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Kenny Gravillis Creates the KEY to Music, TV and Films

Think back to growing up in the early to mid-90s and 2000s. In the Hip-Hop and R&B industry, an album cover was everything. It was the first presentation of a new body of work. How it came about and how it was presented to audiences meant everything. One thing for sure is the team that creates those visionary designs spend hours and days making sure the artist and the record label get what they need. That’s where someone like Kenny Gravillis comes into play.

In 1989, in New York City, Kenny started as a junior designer for the famously known record label, Def Jam Records. He went on to create album cover art for the likes of LL Cool J, Heavy D and The Boys, Mary J. Blige, the late Notorious B.I.G., and a plethora more. Coming from London, Kenny would listen to English bands Depeche Mode and Fine Young Cannibals but he fell in love with Hip-Hop. It was what he consumed daily and it was a part of him.

Def Jam was only the beginning mark of his influential and entrepreneurial career. “That’s how I ended up getting into entertainment, from doing album covers from my Def Jam days. From there, I sort of said, ‘I was Def Jam, Def Jam was a family.’” From working in a family-like environment with Def Jam to working in a more corporate setting at MCA Records, Kenny felt the need for change even though it sounded crazy. It was when he met his wife and business partner DeAnna, who was also with Def Jam, that he was encouraged to step out and be his own boss.

Dealing with a rocky music industry at the time, Kenny and DeAnna made the power move and started Gravillis, Inc. in 2000. From there, Kenny was able to not only continue working in music but to continue under his own terms. Gravillis, Inc. not only produced key art for musicians but also got into creating key art for TV/Film. With a broader horizon of design, Kenny and his team can be eclectic when it comes to bringing art to life. Even though designs for the music industry are much different than TV/Film, “With music, it’s very individualistic in the sense that it’s really about me connecting with that artist. For TV/Film, it’s a much bigger marketing push,” Kenny states. He also shares that working with big names such as Spike Lee is very different. If the film is big, then the budget is big, which makes you second guess at times. Kenny states it’s a very competitive market, especially to be able to get that final poster look for the film. However, perseverance and staying true to the work Gravillis does is what sets Kenny and his team apart.

Power in business is also giving back and making a change for the betterment of communities. So Gravillis is working on creating a program for designers to show the influential power they have in the industry. “We’re trying to put together a program with Otis Art School that is focused on what we do for a living, which is making key art, trailers and social assets. We’re working to create this program that will specifically be targeted at Black and Brown kids.”

Making a difference in the industry, being a powerful Black-owned company, and holding nothing back sums up the greatness of Kenny Gravillis and Gravillis Inc. In this case, it’s all about where you start and where you’re going.

Photo Credit: Kwaku Alston

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