SOUTH LOOP — It's hard to separate Hebru Brantley's gritty, urban and graffiti-inspired paintings from the backdrop that inspired them: Chicago and the South Side, where the 32-year-old grew up.
That connection is rooted as deeply in his life as in his artwork.
"I'm a Chicago boy through and through," said the painter, who recently made headlines when Jay-Z paid $20,000 for one of his works at Art Basel.
Jay-Z is far from Brantley's only connection to the hip hop industry. But the South Loop resident says he has a soft spot for Chicago musicians, like Chance the Rapper, who was originally slated to perform at the storefront on Friday afternoon, though Brantley later said the rapper would not appear at the store.
"Chicago has always sort of been the third city," he told DNAinfo.com Chicago. "We're the Second City, but we're sort of the middle child in between L.A. and New York, and I think we have a sort of underdog mentality."
"When you meet a Chicagoan, a true Chicagoan, whether they're a celebrity or not, they definitely rep their city. They'd go to great lengths for their city. There's a strong sense of family here."
Brantley's work will grace more than posters and canvases for the first time this weekend at his three-day pop-up shop "Penny Candy," open from noon to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday at 902 S. Wabash Ave.
The shop's name was inspired by its mission: to bring Brantley's artwork from "a price point not everyone can afford" to a medium more like the penny-candy shops he remembers growing up on the South Side.
"When I was a kid, a dollar could get you pretty far in terms of getting an amount of candy from a corner store," he said. "I wanted to have things at a lower price point that still represent me, and my brand, so you can 'cash-and-carry.'"
While this is Brantley's first foray into price-conscious merchandising, it's not the first time Chicagoans have been able to rock his art on the cheap. Two years ago, Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell chose Brantley's "Flyboy" character with a skyline hairdo to grace the festival's 20th anniversary poster.
"The cool thing about the Lollapalooza [project] was they did the high-end art print. They didn't do any T-shirts, but the design was bootlegged, and there were so many people on Michigan Avenue selling bootleg shirts that I've seen them everywhere" since 2011, Brantley said.
"It pissed [Lollapalooza's producers] off, but to me it was super flattering, because it was the first time anything I had done had been bootlegged, and imitation is the highest form of flattery, especially for me," he said. "Everything they had with the image on it sold out."
Brantley envisions "Penny Candy" as an extension of the deep connections between music and artwork.
"I see that marriage getting stronger as these festivals progress, because [art and music] go hand in hand," he said. "When you think about certain artists and their album covers or their merchandising or who they are, it comes back to the artwork they have, and the music, and the esthetics as a whole."
"Penny Candy" runs from noon to 8 p.m. Aug. 2-4 at 902 S. Wabash Ave.