What Does Graffiti Have to do With Hip-Hop?

What Does Graffiti Have to do With Hip-Hop?

Few art styles are more closely connected to pop culture than graffiti. This art form has been around for thousands of years, since prehistoric civilizations first started drawing on walls, and has only become more popular in recent decades. Graffiti underwent a revolution in the 1960s, transforming into the rebellious street style we know and love today.

Through it all, graffiti has grown and adapted to the times. It has become deeply entwined in hip-hop culture, inspiring artists and encouraging performers to tie their music to visual art. The Museum of Graffiti is here to explore the relationship between graffiti and art. If you're curious to see this relationship in person, come by our museum!

New York City and Graffiti

New York City is integral to the history of graffiti. While some have traced the start of the graffiti renaissance to 1960s Philadelphia, it blossomed in the streets of New York City. Train graffiti became one popular way for artists to showcase their designs to a wider audience. Train graffiti started when artists drew or spray-painted train cars, giving a platform for these artists to share their thoughts and feelings on current social issues and movements.

Train graffiti began covering entire train cars, which gave artists a bigger canvas to work with. It also introduced their "tags" and styles to even more people. It started reaching musicians, including young rappers in New York City who wanted to speak out but weren't sure how. Graffiti has always provided a way for artists to connect over a love of bold self-expression.

The Link Between Graffiti and Hip-Hop

In 1980, amongst the prevalence of train graffiti and other forms of street art, graffiti started to become associated with a bold new music genre - hip-hop. Filmmaker Henry Chalfant was one of the first mainstream directors to study this phenomenon. His 1983 documentary Style Wars, which focused on graffiti as an art form, included several minutes of breakdance along with a musical score featuring several rap tracks.

Around the same time, the New York City Rap Tour of 1982 united hip-hop artists and graffiti writers like never before. This event, also known as the Roxy Tour, expanded the union of hip-hop and graffiti to a global audience, traveling to places like Paris, London, Strasbourg, and Belfort. The Rap Tour solidified the importance of these two art forms to each other and established them as domineering cultural forces in the new decade.

Graffiti as an Expression

Graffiti is a form of self-expression that can offer powerful insight into various social movements and causes. It allows artists to create pieces that are genuine and thoughtful. Whether through block letters, words, or colorful images, graffiti is one of the most striking visual art forms. For hip-hop artists, graffiti is not only inspirational but symbiotic. The two mediums can support each other and give those who listen to the music or view the art a transcendent experience.

See Hip Hop and Graffiti's History Up Close!

If you're ready to experience the link between graffiti and hip-hop up close, plan your visit to the Museum of Graffiti. As the world's first museum dedicated to graffiti, we've got exhibits showcasing the work of local and historic graffiti artists, as well as the many ways these graffiti writers have influenced history and pop culture.

We've also got the best museum gift shop in the world, with everything from art supplies to pieces you can use to decorate your own walls. Take a deep dive into the history of graffiti and learn more about the very nature of artistic expression at the Museum of Graffiti. Contact us to get your tickets and learn more about our exhibits!


Image credit: Mehaniq, Shutterstock

Back to blog