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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Banksy nominated for an Oscar

After the Grammys, the second red carpet event of February is coming up! On Sunday, the 83rd Academy Awards kicks off. Better known as the Oscars!

As a taster, the second annual Oscar Docs! event is being held in Beverly Hills tomorrow and Banksy's "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is up for the documentary feature prize!

The evening's event will include clips from each of the nominated documentaries in the feature and short documentary categories and a panel discussion with each group of nominees. Banksy's camp might be in attendance. Check out all the categories at the end of this post. You might be able to get tix here.

What the Academy had to say about Banksy accepting an Oscar:

" would not be dignified for the Academy to have somebody come up wearing a monkey’s head.” Tom Sherak, President of the Board, The Academy

Cheeky! But, whatever the outcome will be, it hasn't stopped Banksy causing more mischief and buzz! Passions ran high last week when a Banksy painting suddenly appeared on a billboard in Hollywood. When the sign company removed the poster the owner of the billboard put up a fight...and lost!

Did you know This painting goes against Banksy's M.O. as he rarely paints walls or structures that can be removed so easily. I guess this advertisement image was too tempting for Banksy and he had to get up on it! It's good that Banksy is "going local" and following in the footsteps of so many other L.A. writers and getting up high.

Other artworks also appeared around Los Angeles last week, as reported by the celebrity gossip website and TV show, TMZ. These are a lot harder to just take away, but they are at high risk of being whitewashed by graffiti-hating landlords.

Public reaction Update: I heard one of the paintings has already gone missing and the "craola bullets" has been vandalized. Banksy always gets a reaction, but with pieces being swarmed by UCLA students and gaining Facebook pages (as shown in the news video below) it's unsurprising that the feedin frenzy got out of control.

Downer Personally, I've hit my personal low-point with Banksy mania after seeing the news footage!

The question is who's responsible? The stealing of public art?...probably some rogue entrepreneur. The vandalism?...a jealous graff artist or anti-graff hero? But don't put it past Banksy himself being behind such stunts. The international man of mystery!

Banksy, Beverly Hills, CA

Banksy, Westwood, CA

Banksy, West Hollywood, CA


Documentary (Feature)

  • "Exit through the Gift Shop" - Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
  • "Gasland" - Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
  • "Inside Job" - Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
  • "Restrepo" - Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
  • "Waste Land" - Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject)

  • "Killing in the Name" - Jed Rothstein
  • "Poster Girl" - Sara Nesson and Mitchell W. Block
  • "Strangers No More" - Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
  • "Sun Come Up" - Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
  • "The Warriors of Qiugang" - Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

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Monday, February 21, 2011

#EXCLUSIVE interview with #FLX, author of "Children of the Can" #graffiti book

"Children of the Can" is an ambitious project by veteran Bristol graffiti artist and an old friend of mine, Felix "FLX" Braun. The book documents 25 years' of Bristol graffiti history...That's from the 1980s until, can count. It serves as a study of Bristol street art, its key players and its influences. It's like a masters degree in Bristol street art!
The world's most famous Bristol (and possibly the world!) street artist is undoubtably Banksy. He needs no introduction, after all he's had a solo show in the Bristol Museum! But ask him who his influences were back in the day and he may well mention some of the artists in this book. Get yourself a copy here on Amazon.

I managed to chat with FLX about the Bristol street art scene and how it has changed in recent times. Here's the interview...

Stevio: This past Christmas I saw the Lakota Club mural on Moon St. in Stokes Croft. Can you tell me how that huge wall painting came about?

Lakota Club mural, Moon St., Bristol, U.K.

FLX: "The club had been needing a repaint for some time, having previously been painted by Paris and Eko of TCF Crew, some ten years plus earlier. It was looking pretty tatty and the new proprietors jumped at the chance to have it redone. Well, in actual fact, the new proprietors approached Cheo, and independently the building's owners approached me. I've known them for many years. I basically made Cheo an offer he couldn't refuse. He's not really into the organisational side of painting, which I thrive on; so i said 'look, i'll round the boys up, you do your bit, and everyone's a winner.' And it came off really well, it still looks fresh a year and a half later."

Lakota Club artists
Stevio: Many artists contributed to wall. What can you share about them and how do they fit into the history of 25 years' of Bristol graffiti?

