What Motivates Graffiti Writers?

Graffiti Writer Jailed for Nearly a Decade, Releases Album of Graffiti Meditations
Graffiti Motivation 101 Cover Sm
Graffiti Motivation 101 Cover Sm
LOS ANGELES - Feb. 28, 2022 - PRLog -- Property owners, city officials, and passersby may have all asked themselves, at one time or another "what's the point?" Wondering what calls the graffiti writer to broadcast themselves on walls, signs, freeways and bus windows across the city.

A new collection titled "Graffiti Motivation 101", of what can only be called spoken word meditations, offers a surprising perspective. By well-known graffiti writer Sight, the "album", if you can use the term, is a collection of monologues over original beats on topics from "A Few Misconceptions" to "Graffiti is a Healer". The first of its kind sort of "audio portrait of an artist" has eleven tracks all of which remind the listener, more than anything, of interlude tracks from our favorite 90's rap and r&b albums.

For those of us spectators who can appreciate the artistry and daring behind graffiti, we may be able to draw some speculation on its historical evolution as an element of hip-hop culture. While the collection is not a History of Graffiti 101, nor is it autobiographical, the tracks allude to both the origins of the art and the artist. Sight Zilla rose to notoriety and became known as the "king of South Central'' because of his prolific graffiti career, but his name was catapulted to the national stage when he was handed down the most severe sentencing for graffiti to date. In 2006 he was charged with 70 counts of felony vandalism and faced more than 30 years in prison. His story has been told by various news and radio outlets, and featured on the cover of LA Weekly in 2012 in "Los Angeles' War on Street Artists". Sight, Bryant Mangum, was finally convicted for ten counts of felony vandalism, sentenced to nearly a decade in prison, and fined $64,000 in restitution to be paid to LA Metro for etching his name on their bus windows as a teenager.

It would seem surprising to some that after his release, Sight has returned to his art, not to discourage youth from his path (a more cliche incarceration narrative), but rather to advocate for the power of graffiti to "transform and transmute" to force you to take the "blue pill or the red pill" as he describes it. He challenges gentrification and the commodification of graffiti, the current trend in street art that pays handsomely to mostly non-Black artists for diluted imitations of the original styles and techniques which were pioneered by Black youth, at their own peril. His stories recount the saving grace that graffiti became in his life while trying to avoid gang recruitment and outrun homelessness.

"Only someone who has been broken can understand it" Sight declaims in track 10 "Why we do Graffiti", but this collection is likely to connect which everyone in some way, whether you are a long time student of the spray can or a casual bystander who could never quite decipher the how or the why - "Graffiti Motivation 101" is now available anywhere you buy or stream your music for under $7.

Bryant Mangum

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Tags:Graffiti, Black Art, Street Art
Industry:Arts, Entertainment, Music
Location:Los Angeles - California - United States
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