Danny Argote stood toward the back of the Fillmore Auditorium at the Run the Jewels concert in Denver this month. He was wearing a “Fuck Racism” T-shirt from the Afro-punk activist band Fishbone and holding a large poster of Bernie Sanders and Martin Luther King Jr. throwing up the hip-hop act's hand signs.
The 33-year-old lifelong artist works as a tattooist at the shop Insksmith in Louisville. He’s been a fan of Run the Jewels since being “turned on to their music after watching an interview with Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders over a year ago.” He became a fan after hearing Killer Mike’s solo song “Reagan."
Argote describes himself as a “concert junkie” and has attended more than 200 shows nationwide; when musicians inspire him, he likes to bring them a piece of homemade artwork.
As an artist, “the pulse of my inspiration has always been music, trying to visualize lyrics, themes,” Argote says. “My first dream job was to be an album-cover or show-poster artist. About a decade ago, I decided to bring a painting for a band to a show and try to give it to them, basically art inspired by their art. Now it's sort of tradition."
Over the years, he has given his art to Incubus, Deftones, Stone Sour, Jack White, The Offspring, Queens of the Stone Age, My Morning Jacket and now Run the Jewels.
Last year, Killer Mike became a major proponent of the Sanders campaign and garnered new fans, who were drawn to the rapper’s leftist politics — including Argote, who was particularly attracted by the musicians’ commitment to “class warfare and race warfare, all that kind of stuff that’s going on and the tensions in that,” he says.
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At the Denver show, Argote listened as the band performed songs denouncing fascism and U.S. imperialism and then segued into raunchy numbers, including one about getting a blow job from a married woman. In the middle of the show, Argote handed Killer Mike the poster he had brought.
The rapper was elated when he received the gift, beaming as he showed it off to the crowd.
“The message with RTJ is always the realities and struggles of life, society and the demons we face, but also how to fight through in a positive way,” says Argote.
For Argote, that fight is in his art.