Tainy

Courtesy of Elliott Muscat

Tainy’s Iconic DATA Album Is a Multimedia Art Masterpiece

On June 29, 2023, Puerto Rican award-winning record producer, songwriter, and creative Marcos Efraín Masís Fernández—popularly known as Tainy—released his iconic first solo studio reggaeton and trap album, titled DATA. The album features 19 songs he produced in collaboration with some of the most renowned Latin American music artists with the purpose of using music as a tool that tells the “story of our lives,” and reflects on what it means to be human.

This reflection comes through an anime character Tainy created, Sena, who is depicted on the album’s cover. She’s going through a transformation from cyborg to human, and his goal is to make her as human as possible by uploading emotions and memories to her mind through his music. The album’s songs are structured in a manner where each song is representative of the memories that Sena is experiencing.

 

The data—or music—is being uploaded to make Sena a human. Music is serving the purpose of art in order to invoke Sena's humanity (or, perhaps, the listener’s). This iconically engages the audience immediately to dive deep into an album that serves to disrupt both the music and art industries.

Tainy comes through delivering a very introspective album for him and the featured artists that doesn’t simply end with the music. Throughout the album, you’ll notice how he evolves as a music producer and artist by inserting himself in the art, while the artists’ lyrics clearly reflect on what it means to be an artist.  Tainy goes the extra mile by creating an iconic multimedia art masterpiece that combines music with an album cover art, photography, videos, and zines that briefly resided in the Data Archives Exhibition in Miami.

 

In order to create the DATA multimedia art, Tainy collaborated with Canadian creative director and multidisciplinary artist Elliott Muscat. Over the past four years, Muscat has been creating music videos for Tainy. This year, he was able to transition into working full-time for Tainy and Lex Borrero, Tainy’s manager, for the DATA album. 

Tainy and Elliot Muscat
Tainy and Elliott Muscat photographed while taking a photo. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat.

The Creative Direction of DATA

Tainy enlisted Muscat to lead the challenging creative and artistic direction for DATA, which began with creating the logo for the project. 

“Tainy’s been working on that project for about three years. We’ve just been building it piece by piece,” Muscat said. “It all started off with a name and a logo and then the logo color palette. That logo went through a ton of iterations. It was probably half a year just defining and refining it to get it where it is, even though it’s very simple.”

The DATA logo projected and Tainy photographed as a silhouette. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat.
The DATA logo projected and Tainy photographed as a silhouette. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat.

It started with a “simple” task that would then unfold into a very complex multidisciplinary artwork. Muscat had to come up with a way to portray Tainy as an iconic artist that feels larger than life to the audience. He wanted to creatively explore a way to depict Tainy in an elevated light, yet with a minimalist aesthetic that conveyed what Tainy is like as a person and as an artist.

“Something that really stood out to me was Tainy’s high fashion sense, which is rooted in really intense detail-oriented clothing,” Muscat said. “A lot of his aesthetic and his music is very refined, but the only way that you can get things to look good when they’re refined is paying really close attention to the details. For me, Tainy had a computer with speakers, which is something that stood out to me. As simple as that.”

For Muscat, Tainy’s visual depiction as an artist comes through when Tainy shows up with his “instruments”—a computer and speakers. This was then married with Tainy’s  love for Japan, which draws from his childhood love for anime cartoons, the Studio Ghibli films, and Japanese neo-noir cyberpunk thriller Ghost in the Shell. With Tainy’s affinity for Japanese culture, Muscat then ventured forth with the setting of Japanese landscapes that would speak to this portrayal. 

Tainy in Japan
Tainy in Japan. In this photo you can appreciate Tainy’s high sense of fashion merged with a beautiful Japanese landscape. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat

How Tainy Merged Latin American and Japanese Culture in DATA

In order to do that, Muscat used social media to contact Japanese artists and producers that could help him pick the best locations to film Tainy with his speakers and computer for the songs’ visuals. The collaboration with the Japanese artists and producers served as an important measure to truthfully and respectfully portray Japan without Muscat and Tainy interfering in that portrayal. 

“It was more so: what does Tainy connect more with himself? He grew up surrounding himself with so many amazing artists and inspiration from Japan,” Muscat said. “So, it makes sense for him to collaborate with people from Japan. It just created this whole interesting aesthetic that never would’ve come from anything unless Tainy was deeply connected with that culture. I think that’s the beauty of art.”

With that in mind, through Muscat’s collaboration with Japanese artists, they were able to find Japanese landscapes that people wouldn’t normally get to see. To a certain extent, they were able to take the audience on a trip to Japan through Tainy’s visuals and evoke a very peaceful and zen ambiance.  Yet, that’s not the only way in which the merging of Latin American and Japanese cultures was involved through DATA. 

Another clear example was the music video for the song “LA BABY.” The song features Tainy with Daddy Yankee, Feid, and Sech.

 

The music video was created by Muscat, Sho Mitsui, Jack Peros, and Nick Collini. Creating the music video was a massive undertaking for Muscat because of the amount of time needed to complete it as well as the high-profile Latina artists such as Bad Gyal, Camila Cabello, Evaluna, Paopao, and Rainao. 

“It was one of those ones where: how do we work with 8 musicians over the phone in 24 hours and it has to feel high level. It wasn’t like we were sitting on this idea for months and organizing it. It was a three-day turnaround time,” Muscat said. “For that, I was going back to my roots of: what are videos that I think the aesthetic is really cool? How do I bring Japan back into it? And I have a friend and really talented producer in Japan, Sho Mitsui. He helped send some references and connect some pieces together and translate a bunch of stuff.”

