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Graffiti is the street art of hip hop. To many, the writing all over buildings and public places in most of America’s major metropolitan areas is nothing more than vandalism, and well...alot of it is. But graffiti is a big part of hip hop culture, and though a sharpie scribbled on a subway wall may not be art, many of the ‘graf’ heads that practice graffiti are true artists.
Graffiti has been around for as long as humans can write. The word graffiti comes from the ancient Greek work graphien, meaning; to write. The first graffiti was done by prehistoric man on the walls of the caves they lived in, often in symbolic pictures to tell the story of a hunt or a long voyage. Thousands of years later graffiti was used to spread anti-political messages. Guerilla activists would sprawl a message in huge letters in public areas in hopes that people would recognize their cause. Graffiti as we all know it in the 21st century began with a man named Keith Harring, Harring was an artist and to promote himself and his work he would plaster posters of his unique drawings in subways and other highly trafficked places. Soon instead of using posters he would just draw directly onto the walls. This was the beginning of graffiti art.

But wait...what about the scribbled words that are so common in big cities? Well those words are called ‘tags.’ And though tagging is the least artistic form of graffiti it is also what popularized the art.
Tagging began in Philly in the 1960’s, but wasn’t popularized till it made its way to New York City. In 1971, The New York Times published an article on a person named TAKI 183. Taki 183 was a tag that first showed up in a Washington Heights neighborhood, but soon was all over the city. The Times traced the tag to a foot messenger whose nickname was Taki, and 183 was the number of the street where he lived. Taki 183 would tag the buildings where he delivered messages and also write his tag in the subway, the way he got around.

Though there were other people doing the same thing as Taki 183, the Times article gave credit to him, and soon thousands of kids began duplicating Taki’s tag in there own name. This became known as ‘bombing.’ Kids would tag the places they where at with markers at first, but then moved on to spray paint. The object was to ‘bomb’ as many places as possible, therefore having your tag be the most respected. Soon subways and back allies were filled with tags.

 

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