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  • That's Not Relevant is an emoji art book published by Tucson-based Spork Press
  • Cover of "That's Not Relevant"  

10/14/14 “That’s Not Relevant,” An Emoji Art Book by Isaiah Toothtaker

That Generation Z touts the last letter of the alphabet doesn’t seem like coincidence. If language has gone the way of thumbed-in iconography, they could be the last generation to use written communication. And if we find ourselves in a verb-less world, Isaiah Toothtaker would be its William Wordsworth.

In August, the Tucson-based rapper and tattoo shopkeeper launched a book of emojis through Spork Press. Given how universal iSymbolism has become, an independent local publisher accustomed to releasing poetry titles couldn’t pass on what would become their first full-color art book. “Isaiah is also a talented rapper and we asked to release a cassette tape of his music along with the book,” says publisher Andrew Shuta, who had first purchased Toothtaker’s music outside a downtown rap show 12 years ago.


From a weepy Drake to thorn-crowned Christ on a gold chain, Toothtaker’s emojis make many a snickering reference to hip-hop, both as pop parody and visual commentary. And rightfully so considering how swift and impactful rap rhymes, like emoticons, express ideas. Most, as Toothtaker himself ascribes to in his chat with NOUS, say: “I don’t give a fuck.”

How did the idea behind the book emerge and how did you come up with its title? 

I was developing emojis for one of the larger messenger app corporations and the theme, as well as the title for the book, was derived from being told many of the rejected designs were not relevant. The specific term they frequently used was “That’s not relevant.” These nonfunctional designs represent the messages lost in translation or impractical usage of terms like “ain’t.” Familiar things or obvious ideas that haven’t earned enough value or have become worthless.

How do you go about creating this emoji art?

Most designs are sketched on paper then vectorized in Illustrator. Because this initiated as work for a client, the idea was to create practical icons that would fill the gap of what is missing from the existing keyboards. Also, designs that would be more colloquial for a variety of cultures. My expertise comes from my background in music and subversive culture. I’m sure the fact that I have produced a number of works in different mediums was also considered and I was selected for my ability to create boundless content.


Do you also do the ink at your tattoo shop? Growing up, were there any artists that led you to refine your talents?

Yes I own and operate Staring Without Caring in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve been tattooing for 12 years. The list of artists that inspire me or have been influential in my progress is countless. I couldn’t pinpoint any certain persons to say any direct stylization was taken from, especially since I take great measures in crafting my own aesthetic. Things like photography or architecture, agriculture or movies also inspire my work or help widen my perspective, which affects my approach. I think my life experiences also have had a large effect on my art’s characterization.

Any favorites among your emojis? if they existed on your phone, which one would you use most? 

It constantly changes but I really like the “Savage Life” panther and the barbershop heads. The one I’d use the most would be the hands holding the bars in the jail cell (laughs).

Why do you think emojis are a good communication tool? And how do they offer a good tribute to hip-hop, especially the songs on the cassette that accompanies this book? 

Because they’re subjective, vague or sardonic. It’s a good tribute because I don’t give a fuck.


Purchase “That’s Not Relevant” from Spork Press here.