Tag Archives: graffiti

Bonus Cut’s Hip-Hop State of the Union Address

Eryakah Badu via http://www.okayplayer.com/news/erykah-badu-the-music-snobs-on-ghostface-killah.html

Eryakah Badu via http://www.okayplayer.com/news/erykah-badu-the-music-snobs-on-ghostface-killah.html

By: Daniel Hodgman and Gus Navarro 

Fellow hip-hop heads:

Where is hip-hop at right now? Where does the culture stand? For a movement that is now over 40 years old, what can we as a community tell everyone else about hip-hop’s presence in 2014?

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The Tragic Killing of Queens’ 5 Pointz: A Personal Reflection

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By: Daniel Hodgman

It has taken several weeks, but after a long battle in court, a federal judge has declared and refused to issue an injunction against the land owners of 5 Pointz that would have prevented them from bulldozing a graffiti mecca in order to build luxury high-rises. Last night, a whitewash went up, and nearly 30 years of New York City’s most prominent graffiti art was destroyed.

The 5 Pointz Art Center, which is named as such because it’s a symbol for NYC’s five boroughs coming together, was an outdoor art exhibit in Queens, which is often cited as the world’s premier collection of graffiti art. Covering over 200,000 sq. feet of factory walls, 5 Pointz was a beacon for graf artists, global murals and it was a New York City staple. Most importantly however, it was one of the strongest beacons for hip-hop.

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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Detroit’s Urban Arts Academy

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By: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Justin Cook
All photos by: Phillip McGuigan

Listen to the interview here:

Order of speakers: Lex Zavala, Gianni Carazo, Freddie Burse, Row Mendez, Sacramento Knoxx, Antonio Cosme, Lex Zavala, Antonio Cosme, Row Mendez, Antonio Cosme, Lex Zavala

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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Artist and Educator Dylan Miner (Part Two)

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By: Gus Navarro

You can view Part One here

Earlier this summer, we sat down with artist, activist and educator Dylan AT Miner (Métis) to discuss how he incorporates elements of hip-hop into his artwork and teaching. Miner is a descendent of the Miner-Brissette-L’Hirondelle-Kennedy families with ancestral ties to Indigenous communities in the Great Lakes, prairies, and subarctic. He has collaborated with indigenous youth and artists to create spaces of reflection and resistance all around the world. He currently holds the position of assistant professor in the Residential College of the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University.

Excerpts from this interview with Dylan Miner were taken on May 17th, 2013…

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An Open Letter Regarding the Death of Israel Hernandez

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Israel Hernandez was an 18-year-old artist who wanted to “change the world somehow through art.” On Tuesday, August 6th, he was electroshocked by a taser after running from the cops for painting graffiti on an abandoned McDonalds. Half-a-dozen officers chased him down until he was tased in the chest. Later that morning he was pronounced dead.

Dear Readers,

I’m sick of it. Yet another rant about Florida; another rant about law enforcement; another rant about police brutality; another rant on how many claim all graffiti is “vandalism”; and another rant on some of the people we put in power.

Again, I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of the despairing nature of this whole story: a story that revolves around the sole fact that Hernandez was an 18-year-old boy who weighed in at 150 pounds standing 5’6’’, and yet between six officers they decided it would be ideal to use a taser to the chest to stop him. Furthermore, let us point to this: six officers decided to chase this kid down for a petty crime (HE SPRAY PAINTED AN “R” ON AN ABANDONED BUILDING) for blocks, until it came to the point where they used excessive force. After, the officers decided to “high-five” as he lay motionless on the ground.

I’m sick of the way the officers decided to carry this out. It would be one thing if Hernandez was running away for murder, burglary, rape or any of the other major felonies, but again, and this is important, the kid was painting an “R” on an abandoned McDonalds. The officers could have let it go, they could have given him a warning or they could have used lesser tactics to take down the kid when he was cornered. But no, they chased him down as if he just murdered Mayor Regalado. I’m just glad they didn’t use bullets.

I’m sick about the fact that this isn’t the first overreaction the Miami Police Department has taken part in, let alone authorities around the country. In 2011, a man was struck dead with 16 bullets for driving erratically after Miami Police shot over 100 bullets at his car. There were multiple injured bystanders.

I’m sick of the people who don’t get it. They continually question why this is such a big deal because Hernandez was a “criminal.” Listen folks, excessive force can’t be excused by blaming the victim. You need to look past that and analyze how the actions were committed.

I’m sick of the people who claim graffiti is merely vandalism. You know what? Fuck that. In terms of hip-hop, graffiti is a way of expression. Graffiti in a nutshell is a visual stimulant of hip-hop, just like breaking is an expression in the physical form. From Darryl McCray and his Cornbread tagging in Philadelphia to TAKI 183 in the streets of New York City, graffiti and tagging have supplied hip-hop with a visual form of expression and thought that goes beyond the meaning of a 16 bar lick. There are galleries around the world devoted to graffiti, and even the ancient Greeks and Romans established themselves in the art. So please, don’t tell me graffiti is merely vandalism if it’s used in a positive way through hip-hop.

With this story, I’m not only sick, but I’m saddened. However, we must take a positive view and spin it in a way where our society can benefit from such a tragedy.

