NOT PHAT Astley.
The flyers appeared on coffee shop message boards and street corners. "We Phatten Rhymes," they read, and "Brown/RISD Rappers: Get Your Lyrics Doped." Here was hope, it seemed, for the Creative Capital's struggling hip-hoppers. But false hope, it turned out.
The man behind the flyers was Jamey Morrill, a sculptor and 3D illustrator who started the guerrilla marketing campaign as a gag about a month ago.
He made about a dozen versions of the flyers — all listing his cell phone number — and posted the majority on the East Side, sprinkling a few in his Federal Hill neighborhood.
"I was feeling feisty," he said. "I wanted to pull a prank."
The artist streaked Wickenden Street telephone poles and put some of the ads up at the Coffee Exchange. In the West End, he posted some at Broadway's Seven Stars Bakery. A stack is available at 5 Traverse Gallery. All a bit ambiguous.
"You don't know if it's real or not," he said. "That's the whole hook."
The artist focused on the white-boy sections of the city. And the racial profiling was intended. Morrill wanted get a city-wide discussion going on what rap means. "What is rap about now?" he asked. "The word 'dope,' what does that even mean?"
Feeling emboldened, he posted one flyer that read, "Honky Do Rags."
"I must have a death wish," Morrill said.
To the artist's relief, no one called him up to harass. But he got about a dozen voicemails, some in the dead of night. A few callers asked for work. But most voicemails seemed drunken tirades. "What is this environmental hocus pocus?" one deep voice intoned. "I'm as crazy as a hand grenade."
One caller sang an a cappella version of "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley.
If he picked up a call with an unknown phone number, Morrill let the caller in on the hoax and asked him to call back to leave a voicemail. No one dialed back.
"I think they felt tricked, duped," Morrill said.
Since the original posting, many of the flyers have been stolen, though some still linger. When visiting a neighborhood café to check up on a sign, a stranger told him he saw them around town and found them amusing. For Morrill, it was all the compensation he needed.
"I'm kind of a pyro," he said. "I struck a match to see what would happen."