Centered on conceptual mythos and afrofuturist storylines, Drexciya remains a mystery more than two decades after breaking through to the public with 1994’s Aquatic Invasion. Largely considered to be made up of Gerald Donald and James Stinson, who passed away in 2002, the duo is often heralded as one of the most important acts in Detroit electronic music.
Abdul Qadim Haqq, an illustrator who has worked with some of Detroit’s greats over more than two decades, gave Drexciya’s aquatic-like sound a visual life. We sat down with Haqq to discuss the backstory behind his three biggest creations for Donald and Stinson: the Drexciyan Cruiser, Neptune’s Lair, The Warriors Return and much more.
James [Stinson] and I talked about the vehicles the warriors would ride around in. I was watching the Discovery Channel one night when I was thinking of ideas [for the project] and they showed these squids. I said, “You know, that’ll be perfect for the vehicles!” So I converted the squids into the Drexciyan Cruiser, and that’s what the Drexciyan Warriors rode around in: modified squids, basically. Hybridized squids. I wanted to stick with aquatic colors, so I went with deep and light turquoise and a lot of blues and greens in my art.
James [Stinson] talked about the Bubble Metropolis that the Drexciyans lived in and did all of their scientific experiments and research in. They had tendrils going into the aquatic floor to get nutrients and different supplies; that was my vision of the Bubble Metropolis as James told it to me when we were doing the concepts for the album art. You’ll also see a Drexciyan warrior, which was my prototype of the common foot solider of the Drexciyans, with the common armor. The orange and yellow is the ocean floor. Above it is the aqua wormhole, where you see the Drexciyan Cruisers emerging from. This is all part of the Drexciyan storyline, part of their song discography. I think the music reflects the kind of feeling they wanted to bring about with their different ideas about this warrior race.
The Warriors Return
This is the centerfold for the Neptune’s Lair album art. The warriors are returning home to the Bubble Metropolis after battling. I wanted to display the strength and honor they had, so I came up with a trident to show the leaders (the ones with capes and golden helmets). The guys behind them have regular blue helmets. It’s a victorious return because they rarely lose, I’ll tell you that much. In the background, you can see the Red Hills of Lardossa, which goes along with the Drexciyan discography and matches their songs.
This is newer art for the graphic novel I’m working on. I’m trying to make this into an actual character to continue ongoing stories. It’s a more modernized and more detailed Drexciyan Warrior. There’s already a mythos behind Drexciya, about how when the slaves were taken across the Atlantic, the women threw their babies overboard and somehow they survived to become the Drexciyans. What I’ve done is developed that story into more details and added a few more storylines. I guess it would be considered afrofuturism because the roots are in Africa.
Squids were first tamed to convert into Drexciyan Cruisers, so he’s fighting this giant mother squid. I wrote that into the graphic novel, about how they domesticated squids and were able to hybridize them to use as vehicles. I want to continue to develop this because it was an excellent storyline, even before we did Neptune’s Lair.
This is “The Warriors Return” done in comic book style. That’s my version of the centerfold I did with the album art [for Neptune’s Lair], but a graphic novel version of it. It has the same concept: the warriors are returning home from battle, and they’re victorious. The fish don’t have a real deep meaning but I wanted to show the depths of the ocean and the lifeforms that are all around. They don’t have names yet, but I’m working on it.