Graffiti is Art

Hip Hop GraffitiImage via Wikipedia

I think the first time someone ever saw a permanent marker, they had a desire to write their name on the wall. It’s almost primal, that need to create on the surfaces available. We could get slabs of rock or canvases to write on and leave the walls of the city alone. However, there are quite a few people who can’t afford to buy those materials and would then be shut out from creating art.

Hip-hop is a common form of art because you can do it with pretty much nothing. If you have a marker or a can of spray paint, you can do hip-hop. If you have a microphone or a turntable, you can do hip-hop. That is one of the cool things about it.
It’s simple and cost effective to grab a marker and write your name on the wall. This is known as tagging. Writers would just write their nicknames on walls wherever they could.
Writers tried to outdo themselves by the style of lettering. The tags moved from marker to spray paint, which allowed writers to blend colours, bend the letters, and get quite creative.
A good tag is a work of art. It’s taking something as simple as writing a name and making it an artistic endeavor. It’s not a two-second scribble.
I, for one, don’t have any use for someone who writes, “Melissa was here” on the side of a park slide. The same goes for carving initials into a tree. That is not art!
Doing a tag takes time. You develop your lettering style so that your take is like a signature. People can recognize your style like how you can recognize the beat playing in the background today is a DJ Premier beat. It just has that something that is instantly recognizable.
Graffiti artists are the same way. You can recognize the style and not just the name on the tag. The original goal of tagging was to get your name known by throwing it up in as many places as possible. It didn’t take long for people to realize that it was easier and you could get a lot more done if you went to the train yards. 

The transit authorities didn’t like people breaking in to their yards and spraying up their railway cars. You can hear in the songs that we’ve been playing today that the artists would have to run from the cops. That’s because society doesn’t like graffiti art. It’s seen as a crime.

I really like seeing graffiti art and I know that I am not alone. Whenever I get stopped by a train, I’m not cursing. I’m looking at the art zoom by. There are some amazing pieces and tags on trains. The work is often big and colourful and has nice lettering styles.

After a while, there were so many writers out there that having a unique style was very important. There are quite a few people who look at the art though and can’t read it. Sometimes I can’t even read the work.  You just have to look at the piece for a while. It’s art appreciation.

To see some of the words, you really need to look at the letters and how the artists often bend them to the limits to the point where they are almost beyond recognition, almost. They might be coloured in such a way that makes it hard to see. For example, one letter might have four or five different colours.

Graffiti art doesn’t have to be like a logo. Although some logos are unmistakably influenced by the graffiti style.

Artists now give their work a third dimension, add pictures, and make their spray paint more elaborate than simple writing a word. This is what is known as a piece. When whole murals are done, they are referred to as bombs. It didn’t mean you were blowing it up. It meant that you were going to paint a big picture with words, letters, logos, etc.

Let’s play another song now. Let’s play Freedom Fighters by Promoe.

Doing a good spray paint job, and I’m not talking about touching up a car. I mean doing art with a can of aerosol spray paint. That is mad tough. The people who can do it are artists.

I don’t understand why people view graffiti as a crime and why they are so quick to buff out a piece. I mean who is really being hurt by spray painting a freight car? They used to be just boring cars that look a bit rusty.

I don’t think anyone stopped at a railway crossing would argue that the train looks any uglier with paint on the side than it did when it was just a long and boring piece of brown metal. Most people are just annoyed at being stopped anyway. It gives them something to look at. I know I like looking at the art zoom by.

I like to see graffiti art on a train, or under a bridge, or on an over-pass. Don’t you?

That’s a great song right there. That’s Looptroop “Ambush in the Night.”

I like all the comparisons to MCs there because just like rappers, graffiti artists don’t use their real names, obviously because it is illegal and they don’t want to get caught.

“Writers unlike rappers can’t go pop so they stay underground” – Nice lyric there!

It really is a shame that graffiti is seen as something that is bad because it gives the kids something to do. It lets them be creative and artistic. They are passionate about it as well.

I don’t see a problem with painting a train or a highway over-pass. On the flip side, painting somebody’s house or business is completely out of line. However, if you paint a back alley that isn’t seen all of the time, there really isn’t anything wrong with that.


I hope people wake up and see that graffiti is an art. 


It does not need to be combatted and buffed out all the time. 


It has its place.

We have already aired all 12 episodes of the 2010 season of this show. We will be bringing you a brand new season in 2011. Look forward to that. Stay tuned to DOPEfm to hear them first. It’s been taking me some time to transcribe each episode.

Thanks for tuning into this eighth episode. Remember you can download the shows and subscribe to our podcast for free to get all of the best in underground hip-hop, history segments, mix sets, and artist interviews. See you here soon for episode 9.


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3 Comments on Graffiti is Art

  1. Hi Chase .. it certainly can have its upsides .. it is when 'vandals' take over and there is no art as such .. they just damage the item – wall, train, underground (tube) seats … it's like all things in life – there's a place and a time.

    I wrote about Banksy (our most prolific graffiti artist – who is revered now) in a post you commented .. where you said you bound your blogposts ..

    ..do you draw pictures too .. or music, or .. which you keep for the future ..

    It'd be great if we could channel everyone's energies into showcasing their talents in a method that can be shared with others .. blogging?!

    Cheers Hilary
    Banksy .. is in her: http://positiveletters.blogspot.com/2010/08/emoticons-book-packaging-ebooks-what.html

  2. Hi Hilary,

    I'm not much in the way of a visual artist. I did take some spray paint cans to the skatepark just before the snow came to paint over some of the rude and crude pictures people had vandalized the park with. And I'm glad I did. Not all graffiti is art.

    I wish I was more artistic. My graffiti looks pretty amateurish and I really should leave the graff to those who can do it.

    Prior to starting this blog, I did record my own music. Haven't done it in a while. Would like to try again but don't seem to have the time or equipment to do it right anymore.

    Blogging is definitely my new platform. I can be artistic here. I so love it.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Hi Chase .. I don't know whether you can pop over to my blog again and post the "In Kamloops" poem .. as I can't find the words .. and it may be another useful poem I could use too ..

    Cheers – and thanks for the great comment over there .. Hilary

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