Hip-hop has its roots in being a community based expression of art. This art came from music of course, dancing and also visual art- specifically graffiti. Graffiti first originated in 1967 – not long before the birth of hip-hop. The two art forms meshed easily as they were both focused on the creativity of the individual, pride in one’s creations and a message to go along with the creation. In these days, the graffiti could only be seen in its rawest form – on walls, train cars, subway trains and any other canvas of the street. Graffiti artists also showed support for their favorite DJs and crews by putting their art on clothing items of the respective members of the crews. These graffiti artists could also be hired to create promotional artwork/flyers for rap shows in their respective cities. The focus was to use one another’s talents to help everyone achieve success.
Prominent Figures and their Pieces
Within the world of graffiti there are some artists who want everyone to know their face and their work while there are others who would rather have all the focus be on the latter. Such is the case of artist Banksy whose work you’ve more than likely seen without even realizing it. UK based artist Banksy took his skills to the walls of NYC in October 2013 for an exhibition called “Better Out Than In”. Within this exhibition he shared a new piece in a new location each day of the month, culminating in a total of 31 new pieces. These pieces may not look like the graffiti we are used to seeing but they serve the same purpose: To send a message and show something people need to see. Such is the same purpose of hip-hop
Another prominent figure within the traditional graffiti world is Lady Pink. Lady Pink actually hails from NYC and as her name implies is doing it for the ladies as she has been called the “first lady of graffiti” and has been quoted saying “It’s not just a boys club. We have a sisterhood thing going.”. She was also the star of the 1982 movie Wild Style which showcased hip hop culture and all that that implies including graffiti, breakdancing and more. Lady Pink’s work captured the spirit of hip hop as well with bold colorful pieces that showcased the struggles women were going through everyday throughout multiple aspects of life.
Murals and hip-hop or just black history in general go hand in hand. There are murals for Biggie, Tupac, Malcolm X, MLK and multiple other prominent figures in our history. However, with hip hop they carry a particularly special meaning. Hip-hop artists who showed love for their cities are immortalized when an artist creates a mural for them. They essentially become a part of the city in a literal sense after being a part of it in a sentimental sense their whole lives. Such is the case with the “King of NY” Biggie mural in Bed Stuy or the multiple Tupac murals scattered across Oakland. Sometimes the mural does not even have to be in the home state of the figure depicted but the importance matters just the same – such is the case with the Nipsey Hussle mural in Conneticut. Paying homage is a staple in hip hop and a mural is probably one of the most dedicated and genuine ways to do so. A mural is something everyone can see and appreciate long after both the hip hop figure as well as the artist of the mural have passed away. While it may become a popular tourist attraction with people taking pictures with it because it “looks cool” those who know the sentimental value behind it can appreciate it on a completely different level.
Graffiti and hip hop are timeless artforms and have evolved into an entirely different level than that of the past. More people than ever before are now able to view and participate in this artform and those who are truly passionate keep the same values that the originators of the artform had and will take them into the future.