The Genius of Justin Bua: A 7th Boro Exclusive
Back in the days when I worked in our local mall, I was checking out the art store(shout out to Deck The Walls). I flipped through a few prints until I saw one that really caught my eye. It caught my eye because it was something I could relate to……..plus the person in it resembled my brother. I’m talking about Justin Bua’s “The DJ”.
I remember coming home that day and telling my brother how dope that shit was. I wanted to know more so I went back to the store and the clerk showed me more Bua pieces. I wanted to buy them all!
The reason Bua’s work is so special is because it captures urban culture. It is a portal into Bua’s mind. A mind that loves his city, a mind that loves the elements of Hip Hop, and a mind that loves the people he represents. It doesn’t matter if you’re Puerto Rican, Dominican, Italian, African- American, or Jewish. Bua represents ONE!
I had the opportunity to interview Bua via telephone from his studio in California. I have posted the audio as well as the text version. (I suggest listening to the audio.)
Bua: I’m trying to figure that out myself man. I’m an artist, a father, a teacher and a student.
What/who inspired you to be an artist?
My grandfather was a very successful graphic designer. He was the letterer for Felix the Cat and Prince Valiant. I was always surrounded by his work. My mother was a painter. When I was growing up in New York I’d see her painting all night long and then she would sell her work in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She did the independent hustle thing. I was inspired by my mother and grandfather’s hard work and dedication and a lot of the artists they were inspired by. They were inspired by artists such as Jan van Eych, Kathe Kollwitz, Bosch, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Ironically, a lot of those artists really pay homage to the working people. I always considered my art to be of the people by the people and for the people. I paint everyday people. Just like Van Gogh painted the Potato Eaters and people playing pool (The Night Café). Rembrandt drew Adam & Eve very naturalistic. Eve had a pimply ass and cellulite and Adam was a normal guy with a beard. They were not idealic artists, they were painting people as they were. Van Gogh was painting people from the working poor class and I was inspired by that. Growing up in the working poor class in the Upper West Side of NYC I had an affinity to the working class people. These people were D.J.s, M.C.’s, BBoys and Graff writers. They were people who were struggling to do their art. There wasn’t money in that circle. There wasn’t any monetary value to do that. It was very rare to make a living out of it. Very few people of my generation made it through to make a career out of it. Crazy Legs, Ken Swift, and Mr. Wiggles did but it was rare. So I was inspired by the local heroes whether it was the underground piano player or the cats in the pool hall that shot after hours to the street hustlers trying to hustle their game.
What hip hop album do you remember listening to and just saying, “Damn, this is my shit!!!”
Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa. I was blown away on all levels. I was a popper and this was the popping anthem.
If I found your Ipod……….What would I be listening to?
You’d be listening to Jay-Z. Like it or not he’s made the Yankee cap more popular than a Yankee can. I go through phases. I listen to new school, old school, a little bit of Led Zeppelin but its Jay right now.
If you could paint a mural on any landmark ….what would it be and why?
The Brooklyn Bridge. That would be the best real estate you would see for an advertisement. It’s the greatest bridge in the world. If they allowed it to be a Bua canvas I’d go crazy. I would hit that up hard.
In your opinion, what was the best year in hip hop?
I’d have to say early 80’s man. You had Fearless 4, Soulsonic Force, Furious 5, you had Cold Crush, you had early L.L Cool J, T La Rock’s “It’s Yours”. It was the origins you know…people doing it for the love. The beginnings of Def Jam….for me it was the best time. Then you talk about Rakim in that era who is the greatest MC that ever lived point blank period end of story. You had the equivalence of the renaissance in Italy where in the same era you had Rafael, Donatello, Michael Angelo and Davinci. You had the same giants…you had Bambatta, Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Caz, Prince Whipper Whip, and you had “The Message”. I’d have to say late 70’s early 80’s when shit was poppin off.
I hope my readers have their notebooks out because you’re taking them to school!
If you could make your own super group(mc’s and a dj) Who would be in it?
Wow….It’d be interesting. Rakim, Caz because of his musicality, Guru, Jay-Z, and Mixmaster Mike on the wheels of steel. I’d take Rick Ruben as the producer and it would probably be the most magical shit you’ve ever heard.
I’d like to give a huge shout out to Bua for taking the time out to make this happen. I’d also like to give a shout out to Romeo. Thanks for making this happen! One last shout out to the readers! My main goal here at thegrindaily is to try to expose you to different elements of hip hop culture. If you get a chance to cop Bua’s book you’ll see so much more that I couldn’t cover here. He is truly a genius. Bless.
Hip Hop since 1978