Stevio...LA LA Lovin' It?

I'm British-born Chinese from Bristol, UK. I’m LA-based. I’m a hip hop aficionado. After 15 years in London I moved to LA to pursue a new career and outlook on life.

Back in the 80s I was a DJ. In the 90s I contributed to the world's first street style exhibition at London's Victoria & Albert Museum. In 2011, I had my first interviews published. Today, I’m keeping busy with music, art, photos and writing.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Afrika Bambaataa, Cornell University and DJs Shadow and Cut Chemist

WOW! This is epic! DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist are hitting Southern California next week with Afrika Bambaataa's vinyl record collection! Imagine hearing Bambaataa's sureshot beats (aka his killer jams) played on turntables just like the block party jams Bambaataa rocked in the '70s and '80s!? We're gonna witness the foundation of hip hop, California Style!

All rise for Bambaataa, the Master of Records, founder of the Universal Zulu Nation and legendary hip hop recording artist!

And Bambaataa's still making history by doing what no other hip hop DJ has done...EVER! Before letting Messrs. Shadow and Chemist touch his prized record collection, Bambaataa opened up his humongous and pioneering record collection to the public.

Imagine the DJ behind 1983's Death Mix sharing all his musical dope with you?! YES, Bambaataa gave 638 boxes of vinyl records to the archives at Cornell University (big up Ivy League $$!) This is the same archive that Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation document is stored!

Cornell University Library Annex (source: Fuse TV) 

"My mother bought that first 200 [records] and I came with all the other 1000s. I used to buy the different funk groups like the great Sly and Family Stone, the god James Brown...I was crazy about Curtis Mayfield...on the rock side it was Credance Clearwater Revival and Grand Funk Railroad and the Rolling Stones.  
It was more about picking out different sounds than I was hearing on the radio and what I wanted to play for my audience...taking them on a musical journey. My audience used to always look for something wild to be played at the party. I might play Bo Diddly... Pink Panther...
I didn't get too competitive with myself as I already had more grooves than everybody out there and other DJs were trying to find out what songs Bambaataa was playing. If I seen a certain [album] cover I knew if it looked like a Polydor Records or if looked like Columbia Records...I could hear a certain sound or the way a person was singing...that's what made the fun out of digging in the crates and researching the records you want." Afrika Bambaataa, Universal Zulu Nation.

"This is the record collection that invented hip hop. This is the place that people will want to go to get the clearest understanding of how this culture began. We are preserving this stuff...but for future generations. 
You can see the diversity of Bambaataa's record collection. That's one of the biggest hallmarks of Afrika Bambaata who was originally known as the 'Master of Records.' We like it when the [record] jacket is all beat up. You can tell he played this record alot. 
When you look at the span of music [and] the knowledge Afrika Bambaataa has as a DJ that influencing the music he produced himself but influencing others to produce is here. He's the one that taught us how to rock a crowd. He's the one who taught us that we should play a variety of music. 
Some of Bam's records are still in these travel cases, never unpacked from particular trips. So records inside of these cases...will never separated from these boxes because these are actual sets that he created for particular point for a particular purpose. 
We got 638 boxes in the Bam archives...we have separated out some of the heavily annotated records from Bam's archived. This box was labelled "Zulu Sure Shots" so these would be records that Bambaataa himself would've annotated with "Zulu Nation," "Funky," a lot of them say, "Sure Shot" on them! You can see his rating system here and these are the songs he likes. Obviously, he's blocked out the label as everybody know [as] back in the days DJs would obscure what they were playing so other that other DJs could not gather the intell...." Ben Ortiz, assistant curator, Cornell Hip Hop Collection.

Afrika Bambaataa's ZULU SURE SHOTs

Diggin' in the crates

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

A walk around Bristol, the UK's street art HQ

When you think about Bristol and street art, your mind can't help but race through images of Banksy's work. But for those in the know, he was considered the city's second generation of street artists. The first generation were known as graffiti artists and followed a more New York style of aerosol art.

The Mild Mild West by Banksy, Stokes Croft, Bristol

I mention this because history is important to get context and dig deeper, beyond the superficial. On a recent "Where The Walls" street art tour visitors got a first hand account of the Bristol street art scene. The focus was on today's active artists, but if you press the tour guides they will fill you in on Bristol's vibrant graffiti heritage that has created the rich, creative community today. All the Where the Walls guides are involved in the street art scene today, but more importantly, have been around before anyone was interested in Banksy!

Join the 5-star rated tour and you might be lucky enough to be led around the city by John Nation. As an ex-youth worker and influential community leader of the Bristol street art scene you'll get a unique perspective of the scene. On my tour, visitors also heard about the history of Barton Hill Youth Club, which was a place teeming with graffiti talent back in the late '80s and early '90s. Check out pictures of the tour below.

See No Evil, 2013, Nelson St., Bristol

Why Bristol is UK's street art HQ   The love for graffiti and the laid back West Country manner allowed entrepreneurial artists to create an enviable environment to develop their artform. This is witnessed by legal, council and business supported events around the city, as early as the 1980s.

