Written by: D’Shonda Brown
The #ShopBlack Interview Series is a new installation that shines light upon budding and booming Black-owned businesses ran by millennials and Gen-Z’ers who are heavily influenced by hip-hop culture. Introducing Omotayo Obayanju, lead creator behind The Chipmunk Chronicles, an apparel line that empowers and cultivates the culture through tangible works of art. Read below the in-depth interview between D’Shonda Brown and Omotayo as they talk about 90s hip-hop, A Different World, and the impact of other nostalgic 90s television sitcoms.
Thanks for answering my DM slide and wanting to partake in an interview with me! Who is Omotayo and how was The Chipmunk Chronicles born? Also, where did the name come from?
I was a big-headed little boy who grew up watching Spike Lee films, reading Marvel comic books and listening to Bob Marley and Anita Baker. Chipmunk Chronicles was cultivated from my love of storytelling and art. A dope piece of art has the ability to call back memories and provoke thought. The name Chipmunk Chronicles pays homage to Dwayne Wayne’s [A Different World] childhood nickname.
I had to ask you if you’re an HBCU grad because I could just tell by the aesthetics of your apparel that you were one of us. I’m a Spelman college graduate myself! How did your HBCU experience shape and mold your view on the world as a Black man and your place in it?
My father is from Nigeria and my mother is from Baltimore. I have always been aware of my ”otherness” and place as a Black man. My years at Central State University didn’t reshape how I view the world, but it did remind me of my responsibility as a Black man to build wealth for my community.
It’s important nowadays to have conversations about the positive representations of Black culture in media and entertainment and you reincarnated those positive experiences that we see in The Cosby Show and A Different World in your shirts, pins and sweatshirts. How do you feel that these shows changed the view of what’s possible for Blacks as far as excelling in education, and how did this impact you and your dreams?
I wouldn’t have went to an HBCU if it wasn’t for The Cosby Show and A Different World. I work in higher education because of the The Cosby Show and A Different World. I still feel like Dwayne Wayne’s character was written just for me. It was comforting seeing someone who looked like me . Someone who was brilliant, vulnerable, modest ,geeky, skinny and a little girl crazy . Representation and positive Black imagery are extremely important.
How does the hip-hop and rap community intertwine with representation in television and film? How has this – if it has – impacted your designs for The Chipmunk Chronicles?
Hip-hop artists were cast in many classic sitcoms and films. The influence of the hip hop artist style is undeniable . I, also, find inspiration from early 90s music videos. In the 90s, colors were far more vibrant.
Now, in your Instagram bio, it says that your goal is to tell stories and to encourage people. Do you feel that your brand has done that, and if so, how? What’s next for The Chipmunk Chronicles?
I am proud to say that Chipmunk Chronicles is doing a great job telling black stories and encouraging people. The brand is a bridge from the past to the future. Our nostalgic t-shirts capture moments of Black Excellence and provoke dialogue, but I’m not satisfied we have more work to do. We have some exciting things in line for the fall and winter. The plan is to continue to put in the work and create dope products .
Omotayo Obayanju can be found on Instagram, @TheChipmunk_Chronicles and, you can also learn more about him and shop the line now available for purchase online at www.thechipmunkchronicles.com .