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June 15, 2012


Kryloniqatsi I / Writing On The Wall - BPMZ / Aerosoul - Tommy Tee / The Taking of Pelham One Two Three - David Shire / Lune TNS - Company Flow / It's All Destroyed - Zeb Roc Ski / Kings In The Game - Sick Jacken (feat. B-Real) / Wholetrain - KRS-One & El Da Sensei / The Trains Are Now So Clean - Daedalus / Third Rail - Masai Bey / The Manhattan Project - Typical Cats / Homage 2 Da Bomberz - Tame One / The Amphitheatre - Grandmixer DST / Antivandalism - Sixtoo / Search & Destroy #1 - Tenshun / Hisstory - Material (feat. Rammellzee) / Armed With Krylon - Dälek / Kryloniqatsi II / Krazy Kings 3 - El-P

Graffiti is ephemeral by definition.  It's going to be buffed, washed, painted over.  When it first started, a piece could run a year or so on a train.  But when the buff came in, writing became not only more of a protest against disenfranchisement but almost a philosophical one as well--against entropy, against mortality, against the inevitability of gradualism.  The futility combined with the incredible craft is part of what makes it so powerfully defiant: I AM HERE. YOU CAN ERASE THIS, BUT I AM HERE.

There's also the aspect of a cultural guerilla war.  Writers took on a lot of guerilla tactics, thinking, language, and brought war into art.  I remember an interview with Max Roach around 1987 where he said the drums on LL Cool J's LP sounded "like war drums, like armies on the move."

Graffiti isn't dead by a long shot. There's hardly a city in the world you can go to without seeing some great pieces.  But New York subway art, that's been dead for almost a generation.  And in a lot of ways, graf is a lot poorer for it.  A giant wall mural gets the scale right, the setting right--graf looks bad in galleries on canvas because it's too clean, too small, too quiet, too de-urbanized.  (I'm feeling Seen's new metal wild style sculptures though.) I think it's a mistake, and a serious reach, to try and jam graf into art history. It is of itself, for itself, and by itself.  But I think really it needs that thunder of sound, that movement a train gives it to really come to life how it was meant to, as the writers used to:

...in some deserted midnight yard, they will find their natural canvas which is of course that metal wall of a subway car ready to reverberate into all the egos of all the metal of New York, what an echo that New York metal will give into the slapped-silly senses of every child-psyche who grew up in New York, yes, metal as a surface on which to paint is even better than stone.

If you weren't there, you can only imagine what it was like to be down there in those dark, dank stations, all dirty tile and I-beam pillars and filthy bums and shit.  And suddenly with a roar and a screech a twenty-foot explosion of color rolls in right in front of you.  A gift of beauty. In the form of someone's name.

"The name," Cay 161 told Norman Mailer, "is the faith of graffiti."  What did he mean by that.  Mailer interpolates:

You hit your name and maybe something in the whole scheme of the system gives a death rattle. For now your name is over their name, over the subway manufacturer, the Transit Authority, the city administration. Your presence is on their presence, your alias hangs over their scene. There is a pleasurable sense of depth to the elusiveness of the meaning.

Sometimes I think hip-hop is how I figure out what it was like to grow up in New York as a child who was afraid of everything. Because graf artists weren't afraid of anything. That shit they did in the yards and tunnels was on some ninja nibelungen shit into the dragon's lair.  They had a passion and commitment and fire that I wish I could even aspire to.

So, also this is something I saw:

People who rented STYLE WARS (DVD) also rented...KNIGHTS IN ARMOR...POWAQQATSI

And what the fuck is up with that, because Rammellzee is dead, and who else would rent that combo of flicks?  Dondi is dead.  Iz The Wiz is dead. Kase 2 is dead.  Stay High 149 just passed last week.  Even the subway cars they wrote on have been dumped into the sea.

But yeah. Knights In Armor. Powaqqatsi.  Kryloniqatsi--in Hopi, 'qatsi' means 'life.'  Spraycan life.  Did anyone ever tell you what was written on the trains?