I first met Inkie, a leader in the street art movement in the UK, Europe and the U.S., at an Arnolfini Art Gallery event, 1985 (organized by Nick Walker.) This event featured the U.K.'s pioneering first wave of artists - Bristol's 3D, Goldie, Pride (The Chrome Angelz,) and ZBoys. Fast forward to 1998 and Bristol hosted "Walls of Fire." This time, Inkie organized this massive public graffiti art event around the Harbourside development in the center of the city.

More recent headlines have been made by Inkie's "See No Evil" street art festival which began in 2012 and ran until 2013. As described by the Bristol Evening Post, the event is taking a sabbatical this year to take stock and make plans for (hopefully) next year. Taking a break is also the theme for a south Bristol street art event, called Upfest. Described as "Europe's largest urban arts festival," Upfest ran for six years until this year in the Southville area of Bristol.

Today is my last day in Bristol. On this summer trip I got to join the street art tour and visit St. Paul's Carnival for the first time in over a decade. Things are different, but, oddly, also remain the same in this laid back city. Definitely make a visit if you get the chance. 

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

El Segundo Museum of Art hosts "Scratch"

El Segundo is where Q-Tip lost his wallet. It's also where the El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA) is exhibiting an innovative graffiti art exhibition, in conjunction with the Getty Research Institute.

So, how do some of LA's most recognized graffiti artists get down with ESMoA, the nonprofit, experimental art hub and the Getty? It's not just some hip, flash in the pan. There were two main players: the ideas man, Ed Sweeney, and the institutional supporter, David Branfman.

According to this great article from the Westsider Blog, sometime back in 2011-12 Sweeney, a prolific graffiti art collector, hatched a plan to donate a black book of LA graffiti writers' work to Getty's permanent collection. That resulted Ed and Brandy Sweeney donating the "LA Liber Amicorum" to the Getty Research Institute.

The Latin name means "book of friends" and was inspired by the a rare, 400-year-old manuscript in the Getty Research Institute's collections. The modern day version contains 143 works on paper from more than 150 of Los Angeles's leading graffiti and tattoo artists. (Scroll to the bottom to see a video of the works.)

"Sign of the Times" crew led by CRE8 (sixth from left)

Brafman saw a connection between the black books every self-respecting graffiti artist possesses to sketch ideas and get contributions from other artists and the ancient black books. Back in those days the leather-bound book would have been filled with sketches of coats of arms, watercolors, poetry, and calligraphy.

SCRATCH is at ESMoA until Sept. 21, 2014 and features 16th- and 17th-century rare books from the Getty Research Institute's special collections. The gallery is painted top to bottom by the six graffiti crews led by Axis, CRE8, Defer, Eyeone, Fishe and Miner.

SCRATCH graffiti walls

Axis crew

Tempt tribute, Eyeone crew (left;) 

"Sign of the Times," CRE8 crew


  • Here is a video of every page in the "LA Liber Amicorum"

  • Here is a video interview with Eyeone onsite at ESMoA

ESMoA is located in El Segundo, only 2 miles from LAX Airport at:
208 Main Street
El Segundo, California 90245
Phone: 424 277 1020.

Admission to ESMoA is FREE.

Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday 10am-5pm.

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Monday, June 09, 2014

RZA's new record label is....Dr. Pepper?!

Wait! Did I just read that right? "RZA drops exclusive EP through Dr. Pepper's 'One of a Kind' studio sessions." Yep, Complex has teamed RZA with Dr. Pepper to produce tunes for four up-and-coming artists (Rockie, RAC, Robert DeLong, and female singer songwriter, Tinashe.) 

"What makes me one of kind...each indivdiual is unique in themselves. I don't need to sound like him, be like him, look like him or act like him. I know that there's no other me and if you like me there's only one place to get it...from me! 
"First and foremost, I'm hop hop! That's my foundation, that's my roots. That's what moulded me into a musician. But, the thing about hip hop is it's a style of music that encompasses all styles and because I'm a hip hopper I'm actually a part of all music genres." RZA

Despite my cynicism about corporate's seeking street cool endorsements, without Dr. Pepper's support these tunes wouldn't be free to download. What do you think? Does this collaboration sound hot?  (Yes, I'm that easily swayed! ;) )

Check out the video of the project and stream or download the four tracks below.

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Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Bristol Sound: Bass Oddity....Dazed & Confused

Last month my home town of Bristol, UK was featured in one of five music documentaries broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK. Luckily, for the rest of us outside of the UK Dazed & Confused Digital has made it available online. Check it below.

This 22-minute program really captures the village-like cultural melting pot of '80s Bristol. The audio of the jam where M.C. Krissy Kriss (aka Kinsman) freestyles over the Bob James "Mardi Gras" beats is like a time capsule. Even today it sounds so fresh! Culture clash moments like this made Bristol so special for a teenage hip hop fan. The city's party scene was matched by the underground graffiti scene. It wasn't quite New York, but everything London had, Bristol had too. This allowed all hip hop fans to develop a true love of the culture. That has lasted 30 years to this day.