Once they figured out the aesthetic, the video’s production flowed in a matter of three days. On a Friday night, he was preparing the music video treatment, which is a document that outlines the video production with concepts, direction, aesthetics, and style.  He then had to send it out to the artist at 8:00 AM the next day. From there, he gathered and edited the footage by Monday to upload it to YouTube.

 

As challenging as it was, the art was delivered and the video has garnered more than four million views. The Japanese aesthetic influence is very alive in this particular video. Through a vibrant pink background with contrasting white letters, the video is reminiscent of a videogame screen accompanied by an anime head jumping over the song’s lyrics. 

“I want to put things out that would of course inspire me, but hopefully open up the eyes into the music industry and to art in general,” Muscat said. “[Things] that tell people that you don’t need to make music videos that are just naked chicks running around or often things that we see that can be detrimental to our mental health or detrimental to art in general.”

“‘LA BABY”’ may seem visually simple at first glance, but its creative process was very tedious. In terms of simplicity, it aligns with the rest of the visualizers he created for Tainy with the intention of creating art that is  minimalist yet different.  However,  the album cover’s art contradicts this simplicity because Sena was drawn and created through a very complex artistic process. 

Creating Sena for the Album Cover

For the album cover art, Muscat wanted to keep things simple, fun, inspiring, and playful for the team while conveying the complexity of DATA’s art. The cover is one of the main multimedia elements that portray this complexity on an artistic level. Tainy wanted something unique and iconic. Muscat was in charge of helping him deliver that vision, while honoring Tainy’s love for Japan.

 

The album cover they came up with was the portrait of Sena. This art entailed a lot of layers when it was created because it is a reference to Ghost in the Shell, a 1995 Japanese cyber-punk animated film, and one of Tainy’s favorite movies. For its creation, Japanese producer Mitsui played a vital role. Tainy and Muscat tasked him with finding an artist who could replicate the style of the original movie, but he was unsuccessful in finding the right artist. 

“My last call was: ‘Well, let's get the actual art director of Ghost in the Shell himself. That'd be the easiest solution.’ I still remember Elliott saying: ‘we can do that?’,” Mitsui wrote in an email. “I did some serious research, found [art director] Mr. Hiromasa Ogura, and reached out to him. He was confused because he wasn't familiar with reggaeton and has never done music album artwork, but I told him how big of a fan Tainy was of him and he agreed to do it.”

The DATA album cover on Photoshop for some color retouches. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat.
The DATA album cover on Photoshop for some color retouches. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat.

Working with Ogura meant exploring art and technology from 20 years ago, which introduced Muscat to a new process. Since Ghost in the Shell was shot on film, he photographed the art, then shot it, and printed it on film. Afterward, he scanned it on film and recolored it digitally to evoke the aesthetics of the times when the movie was created. 

“There’s a whole other process to kind of go backwards in time. Whereas if Tainy made this album 20 years ago, then it would’ve been exactly the same aesthetic. We’re referencing things that a lot of the technology doesn’t exist anymore,” Muscat said.

The digital process for the album cover
The digital process for the album cover
Elliott Muscat’s hand drawn process for the album cover. Courtesy of Elliot Muscat.
Elliott Muscat’s hand drawn process for the album cover. Courtesy of Elliot Muscat.

Another complex aspect of creating the album cover was the fact that Mitsui not only served as a producer but also helped as a translator in order to land an iconic artist and artwork. 

“There was a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Mr. Ogura doesn't speak English and I know nearly nothing about 90s anime working skills. So, we went through many phone calls, emails, and meetings to get to what you see on the cover right now,” Mitsui wrote. “I cannot thank Elliott and Tainy enough for reaching out to me and trusting me. This wouldn't have happened if it weren't for them. And I got to meet the legendary Hiromasa Ogura sensei.”

Setting Up the Data Archives Exhibition

With the completion of the artwork for the album cover and the release of the album, one would think that the artistic process would end there. That was not the case. Since Muscat gathered a lot of multimedia material from the documentation of Tainy’s process, Muscat came up with the idea of creating an art installation, which he curated along with graphic designer Adrian Tiu

 

Tainy and Lex Borrero’s record label,  Neon16, also wanted to do a pop-up event for the album, so Muscat’s idea of an art gallery exhibit went along perfectly and Tainy was all in with the project. The art installation was set up in Miami from June 30, 2023, to July 1, 2023, and Muscat’s goal was to visually communicate  DATA, the creative process, and the journey through music, photos, videos, and zines. Muscat’s purpose was to create art for everyone to connect on a much deeper level in different ways. 

People enjoying the Data Archives Exhibition in Miami. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat
People enjoying the Data Archives Exhibition in Miami. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat
People enjoying the Data Archives Exhibition in Miami. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat
People enjoying the Data Archives Exhibition in Miami. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat

“With music, someone might not get it. If you don’t speak Spanish and listen to the music, you don’t really get it,” Muscat said. “But maybe you go into a gallery space and you see the process or you see the aesthetic. You see the journey. You hear a couple of new things. You watch a video of the process and all of a sudden, the language couldn’t be any clearer.”

The language couldn’t be any clearer because it’s the portrayal of introspective Tainy making a dream come true while trusting Muscat with a very intense and marvelous creative direction and multimedia art masterpiece.

“It’s been very humbling and grounding. I just feel very grateful because I felt for the longest time, [that] I’ve had all of these ideas, the energy, and the potential to put it all out,” Muscat said. “I’m very, very, very, very grateful and very happy that Tainy and his team granted me this opportunity to trust me to take on this amount of work and to help guide it. This has just been a dream come true for me.”

To keep up with Tainy’s music, follow him on Instagram at  @tainy and the  DATA archives at @data.archives. For Elliot Muscat’s art, follow his visual diary on Tumblr as  thegardenfeed. To enjoy Sho Mitsui’s productions, follow him on Instagram as  @sho_altmed


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