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February 28, 2005

{     LEE Spraypaints & Aerosol Mask     }    

lee.jpg The Golden Age of Rap Music (roughly ’87-90) represents a time when the still-youthful art experienced a creative explosion, maturing in form while expanding on its pioneers’ established blueprint. But while the genre has always been in a constant state of accelerated evolution, the difference back then was the period’s relative “purity”. This was back in the days before “Rap Snacks”, ”Pimp Juice” and the talking Master P doll, when corporations hadn’t figured out how to make money off that rap shit yet. But while it took the Man a little longer to figure out how to line his pockets with the music, the visual element of hip hop, graffiti, proved to be an easier hustle. After experiencing a golden age of its own ten years earlier, graff soon saw itself out on the corner, turning tricks for Whitey inside demographically-savvy KFC and Captain Morgan advertisements the world over. As the Colonel said, “Pimpin aint easy.” In a movement that prides itself in its artist's anonymity, the name LEE has been omnipresent in modern graffiti with bedrock-providing burners for the last 30 years, both in the yard and in the studio. The Luke Skywalker to Ed Koch’s Darth Vader, Lee Quinones played a central role in all three of modern graff’s beyond-influential early-80’s holy trinity: “Wild Style”, Subway Art, and its video companion, “Style Wars”. Simply put, my man kicks it old school like Charlotte Hornets Starter Jackets. Lee’s extensive body of work both defines what it meant to be “All City”, while at the same time revolutionizing pop culture. Word to Busy Bee. Much to the dismay of one Hector “Macho” Camacho, LEE’s work has recently been inducted into the permanent collection at NYC’s hoity-toity Whitney Museum of Art. And cashing in on his acceptance from the fancypants set, Lee is launching a limited run of 250 custom-designed aerosol facemasks to be sold accompanying vintage hand-signed spraypaint cans. That’s right folks, in one of the most severe cases of life imitating art in recent memory, the same spray paint cans Lee stole over 20 years ago in order to “deface public property” are being sold right back to those same rich old white people that wanted to throw his ass in jail. All I gotta say is Fab 5 Freddy better be getting a cut of this action. You could say my man Lee is living large on some straight King Hippo-type shit. However, like Hippo, you’re gonna be ass’d out when the hefty price tag delivers a mighty blow straight to the nuts. While the masks are pretty slick and the cans are a memento Moms everywhere would consider “nifty”, $750 is an awful lot for a Zorro facemask and a can of “Parrot Green”. While many a Johnny NewJack will be quick to consider this a sell-out move, let’s put the brakes on for a minute. What makes this item so interesting, other than the fact that it’s a chance to own an original piece of artwork from one of graffiti’s living legends, is that this whole scam is a central plot point of Lee’s “Wild Style” breakout role... twenty years ago. This is Lee putting a middle finger in the air to all those who put their noses in the air, who denounced his art as nothing short of “criminal”. A big “fuck you” to all those who advocated the spraying of subway cars, effectively ruining countless masterpieces (many of which were Lee’s). With a price tag so heavy, this is anything but a sell-out move (Lee knows damn well heads aren’t paying that much dough for a fucking mask). This is Lee utilizing a position of power in cultural relevance to exploit those who obviously missed the point of his entire career. Lee’s gifts are the paintings, not its brushes. And after playing such a major role in establishing the modern graffiti movement over the last three decades, why shouldn’t Lee get paid? Consider that Grandmaster Flash is forced to pimp Pringles while Tag Team just bought another house in Hamptons, these pioneers are entitled to reap the same benefits so greedily reaped by those who rode in on their coattails. So if Lee wants to sell a dried-up can of spray paint that he stole in 1983 to some crusty-old white dude for $800, more power to him. Don’t knock the hustle.

     » Spend your $800 at



Posted by: Adam at February 28, 2005 5:13 PM

I've been stuck at work all week long. When I say "all week", I mean it's Thursday and this is my 60th hour on the clock since Monday. And I'm salaried, so no sweet over-time.

Still, I've had a few moments of respite.

This review is one of them.

I've probably read it five times, and it still makes me laugh. My favorite line at the moment is "...old school like Charlotte Hornets Starter jackets...."

Did we ever think that purple and turquoise was tough, urban and badass? Yes, I'm afraid we did.

Thanks E, for the laughs and for consistently turning out some of the best writing on this site....

Posted by: Adam at March 4, 2005 1:53 AM
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