In the late '80s, the city was bustling with spontaneous parties all across the city - St. Paul's, Clifton, Bedminster. My crew - Plus One - had parties in student apartments, garages and warehouses. This was the blues club mentality. The official clubs were still raw with energy: Dug Out, The Rummer, The Thekla, Lakota and Moon Club!

Me DJing my first blues party, St. Pauls, Bristol. c. 1986. Felix Braun by my side!

Here's a great soundtrack for the Bristol scene from DJ Die.

If you want more Bristol history, check out this Tangent Books publications: Art & Sound by Chris Burton and Gary Thompson. On the cover is Krissy Kriss and Nick Walker. It captures the unique Bristol scene through party flyers and photos from that era and recognizes the main crews from that time in the city. It was a magical time!

Today, Bristol might be infamous for Banksy, but I know Banksy himself would say that the Bristol scene before him influenced him greatly!

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Moving Murals: Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper’s All-City Graffiti Archive

A new gallery opened in the L.E.S. of  New York City earlier this month. Gallery City Lore's inaugural exhibition is uniquely New York from a bygone era. Moving Murals: Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper’s All-City Graffiti Archive celebrates a “Golden Age of Graffiti." When the city's subway cars became a rolling steel gallery that only the most daring artists got to exhibition in.

Shot in the ‘70s and early ‘80s this artwork has long gone and some of the artists have themselves passed. With over 850 trains covering the gallery's walls, top to bottom, this is the first time such a historic and complete collection of images has been shown in one gallery. (Some of Henry Chalfont's work was shown as part of the Art in the Streets exhibition in Los Angeles.)

We want [visitors] to be astonished by the creativity of these kids who at the time took their life into their hands and risked jail, basically, to be able to go into trainyards to create these beautiful if ephemeral murals,” said City Lore founding director Steve Zeitlin.
What started out as what you might call vandalism, putting up a tag on a wall or a train, evolved into a real art form,” Mr. Chalfant added. “And it’s an art form which has influenced an extraordinary number of people around the world.”

Back to the 21st-century  Henry Chalfont's iBook entitled "Big Subway Archive" was also at Gallery City Lore to offer visitors an insider's look into the art of subway graffiti trains. The iBook experience is immersive with 800 multimedia photos, 50 artist interviews and videos.

"These classic train murals, which have been the inspiration and guide for thousands of youthful artists around the world, did not survive on the trains for long before the city cleaned the cars, or the artists’ rivals painted over them. Chalfant and Cooper’s patience and determination in hunting down and capturing these ephemeral masterpieces with their cameras has left the world with a representative cross section of some of the best work by the most talented young artists who painted New York City’s subway cars in the seventies and eighties. 
These images pay homage to the young artists from the City’s underserved outer boroughs whose work—though often dismissed as vandalism—challenged contemporary fine arts standards, and lit the fuse for the street art and hip hop explosion heard around the world." Henry Chalfont's Big Subway Archive.

Gallery City Lore is part of City Lore, the 28-year old cultural organization whose mission is to "foster New York City – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs."

City Lore Gallery
56 E 1st St. New York, NY 10003

Exhibition runs until July 10th, 2014.
Opening hours: Weds - Sat 12 PM – 6 PM
(Take the F train to 2nd Ave or 6 train to Bleecker St.)

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

The return of Art in the Streets....moving images

This weekend photographer Anita Rosenberg published her 20-minute video of never-before-seen footage from the historic and controversial, "Art in the Streets," show held in Los Angeles in 2011.

Anita Rosenberg at the "Art in the Streets" photoshoot, 2nd row, far right.  (Patti Astor hidden.) In the foreground is Martha Cooper taking the picture. 

It was worth the wait. See works from contemporary artists like Banksy, Mister Cartoon, Mode 2, Retna, Risk and Shepard Fairey. But, more importantly, take a history lesson on hip hop culture - graffiti, subway art photography and sculpture by checking out Futura, Henry Chalfont and Martha Cooper and Rammellzee, respectively.

Watching this video you'll witness a once in a lifetime recreation of Patii Astor's Fun Gallery (including a painstakingly handpainted gallery sign!) Inside the gallery, classic works by Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Fred Braithwaite was installed. As you approached the gallery from the museum entrance you saw the original Jean Michel Basquiat painting that was displayed in the window in 1981 during the inagural show!

Here's Lee Quinones quote from the video:
"The thing about Patti and the Fun Gallery and Bill Stelling was that they the same shoes as Jeffrey [Deitch] is  now...where they were so excited about something that was so new and  needed at that time. That whole thing needed time to marinade and galvanize itself into art history. Jeffrey's at the forefront of an international, global version of that. So, of course, the old meets the new and then you have the splitting of atoms. And, you have a major explosion of greatness!" LEE, Geffen Contemporary at MoCA, 2011.

Going back into time  I went back to the 80s during my interview to celebrate the "Art in the Streets" opening with Patti Astor and Fred Braithwaite. Read it here. This was one of a series of four articles I wrote. Another insightful discussion was with Futura in which he provided his views on the street art scene and his place in it.

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