The response to changing social and cultural forces during the emergence of 1970's Graffiti and Hip-Hop subculture.
1971 saw the birth and rise of the Graffiti phenomenon that has developed into a social society across the world. It began with a young greek boy who began making his mark by using his alias 'taki 183' little did he know the effect and massive impact it would have on creating a global culture. Previous attempts on creating a new form of graffiti started in Philadelphia with a young man named 'Cornbread' 1961. Throughout the 70's more and more youths were stepping up to the mark developing old styles into new ones, creating a generation of artists that constantly pushed the movement through a time of poverty, crime and gangs. This could be seen as an escape for young individuals to be part of a social collective that accepted them as people and not hopeless criminals, where graffiti was previously seen as a language for gangs to use to mark their territory. This was a far different approach to vandalism, one that dedicated youth to an unforeseen art movement that would eventually shape the lives of youth during desperate times and give them a place in society.
New York was the core and the beginning of the social Graffiti movement. Taki 183 having a job as a messenger enabled him to take a bigger approach the spreading his name around the city. As he kept on using this alias, public awareness of this new art form began to spread. New York times published an article issuing briefly information on the underground culture allowing it to finally enter the social world. Although it was still seen as a crime, the penalty was far less severe as it has now became. Light hearted young crime. From the streets, subways now gave writers the means to allow their alias to become wide spread on a national scale, creating a community and a way to put your name around the town. It became time consuming, and again these young artists approached subways cars as an alternative and a much more economical approach to their movement. More and more people joined the community and new styles were formed. At tag became a signature in it's own right, where writers had developed hand styles and letterforms, which would create a unique identity for that alias. TOPCAT 126 a philadelphia writers tag, arrived in New York as a new hand style with serifs, it became known as the ''Broadway Elegant''. Writers went on to exploring new ways in distinguishing their tags from others. Creating pieces of brightly coloured, bold lettering using spray paint to draw more attention than a tag. Due to the caps on the cans back being too small in width, they had to utilize aerosol products ( oven cleaner, spray starch etc ) that had a wider diameter of spray. ''Fat caps'' and '' Stock caps'' were born. This also sparked off a new competitive side to the culture, as everyone wanted to be up and the most noticed writer around. By doing this more new styles kept forming, bigger pieces became apparent and unique fills were acquired. Advertisements, comics and experimentation gave the writers the means to create style upon style. This was a fat cry from previous signatures. 1974 saw the accompany of illustrations to their lettering, this again added more value to their community and clear evolution was apparent throughout the course of the movement. Crews also began to form in latter years, giving writers a more secluded direction in which they could approach their artwork.
Alongside this social movement, another art form was appearing on the scene. Hip-hop. Dj's such as Afrika Bambaataa,The Last Poets and Cool Herc, were now experimenting with previous carpet dance floor anthems, and began mixing and scratching their own beats in peoples houses. Emcee's began using their poetic word slinging to front DJ’s and give the crowd a more positive response to the subculture. Brooklyn and the Bronx hosted this powerful breakthrough in commercial mundane music that had continuously flooded the social world. They had a lot in common with the writers, a lot of them previously wrote and were brought up in similar cultural difficulties thus allowing them to form a deep connection with each other. Within 10 years, Hip-hop had evolved and flourished across America, with collaborations and producers entering the music world bringing a new form of creativity. Hip-hip Graffiti, a term used to label this evolved culture, many disagreed with it and felt it as annoying (Lady Pink). This was beginning to become a threat to authorities. Modernity pushed the social and political world around during previous years, many people did not take this casually. Being witnesses to such a massive movement in such little time without a means of stopping it, made them wary to change. It was a sign of rebellion, freedom and creativity which adversely went against the controversial world. Forming new ways to approach and speak to the youth being brought up in slums and poverty.
Street gangs were another push in the social changes to young people, as an escape from a world they were so destined to grow up in. Crime throughout the 1970's created fear amongst those living upon it. Violence, drugs, pimps, hookers and murders controlled and ran the streets. There was little the police could do to prevent the surge of being part of an infamous group. ' The Black Spades ' and 'Savage Seven' were the largest violent black street gangs. As numbers increased so did their gangs, forming new names to the streets. People were forced into slums and ghettos, this only retaliated the gangs to evolve and grow even more increasing crime day by day. They had no means of direction, and were being pushed closer together in tighter communities, gangs were inevitable and spread quickly. Peace came only out of those pushing the Graffiti and Hip-hop movement out into the world. Without a chance of hope, people would continuously fall into a society of rage. A major shift took place during the early 1970's. There are clear factors to development in creating a new social subculture. Depression, poverty and desperation amongst families gave their offspring the streets as survival, but only one direction was previously seen. Gang warfare, a violent way to cope with the horror of the modern world was the easy way out. In Vietnam a war still raged the country, this was all people knew. War and violence, with little means of escape. Those who did not want to be part of this at all needed a surge of inspiration, a culture in which they could feel part of. Graffiti and Hip-hop. Born from an ever developing movement of social independence, where for once the individual was the eye of the beholder. Creativity was no limitation for these youths. They had access to numerous amounts of material in which they could develop their trade. Hip-hop born out of Graffiti now seen hand in hand as one of the biggest, influential approaches to social change.
In my opinion this massive international culture had been created properly, through desperate times and a world that still did not embrace modernity to it's full potential. Without the means of an alternative way a life, gang violence would have ripped America apart during the 1970's. All this negative impact on peoples lives forced them to change their own direction and believes. Art can be the easiest way in which someone could express their feelings for the world. Graffiti connotes fame, change, non conformity and youth. Young people will always have to step up to the mark at some point in their lives and pass down knowledge that was once given to us. It takes a minority to create and move the world in such a way that people will have to accept social change. Graffiti did this, and continues to do so. It will never die out, this subculture will constantly be evolving through youth. As people were still getting used to the idea of living a modern life, there was a scare in the reality that this social cultural force could explode out of control and force people into a different direction. Graffiti, letterforms, colour, community a united force that pulled young people across cities together. New York was the birth place to this phenomenon and will forever be known as the heart of a social change during the 1970's. The appreciation and determination of young people throughout the 1970's allowed action to be taken place. There was now an alternative to gang life, being part of a community of social acceptance. Who knows what the future will hold in social subcultures ? Art movements can always change the way people view their lives in the living world and also prevent unnecessary violence that will eventually consume us and leave us to our own demise.