In the wake of a huge graffiti event that will take place in NY, SU got to chat with graffiti extraordinaire and the creative director of Mass Appeal, Sacha Jenkins. Sacha is known for being an expert in all things hip-hop, art, and creativity. He is apart of putting together the event, Burning of Kingston, a legal graffiti competition to commemorate the burning of the town, Kingston during the Revolutionary War. Take a look at our interview with Sacha and what he had to say about the “Burning of Kingston” event.
First, explain to SU your fascination with graffiti work?
I grew up in New York City when art on the subway was a part of my everyday life. Every kid in my neighborhood had an alias, an alter ego. My mother is a painter, I was into comic books—it all just made sense.
Tell SU more about the Burning of Kingston event? What purpose do you want it to serve?
Our Burning of Kingston event is the first ever “legal” battle of art on a subway car. I stress legal because kids were battling it out for now money on the exteriors of subway cars back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Trolley Museum of New York, which is situated in Kingston, New York, happens to house an actual New York City subway car—the same kind of car that was essentially a canvas for so many young artists. The museum is sophisticated enough to understand that the form that was born in subway tunnels is now a globally recognized art movement, and the opportunity to educate folks on the culture’s rich history is a great one.
Why do you think The Burning of Kingston event is important to hip-hop culture?
So called “graffiti” culture pre-dates hip hop by some years. In my opinion, the first rappers were the graffiti writers—as in the graffiti writers were boisterous cats in your neighborhood who were out to make a name for themselves via words. Kool Herc was a graffiti writer before he went on to do what he did.
What do you think about celebrities like Chris Brown and Justin Bieber experimenting with graffiti? David Arquette says that he use to be a writer. Have you seen any of their work?
David Arquette, as I understand it, is official tissue: he came of age with a couple of notorious LA writing crews. Bieber gets the gasface. Chris Brown is being schooled by a dude named Slick—who is a serious West Coast OG. But Chris is too busy living that thug life to really focus in on his skills.
How do you think the actual art of graffiti has changed in recent times?
I refer to “graffiti” as language—a language with many regional dialects. The language has spread the world over. Some people make money from it, some people do it because they love it, some people are addicted to it. But any way you slice it, if you are a human living on planet Earth, what we insiders refer to as “writing” has touched your life.
Do you think it is disconnected from rap music?
There is nothing wrong with folks associating rap and graffiti—they share a birthplace and a common energy. But people were writing on trains years before rap was ever committed to wax.
More about your personal career, what made you feel compelled to get involved with business ventures like Ego Trip and Mass Appeal?
Ego trip was a zine I started in my bedroom with Elliott Wilson. We just had a desire to document hip hop culture. We weren’t businessmen. We were historians, and historians don’t make that much money, yo. But over time, as we evolved, our notions of business evolved. Mass Appeal is now a serious business, but being true to culture is always first. We’ll have no business if we don’t stay true to culture—but that’s easy because all of this is an extension of my life. It’s the cultural identity I’ve created for myself and there are many other people out here like me.
What are your hopes for the future of graffiti art?
As long as were able to live and breathe on this planet, there will be people writing on walls, and some people will be better than others.
Check out how you can see the live graffiti competition below and take a look at the teaser.