“I’m hard to read like graffiti but steady / The science I drop is real heavy.” — Rakim, “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em”
About ten years ago, I was talking to a journalist about hip-hop’s power. He was following along with me on the impact of rap in hip-hop, but challenged me on the merits of graffiti. He asked me how I could even support graffiti when it is illegal and causes the city so much money.
I told him, point blank, that the graffiti explosion was born from schools closing music and art classes across the country in the 1970s and ’80s. I reminded him that this was done as sociologists agreed that American teens have a natural urge to express themselves through artistic means. When I said that I told him also that I think [that] it is a “greater crime to penalize the children for doing art when they know [it] is a natural expression of their mind.”
The journalist just looked at me with a complete blank stare.
Growing up, there was an area of San Francisco known to the teens and young adults there called “Psycho City“. It was home to only the coldest writers in the game. If you had style, flair and a true talent for writing that is where you showcased it. In every and any city in America, there was a “Psycho City” kind of area. In St. Louis, John Harrington hosts one of the most amazing painting events called “Paint Louis,” where folks from all over the country come out and bomb the biggest graffiti wall in the world. I spent a whole night just walking the wall with some of my homies. Sites like “Paint Louis” are concrete proof that the art of graffiti is not dead and that our youth who are using this form to express themselves matter.