Keeping Up with Sheefy McFly

The multitalented visual artist and musician is ubiquitous in the Motor City


Published:

The 29-year-old draws signage for Nathan's Deli, which is where he works as a cashier.

Nathan’s Deli in downtown Detroit doesn’t look like an artistic hub. Yet, in the shadow of General Motors’ headquarters, it’s a fitting place to find Renaissance man Tashif Turner — aka Sheefy McFly. An artist, rapper, DJ, and music-producing polymath, Turner, 29, somehow manages to pack 150 people into the tiny green diner for his Deli Raves, where thumping techno and jit-dancing go into the wee hours of the morning.

The rapper and artist stands outside Nathan's Deli in Detroit.

I hope to catch Turner before the end of his lunch shift as a cashier at the deli, but I’m late and he’s already outside wearing a black bonnet to protect his hairdo, an asymmetrical cascade of waves that would make a young Bobby Brown green with envy. The look is the work of local stylist Rachelle Williams, but tonight is a big night. That requires a visit to barber Keith Johnson at MLI Barbershop on Cadillac Square for the finishing touches.

At the shop, Johnson expresses admiration as Turner removes the surgical cap before he lines his hair up with precision. I notice a black snapback with Turner’s name written in white already on the shop’s hat stand when we arrive, which Turner tells me stays there permanently. Johnson hands Turner a mirror; his response is an appreciative “Yup” in his leisurely, syrupy diction. A cloud of hairspray follows and we are off.

“There’s beauty in women. I just really want to capture it in a different sense.”
— Tashif Turner

We make our way to Turner’s home in Hamtramck, a small bungalow he shares with DJ and sushi chef Shinya Hirakawa aka Crate Digga. “I feel like I’m far from Detroit but still here,” says Turner, who grew up on the northwest side of Detroit with his mother and later on the east side with his father. Party fliers litter the living room, along with turntables, stacks of vinyl records, and burned CDs. Home is where he works, as evidenced by the sketches for his latest paintings taped to the walls, and the half-finished canvas on the easel next to the couch. Turner was awake until 5 o’clock the previous morning creating work with Ford GT designer Camilo Pardo. He’ll be showing a collection of his art at Pardo’s Midtown studio tonight.

TURNER POSES IN FRONT OF HIS ABSTRACT MURAL AT CAMILO PARDO'S STUDIO IN DETROIT

The art show is hosted by the alumni association of the College for Creative Studies where Turner studied painting and illustration for two years after graduating from Detroit School for the Arts in 2007. At CCS, he honed his technique and found inspiration in surrealists like Salvador Dalí. As one of a small pool of black students at the fine arts school, he experienced some culture shock, yet brought his own flavor to the college. He made beats during class and worked with the school to sponsor parties. In 2009, Turner launched “The Air Up There,” a hip-hop showcase featuring Detroit artists Danny Brown, Dej Loaf, and Guilty Simpson. This made him a known quantity in the local scene as Brown and others rapped over his beats. He left CCS that same year and began pursuing art and music full time. That’s when his career ascended.

Numerous mixtapes and albums followed, but when Turner recognized the market for rappers was saturated, he started studying one of Detroit’s other rich musical cultures: techno. Under the tutelage of legendary Detroit DJs and producers like Moodymann, Dez Andres, Waajeed, and Nick Speed, Turner began creating techno tracks with his own unique twist. The resulting album, Edward Elektro, released on Moodymann’s Mahogani Music label in 2016, is a psychedelic trip through modern Detroit fueled by relentless beats, music that feels undeniably current.

The album cover, a vivid self-portrait, was also a preview of his renewed focus on visual art. Already showing heavy influence from Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein, he transitioned to his “all-over style,” a colorful mass of disembodied faces, eyes, noses, and mouths fit together like puzzle pieces. An Eastern Market mural done freehand in that style was well received, followed this year by Emergence, a series of wooden painted cutout portraits on display at tonight’s event.

Much like his music, which spans genres from hip-hop to deep house to the indefinable “ghetto tech” label applied to most techno music made in Detroit — the city that invented techno — Turner’s artwork is unapologetically raunchy. His fixation on sexuality and the African-American female form, however, manages to celebrate rather than objectify the women he paints. 

Many Sides of Sheefy: Turner works on a project for Eastern Market's annual Murals in the Market showcase.

“There’s beauty in women. I just really want to capture it in a different sense,” Turner says of his portraits, which often feature vivid, surreal images of black women. “I feel like I’m drawing black people; thick noses, big lips — you feel me? It’s such a colorful twist that people aren’t thinking about [the race of the subjects] when they look at it.”

Renaissance Man: Turner performs on stage in DEtroit.

Once we arrive at the art show, I notice that the crowd is mostly CCS alumni, older and white, and Turner’s friends, young and black. Guests saunter in and out, pausing to praise Turner or to snap a picture with him. Dressed in a gold, sequin dinner jacket and gray woolen trousers, Air Max 95s and custom socks he designed, Turner stands out among the fine art crowd, but his outfit is perfect for our next stop at downtown music venue Deluxx Fluxx. There, he will join fellow artist, rapper, and producer Vaughn Taormina aka Count Mack to open for celebrity hip-hop producer and rapper Swizz Beatz.

By 10 p.m., Turner and Taormina are basking in black-light glow on a cramped platform in the crowded venue. The two met seven years ago when Taormina was on break from his freshman year at Cooper Union, and they have been making music and titillating audiences ever since under the name Get Money Cru. The club is bouncing and Turner is on stage, mic in hand and gold jacket gleaming. Nick Speed mans the turntables and Taormina hypes the crowd. For a man at ease in any room, the stage is clearly where he’s most at home.

“I’m so tired. Everything is accomplished,” Turner says admittedly after the show at the club. Considering his boundless energy, his exhaustion is unquestionably temporary.

 

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

An Hour with ... Carmen Harlan

Broadcast journalist and founder of the Carmen Harlan Collection

God-Given Talent

A local choir sings its way to live television

The Sincere Storyteller

Broadway fans will soon learn, playwright Dominique Morisseau’s work is unapologetically Detroit

Do Good

The Greater Detroit Philanthropy Awards are back with eight new recipients

The Unsung Superhero

At the drawing board with Marvel illustrator, Jim Towe
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Best Dressed 2018
    Pulling back the curtain on this year’s selection of the region’s most stylish denizens
  2. Keeping Up with Sheefy McFly
    The multitalented visual artist and musician is ubiquitous in the Motor City
  3. Excellence in Care: Beaumont Health
    Hour Detroit presented Beaumont Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  4. Gathering Spot
    Eastern Market restaurant finds its groove after a rocky beginning
  5. Food Recipe: Barbecue Mac & Cheese
    Vast Kitchen and Bar executive chef, Jordan Gillis, upgrades the comfort staple
  6. Sanctuary for the Senses
    Castalia in Midtown offers a cocktail experience unlike any other
  7. Excellence in Care: St. Joseph Mercy Health
    Hour Detroit presented St. Joseph Mercy Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this...
  8. Deeply Rooted
    Influenced by their ancestors, Native American artists celebrate indigenous culture through...
  9. The Sincere Storyteller
    Broadway fans will soon learn, playwright Dominique Morisseau’s work is unapologetically Detroit
  10. God-Given Talent
    A local choir sings its way to live television