How 8 artists used Dropbox to transform song lyrics into works of art

Eight artists and curators recently met in downtown Los Angeles to kick off a five-day interactive experience called Lyrics to Life. The event—hosted by Dropbox and music encyclopedia Genius—features eight original art pieces, each inspired by some of the most iconic song lyrics in popular culture. It’s an opportunity for artists to celebrate the stories, feelings, and cultural insights in this century’s biggest hits—from Radiohead’s “Creep” to Sia’s “Chandelier.”

I’ve really been falling in love with Dropbox Paper…because I’ve been able to collaborate with the Genius team and show them all of my ideas and my inspirations.

Each of the artists prepared for the event using Dropbox Paper, a collaborative workspace where they explored early ideas, developed their concepts, and brought their visions to life. “I’ve really been falling in love with Dropbox Paper, especially for this project, because I’ve been able to collaborate with the Genius team and show them all of my ideas and my inspirations,” said Mokibaby, whose piece is inspired by Animal Collective’s “My Girls.” “I could put in a playlist from Spotify or I could put in some Pinterest board that I made with all of my inspo or ideas.”

Brainstorming in Dropbox Paper
To prepare for the event, artists used Dropbox Paper to brainstorm ideas

Here’s a quick look at how the pieces developed, from early concepts in Paper, to the final versions on the ground in LA.

Mokibaby on the importance of home

I don’t mean
To seem like I care about material things
Like a social status
I just want
Four walls and adobe slats
For my girls

– Animal Collective, “My Girls”

In “My Girls,” Animal Collective spurns material wealth, maintaining that basic necessities for the family is most important. Mokibaby wanted to tap into this sense of home, family, and personal memory. The space features a variety of TVs and VHRs—a tribute to growing up and spending time with friends.

Mood board for Mokibaby's piece
Mokibaby’s mood board in Dropbox Paper
Mokibaby's final piece
Mokibaby’s final piece – photo by Samuel McGuire

Typoe on daring to dream

It was all a dream
I used to read Word Up Magazine
Salt N Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine
Hanging pictures on my wall

– The Notorious B.I.G., “Juicy”

The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” is both a tribute to hip hop as a genre, and a celebration of the rapper’s own rise. For the art piece, Typoe chose to focus on the rapper’s childlike optimism. What’s it like to believe you can do anything? “I really want the colors and text to be so bright, bold, and monumental that people are forced to have a positive reaction,” Typoe said. “Forced to look into themselves and search their own dreams.”

Typoe's early concept in Dropbox Paper
Typoe’s early concept in Dropbox Paper
Typoe's final piece
Typoe’s final piece – photo by Samuel McGuire

Peggy Noland on the unlikely nature of success

In this very moment, I’m king
In this very moment, I slayed Goliath with a sling

– Nicki Minaj, “Moment 4 Life”

In “Moment 4 Life,” Nicki Minaj celebrates her rapid rise at such a young age. In her artistic representation, Peggy Noland chose to center on the unlikely nature of this success—a modern-day David slaying Goliath with a slingshot. The final piece captures the spunk and confidence of the song.

Peggy's mock-up in Dropbox Paper
Peggy’s mock-up in Dropbox Paper
Peggy's final piece
Peggy’s final piece –
photo by Samuel McGuire

Aminé on what it means to feel like a kid again

Innocent and young
Reckless and we dumb
Our heart is like our earth and memories the sun

-Aminé, “Turf”

In “Turf,” Aminé wrestles with what it’s like to visit your hometown, exploring what has changed, and how it feels to face your past. Aminé chose to visualize his own song, creating an interactive experience to make people feel like a kid again.

“Swing-sets are a big part of growing up for a lot of people, but when’s the last time you go on one as an adult?” he said. The space features mirrors to represent your memory, and grassy turf to make viewers feel like kids in a park.

Aminé's mock-up
Aminé’s mock-up in Dropbox Paper
Aminé's final piece
Aminé’s final piece – photo by Samuel McGuire

Devin Troy Strother on the act of judging

Hills have eyes, the hills have eyes
Who are you to judge, who are you to judge?

– The Weeknd, “The Hills”

“The Hills” describes an affair—and the complications, uncertainty, and judgment that tends to come with it. In his artistic translation, Devin Troy Strother centered on that sense of judgment, specifically—something artists of all types can resonate with. He created a jungle-like setting, with eyes peeking through the scenery at viewers. “The eye motif…will create the effect of watching and judgment,” Devin said, “while the lettering will cause the observer to ponder upon, and challenge, the act of judging.”

Devin's early concept in Dropbox Paper
Devin’s early concept in Dropbox Paper
Devin's final piece
Devin’s final piece – photo by Samuel McGuire

Nitemind on party lifestyle

I’m gonna swing
From the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist

– Sia, “Chandelier”

“Chandelier” describes a “party girl” lifestyle, with its thrilling highs and anxious lows. Nitemind set out to capture the most striking image from the song—swinging from a chandelier in a blur of party guests and music. The final piece includes lights swaying to a swinging algorithm, where viewers can “observe how the color, light, and patterns move across the piece.”

Inspirational imagery for Nitemind's piece
Inspirational imagery for Nitemind’s piece
Final Nitemind piece
Final Nitemind piece – photo by Samuel McGuire

Magnus Sodamin on the struggle to move forward

It feels like I only go backwards, baby
Every part of me says, ‘go ahead’

– Tame Impala, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”

In “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” Tame Impala laments a relationship that only seems to get worse the more effort they put in. Artist Magnus Sodamin wanted to a capture a sense of trying to move forward, only to return to the start. In his piece, he documents his travels to the ten thousand island region in Florida, saying “the film will be reversed, beginning with myself lost in the wilderness, moving backwards. The film will end where I began.”

Magnus's initial idea in Dropbox Paper
Magnus’s initial idea in Dropbox Paper
Magnus's final piece
Magnus’s final piece – photo by Samuel McGuire

Marina Fini on what it means to be an outcast

But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here

Radiohead, “Creep”

Marina Fini chose Radiohead’s lyrics in “Creep” to explore what it means to be an outcast. “In times of distress I would comfort myself by creating my own alternate reality,” she said. “In this alternate space that I was able to heal, combining natural elements like plants and crystals, to draw positive energy from.”

Marina’s piece offers a fantasy bedroom representing her own personal retreat. Viewers will be able to explore Marina’s old journal entries and personal archives on a retro computer, a prop that will help capture this formative time in her life.

Marina's example of an earlier piece
Marina’s concept as demonstrated in an earlier piece
Marina's final piece
Marina’s final piece – photo by Samuel McGuire

Committed to unleashing the world’s creative energy, we’re proud to have represented this diverse group of creatives—helping them create and share early ideas for some of the most memorable songs this century.

For more photos, videos, and updates from the event, follow us on Instagram and look for #LyricsToLife across social.

The easiest way to create and share early ideas, together | Check out Dropbox Paper