1970s-1980s: The Next Generation of Taggers

Raphael Paris grew up in Philly and would become part of the next generation of taggers in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He remembers as a boy driving around the city and seeing Cornbread’s name on the Girard Avenue Bridge, the “Welcome to Philadelphia” sign, and even on the skyscrapers in Center City. He remembers wondering, “Is this one person doing it? I’m eight, nine years old, and I’m thinking, why is everybody writing Cornbread on the wall?” As Paris started to realize that Cornbread was in fact one man, he became inspired to explore graffiti culture. He saw it as a way for a boy from the inner city to be known, and to make the entire city of Philadelphia his home.

Plague of the City

In the 1980s, the tagging culture in Philadelphia became out of control. Tags were written over other tags, until no one’s individual name could be recognized from the mess. Philly became known negatively as the graffiti capital of the world. Raphael Paris relates this era of Philly graffiti to a cacophony: “The coolness was gone of seeing this beautiful city, and then this one kid screaming ‘Yo!’” said Paris. “It was like silence and then a horn hit ‘bah!’ Now instead, it’s just all over the place. If you dig chaos you might like it, but nobody’s being heard if we’re all talking together.” When Wilson Goode ran for mayor in 1984, he said that graffiti was the number one problem facing the city of Philadelphia.

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