FLX: "Well Cheo, Jody and me all come from the first wave of writers in Bristol, and we all originally met at Barton Hill youth centre in the late 80s. It was the first proper, legal hall of fame in the city and was also the focus for a lot of large-scale bombin missions at the time. Mecca! Soker's from the second wave, but only just, he's also a grumpy old fucker like Cheo, Jody and me, and he just so happens to be one of the UK's best style writers, so he had to be down. And then 3Dom, Epok and Sepr are basically the best of the young bloods.

All really excellent in their own right, but more importantly they're team players, not afraid to muck in and also able to leave their egos at home for the benefit of creating a great wall. Because I have no crew affiliations as such it's easy for me to cherry pick a team that are suited to a particular job. Honourable mentions must go to Lokey, Haka and Cheba, who all painted round the far side of the building as well."

Lokey, Haka, Cheba, Lakota Club side wall (credit: Bristol Graffiti)

Stevio: Are there any artists from the first wave of writers who are still doing illegal pieces?

FLX: "A couple, but 'honour amongst thieves' and all that!"

Stevio: How did the "Children of the Can" project come about and how long did it take from conception to finding an interested publisher?

FLX: "It started as a dare, some friends and me were looking at a really rather poor attempt to document Bristol's contemporary graffiti and street art scene, and being the opinionated old sod that I am, I blurted old "this is shit, I could do much better than this!" To which came the collective reply "go on, then, we dare you!

"So i started talking to a few people about it, including a couple of local publishers, and literally the second one i spoke to was sold on the idea right away. Well, the first one was as well, but i didn't think they were quite right, really, for one reason or another. It took very little time from the initial idea to getting a publisher onboard, i just wrote a sample chapter, an introduction and a skeleton idea for the structure of the whole project, and that was it. I presented a slide show of a few photos and talked about it, and the next thing it was on.

Sepr, Soker, 3Dom, Epok and FLX, St.Werburgh's 2010

"Richard Jones, at Tangent, was really easy to work with, and totally open to my ideas; including my insistence that we don't have a big, gold sticker on the front saying "FEATURING BANKSY!!!" which would have ruined it. But, Banksy wrote his own little, low-key chapter and we got some exclusive, unseen material of his in there, so it was all good."

Stevio: What influence do you think Banksy has had for the street art scene and Bristol? Do you think he still regards himself as a Bristolian, even though he spends more time out of the city than living there?

FLX: "I'm sure he still thinks of himself as Bristolian, although to my knowledge he hasn't lived here for a very long time (allegedly!). But I know he has a lot of love for the place, I think the Bristol Museum show demonstrated that.

Credit: Thou Shall Not Covet

I'd say some of his influence has actually been quite negative. Through no fault of his own, there are far too many people that think stenciling is an aesthetic, rather than a medium. And that's a global thing, too. We don't need a thousand Banksy clones with less wit and none of his originality, thank you very much! But, that said, I'm sure in general he has had a very positive impact on people's attitudes towards the art form in the city. There are now a number of galleries, decriminalised zones for painting, graffiti supply stores, and so on. The scene's pretty rich here, and he's definitely played a part in that."

Stevio: Did you discover any surprising realizations or angles as you put the book together? What did you leave out and why?

FLX: "Not really. I made a lot of friend s and a few enemies, but that's inevitable; after all it's only my take on what happened. Most people were really cooperative, including the big names, and had a lot of help and support from the graffiti community. A few people were upset when it came out, especially those who were left out, obviously, but you can't include everyone and everything.

"I would have liked to have included a whole section on tagging and hand styles, since they're the skeleton of all style-writing, as every graffiti writer knows. Also a lot of the active illegal writers weren't exactly forthcoming with information and photos, for obvious reasons, and there were some things that i was told and shown that people got cold feet about. That was a real shame. Some of the best quotes about the contemporary bombing scene never made the final edit."

Sepr, Soker and FLX, University West of England 2009

Stevio: What ideas and images were some artists nervous about sharing? And why?

FLX: "Well, if I told you that I'd be breeching their trust, now, wouldn't I? In very general terms anything overtly incriminating, and individuals being unwilling to be quoted specifically on things. Pictures of people in train yards are always tricky, obviously."

Stevio: What do you think the next 25 years of Bristol graffiti will entail? And what do you think Bristol needs to do to nuture or control it?

