During the 1980’s a new style began to emerge. This style was Hip-hop and it consisted of a mix of music, breakdancing and graffiti. Culturally, in its early days graffiti was limited to downstate New York and conformed to a certain set of ideals. However, as time went on, it spread to other cities and different types of graffiti began to emerge. Socially, along with the different types of graffiti came different types of graffiti writers from different places, some of whom were not afraid to go against graffiti’s original ideals.
Over the years, Hip-hop has evolved and spread as something that had once been localized and unique to something that has become widespread and more common, which has resulted to many changes to the culture. When graffiti first began to be done, it was very localized and homogenous. Graffiti was confined only to downstate New York. For example, in the documentary Style Wars one graffiti artist had been kept ignorant of graffiti while in upstate New York. When he came back to his home in downstate he was shocked to see this new form of art covering the trains “So when I got home I see writing on the train.
I said ‘what’s this stuff here? ’”. It was after seeing graffiti on trains that he decided to try it out himself. Graffiti was homogenous not in the sense that only a certain age group or ethnicity was doing it, but rather that all graffiti artists adhered to the same set of ideals when it came to graffiti. They all believed that graffiti was an art form meant for the artist, and that the more talent and creativity demonstrated in a piece the better. The wild, artistic type of graffiti that emerged from this ideal was later referred to by graffiti artists as ‘burners’.
One young graffiti artist, Skeme, summarizes these beliefs in an interview with his mother “It’s a matter of bombing, knowing that I can do it… It’s for me. It’s not for nobody else to see. I don’t care- I don’t care about nobody else seeing it, or the fact if they can read it or not. It’s for me and other graffiti writers, that we can read it. All these other people who don’t write, they’re excluded. I don’t care about them, you know? They don’t matter to me. It’s for us. ” Bombing is when graffiti writers put their graffiti on trains. Soon graffiti started to spread.
And, as it spread, it welcomed in a whole slew of new graffiti writers, some who were not well received by the traditional graffiti artist. Socially, these new graffiti writers completely changed the game for the previous graffiti artists by introducing conflicting ideals which led to animosity amongst the different graffiti writers, which hadn’t been there before . One of these new types of graffiti writers called themselves graffiti bombers. Unlike the graffiti artist, graffiti bombers did not believe that the bigger and the more beautiful a piece was the better, but rather the more widespread.
Graffiti bomber’s graffiti is not art. It is more ugly and crude. Their pieces were referred to by graffiti artists as ‘throw-ups’. One such graffiti bomber, Cap, was hated by the graffiti artist community. He was hated because he would place his throw-ups, which required minimal talent and time, over their burners which they had worked hard to create. When asked about graffiti artist’s hate for him, Cap’s response was “Anybody tries to screw around with me and my friends, I go over anything they got forever. Everybody from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Everybody.
” In addition to graffiti bombers, there were also people who tried to make graffiti art a commodity. These people started to sell their work at art galleries. This went completely against graffiti artist’s original ideal that graffiti was for the artist. It now was in danger of becoming something that, sadly enough, other art had become. Something for other people, consumers, to ooh and ahh at but never really understand or appreciate. Something for people to show off their wealth. As can be expected, this also was looked down upon by graffiti artists.
Selling graffiti at art galleries did however help spread graffiti even further. It increased and created new producers. Before the producers started to make graffiti for consumers, the typical graffiti artist was assumed by others to be some rebellious and impoverished teen. However once consumers came around it became something that you could make a lot of money off of. It was no longer purely an art for everyone but an art for the more wealthy too. This attracted more producers from different walks of life.
The evolution of graffiti has seen it change and grow for the better or the worse, presenting a perfect example for the geologist to examine how trends diffuse and develop. When hip-hop started in the 80’s it was an entirely different style that worshipped young adult’s new sense of self, rebellion and creativity. No other culture had been quite like it before. Ever since then new cultures have been emerging that are also meant to promote teens. Even though it was not all teens doing graffiti, what can be learned from this is that teens are the ones who lead cultural changes. They are the ones who create pop culture trends now.