By Rahman Dukes
If you ask iconic New York City graffiti artist Phade (better known as Shirt King Phade from the legendary Shirt Kingz) about the current state of hip-hop, he’d more than likely tell you it’s alive and breathing and resides in the Bronx, New York.
Whether you agree or disagree, Phade has been around the culture for decades and just like any other passionate hip hop fan is entitled to his opinion. But the difference between Phade and your average fan is Phade has lived the life of a rapper. And his crew, the Shirt Kingz, are his clique.
For those who may not be aware, Phade and the almighty Shirt Kingz carved a name for themselves in hip hop history by hooking up some of the ’80s biggest acts with customized clothing. From LL Cool J to BBD to Biz Markie to Jay-Z, you weren’t considered royalty in hip-hop if you didn’t own a piece of clothing from the Shirt Kingz.
While the days of Phade and his brothers Nike and the late Kashim designing shirts for the likes of Big Daddy Kane (featuring cartoon character Wyle E. Coyote holding a bottle of Olde English malt liquor) have passed behind him, Phade and Nike still remind the hip-hop community where the origins of the music came from: the art.
For the past week, Phade has been hard at work on his latest masterpiece: A mural for the Hip-Hop Cultural Museum located in Harlem, New York. The mural will officially be displayed in early January and the hood is sure to be delighted at Phade’s work. The mural, as according by Phade, incorporates the four elements of hip-hp: The DJ, the MC, th B-Boy and the graffiti artist.
Some of the forefathers Phade credits with moving the culture include God, Kool Herc, Grand Master Flash, Furious 5, Grand Wizard Theodore, Spoonin’-Gee, Mercedes Ladies, Busy Bee, Fantastic Romantic 5, Crash Crew, Brucie B, Horny Horn & Ace Shades, Run-DMC, Sparky D, DJ S&S, Egyptian Lover, Evil E, Hengee, Rahmell Zee, Rock Steady Crew, UTFO, fellow artists Phase2, Riff 170, A-Riley, Kase2, Chain3 In, Zax 1, LK, Tybu2, Vine, Comet, Blade, Ree2, Slay1. Also, hip-hop pioneers such as Sugar Hill Gang, Parlament Funkadelic, Roger & Zapp Band, Kool & the Gang, Black Byrds, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Divine Sounds, Dexter Wansel, Barry White, Isaac Hayes, ET, Curtis Mayfield, Chaka, Jackson 5, Sylvers, Sunshine Band, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind & Fire, authors Donald Goines, Langston Hughes James Baldwin and many more.
Not to forget landmarks that have also influenced the culture such as the Abyssinian Baptist and Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, NY.
Hip-hop would not be where it is today if it were not for the likes of the late, great Marcus Garvey, Mahalia Jackson, Tito Puente, Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., Amiri Bakari, Martin Luther King, Malcolm-X, Adam Clayton Powell, W.E.B. Duboise, Michael Jackson and Jam Master Jay.
It was only fitting for the Christmas holiday that your favorite hip-hop team give you a gift that you can’t purchase at your local department store. Happy holidays.