This paper is written largely from personal experience. I had the aids of the few books,
magazines and Internet articles on the subject of graffiti. Being a spraycan artist and a hip hop DJ I feel
that I am an expert in the field and can competently speak about the general consensus and feelings of
those in the hip hop community. I am an active part of the community and encounter the people involved
on a daily basis.
Art is one of few things in this world that is tangible yet intangible, it can be
defined but can never be held to a single definition. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the
beholder, but this holds true only in a perfect world. In our society beauty is in the eye of
the powers that be, rather than the hearts and minds of every individual. The American
Heritage Dictionary has a very vague yet very real definition of art, stating that it is “the
conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or any other
elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production in a
graphic medium.” This definition is inclusive of nearly any form of expression that a
human is capable of, though when the word beauty is limited to what is legal and illegal
than elements are excluded. For art to progress and thrive every element must be included,
public approval is not important, however acknowledgment and exception is vital. Graffiti
art is a form of urban expressionism through the medium of spray paint and, contrary to
popular belief, it is a substantial link to the art community.
Writing on walls dates back further than any other form of written history and has
progressed through the centuries. Egyptians sprawled their history in the form of
hieroglyphics across the tombs of their leaders and they are thought to be one of the most
important relics of all times. People have studied these writings for years to discover their
culture, while modern day communicators are labeled spiteful vandals and deemed
Current day graffiti artists come from a subculture labeled hip hop. It is a world
wide movement in which four elements work together to produce the art, music, poetry
and dance of their community. These four elements are each equal and vital in their
contribution to the maintenance of the culture. They are each complimentary to each other
and are often seen, heard or read while involved with another. The most vocal and widely
heard is the mc who expresses him/herself through verse. Mc’s showcase their talents
through the medium of radio and the sale of their albums making them often the most
widely known among the public. The dj, who using essentially two turntables and a mixer,
can make music for the mc to rhyme over, but the dj’s existence is not dependent on the
verse of the mc. Dj’s often make their own albums and produce those of most mc’s. The
b-boys and b-girls express themselves through dance, they have their own style and type of
dance often referred to as breakdancing. There have been a number of instructional videos
as well as full length films made about breakdancing featuring famous b-boys and girls
from all over the world. And last but quite certainly not least is the graffiti writer who
makes their contribution through their art. They portray not only intricate art techniques
but they are also the visual voice of hip hop. Many pieces show the other three elements at
work or voice the opinions of the subculture.
The most common misconception about graffiti is that it is gang markings done to
label turf and to intimidate others. This is not completely false but is pretty close to it. In
the eyes of society “graffiti has come to symbolize violation, social anarchy, and moral
breakdown” (Gablik 103). Recently an article was written in “The Chariot Mira Costa’s
Student Voice” by Officer Tony Maldonaldo in which Maldonaldo points out some facts
that are very true and must be recognized, for example there is no specific race, creed, or
class that is responsible for graffiti but instead it emerges from all area (4). We must