From Grammys to Roc Nation, Singapore-born designer making strides in hip-hop

A Singaporean son raised in the United States is on his way to obtaining that American dream after racking up a Grammy nomination and scoring an enviable job with a top hip-hop agency. 

Irwan Awalludin, 30, has designed album covers for some of the biggest names in hip-hop, nearly won a Grammy last month, and just took a job working for a New York entertainment agency founded by Jay-Z.

Irwan told Coconuts Singapore that he started work at Roc Nation on Monday in New York City.

Though he said he’s “not at liberty” to say which artist he will be collaborating with next, Irwan did say he will be “designing for a range of various campaigns and initiatives under their Roc Nation brand.”

The multi-faceted company publishes and distributes music as well as manages athletes and artists such as Rihanna, Alicia Keys, and South Korean rapper Jay Park. 

Before joining Roc Nation, Irwan designed album art for rappers including Meek Mill, Rae Sremmurd, and musical group Intellexual, which this year was nominated Best Recording Package. The award went to a comp album of work by the late rock icon Chris Cornell that came out November 2018, a year after he died. 

But attending the Grammys was memorable, nonetheless. 

“Grammy experience was insightful. Like watching a really good documentary of the spectacle and its events. It was a great honor to be recognized for my work amongst a lot of other great works,” Irwan told Coconuts Singapore via email. 

And less than a month after that, he landed the gig at Roc Nation. 

“[The company] reached out to me about two weeks ago via email expressing their interest in having me join their team,” Irwan said. It was his first day at work on Monday. If only looking for jobs was that simple for the rest of us. 

Anyways, here’s more on what you should know about the graphic designer:

Irwan was born in Singapore, lived in Malaysia, and migrated to the United States in 2000.

Irwan Awalludin in Pennsylvania, 2002. Photo: Instagram

Irwan went from his early years in the Lion City to across the border in Malaysia’s Johor Bahru before migrating halfway across the world to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, in 2000. He began designing after graduating from high school, around the same time he enrolled in an art school in Ohio, according to his online bio

Back when MySpace was the go-to social network for musicians, it also became the platform where Irwan jumpstarted his career designing for local musicians and businesses in Cleveland. 

He then worked for a local print shop and designed as part of several other ventures including a clothing brand. Fast-forward to 2014, Irwan became a graphic designer for EarDrummer Records, which is owned by American record producer Mike WiLL Made-It.

He designed Meek Mill’s Grammy-nominated Championships cover.

Photo: Meek Mill

According to Irwan, he was involved with the branding, record art, marketing design and direction for Meek Mill’s 2018 album Championships.  

Meek Mill, known for tracks Going Bad and 1942 Flows, also last year launched a record label called Dream Chasers, which is jointly owned by Roc Nation.

This is the work that won Irwan Grammy recognition.

Irwan designed this album cover for American experimental duo Intellexual, which was nominated for a Grammy Award this year for Best Recording Package.

Irwan’s design for American experimental duo Intellexual’s self-titled debut, which was nominated for a Grammy Award this year for Best Recording Package. The duo, consisting of musicians Nico Segal and Nate Fox, was part of Chicago outfit Social Experiment, which frequently collaborated with Chance The Rapper. 

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