1970s-1980s: The Legacy

Hip-hop was conceived in Philadelphia, born in New York. During Cornbread’s early graffiti days, the word “hip-hop” didn’t exist. In later years, graffiti would be recognized as one of several elements of the hip-hop movement. In the mid-1960s, teenagers in Philly underwent a unique experience and thousands were involved in a social uprising. Social street clubs sprouted like weeds, and they adopted college fraternity names to identify themselves. This social outlet was set apart from gangs, and events were held in main ballrooms at downtown hotels. Teens engaged in creative dancing, rapping, DJing and breakdancing. All this happened before the movement migrated to New York and was labeled “hip-hop” in the Bronx.

The modern graffiti culture of tagging as a sign of individual expression started with Cornbread. Writers like Top Cat and Bad News Jimmy moved to New York and brought the Philly tagging culture with them. As the hip-hop culture flourished in New York, graffiti became one of the main pillars of the movement along with DJing, MCing, breakdancing and beatboxing. In cities across the U.S. and abroad—London, Paris and Berlin—modern graffiti took off to become an international artistic movement. Dr. Cool #1 (née Raymond Bottoms) has a hard time coming to terms with the legacy of modern graffiti being taken over by a younger generation of artists. “We started this thing,” he said. “And it just blossomed in other cities.”

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