drawn a few celebrities at parties, like Kimiko Glenn from Orange Is The New Black, Christiane Seidel, from Boardwalk Empire, Jessica Williams from The Daily Show (but she was unaware because she was across the party).
There’s been a lot of sightings; I don’t have too many famous people sit down in front of me but I’ve been at parties and seen them across the room.
The coolest thing I’ve done so far, I did for [DEW athlete] Russell Westbrook, basketball player, MVP, gold medalist. He started his own sunglasses range, and this past Fashion Week happened to overlap with [the big basketball weekend in NYC], so they threw this party to celebrate at this five story penthouse on Kenmare and Lafayette. It’s one of the coolest places venues I’ve ever seen.
There is a pool on the second floor and there’s synchronized swimmers performing in the pool. From the first floor you can look through glass like an aquarium and watch them. I had a super-official station, my name was on all the signage and the whole party was packed with beautiful eastern European models and NBA stars.
What inspired the mixtape?
I grew in the LA underground hip hop scene. I was a graffiti artist for most of my teenage years. I always went to freestyle jams, freestyled myself a lot. In 2006 I put out a full length album over original beats that my friends had produced.
I used go by the name "R. Kyves"—it’s actually up on the same sound cloud account. I just put it up for the heck of it, but I was on much different tip back thenl I was on a backpacker, underground [puts on rap voice] "hysterical, lyrical, so zig and a zag," big words. "Dictionary rap," they call it... I’ve always been into the performance.
The whole Napkin Killa thing, even though it just started as napkin portraits, has become a platform for me. I’m just trying to play it like a character, a larger-than-life rap artist, the biggest cartoonist in the rap game. I like being jokingly cocky with it, fronting like I’m insanely rich off drawing napkin portraits.
It’s a fun character—and it’s not that much of a departure. I’m kind of a ridiculous dude in general.