Author: Michael A. Gonzales
Besides myself, who wrote cover stories on Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and others, a shortlist of the creative folks who contributed to the magazine included Reggie Dennis, James Bernard, Dream Hampton, Toure, Scott Poulson Bryant, Ronin Ro, Kierna Mayo, Daniel Hastings, Carter Harris, Elliott Wilson, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds and Nelson George. Yet, perhaps the most consistent and humorous contributor was “The Last Word” artist André LeRoy Davis.
Beginning in 1990, “The Last Word” was the brilliant caricature cartoon drawings that poked fun, in the best Mad magazine/National Lampoon tradition, at whomever the cover artist happened to be. “I had seen the magazine hanging in the window of a newsstand and cold called them,“ recalls the Brooklyn, New York native, who stayed at the magazine for seventeen years. “Their office was just one room on lower Broadway and my first assignment was a drawing of Eazy-E for (founding editor) Jon Shecter. After that, they began using me in every issue.”
A comic book fan from the time he was a child, Davis attended Art & Design High School and, later, the School of Visual Arts. “Like most kids, I grew-up drawing Marvel comic book characters like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, but when I was in high school, I discovered that caricatures was my strength.” Having befriended Davis in the 1990s, I was struck not only by his considerable talent, but also by his humbleness.
Citing the masterful Al Hirscheld and Ernie Barnes as primary influences, Davis also admired the artistic skills of Mort Drucker (Mad) and longtime N.Y. Daily News artist Bruce Stark. “One of my first caricatures was making fun of a fellow student when a bug crawled out of his book bag,” Davis laughs. “I drew a spoof about called Roach Master, that everybody, including him, thought was hilarious.”
After graduating from college, Davis freelanced for various publications including Emerge, Players, Discover and Playgirl. However, it was at The Source where he refined his skills while poking fun at LL Cool J, Naughty By Nature, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang, Jay-Z, Nas and many others. Over a span of 17 years, Dre drew 175 installments of the groundbreaking cartoon. “A few people, including DJ Quik, Rakim and the dudes from X-Clan, took offence to my drawings, but most hip-hop artists understood it was just a joke. The late rapper Heavy D., once admitted that ‘The Last Word’ was the first thing he looked at in the magazine.”
While The Source continues to publish today, André LeRoy Davis’ final “Last Word” piece was published in 2007. Still drawing, Davis currently teaches art at various schools and institutions in New York City.