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.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New York's Graffiti Hall of Fame, 2009...Schizo!

East Harlem is where the graff painters congregate to collaborate and show off their skills. But, the event is still something strictly for painters and their crew. Oddly, it's not a community event even though it's in a school yard...that seems like a step back in the evolution of graffiti. Compare this to the downtown scene at Helenbeck Gallery where artists have embraced the gallery scene (see my other post.)

I read that this Hall of Fame was started in 1980 by community activist Ray Rodriguez along with DJ Kayslay (aka Dez) and Part 1 TDS and has been an annual affair ever since. Martha Cooper said on her blog that the schoolyard has lost its "gritty, urban feel" in recent years. One of her production assistants (there's a new interactive project coming from Martha and Henry Chalfont) said that the Hall of Fame has lost a lot of its momentum since one of the organizers parted ways. After all these years I've still not met Henry Chalfont, but I had a near miss (Maharishi Gallery, London.)

M.J. R.I.P. 1958-2009 When I arrived in New York news of Michael Jackson's death filtered across the city. That breaking news was reflected on the walls of the Hall of Fame. Below, are some pics of the tribute pieces that were painted over the weekend.

Uptown, Downtown I went uptown on Friday when only a few heads were painting and got inside the yard to take a closer look. Then I went again on Saturday and Sunday to see Tat Cru paint, but still no sign of them! All I got was this teasing mural and a couple of thunderstorms!

"I miss the old New York" As I reflect on my first visit I have to say I probably won't go again. The writers want to get up, but some of them don't want to be seen doing it. It's taking the adage "I miss the old New York" to an extreme. The old skool cats (~50 years old) are happy to chat, but the 30+ year olds still think it's the wild west out here. They hate the bloggers, the photographers, the videotographers. Aka me. And if they find out you're not from New York...oh man, get outta here!

Big up to Ink76, Band1 and the man James Top for giving me some camera love.

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New York's Graffiti Hall of Fame, 2009...Videos

Here's a post dedicated to the cats I met in Harlem at the Graffiti Hall of Fame. Check back for the videos when I've edited them ;)


James Top


Popmaster Fabel is that me in the Cheech Wizard shirt...word!

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Whole in the Wall," Helenbeck Gallery

I went to see the last day of the "Whole in the Wall" show in Helenbeck Gallery, midtown Manhattan. As I wandered around the huge, but empty gallery space I saw works from the New York greats: Blade, Daze, Lee Quinones, Quik and Rammellzee. They seemed alone in such a big gallery and a little soul-less compared to the packed scene at the launch party.

Star spotter Things liven up as Crash arrives and hangs out with the galleryowners and is soon joined by Sharp. The doorman (Sharp's godfather) helps me get their tags for my collection. These are guys are New York graffiti illuminati if you don't know!

Antiquities The most interesting room was on the second floor. A room that brought together the "old and new masters" featuring French 17th- and 18th-Century (reproduction Louis XVI) furniture...all gold and baroque shapes counter-balanced by bright chaotic works from Sharp.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bronx Park Jam...Kool D.J. A.J. Scratch

"Tools of War" host a series of park jams to recreate the hip hop vibe from the 80s. As I rolled into New York on the redeye DJ AJ Scratch (Kurtis Blow's D.J.) was billed to spin alongside Popmaster Fabel of the Rock Steady Crew in the South Bronx St. Ann's Park.

I passed through with my cameras and watched the breaking, the DJing and a tribute to Michael Jackson (shocking news of his death came through that evening.) Seeing AJ spin some classic jams was cool, even though he's rusty and didn't stray far from "The Ultimate Breaks and Beats" catalog.

Black Spades Real old skool heads turn up at these jams. This was one of the smaller ones, but Jazzy Jay was there. GrandMaster Caz was on the mic. And, also the Black Spades community group. The same infamous Black Spades gang of the south Bronx that Afrika Bambaataa was a member of. According to the "Beat This: A Hip Hop History" documentary series, watching Michael Caine in the film "Zulu" was the inspiration Bambaataa to creating the "Zulu Nation" as a organization to uplift the youth out of the despair they lived every day, using hip hop as its messenger.

Thanks to Christie Z. for organizing these park jams and keeping the vibe alive!

Worldwide Today, the Zulu Nation has spread worldwide with chapters in Belgium, France, Sydney, Tokyo and the UK, amongst others. I still remember the London chapter was run by a guy named Dapo. There was an air of exclusivity and no one I knew was a member which meant there seemed to be some some anamosity towards the Nation from regular b-boys.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alphabeta, Brooklyn...home of graffiti art

Tina sent me a link from "New Yorker" magazine about the "Graffiti Kings" book launch held at Alphabeta graffiti store in Brooklyn.

There were two thoughts popped into my head...what's this store? (aka what can I buy?) and what's this book? (aka more hip hop trivia to bother myself with!)

It is said that "Graffiti Kings" was a graffiti world legend before its official release. It was "rumored to exist, seldom seen, a near-equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls." Curiously, the original dissertation book containing ~400 original and rare images of graffiti trains popped up for sale on eBay last year, but was quickly returned to the rightful Jack Stewart!

