Justin Bua, the artist behind the Legends of Hip Hop
October 18, 2011
By now you should be aware of the DJ Qbert and Mix Master Mike reunion show November 10 at the Independent SF, but neither will be the man of the hour. No, that distinction will be solely held by Justin Bua, hip-hop fine arts painter, whose release of his new book The Legends of Hip Hop is the reason for the celebration. We talked to Justin about the book and the inspirations behind it and here is part one of the interview. Part two will be coming later this week, where we cover Justin’s thoughts on the show and what else he has in store for us.
How would you describe the book and the project altogether to someone new to it?
Legends of Hip Hop is a collection of painted portraits accompanied by essays describing the impact of each legend had on me, hip-hop, and world culture. Each spread includes sketches, color keys, and photographs, and more. This is the only book in the history of hip-hop that visually documents this great culture. In the legacy of the master painters that came before who painted Kings, Popes and the important figures of their time, I am painting the important icons who have influenced our culture.
The foreword is written by Chuck D.
How did you select the 50 or so people to be the subjects for your book? What was the thought process or criteria used?
The Legends selected are personal favorites that have been instrumental in shaping my work and my life. They are also Legends without whom we would not have this great culture like Kool Herc, who is the father of the culture, or Afrika Bambaata, who gave the child its name! I have everyone from Flash to Run-DMC to Wu-Tang in this book because they were game changers in this culture.
What is the main takeaway you want people to have after reading through your book?
That these legends aren’t one hit wonders and I will take that a step further and say they are not just musicians who did great music. They are people that made us think, dress, talk, walk and act differently. Truth seekers and story tellers who were able to influence the way we see the world.
Who were your hip-hop idols or icons, graf writers and artists, growing up in New York?
My favorite hip hop icon of all time is definitely Mr. Wiggles from Rock Steady crew. More than anyone I know, he has reached the far recesses of every element of hip hop in a deep, profound way and continues to “express his findings.” He is the quintessential hip hop icon. But what hits me the most, and what he is best known for, is his dancing. He has a pure and natural Boriqua rhythm that you cannot teach or be taught. You have to have been born and raised in the South Bronx in his specific era to have absorbed the culture like he did. It’s in his pores, his breath, his blood. Wiggles is the greatest dancer alive on the planet today. He is our Baryshnikov.
Muhammad Ali, Tupac, Biggie, Michael Jackson, Rakim, Big Pun, J-Dilla, Snoop Dogg, James Brown, Wu-Tang Clan, Kool Herc, Afrikaa Bambaata, Melle Mel, Sha Rock, Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Qbert, Mr. Wiggles, Crazy Legs, Ken Swift, KRS-ONE, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Russell Simmons, Rick Rubin, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg, Ice-T, Ice Cube, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, De La Soul, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim, Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Futura 2000, Lady Pink, Tracy 168, Marley Marl, Guru, Biz Markie, Nas and more. C’mon man everyone in my book is my favorite and honestly there are so many who I did not paint that are my favorites like the great Jazzy Jeff and Cypress Hill. I love those guys.
In terms of Graff writers I love Tracy 168. It makes me feel like I’m back on the 1 and 2 lines riding through Harlem. I also love Seen and West and Revolt. To this day if I see any one of those guys I am in awe.