FLX: "You can't control graffiti, that's the whole point! And i'd hate to see it happen. Heaven forbid! I think in the next 25 years people will be hitting the outside of 30-storey buildings whilst flying using jet packs, and using portable teleportation devices to hit the inside of 10 Downing Street and New Scotland Yard. Which will probably be called Old Scotland Yard, by then.

"Bristol Council are trying to get their heads around it, but in truth it's duality (legal vs illegal) is very troublesome for them. How do you sanction and promote what is obviously a huge part of the city's cultural heritage and appeal (especially to students) when you have whole departments solely dedicated to its eradication and continued criminalisation. It's tricky, right?"

3Dom, Epok, Soker, Sepr and FLX, 2010

Stevio: "Paris has always been a destination for old skool writers. Where do you think Bristol ranks in the graffiti cities of the UK and Europe? Do you ever think they'll be a day when New York old skool writers Seen or Sharp move to Bristol?

FLX: "Ha. Well, it wouldn't surprise me if they visited. That's one thing the future may well hold, more international links, a big annual jam would be nice, with some big names flying in to paint.

UK-wise it's right up there, a lot of people move here specifically to paint. Europe-wide it's not that bombed-out at all, not compared to, say, Berlin, or Lisbon. I was in Lisbon last year and it's incredible. The council are embracing there, too. Good on them."

Stevio: Thanks for the time FLX!

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

L.A.'s Grammy Museum gives props to hip hip!

The Grammys award ceremony in Los Angeles might be over, but the you can still share the vibe at the Grammy Museum in downtown.

A major hip hop exhibition, entitled "Hip Hop: A Cultural Odyssey," opened this month ahead of the Grammys and runs until May 4th with various educational programs running in parallel. And, it's just in time since ABC News noticed that in this year's Grammys "hip hop artists are dominant in key categories." In fact, Eminem was a big favorite with 10 nominations, including album of the year! ABC News also spotted that "four of the five songs up for record of the year were recorded by hip-hop artists." That's love!

The exhibition is based on a book from ARIA (Multimedia Entertainment.) Although it's incorrectly described as "the first luxury, large format hip hop book" no one can dispute the awesomeness of the 420 historic photos. The honor of the first luxury large format book goes to "Hip Hop Immortals" released nearly a decade ago in 2002 and it even comes in "Player" and "Baller" editions!

Better recognize For me, a standing ovation has to go to ARIA for being able to get the Grammy Foundation to recognize hip hop in the museum and to create this exhibition! Especially since hip hop/rap wasn't even acknowledged by the Recording Academy until 1989.

One of the biggest complaints of the community was hip-hop being ignored by the Grammys. The Grammy Foundation has sort of treated it like a stepchild...Some of it was racial, I think. Some of it was the fact that it got off to a bad start with the DeLores Tuckers and people badmouthing it or thinking it was too misogynistic or too gangster.”  Jeff Wald, CEO ARIA (in Los Angeles Times online.)
"It took awhile for the Recording Academy to accept hip-hop on such a scale that it would actually put it as part of the Grammy Awards show on television each year. However, that's certainly in the past, we've come a long way since that. But in this exhibit we acknowledge that, and also celebrate that." Bob Santelli, museum director (on ABC

"There are all the other elements that they don't really focus on, which is the B-boys, the B-girls, the DJs ... songwriters and the graffiti artists, and that fifth element, the knowledge that holds it all together," Bambaataa said. "There needs to be more thorough research on how hip-hop has helped so many people, from different nationalities and so-called races, on this planet." Afrika Bambaataa, Universal Zulu Nation (on ABC

Grammy Museum visitors (credit: Billboard)
N.W.A. (Hip Hop: A Cultural Odyssey)

Bonus beats A man who lay a lot of the paving stones for commercial hip hop is Russell Simmons. No matter what I think about his book title, "Super Rich..." I want to hear him discuss his career at a Q&A session presented by Amex. The "Icon of the music industry: Russell Simmons" is on February 25th. More information can be found here. $35! Only Russell can be paid for a book tour! Hahaaa. (Joke, proceeds go to the museum.)

"His groundbreaking vision has influenced music, fashion, finance, the jewelry industry, television and film, and he's changed the face of modern philanthropy. Join us as we welcome Def Jam Recordings creator and Hip-Hop pioneer Russell Simmons. Hear Simmons, joined by GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli, discuss his monumental influence and entrepreneurial approach to both business and philanthropy that has made him a globally-recognized icon. Simmons newest book, Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All will also be a topic of discussion. Following the interview, Simmons will engage with the audience in a Q&A session." Grammy Museum

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's...Say it with sneakers!