Now in 2009, Abrahms is publishing "Graffiti Kings" which is acknowledged as the only graffiti bible BEFORE Chalfant and Cooper’s "Subway Art" book (which captured the prolific 1980-83 period.) Stewart was a painter and art historian, who was there when graffiti made its way from the streets to the moving gallery of subway trains in the 70s. It was this cultural phenomenon that Stewart documented for his doctoral thesis through interviews and photographs. Sadly he passed away before the book was published, but his widow, Regina, edited Stewart's dissertation and got "Graffiti Kings" published.

This picture shows a model subway car that Blade painted with his name on one side and Regina’s on the other.

Now we all have a chance to treasure this graffiti history tome that contains archival photographs of the classic bubble-letter and 3-D pieces to the whole-train pieces along with other information that provides a real glimpse inside the world of a graffiti artist when he was still regarded a vandal and *way* before he was accepted into the downtown gallery scene!

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Subway Art - It's come a long way...graffiti art!

The 25th Anniversary edition of "Subway Art" was launched at Helenbeck Gallery in New York last week amongst the "Whole in the Wall" art exhibition, 1970 - Now. There's a cool video below. I also blogged about my visit to the show. Check it out.

"...a subculture of less than 200 people to eventually a global movement of 1000s..." Sharp.

Below is a classic interview with Henry Chalfont and Martha Cooper about Subway Art and the new 25th anniversary edition.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Iz The Wiz...R.I.P

Next week I'm heading to New York for the annual graffiti Hall of Fame event. Think of the legends of graff with hours to paint their murals, rather than snatched minutes at the train yard!

One legend will be missing this year. Iz The Wiz died today, he was only 49 years old! R.I.P.

Who is Iz the Wiz? Ask Lee Quinones who honored this graffiti legend last night in NYC at the Subway Art 25th Anniversary edition book signing. Check it out this tribute on video. Thanks to Rachel Cepeda sharing it.

Trivia Who knew Iz played a transit cop in Charlie Ahearn's "Wild Style."

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Keep it flowing...Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival!

Five years on and going strong! The Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival started in Williamsburg in 2005, but I only heard about it in 2007 after I spotted a poster in a store in the L.E.S. (I copped that for my wall.)

I won't reach this year, but I'm sending some sun to NYC from LA...I hear rain might delay play. Stay dry kids!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Slick interviewed

"S-L-I-C-K, Slickster, OG Slick, Slick Muthafucka, Senor Slick..."

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Breakestra headline at "The Root Down," Los Angeles

The mighty Breakestra brought the funky breaks to Echo Park, Los Angeles last week for the opening of The Root Down at El Cid club, its new home.

It was a sweaty night as fans of good music jiggled to the obscure tunes from the 70s. Music Man Miles says there's more stage and dancefloor square footage at El Cid :) It was a great night out since I haven't seen Breakestra play live since around 2006 at a Scion gig.

Diggin' in the crates After searching and searching I still couldn't find the name of the original tune sampled by Stezo for "To the Max" that Breakestra played (4.00 mins in on the video.) Until now..."Soul Tambourine" by Bettye Lavette. Phew...Thanks Broolkeez for spilling the beans! If you don't know Stezo check him below. Ah, my youth, right there!

Breakestra @ El Cid, Los Angeles 2009 from stevio on Vimeo.

"Tell you the truth, they need to ban mics
Because, I'm a danger zone
Making beats vibrate right through the bone
Not a doctor, operating
Just a rapper demon-strating
Talents to the people cause they're the facts
Just (Baby break it on down) to the max"

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Banksy exhibits in Bristol Museum

Even my Dad knows what's up. Bristol, baby!

"This is the first time tax payers' money has be used to put my art on the wall, rather than scrape them off it..."

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Rap talent comes to LA

My UK heads hit me up to a dope Q-Tip mixtape from J.Period of NYC. So, I paid attention when J.Period posted a video of his remix session with K'naan. He's been getting US love of late and been seen on BET freestyle sessions.

Mistaken identity For a minute I thought K'naan was British Somalian (yes, they exist,) but his accent pointed me in the direction of New York (and now Toronto.) And you can tell by his flow and rhyme references. Check him out, he's hot!

J.PERIOD VIDEO BLOG :: IN STUDIO WITH K'NAAN (LA) from Truelements Music on Vimeo.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Mos Def on Letterman

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Mid-City Arts hosted Retna and El Mac

I didn't get to see Retna and El Mac paint, but I was there early and watched Kofie and Codak put up their collaborative piece. Here's Kofie's time-lapse video of him painting a character from his sketch book.

Mid City Arts Backwall: Live art time lapse from Augustine Kofie on Vimeo.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hip hop dictionary wiki

This website should help decipher the linguistics and code used in rap. However, since it's a wiki it's only as good as the audience and the entries kinda fell off when I scrolled back to the 80s?! :) What? It seems that only youngsters are online!?

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Just a Friend...Heineken advert

Wieden+Kennedy put some ol'skool hip hop to use in this cool public service announcement.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

A Nilli, a Nilli, a Nillionaire :)

Origin has called out the obsession with cash money with its latest t-shirt design. Forget Billionaire's Boys Club...get Origin!

Nilliønaire "Are you a captain of industry? A wealthy philanthropist? Big money baller and shot caller? Yeah, neither are we. Here's to the low-life."
On Sale: $16.00 (original price $1,000,000.00)

May be inspired by this Lil' Wayne tune. Ironically, this video was probably one of the cheapest in recent rap history :)

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