Illustrated Tapes 164: Return 2 Rock

✏️ Jenelle Lewis
🗓 09.06.22


Jenelle is a digital illustrator and musician based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Hey Jenelle. Can you tell us a little bit about your tape and your song selections?

This tape highlights black artists reclaiming rock music for the culture. Rock is one of the many genres black people pioneered but are often barred from, ridiculed, and belittled for listening to it.

The idea of us wanting to make rock is so inconceivable, that there isn’t even a rock category at the BET awards. (B.E.T. only specifies R&B, hip-hop and gospel as music categories that you can win, giving the impression that it’s the only music black people are expected to make ever.) I want to show people that we’re here and that we’re capable of amazing things from indie rock, shoegaze to punk, as well as psychedelic rock. I’ve selected a handful of my personal favourite musicians, many of which I’ve had the opportunity to see perform live in the past. 

What direction did you take with your cover art, and what was your process?

I wanted to honour the black musicians that came before us and have laid the foundations for us all– not just other black musicians. Without Chuck Berry (top left) and Little Richard (Middle Right), rock music as we know it might not be where it is today. The figure in the center climbing the fretboard, is a representation of the many black musicians around the world who are realizing that they can take up space in this genre.

My illustration is also an attempt to counter-archive the history of rock music and solidify these icons in our minds. Tina Bell (Middle Left) is the founder of Grunge, not Kurt Cobian, yet why doesn't the general public know her name?

List of musicians featured:
Top left to bottom left:
Chuck Berry (Pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll in the 60s)
Tina Bell (Seattle grunge)
Fefe Dobson (Canadian pop-rock)
Willow Smith (gen-Z pop-punk revival)

Top right to bottom right:
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Godmother of rock ‘n’ roll)
Little Richard (Architect of rock ‘n’ roll)
Poly Styrene (British punk-rock)
Brittany Howard (Americana/garage rock)

What are your fave album covers, records with a great music and artwork combo, or musical projects with a visual component?

Teamonade has so many stunning album and EP covers due to the fact that their lead singer is also a fellow illustrator! I love the ‘Void’ single art the most though. It’s got a person whose head is in a bubble but it's done in this incredibly colourful way and so full of texture. Osi has a phenomenal understanding of light and the way light reflects off of and in through different objects.

‘Void’ [single] – Teamonade
2018, Self-released
Artwork: Osinachi Okoro

Honestly, I love the album art for most projects that aren't just a photograph or text on its own. Parquet Courts - Wide awake, Noname - Telefone, Bombay Bicycle club - So long see you tomorrow, Last Dinosaurs - Yumeno Garden (done by artist Em Niwa) to name a few.

Wide Awake! – Parquet Courts
2018, Rough Trade
Artwork: A. Savage

Telefone – Noname
2016, Self-released
Artwork: Nikko Washington

So Long, See You Tomorrow – Bombay Bicycle Club
2014, Island Records / Mmm...Records
Design: La Boca

Yumeno Garden – Last Dinosaurs
2018, Dew Process
Artwork: Em Niwa

What did you listen to growing up?

Mostly what my parents had listened to until I was 12/13. So mainly Soca, Reggae, R&B, hip-hop etc and then I became an ansty pre-teen and found my own sources of music. I watched a lot of MuchMusic’s Top 20 Countdown and discovered that Fall Out Boy and Paramore weren't metal bands and “devil music” after all. My favourite artists of this era were Marianas Trench, Arctic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine, Fefe Dobson and Two Door Cinema Club. From then on I’ve been expanding the types of rock music I listen to and I try to get my hands on any and everything with a worldwide reach.

And what’s on heavy rotation for you at the moment?

I’ve been on a post punk and (an almost) math rock wave recently. Lots of Wet Leg, Deeper, Nigel Nigel, Sonic Youth, Shopping, Molchat Doma, Fontaines D.C., Everything Everything, and Lali Puna. I also can't get enough of Nilufer Yanya’s new album Painless and Luna Li’s album Duality.

Bands that find themselves in literally every playlist I make: Last Dinosaurs, Hippo Campus, Born Ruffians, Peach Pit, Lewis Del Mar, and Cosmo Pyke (Cosmo Pyke making a special appearance in this playlist )

What’s happening in your creative world at the moment?

TLDR: I started making music during the pandemic and I will be releasing music under the pseudonym Camille Léon in September of this year. This is actually my first public announcement of this project so, you guys are the first to know 🎉 Check out the progress on instagram at  @aka_camiiie


I was actually one of the many people who were privileged enough to try new things and gain hobbies during the pandemic. I deeply missed the live music scene in Toronto during that time, so I decided to take things into my own hands and started making music. (Something I’ve never attempted in the past before). I have a strong bias towards rock (it is my daily choice)  but as I started creating more, I found myself reevaluating my relationship to rock as a black woman. I had to unlearn parts of the community conditioning I was brought up in. You’re told not to listen to rock because that’s “white people music” and it’s something you’d totally get bullied for. This is something I’ve overcome by now but I had this weird mix of imposter syndrome WITH race (maybe internal racism) which resulted in an exorbitant amount  of doubt and second guessing on whether or not it makes sense for me, a black person, to make rock music. I’d often say to myself… “I’m black, should I really be doing this?”. The answer every time was, this is what makes you happiest so why not. The idea that this was for me and me alone kept my spirits up and allowed me the grace and space to make a breadth of songs.

I was encouraged by a handful of friends and coworkers to apply for a music making grant and bring my DIY project to life, and surely enough, it was approved. Further validating the fact that black people do belong in rock spaces.

I will be releasing music under the pseudonym Camille Leon in September of this year, with a listening party on my birthday (September 30th). The project is a full multidisciplinary endeavour, where I’ll be illustrating all the single art, album art, logo, merchandise and posters for the listening party as well. All of the songs were arranged by myself in my bedroom but brought to life by myself, and my friends Alex Laurie and Cole Mendez during the recording process. 

Where can we find you?

Mostly on instagram @stickto_otherartists and you can find my new endeavours into rock music on instagram as well @aka_camiiie and very soon on bandcamp

Thanks Jenelle 👋🏽