Beautiful City: Living In The Margins

Mar 31, 2014

Credit / Flickr / Creative Commons

Graffiti culture maintains very few alliances with the non-graffiti world. It is, after all, a culture that celebrates the art of being both alienated and alienating.

Still, even graffiti writers need a theme song, and there is no dearth of choices for the perfect graffiti song in hip hop.

We know that graffiti predates hip hop by essentially the whole of human history. But when hip hop developed, it was almost as if the two cultures were made for each other-- each share a sophisticated love of style, funk and, importantly, living in the margins. It’s the edges that matter-- what you don’t see even when you’re looking right at it.

A primary value inherent in both hip hop and graffiti culture is authenticity, and many of the graffiti anthems in hip hop are both penned and performed by the graffiti writers themselves. This has produced some quality verses about life as a writer, such as this from Meyhem Lauren.

It has also produced some, well, more interesting collaborations, such as this song from writer Futura 2000, and Mick Jones of The Clash.

What bonds all of this music together is a commitment to giving voice to the visual, providing a spotlight to writers who would normally prefer to do their work in the shadows.