Janette Beckman, legendary photographer who has immortalized rap and hip hop artists, was presenting ‘The MashUp’, at Project Gallery on Saturday night. This selection of work, curated by artist and designer Cey Adams, is quite unique because it combines Beckman’s iconic portraits of influential DJs and MCs with the work of many of New York’s best-known graffiti artists.
The New York in the 80’s was very different from the place it has become now, the city was broke, crack and crime was ruling the metropolis and hip hop was starting to grow bigger. Janette Beckman, who had already documented the punk scene in London in the late 70’s-early 80’s, taking shots of the Clash, Sex Pistols, the Ramones, moved from London to New York and began to capture the new hip hop scene. She worked with pioneers of the genre, got attracted to the underground hip hop scene and took shots of legends such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Run DMC, Slick Rick, Grandmaster Flash, Salt-n-Pepa, Flavor Flav, The Beastie Boys, Stetsasonic,… and even Keith Haring. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world and has appeared in numerous magazines such as Esquire, Rolling Stone, the Observer and Glamour…..
‘My approach has always been to do a portrait. I don’t really like to pose people. I want the portrait to document how the people are in their environment. So you know, be it somebody from another country. It was very interesting to me to go to the Bronx and photograph Afrika Bambaataa. Or to go to Hollis and meet Run DMC, and see where people are living and how they are and what their lives are, and what they’re talking about,’ said Beckman in an interview.
That’s why this Mashup series makes complete sense. Artist Cey Adams sent a selection of Beckman’s hip hop photos to his artist graffiti friends, each of them chose an image and re-interpreted it in their own distinct styles, creating new works of art in true hip hop spirit, following the idea of re mixing and making something new from something old.
Original artworks were created by Chino (Stetsasonic), Claw Money (Salt ‘n Pepa), Eric Adams (Flavor Flav), Faust (Afrika Bambaataa), Jester (EPMD), Morning Breath (Slick Rick), Revolt (Ultramagnetic MC’s), Trike (Dr Dre), Alice Mizrachi (Beastie Boys), T Kid (Fab 5 Freddy), Greg Lamarche (Big Daddy Kane),and Sharp (Donald D & Grandmixer DST)…
Hip hop and graffiti artists come from the same underground culture, from the same New York streets… Although the work mostly documents the east coast, the exhibit was re-labeled LA Rebels to have the same appeal in Los Angeles… of course it’s not a stretch, since LA rappers, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are also represented, untouched and graffiti-free. Dre may be a multi-millionaire CEO these days, and Ice Cube a Hollywood actor but there was a time when they were the rebels of our city, whereas their gangster-rap group N.W.A. was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, getting recognition at Gene Simmons’ great disdain. Rebel is truly a word of the past.
I was happier because I knew I was happy
a snapshot of big hits and high tides, mostly high tides.
There is just a lot to love
the sound seemed to erupt from every side of the room
still on top
“danceable music for the end of days”
contracts its world in Nashisms
let’s take what we are offered
It’s the music, stupid