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the spraycan diaries

May 24, 2012


Subway Theme - DJ Grand Wizard Theodore & Grandmaster Caz / Out To Tag - Serve 1 & Sue Works / Platform Rapform - The Chemist / Graff Time - Chali 2na / Out For Fame - KRS-One / Ambush in the Night - Looptroop / Tagz, Throw Ups & Pieces - Da Nuthouse (feat. El Da Sensei & Sak One) / End To End Burners - Company Flow / Wholecar - Roger Rekless / Slow Burna - Akrobatik / Getting Up Anthem: Part 1 - Talib Kweli (feat. Rakim) / Wrong Side Of Da Tracks - Artifacts / 4 My Writers - MC Juice / Got The Fever (Lewis Parker Remix) - Meyhem Lauren / Graff Life - Literates / Bombing (Snippet) - L.I.F.E.long & Shamalex / The Escapades of Futura 2000 - Futura 2000 & The Clash / Pump Me Up (All City Mix) - Trouble Funk / Telemundo (Bombing Theme) - El-P

Graffiti, and I guess breaking, were the first prominent aspects of hip-hop...graf artists were having gallery shows before any records hit the charts, and for sure New York's general public noticed their subways turning into riots of tags and burners before they heard 'Rapper's Delight.'

Let's skip the whole boilerplate history of graf, what it meant, voice of the disenfranchised, frustration into artistic expression, art as vandalism, claiming part of the city as their own, the word 'palimpsest' which really gets on my fucking nerves, and FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. (Also just for the record, this thing about Egyptian hieroglyphs. That wasn't graffiti, unless you also want to claim the Sistine Chapel as an end-to-end burner.)

There's so much you could say about graf, but it's been done better by many smarter motherfuckers than me, especially on the sociopolitical steez.  There's the creation of a whole new art form--a wholly original one--out of raw talent plus what was available: the spraycan, the marker, pop's turntable...and the improvisation to build on that: the caps off your mom's oven cleaner, the blackboard eraser, breaks on old records, power from the streetlight.  And the jawdropping results.  How the fuck did you make that detailed, precise painting on the side of a goddamn train, in the dark, with a couple of spraycans?  How did you take some wack disco and old R&B records and make that hard-ass funky beat?

There's the exclusionary, internal messages; writing for the initiated.  The rebirth of the anonymous and ignored into superheroes with aliases and powers (you don't think doing 3D letters is a superpower? Or spitting a tight 16?)  The repetition of these names, the power of the names. And this obsession with language itself, using letters as an artform, using speech as a musical instrument--that's real interesting to me. It starts with the names and becomes this transformation of language into a medium, an implement itself--the twisting of letters into wild style, the twisting of words that rhyme.  Rammellzee saw this as graf's most subversive aspect, it's just that nobody understands what the fuck he was talking about. In 1959 Burroughs said 'writing is 50 years behind painting' and changed the game. By 1979 painting was 20 years behind writing. Graf caught it up to the year 3000.

Anyways. There's only about 50 songs about graf writing. Why is that? Why isn't there an acknowledged classic graf theme besides the Artifacts joint? Maybe because the golden age of graf was over before the golden age of rap started, thanks to the buff, Koch and the MTA. (Imagine if the crackdown on sampling had started in 1987! The entire culture would have been snuffed out in infancy, on some Moses-falls-out-the-basket dolo. Bullrush the show.)

So this mix is a non-identical twin to Hevehitta's The Writers Bench, which you should peep out because he killed it. No drips. We shared tracklists so there's some overlap but like I said, there's only so many tracks.

This is The Five Elements, Part One. Destroy all lines.