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7th Boro Writer Spotlight: Relm 1

As you guys know hip-hop is more than just emceeing. One of the elements of hip-hop that doesn’t get the shine it deserves is the art that is graffiti. Graffiti, as we have come to know emerged in the 1960s, started as a protest tool to leave messages to the people. Then in the 70s the emergence of tagging, using your Graff signature to create a piece became prevalent. Some say that it can be traced to a single source, Taki 183. If you’re unfamiliar Taki 183, was a messenger who lived on 183rd street in Washington Heights, hence the 183. Wherever he went he would use a marker and write his tag {name) at subway stations and on subway cars, both inside and out. Writers started mimicking him and the trend was born. When I was living in Brooklyn I partook in some writing myself. In fact my first tattoo was my tag.

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Then came the use of spray paint instead of markers, especially on more intricate pieces. Thus began the period of Style Wars. Many would have you believe that graffiti is gang related. While there was an emergence of crews it was rarely violent. Crews were formed to look out for one another, to work together on larger pieces or to look out for authority figures. Older writers took on younger ‘interns’ to teach them their style. At one point gangs did adopt the practice of tagging to mark territory but yeah I’m not getting into that. We’re here to talk about the culture. So how exactly did graffiti become known as one of the elements of hip-hop?

To understand that you would have to understand the history of hip-hop itself. It started out at block parties. But early hip-hop days where music brought us together, was in essence a big show. While emceeing and DJing repped the music side of things, b-boying showcased dance and graffiti supplied the visual. It was not unusual to see all the elements simultaneously at one of these block parties. Someone spitting while a DJ did his thing, while there was a dance off and a writer was working on a wall piece. This is why hip-hop is all these things. In the early days of hip-hop it wasn’t uncommon for an emcee to also be a writer or a b-boy or some mix, it was all intertwined. It made sense that graffiti became an essential element to the hip-hop culture.

We here at 7thBoro celebrate all the elements of hip-hop. So we have decided to bring to you a new Sunday series. For the next few months we are going to highlight a different writer. Some local, some known. All with a common goal. So sit back and get to know our first writer: Relm1

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Scy: How did you get into graffiti?

Relm1: In the mid to Late 80s’ and into the 90’s growing up in Lynn Massachusetts pretty much everybody had some sort of name they used to scribble. In 6th, 7th and 8th grade I didn’t really know any writers but I already had an infatuation with graffiti and tried to do it even though I had no Idea how or who was making these pieces of artwork I was seeing. I went to an elementary school named Hood Elementary and in the 5th or 6th grade someone painted a piece on the side of the school. The teachers pulled us all out of class on some “If you know who did, this…it’s your obligation to tell us” stuff. But I got bit by the bug. I was sprung on graff already, at that moment.

Scy: So what inspires you to create a new piece?

Relm1: I’m crazy inspired right now by the work of an artist named El-Seed. He’s doing these monstrous Arabic pieces All over the world in places like Dubai, Cairo, Tunisia, Spain.He’s actually living the dream that I haven’t been able to fulfill yet. He’s doing meaningful work, getting paid and really is shows in his approach that he doesn’t see any ceilings. His work gets more ridiculous and huge every time I check him out. He just did a piece in Cairo that spanned like 30 buildings. Dude is bananas.

Scy: What are your favorite tools when you’re creating?

Relm 1: I use a box cutter everyday. There’s never a time when I don’t have a box cutter on me. It helps me make lots of money. So, favorite in terms of functionality? Box cutter or exacto….favorite aesthetically…uh…sounds a little medieval but I dig blow-torches. I use one of those everyday to wrap vehicles.

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Samsung

Scy: Whoa a blow torch? Yeah I don’t think I ever graduated past fat caps lol. So some people see graffiti as vandalism and some see it as art. What is your take on it and what would you say to someone to get them to see your vision?

Relm1: Graffiti is… Vandalism and Art. A lot of writers try to get philosophical and poetic about graffiti….and it is visually poetic no doubt, but let’s not confuse ourselves. if nobody got permission, it’s vandalism. As pleasing to the eye as it might be. Although, the legal status of the art doesn’t subtract from it’s overall style and aesthetic. If I caught someone writing on my truck I’d beat the brakes off him, though…so.

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Scy: As would I. That brings up a good point. What was your most difficult piece or craziest story?

Relm1: I’m 41 years old. Crazy stories are not part of my day to day……but we used to do stupid things when we were young like wait for the train to pull up at the station and just bomb it while passengers were getting on and off. As far as crazy goes Nobody can top what the European or Brazilian cats are doing. These dudes have a complete disregard for Authority, Doing top to bottoms in 3 minutes with Ultra Fat 1 fat caps haha…like…If American writers did what they do, we would have been killed by the police.

Scy: What was your favorite piece you’ve ever done?

Relm1: Ever? wow…that’s tough. I love them all for different reasons. I used to love doing night time pieces on the train tracks under the dim street lights shining up from the street. Mainly because the night is full of noises and anxiety. The street is noisy and busy….and I’m painting ghetto anthems SMACK in the middle of it, but in a quiet hidden place so I can hear people yelling, fighting. Cops are whizzing by, Fire Engines, Ambulances. But none of then can detect me because I’m incognito. The best part about painting at night is throwing together colors, not really knowing how they will look in the morning under the daylight. When you finally see it in the day it’s like a reward for a job well done. I used to spring out of bed to go see what we did. My favorite Piece though….Not my best piece by far, but the most meaningful I think Is the Assassins of Style rooftop off Market St. We did in 1992. We actually did it in broad daylight. The owner or at least one of the workers actually caught us in the act but he was like “oh cool”…so we just kept painting, haha.

And I did a piece in Cairo Egypt in 2006, there’s a really interesting story connected to that. Neither of these are my best work, just very memorable experiences. Egyptians were giving me tea and were real cool about what I was painting. Also, I’ll never forget the wall I panted on Felix market With Teaz FNF SA IW, Hops, DKS and Tchug FNF.

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"Cairo"

“Cairo”

Scy: Do you think that grafitti is becoming a dying art? How does it correlate with hip-hop to you? Or does it?

Relm1: No way! Graff is more influential and innovative than ever. I’m blown away by the stuff I see now. It’s amazing to me and I just regret that I can’t travel the world more and meet more artists. I’m a pretty busy dude. It’s correlation to Hip Hop is always present. Even though, there were a lot of punk rock heads and rock and rollers early in graffiti’s development. But graffiti has always been a part of Hip-Hop. Even though I’ve seen some people trying to deny that. Graffiti and Hip Hop is bigger than their personal experiences.

Scy: Are there any pieces you would like to share with our readers?

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Scy: Those are all dope. Would you like to leave us with a closing statement?

Relm1:
I’d like to leave off by saying Salaam to all my Family, Brothers and Sisters. And Peace to My Crew heads. They know who they are. Allah is sufficient for us as a disposer of all our situations.

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  • Royal Illness

    Graffiti Is Definitely Not A Dying Art,I Know Several Bombers Who Still Get Busy.This Is Bad Ass Scy,Another Dope Article….Keep Covering All Elements Of Hiphop.

    • Salute! We will continue to bring our fans all things hip-hop!