In 2010 Lil Wayne, one of the world’s most popular and controversial rappers, won the Mixtape Of The Year award at MTV’s Sucker Free Summit for his album No Ceilings.
Karla Moy, a self-taught graphic designer from Toronto, is the artist behind the cover of that mixtape, which she designed when she was still in high school at the age of 17.
The album cover is filled with a collage of photos of Lil Wayne performing; the text of No Ceilings is an array of orange, yellow and red colours, making it look as though it is on fire.
“I downloaded a program called Paint Shop Pro and then I would Google tutorials on how to use the program,” Moy said. “I ended up teaching myself how to design and it’s just something I kept doing. Over the years I got better and was offered money to do jobs and it just became a full time job.”
Karen Civil, host of Civil TV and blogger of all things hip-hop, contacted Moy about designing Lil Wayne’s mixtape cover.
“Coming in, Karla just found the artist’s personality. You just saw what they were about, you saw them,” Civil said. “She knows how to make the artist’s personality shine through the cover.”
Civil says that Moy’s love for what she does has allowed her to thrive in the tough, male-dominated industry of music at such a young age.
“She has all these strikes against her: she is a young, woman of colour,” Civil said. “She never lets the negative surpass her passion and her love for things. That has always worked in her favour.”
Now 21, Moy has built a small empire for herself in the creative industry. Her talent for graphic design has landed her the title of Complex Magazine’s “10 music heads that should be A&Rs” (artists and repertoire) and graphic design clients that include Interscope Records, Puma and GM Canada.
Alex Ciccimarro is the author of the Complex Magazine article, which was published in January. He is a digital marketer at ALMG, a marketing and promotions company. He says as well as being good at what she does, Moy has made a lot of things happen for herself.
“(Moy) put herself in good positions,” Ciccimarro said. “The industry at the end of the day is all about networking and all about who you know…she was able to make good relationships with people that were going to get her opportunities.”
One of those key relationships was with Drake, a Toronto-born hip-hop artist who stepped into the Canadian music scene in 2006. His success has since reached international heights; this February, his album Take Care won the Grammy for Best Rap Album.
Today, many believe Moy has played an integral role of his success. Among other things, she designed All Things Fresh, a fan site for Drake, in 2007.
“All Things Fresh was…the only platform that connected Drake with his fans,” Moy said. “At the time he didn’t have a Twitter, he didn’t have a Facebook and Instagram wasn’t around.”
Drake knew about the fan site, and he and Moy began to chat through text messages, and became friends. It was through this relationship that All Things Fresh became Drake’s official fan site.
“It played a really big role in his career because at the time no one was really covering his music. He didn’t have a website and there was nowhere to really go to get official or up-to-date information about Drake,” Moy said.
The website also played a huge role in Moy’s artistic career. Joining Drake on tour, she became the official photographer for the All Things Fresh website.
“It’s so crazy because I started out doing the graphic design, and when I did the Drake fan site a lot of things like marketing and digital marketing came into the picture,” she said.
Moy’s ability to make connections has landed her a vital spot in the music industry. Today, she manages and promotes artists across Canada and the United States.
“I like to help break artists,” Moy said. “I will post a lot of underground artists (on my website)…it’s always great to go on a website and discover a new artist. You get to enjoy their music on your own…and you kind of help create something.”
Moy’s website, hustleGRL, boasts more than 4,500 fans on Facebook and features interviews with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Iggy Azalea.
Somewhere in between, Moy studies French and history at York University.
“Karla just has that thing that you don’t find in most people,” Civil said. “She has that drive and that ambition. She gets it. To me, she has that gift.”
“(Moy) is just plugged in,” he said. “She’s young. And she hustles.”