London's Crooked Tongues sneaker emporium has come through with a novel take on Valentine's Day. No less commercial, but certainly more desirable in my household than a box of chocs!

Crooked Tongues...say it with sneakers!

"10 years ago, looking for information on the latest releases, or hunting for sneakers to buy online was more of a fragmented mission than merely Googling a model name. Enter in late 2000. London-based, in line with the capital’s discerning legacy, but international in its approach, the site has developed over the ensuing years, evolving with online developments, instigating ‘real world’ events and sought-after collaborative make-ups of the Crooked team’s favourites.

As the site enters its second decade in business, the retail side of Crooked Tongues is a more serious prospect. With official accounts, building on the deadstock-led, word-of-mouth approach to retail, we're mixing the ultimate in sneaker retail with cultural context, model histories and our opinion-led content, offering regular visitors and customers alike a more cohesive site experience without compromising Crooked’s original intent." Crooked Tongues

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

"The Grassroots of Urban Aerosol Art" short films, Harlem New York, February 12th

Old skool writer, Lava 1 & 2, is presenting "The Grassroots of Urban Aerosol Art" with old skool graffiti artists Dose, Clyde, Bama, Slave, Rozone TC5, Stay High 149 and many more legends, as part of Black History Month.

Maysles Cinema in Harlem, New York is screening a series of short films including "New York Art Cypher" and "Tuff City Art Styles" followed by a panel discussion and an art show and reception.

Here are a couple of videos I found, but these aren't the shorts being screened.

The Maysles Cinema is located at 343 Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard, between 127th and 128th Streets, New York, NY 10027.
Subway: Take the 2/3, 4/5/6, A/B/C/D trains to 125th Street.
212 582-6050.
Screenings are $10 General Admission (suggested).

Thanks to Christie @ Tools of War for the information.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Retna kicks off his "Hallelujah World Tour" Feb 10th in New York City

L.A.'s graffiti artist Retna is following up his sold out "Silver Lining" solo show at Miami Basel with a world tour of 35 new pieces!

The "Retna Hallelujah World Tour" opens February 10th in a 16,000 square foot exhibition space in a warehouse district near New York's SoHo (560 Washington Street between West Houston and Spring Street.)

Read the credits The plane tickets and paint have been paid for by major movers and shakers of the art world. I'd never heard of Andy Valmorbida and his business partner Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld until now! ;)

RETNA: Hallelujah World Tour from viejas del mercado on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

King Fantastic x Kristina Rose "Why? Where? What?"

INSA recently painted a mural in Los Angeles and got pornstar Kristina Rose to ride around in a bikini as part of his photo shoot?! To see the art click here.

This King Fantastic video (LA-based rappers Killer Reese One and Troublemaker I was corrected: Killer Reese One is the rapper, Troublemaker is the beatman! Thansk J.C!) stars Kristina as a maid-gone-rogue...and it's a tamer version of what she does at her day job!

R-rated Please don't watch if you will be offended by nudity and dope gangta rap beats!

Why? Where? What? from King Fantastic on Vimeo.

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#INSA in San Francisco (and Los Angeles and London)

INSA, London's pervy graffiti artist, is in California!

He opened his first solo show in San Francisco last week. "MORE" will run at Upper Playground's FIFTY24SF Gallery until February 28th, 2011.

INSA's new work still has his signature saucy imagery of women, feet and heels, all realistically painted and adorned with strategic paint drips. But he's added classic hip hop gold chains, wax-like scultures and light installations.

"Within the new body of work in 'MORE,' INSA explores themes of aspiration and expectation, wants versus needs, and happiness versus success in his most comprehensive study to date. MORE will feature 9 new provocative works, with INSA utilizing media such as sculpture and lights adding to the 'glamour' of his work." FIFTY24SF

Gifitti art Check out some an example of INSA's admired "gifitti" art. This is the main gallery room at FIFTY24SF. It took me a minute to work out how to grab this animated gif, which is far quicker than it took INSA to create this image!

Keep it street And check out below some of INSA's street paintings during his Cali trip. First L.A. with pornstar Kristina Rose, then San Francisco. For more (literally) of Kristina check this out.

