Going through old slides, I found this image of a Tupac Shakur memorial mural that appeared shorty after his still unsolved murder in Los Angeles. Over the years I’ve come to love, and respect Tupac’s legacy to hip hop and life in general. Looking back, I’m grateful for making an effort to protect my slides and negatives.
I was standing among the endless array of graffiti art that envelopes the Queens block known as Five Pointz. Moving somewhat awkwardly from spot to spot taking pictures while juggling my camera bag and the cache of Hip Hop records I had scored that day in Greenpoint Brooklyn. I had recently read that a wrecking ball will soon meet the legendary graffiti mecca and the corner bar where many scenes from the brilliant, yet short lived show “The Black Donnely’s” were filmed. The unique space will soon be home to a soulless, unaffordable high rise condo building. Knowing full well of the ticking clock I figured it would be a good idea to stop over before transferring to the Manhattan bound E Train.
As the train cars rattled above me I noticed a couple slowly approaching hand in hand. Acknowledgement and some small talk followed and I recall sharing how bummed I was about the soon to come demolition. That’s when I realized that this lovely couple were not from these parts. “I’m losing my tourdar.” I thought. I can usually smell a tourist from a mile away. The male counterpart began asking me about graffiti and hip hop. (I know what your thinking. Typical racial and age profiling on their part) Any self respecting 30+ white guy can tell the story of how and where the now now celebrated art form started. He asked where the best places to view graffiti were and where he could explore the roots of Hip Hop. “It all started here.” He asked in an inquisitive manner. I thought for a second before referring to KRS-1’s “The Bridge is Over”. Suddenly and very quickly the moment froze. He looked at me puzzled and then “We’re in the Bronx now, right?” There was a sudden pause. Seconds that felt like hours, days, weeks. I took a deep breath, one usually reserved for the sex talk a father gives his thirteen year old daughter. A look reserved for the first time your son comes home drunk out of his mind with piss stains on his jeans. With a certain quickness I regained my composure and began pointing in the direction of Manhattan, The Bronx and Los Angeles. He asked if the Bronx was safe and if they could walk to Chinatown from where we were standing. I assured him that taking the nearby E to Canal street would be a faster route than walking and gave him a few other ways to get uptown from Canal. As for his question about the Bronx. I just told him to just use basic common sense. Hopefully my directions did them justice.
I’ve always been a fanatic when it came to music. Some of my earliest memories involve me sitting in my diapers amongst my parents rather encompassing record collections. Before I was even really listening I would sit in awe amongst piles of records. Bewildered and a bit freaked out by the cover art of artists such as Leon Russell, Frank Zappa and Tom Waits, just to name a few. As I grew my parents and their tastes had a serious influence on my ears and and my ongoing obsession with music. By the age of ten I had already attended a couple of concerts and developed my own musical tastes for bands like The Clash, AC/DC and Jimi Hendrix. My Dad would make me sit with him as he forced Zappa and Waits records on me. At the time I hated what I was hearing and thought my Father was well, nuts. Years later I’m still obsessed with music and in particular, buying records.
Today my friend and I took our monthly trek driving over two hours past state lines to our favorite record store. Now being that my friend is pretty much the sickest record collector I have ever known, it’s not odd for him to drop a couple of hundred dollars on any said occasion. As for me, I’m a little more conservative with my shopping. Often spending under a hundred dollars a trip and stick to the endless selection of 7 inch records the store has to offer. However, on this particular trip I decided to start with the LP’s. Now when I say “Big Mistake”, I mean “Big Mistake”. About ten years ago I decided to sell my record collection to help fund a trip to Japan. Although I made a lot of money at the time, it’s something I later regretted. So about a year or two I started rebuilding my record collection. Basically replacing what I had sold as I picked up ones I didn’t have and new ones that have come out since. Two years later I have twice as many records than I ever had before I sold them and my collection/obsession keeps growing.
As I went from bin to bin my pile kept growing and multiplying. Most of them were one dollar purchases so what did it matter. Then my buddy handed me a few more records he pulled out for me when he was cruising the adjacent aisle. Before I knew it I was putting a box of eighty three records in his car. I was happy with my choices and my overall purchase but damn, getting them up three flights of stairs once I got home was a bitch to say the very least. As I sit here writing I’m also listening to the Manowar record my buddy put aside for me. Thanks bro, I’m enjoying it. On a side note, I’ve noticed my Mother has been reading the blog lately and I fully prepared for the lecture I’ll soon receive. Mom, lecture all you want. But you’re responsible for creating this monster.
I had just returned from a doctors appointment only a few blocks away. With the heat rising into triple digits I was home for the long haul. As i settled in my phone lit up with the text message “I’m on my way”. “Oh shit” I thought. I had scheduled a shoot with Steph but with all that was going on that week, it completely slipped my mind. I got myself together, grabbed my camera and waited for her arrival.
About a week prior I contacted Steph with idea the concept of playing up a “Hip Hop/Street Vibe. I have this crazy brain that dreams up these ideas when most people are midway through their nights sleep. Luckily for me there’s people like her who not only see my visions but are always game to play the role. Though she is far from the image I imagined Steph was ready for the challenge. Though we didn’t have quite enough time to get all the props and gear I had in mind (I was thinking of a big boombox, door knockers earrings and big, pink bubble gum) She more than made up with it with attitude and overall vibe. Through the 101 degree heat she hardly broke a sweat. Thus cementing her reputation as “The coolest girl in the hood.”
This past Sunday I headed over to Union City for an interview with Hip Hop hybrids Dälek. As I entered the studio Alap aka Oktopus was into some serious mad scientist shit. The sound was both atmospheric and apocalyptic. Meeting up with him and Will (MC Dälek) was nothing short of surreal. When I started my online fanzine “Unite” five years ago they topped my list of artists I wanted to meet with. Due to constant touring, producing, recording and Alap calling Germany his home. The timing was never right. What was originally slated as an interview early that night turned into a laid back hang out session amongst an endless selection of vinyl. I got it all on my Zoom H4N and will soon start the long process of transcribing and making sense of it all. Just thought I’d share these shots I snapped before I left.
After a number of weather related cancellations Shell and I finally got to meet and work together Tuesday afternoon. Shell and I clicked on all cylinders and got right to work. Though we had just met minutes before the conversation and chemistry was excellent. We listened to hip hop and I introduced her to one of my favorites, Dalek, by blasting “Bricks Crumble. Below are some of my favorites from our session. Shell is a DJ athttp://www.smashentertainmentlive.com/ Check her show out if you get the chance.
We headed out to Queens this afternoon to do some exploring in Long Island City and Astoria. Our first stop was 5 Pointz where we checked in to see what new pieces had gone up and which ones had survived since our last visit. The more often I go the more I find myself talking to both the visitors and artists. Talking about art, paint and the spots I might have missed or perhaps would like to share. Today I met up with Slone (That’s him posing in front of his latest piece) and talked a bit. We exchanged info and if things go as planned I’ll be tagging along one day to shoot a piece in the making.