We took a visit to a new spot located in the Navy Yard of Southeast DC called “Somewhere DC”, to speak to graphic artist, illustrator, and animator Tenbeete Solomon. Solomon is a powerful creative force in the DMV and is better known as “Trap Bob”.
As the founder of Trap Bob World, LLC, a freelance design and product company, Solomon has worked with both local and national companies such as Giphy, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Apple, the Women’s March, Broccoli City Music Festival, and Trillectro Music Festival.
Trap Bob won the Pabst Blue Ribbon’s official Art Can contest allowing her “out-of-this-world” illustration to be featured on over 5 million, 24oz beer cans that began distributing nationally on October 1, 2019.
She designed three Giphy stickers for Elizabeth Warren’s nomination campaign and is working on a Giphy for Shia Labeouf’s new film “Honey Boy.”
She recently assisted in animation for Missy Elliot’s video “Drip Demeanor.” She’s also created the look and feel of “The Girls Who Code” March For Sisterhood and currently has a sculpture piece in Refinery 29’s “29 Rooms” show.
DCL: I was so blown away by the boldness of your artwork that fits into so many platforms, how did you get started with all of this?
I went to the University of Maryland at College Park studying business around junior and senior year. I was pretty bored with what I was doing – I wasn’t very passionate about anything I was studying. Then I started illustrating to get some stress out and I realized this is what I’m supposed to do. I completely switched around my plans and said hey, I’m an artist now. I taught myself illustration using Adobe Illustrator. I started sharing my work on social media and luckily, it caught on. From there, I was able to go full-time freelance in 2016. It’s been a crazy ride since then. I’ve been blessed to have so many opportunities in DC, and in the nation. I’m also happy that I can bring the spotlight here to DC and represent what we’re doing here. It’s been great.
DCL: So how long have you been doing all of this?
TB: I started around 2015 when I seriously got into my work and taught myself a lot. I’m not professionally trained and never went to school, so I was teaching myself as I was going.
From there, I made a point to share what I was doing and built up a fan base. It brought me in front of a lot of different people and in the beginning of this year, I’ve been able to branch out and work with a lot of corporations. Winning the PBR can art contest really was a catapult for me. I did the “29 Rooms Tour”, which was one of the projects I’ve been the most excited about. A lot of the things I’ve been doing now, I’ve seen from the sidelines before and hope to see myself in. I really couldn’t ask for more now.
DCL: Can you tell me what GIRLAAA is? I read that it’s described as a collective. What do you mean when you say collective? What’s the mission behind this project?
TB: We started to represent women in the DC community and beyond, especially in the creative scene just from our own personal experiences. All of the founders are different disciplinary artists like DJs, hosts… me, I’m a creative director and artist. We all came together because we felt it was something really needed in the city. It started out as a party and quickly developed into an agency because we saw how much of a need there was to have what we were doing out here. We went from parties to having different panels. We have collaborated with festivals, and we also have a podcast that plays every week.
DCL: So it’s a collective, creative network of people?
TB: Yes. We strive to provide education for our community because a lot of different fields people are interested in don’t have resources to get to. We do panels with Women in Media, different professionals in music, we have DJs, we have different art shows we put together. We try to create and make space for different needs and interests of the community, and foster that community throughout the nation. We provide creative support.
It was perfect timing for me because I always wanted to work with a collective, but I hadn’t found anything that resonated with my message and values. Girllaaa was the perfect thing – the other women I’m working with are so inspiring, so it was great to be surrounded by them.
DCL: What are some of the social causes you’re passionate about?
TB: Fighting for equality. Beyond my own personal lifestyle, I think everyone should be represented and celebrated. For me, art really helps me bring people together. Within my work, I try not to alienate anyone. I want everyone to connect and feel how they want to feel. I want to bring some light into their life. We deal with so much in this world especially with social media and everything that’s going on, I feel like it’s a battle every day just to get through things.
DCL: Speak on it!!! (LOL)
TB: Yes! So for me, it’s an outlet to create for an audience to have a second to possibly laugh and just enjoy what’s going on in the present. That’s what I try to do. Getting into politics is pretty new for me – I’ve recently worked with the Elizabeth Warren campaign. I really love what she stands for. I really want my work to send that message of equality and bring power to my audience. To me, there’s no reason why anybody should think they don’t have a say or feel like a certain industry isn’t for them.
DCL: How was it to work with Missy Elliott? What was that experience like for you?
TB: It was amazing! The video, “Drip Demeanor”, actually was what prompted me to draw her, and it’s one of the illustrations I have hanging up here. At the time that I shared it, I was also a part of the “29 Rooms” tour in Atlanta. The art directors went to the tour, found my work, and I just happened to share that Missy piece. From there, they contacted me and said they needed assistance. It was more than what I could’ve asked for. I couldn’t believe that they were calling me I was like, “ are you sure? Are you sure you’re calling me?” (LOL). The experience is something I’m going to remember forever.
DCL: What is your favorite thing to do from an artistic perspective between all the creative hats that you wear?
TB: I really love illustration. It’s really been a form of communication for me and an outlet when I don’t know how I feel about something. If I want to just tell a story or put an idea I have out there, it’s been the most receptive medium to me where I can easily get my hands on it, and get my work done. It makes me happy to see the final product with the colors and outlines.
DCL: What is the goal of this particular event at somewhere DC?
TB: We are celebrating my art can design for the Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) release party, and to bring the city together. We are celebrating the improvements we’ve all made in the creative community. I feel like we have a creative renaissance going on now, and I think it’s important that we come together and celebrate it. Even with my design of the can, I was communicating about being “out of this world”, and the endless possibilities we have just thinking about the universe, the stars and planets has always been inspiring to me. I want everyone to think outside of the box.
TrapBob.com is the website to find Trap Bob’s amazing work. We look forward to her work that is to come.