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The Beat #36: The Graffiti Issue

This week, guest contributor Brian Grabell of Scout Collective takes a look at graffiti.

Before we kick this off, let’s make sure that we all have a basic understanding of Graffiti. It’s important to know that this isn’t something new, and before subway cars became a canvas there were little punks running around ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece getting their word out. I find comfort knowing that the desire to scribble, “I was here” is a tag as old as time.

For this issue, we’re focusing on one of the most notorious decades in the 1980s. Between whatever the hell this was to were these people serious, something else much cooler was going on. I’m not only talking about graffiti, but also the culture around it. The ’80s really allowed for a lot of shenanigans and nothing screams illicit pleasure quite like an evening in the train yards.

Admittedly, graffiti seems a lot cooler when it isn’t your stuff getting tagged. However, I think we can all appreciate the art, attitude, and aesthetics of it. Whether you want to bust out the boomboxes, do headspins on some cardboard, or simply kick back and watch some flicks … graffiti has got you covered.

Tag a friend and hell, maybe go tagging with a friend. Just kidding … or am I?


Subway… live fresh

For me, there is one thing that is synonymous with graffiti and that is the subway. These mobile metallic canvases were arguably the original social media… just with more permanent status updates. The subways have cleaned themselves up a lot over the decades, but if you’re of a certain age you can easily recall the grime as well as the grit it took to even ride the damn thing.

Fine Art

Not just for subway cars and brick walls anymore, Graffiti not only found itself in the gallery but also thrived. From Barry Mcgee to Basquiat to Keith Haring, the bravado of ’80s graffiti culture has made an everlasting mark (see what I did there?) on the art world. I, for one, am delighted by this. Nothing makes a gallery opening more exciting than an artist with a pulse.


Everyone has attempted a backspin, aka the windmill, right? Just me? Whatever. Breakdancing is the undeniable dance style to accompany the unignorable expression that is graffiti. If you haven’t added the windmill or dare I say, headspins to your repertoire during this pandemic, there’s still time. Just make sure you wear a mask! C’MON PEOPLE!


I mean, have you even seen Wild Style? Check out the link included above for a list of excellent films including Style Wars, which is an incredible documentary about all we’ve written about and then some. We wouldn’t have individuals like Shepard Fairey, David Kinsey, and Banksy along with his documentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop without those wild times in the ’80s.


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