If anything, the first thing we should be focusing on is more police training and education, especially regarding circumstances like this. What constitutes an officer to use force? Should you commit six officers to chase down a graffiti artist for tagging a building? Why is tasing someone in the chest NOT OKAY? With this we must also recognize the difference between good police work and bad police work. In most cases, good police work DOES NOT require force. Take Robert Saylor’s story, a truly sad example where the cops knew the situation and still decided to use force, which resulted in a death. Sometimes it’s always easier on both sides if you lower the stakes. For this to happen though, we need to express this concern regarding enforcement officials. We cannot simply wait for it to happen, as if one day the idea will spring into a commissioner’s head. If we do not voice our say as a community and people of this country, we will get nowhere, and events like Israel Hernandez and Robert Saylor will continue.

Furthermore, hip-hop heads and figures in the culture need to use this story as a continuing example of the forces that still oppress the people in this country. If graffiti artists are getting tasered and killed for exploring the realms of art and expressing themselves, then our freedom is being tested. Why stand and let these events unfold before our very eyes?

I have hope, and I will always have hope, and we cannot let our voices falter.

Remember this if anything:

“Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. The grave will supply plenty of time for silence.” –Christopher Hitchens

Thanks for letting me rant.

-Daniel Hodgman

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The Power of Graffiti and Hip-Hop Culture

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By: Gus Navarro
Photo Credits: Jen Spears

This past May I had the opportunity to visit London, England and multiple places in Germany. My girlfriend has been studying abroad since February and going to visit was the chance of a lifetime, as I was able to see her and also experience Europe. After visiting London, we headed to Germany and saw the cities of Hamburg, Tubingen and Frankfurt. One thing I noticed almost right away was the presence of graffiti. There was graffiti on trains, bridges, buildings and autobahn signs. It is easy to dismiss graffiti as vandalism. For example, people such as city officials typically see graffiti as something that is carried out by delinquent youth with nothing else on their mind than the defacement of public property. That being said, it is another thing altogether to consider graffiti as an artistic expression, and in the case of the German graffiti, an instance of global hip-hop.

In Black Noise (1994), Tricia Rose discusses the origins of graffiti and its place in hip-hop culture. Hip-hop was born in New York City in the late 60’s and early 70’s in the face of inherently racist development projects that were a brutal process of community destruction and relocation executed by municipal officials and under the direction of legendary planner Robert Moses (Rose, 1994, p. 30). This was a time of immense social, economic and racial oppression for those living in areas such as the Bronx, Bedford Stuyvesant and Harlem. In the name of “urban renewal,” homes were destroyed and thousands relocated. As these neighborhoods were inaccurately deemed slums, the newly “relocated” black and Hispanic residents in the South Bronx were left with few city resources, fragmented leadership and limited political power (Rose, 1994, p. 33).

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Hip-hop culture began as a response to these city policies and was an outlet for people, especially the youth, in these areas to express their anger at the racially prejudiced city government. As Rose explains, “Although city leaders and the popular press had literally and figuratively condemned the South Bronx neighborhoods and their inhabitants, its youngest black and Hispanic residents answered back (p. 34).” Hip-hop is commonly thought of as a musical genre, and it is. The music is undoubtedly an important part of hip-hop culture as the words and beats provide an ideal outlet for expression. However, break dancing and graffiti were other ways for artists to participate in the process of self-naming and articulating their particular style. With graffiti, the stakes could not have been higher.

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The individual credited with the beginning of the graffiti movement was a Greek teen named Demetrius; more widely known as Taki 183. While working as a messenger and traveling by subway to all five boroughs of the city, Taki wrote his name all over the subway cars and stations (Rose, 1994, 42). This was in the early 70’s and by the middle years of the decade graffiti had reached a new level of intricacy. Trains were the ideal canvas for these works of art because they traveled all over the city. It took an immense amount of planning and knowledge to execute a piece. Moreover, it took an understanding of the subway system as well as countless sketches of the desired tag design and color choices. As Rose insists, “No longer a matter of simple tagging, graffiti began to develop elaborate styles, themes, formats and techniques, most of which were designed to increase visibility, individual identity and status (p. 42).” What began as simple designs on a small part of a train car quickly blossomed into detailed works. Graffiti art made it possible for systematically underrepresented individuals to claim their identity and further the values of resistance embedded within hip-hop culture.

Similar to a work of art in a traditional setting such as a museum, it is important to take the time to study the graffiti and consider the color, design and stylistic choices made by the artist. With that also come thoughts about the process of making the piece. On the autobahn, there are works on road signs suspended over the famous highways. How in the world did the artist get up there? In Tubingen there was a piece on the canal of the river that could not be accessed unless in a boat or suspended by some sort of rope device used for mountain climbing. Each work of art had different bright colors, bubbled letters and swooping designs making them pop out, each distinctly different from the rest. The execution of a piece is the culmination of a great deal of time, labor and risk (Rose, 1994, 42). With that comes increased notoriety for the artist with complex designs and perilous locations. There is a lot that goes into each piece and it is important to consider the message the artist is trying to convey and communicate to the audience in such a public setting. What is the motivation behind each particular work? And ultimately, what is the story of the artist and their graffiti?

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Ultimately, the graffiti in Germany represents the growth of the revolutionary aspects of hip-hop culture. This is true of other aspects of hip-hop culture as well. There are countless MCs and DJs the all over the world that use the music of hip-hop to tell their stories. There are also dance crews and breakers from every continent that have influenced and changed break dancing. What began as a response to the oppression of the minority communities in New York City has found its way around the world and is an avenue for addressing issues of oppression that exists in artist’s communities. With this in mind, the importance of hip-hop and in this case graffiti can never be forgotten or dismissed as vandalism. Instead, graffiti should be embraced as a form of painting that takes immense time, skill and precision and has pushed the world of art forward.

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Works Cited

Rose, T. (1994). Black Noise. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press.

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