Playpen, L.A. (Credit:
Playpen, L.A. with Kristina Rose (Credit:

INSA mural on the corner of Scott & Oak, SF. (Credit: Upper Playground)

Tate Britain INSA's blowing up! His "Mary" lightbox installation and infamous elephant dung-heeled shoes at the Tate Britain ("The home of British art from 1500 to the present day") can't be bad for his profile and commissions.

Credit: Luxury Travel Advisor

"Anonymous but prolific street art king Insa has collaborated with some of the biggest and most popular brands in the world including Nike and beyond. 'Bring the Noise' debuts his latest work - a lightbox installation and pair of high heels – inspired by Ofili's notorious 'Virgin Mary' painting." Tate Britain, Bring the Noise 2010.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Retna mural spotted in Los Angeles, Dec 2010

Retna hoarding, LA 2010

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Kofie - Week #1 of "Edifice Cache" @ MoronoKiang Gallery, Los Angeles

Los Angeles based artist, Kofie, was the inaugural artist in MoronoKiang Gallery's group show "Edifice Cache," curated by Shervin Shahbazi.

I'm late with this as the show opened on January 22, but it runs until February 19, 2011. "Edifice Cache" is described as an 'evolving installation' it features four other artists (Mike Russek, John Carr, Favianna Rodriguez and Yuri Shimojo.)

"The concept of 'Edifice Cache' is based on the idea of Exquisite Corpse whereby a work of art is created through the collaboration of a group of artists who will add their work to components of - in this case - a single installation in sequence.

Mike Russek, an L.A. based artist and designer will provide the basis in the form of an evolving installation. The components of this installation will be revealed to the artists to create their part." MoronoKiang Gallery

MoronoKiang Gallery has its own YouTube channel to share the creation of the installation, aka the Edifice, and the processes as the memory component, aka the Cache, of the exhibit.

Here is the first week with Kofie. 4.00 minutes into this stop-motion video Kofie appears and installs his work and then we see him at work in his studio finishing his paintings. Very cool.

MoronoKiang Gallery is located at 218 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013.
Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 12-6 pm.

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

#Chinkyeyed hosted LMNO and L.A.'s rap talent

It's Super Bowl weekend, but the only thing that mattered was the Chinkyeyed gig in Pasadena this past Friday.

I went for the beat battle where 16x producers go head to head. That's grimy. But, Cali's rap fans were there for LMNO, aka Leave My Name Out. This ex-Visioniaries crew member was headlining the night and after at least eight releases he had plenty of tunes to perform.

Jukebox Here's a dope selection of 3 tunes from LMNO for your listening pleasure.

Sadly, Visionaires and LMNO are strangers to me so I had to catch up. LMNO has been in the public eye since 1993 when he got his first break and is associated with Ras Kass and D.J. Rhettmatic, a fellow Visionaires crew member. To some, he's probably infamous for being the Christian and vegetarian rapper!

LMNO also pops up as #59 of 165 in Complex's White Rapper Encyclopedia. But don't judge. Check out his performance and love from the crowd. LMNO should be in your iPod, car, whatever! Dope. "Grin and Bear It!"

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

DJ Kool Herc highlights the problem with the US healthcare system

A wave of tweets this weekend hightlighted the plight of D.J. Kool Herc, the Father of Hip-Hop, and his struggle with large medical bills for procedures to remove kidney stones. I'm just glad it wasn't something more serious!

Bill Alder, ex-PR for Def Jam captured the reality of many hip hop legends: “This is just a disgrace that Kool Herc has to negotiate over the details of his health care. People who are not performers think that the musicians they love have a big house, lots of cars and more money than they’ll ever know. The reality is that the majority of people who choose a life in the arts make a tough economic choice. They’re almost choosing voluntary poverty.
His sister, Cindy Campbell was interviewed by the New York Times: "There isn’t any type of medical program for these artists. Maybe it takes a visible person like Herc for people to pay attention. Maybe we can help set something up. My brother and I were trailblazers. We tried to save the building. Now we’re going to advocate for plenty of other artists and have a program to assist them."

There was a fundraising effort via Paypal, but that has been closed now! May be the profound tweet from one hip hopper caused a positive reaction! He said with so many hip hop millionaires why doesn't someone save Herc from his medical bills?!

Here's a Kool Herc mixtape shared by Old School Hip Hop Hour.

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