Hip Hop Is An Art Form?
Under Avant-garde art is where Hip Hop rightfully belongs. How can one justify such a statement? Happening to be a young artist growing up in the Bronx during the emergence of Rap, Hip-Hop, break dancing and graffiti is just part of the qualifiers to make that judgement.
First, we must understand the meaning of Avant-garde and then apply it in the context from which Hip-Hop emerged. The term Avant-garde originally applied to the military in being the advance guard during a war.
This can most certainly be applied in the case in which Hip-Hop evolved. You see in the period before Hip-Hop, in which Eisenhower was president things were pretty complacent. Blacks held menial jobs, rock n’ roll was just beginning to catch on, and was called “Jungle Music” by Whites describing what they thought of Little Richards music.
But if one listened closely
The grumblings of the Avant-garde could be heard.
This time they were Black voices tired of 200 years of abuse, murders, injustice, lynchings and being robbed of humanity in much the same way that we complain about the Assad regime in Syria today!
The Kennedy era
Brought the whole ugly truth of racism and segregation to the doorstep of the entire planet, and the rumblings of the Avant-garde could be faintly heard over the shooting of a President, riots and the upheaval of American society.
Now let us pinpoint this climatic shift in the world view, that occurred in 1964. I was already in an interracial rock band in the 8th grade, playing Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, The Stones and The Who, when I took a test to enter the prestigious Brooklyn Technical High School in NYC.
Art as well as music were my loves, and Tech offered a course in Industrial Design, so what better way to be involved in art than to design the better mouse trap.
The die was cast
Being a teen aged student at Tech we were required to travel to various commercial businesses to acquire materials we would use in our design work. I became a fixture in the early, early SoHo area before it was SoHo.
It was in the flux of new modernist artists taking up the abandoned commercial loft spaces, left by dying manufacturing industries.
Back to the music
Living in the North East Bronx, I loved to ride my bike. A sturdy French made Peugeot, with all the gears stripped off and customized into a “fix” with brakes (gotta have them on the hills in The Bronx). So on weekends I would get on that bike and ride all over the Bronx, from SoundView to the South Bronx and would notice the music being played in the streets.
Like other areas in the country, The Bronx was very territorial, so when I would stop my bike to listen to the music, I would stand out as an outsider especially on that fancy 1967 $200+ Peugeot I was riding (a lot of waxing cars and playing in my band went into purchasing that bike).
People would ask me what I do while the turntables and the music were blaring and I found out early on that I could not say I was a bass player in a band. Because number one they had no instruments and number two I had no car to drive my equipment to their functions.
I let it be known that I was an artist, and when pressed with, “Are you a graffiti artist?” I would just nod, yeah because trying to explain that I was a classically trained, Black fine artist would have been very difficult and probably have cost me my life in fighting gangs. So as most artists do I observed society.
Fortunately I was humble enough to realize the unique position I was in. Like Picasso, here I was a classically trained artist observing not an old culture like Picasso in Africa, but rather an emerging one in NYC from the Black and Latino community. Wow, I often wondered what would the future hold for this nascent art form.
The NY Times
One day some where around 1974, just as the Disco era was waning, Punk and urban Hip Hop were emerging a NY Times writer had journeyed to the South Bronx. In the same scene I was witnessing he declared that Graffiti had separated itself from Hip Hop and rap and therefore was an entire art form in dire need of space (this probably occurred because he was doing a story on a White graffiti artist).
The unused old Public School PS 1 in the Bronx was suggested and many years later became a museum showcasing early graffiti art.
When I talk to younger people I am surprised that many do not know the real story of how Hip Hop the discipline, what KRS One calls the elements of Hip Hop emerged from the fire of decades, if not centuries of struggle.
The compartmentalizing, labeling and separating into various elements is what brought about the destruction of true Hip Hop as an art form. Especially once that Times writer separated out graffiti.
Mainly this occurred in the NYC area brought about by corruption and greed to monetize this music form. Like the predecessor R&B, once it migrated to the West Coast of the US it once again transformed and flourished.
The true artist reflects the society and humanity they are a part of. However the Avant-garde artist not only reflects, but rather they create from within the society and humanity. Rather than remaining aloof, they should draw from and relate to the other artists in society from all walks music, dance, poetry etc.
This is where the avant-gardist is at their best. Pushing and pulling society and pointing out the directional street signs like Google maps to a future of a different perspective of what is attainable. People are confused by my Twitter timelines @AuthenticRomero, @CPirateNetwork and @Ikohaus and why I have followers intermixed like @KokaneOfficial, @MarkGoulston MD and @djkingassassin.
The world might be not quite yet ready for an Afro/Hispanic/American artist the stature of Picasso or DaVinci. One that can define a pivotal moment in societies time of entering a different period of enlightenment, where creativity is of more value than resources. Then again Van Gogh went unnoticed until long after his death.
That does not mean that I was not here, or that my works of art do not stand. Because as I have said many times, my greatest works are using people as paint. Many can say I have talked with that artist on facebook, twitter and all the other social media platforms. He influenced me touched my life in some way just as others had done for me.
This is what “Project G” is about. Many of my friends have told me I have to create a company, make an app and sell some kind of a widget. DaVinci had the Medici family as his patron benefactors. Today’s artists need benefactors too. We are not widget makers.
Or at least the support of the people through crowdfunding. What a lot of people may not realize with Project G, is that it is all about the unveiling of my art work. What better way to have an exhibit of my work than to project it larger than life and have all my artist buddies like Kokane and DJ King Assassin come out and throw the dopest after party anyone has ever seen?