Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Corporate Graffiti

Gothamist has an amusing post about a Hummer H3 advertisement in Williamsburg, a graffiti-style mural done by Tats Cru that has been defaced. Tats Cru was once upon a time the most well known graffiti artists to tag subways. Their murals of Hip Hop artists in the South Bronx are now celebrated works of art. Some time ago, I accompanied South Bronx native Angel Rodriguez as he led a group of high school kids from the neighborhood on a musical walking tour called From Mambo Kings to Hip Hop. (I took the above photo of Mr. Rodriguez, far right, in front of a Tats Cru mural of Biggie Smalls. Click to enlarge it.) Mr. Rodriguez told the kids that no one messed with Tats Cru murals because they’d get their butts whooped if they did. Apparently, that only applies to the pre-sell-out works. Nonetheless, the kids seemed unimpressed with Tats Cru, and didn’t recognize the vast majority of South Bronx Hip Hop artists Mr. Rodriguez mentioned such as KRS1, to say nothing of the original "Mambo Kings." In a piece I wrote that was never published, it ends with this:

One of the final stops on the tour is P.S. 52, or Stevenson High, where the kids usually spend their school hours. Mr. Rodriguez recounts his own days as a young musician when his band would splice their amps into the light poles just off school grounds and play until the police chased them away. Some of the greatest names in Latin-American music went to school here, he tells them: Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri and Joe Quijano.

It’s not until he mentions another name that something finally clicks with the kids; Colin Powell was a student at P.S. 52.

“For real?” one young woman pipes up. “The black-white guy? Hey, ya’ll, Colin Powell went to Stevenson!”