*transcript of the story
How artists and influencers set the stage for Hip-Hop's global rise
November 26, 2022
Futura 2000's Break Train, 1980. Photograph by Martha Cooper.
After graduating from college in 1978, Michael Holman moved to New York City for a job on Wall Street, but he says his interests soon led him elsewhere. "I'd take myself to the 1 train stop on Hudson and Chambers and these trains would roll in with these graffiti burners, covering the train from top to bottom. And I just couldn't believe what I was seeing- it was this sort of beautiful vandalism."
Then Holman read a short blurb in The Village Voice. Fred Brathwaite, who served as an informal spokesperson for the Fabulous 5 graffiti crew, put out a call for readers to hire them to create custom burners at their businesses or homes, priced by the square foot. Intrigued, Holman called "Fab 5 Freddy" and invited him to hang out.
Later that year Fab 5 Freddy and Lee Quinones of the Fabulous 5 showed their graffiti on canvas at a gallery in Rome. Then in 1980, Freddy painted an eye-catching, Warhol-inspired mural on a New York City subway car- a string of soup cans that doubled as an announcement of his arrival as a significant creative catalyst.
As Freddy's influence grew, it expanded beyond visual art. He brought DJs Afrika Bambaataa and Jazzy Jay downtown to perform at the Mudd Club, and took Chris Stein and Debbie Harry up to the Bronx to see Grandmaster Flash- an exchange commemorated in Blondie's No. 1 hit song "Rapture." Harry then introduced the rappers Funky 4 + 1 when they performed at The Kitchen in SoHo, and brought them along as co-musical guests on Saturday Night Live, where rap had its national television debut.
FUNKY 4+ 1 More on SNL
When English punk rockers The Clash came to New York to record their 1980 album Sandinista!, they caught the beat too. The band's single "Magnificent Seven/Magnificent Dance" became a hit on pirate and college radio, as well as on New York's legendary Black station WBLS. Returning to the city for a 17-date string of shows at Bonds International Casino in the summer of '81, The Clash brought on rappers such as Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five as openers and invited the artist Futura (then Futura 2000) to paint live graffiti backdrops live on stage.
Although some of The Clash's fanbase expressed resistance to these creative alliances, the band remained committed to championing them. When the tour continued to Europe, The Clash took Futura along and collaborated with him on a graffiti rap, which he performed live in Paris.