June 24, 2015

Black Books (Vibe Magazine, June 2005)

"The writing on the walls started to boogie onto the insides of New York City subway trains in like, 1969. By the early '70s, said boogie had funky-wormed its way onto the outsides of the cars. Kids were hanging out at subway storage yards, eating bologna sandwhiches, and painting away without a care in the world. New York City was pretty much bankrupt at this point, and the powers that were had more pressing issues at hand... In those days, writers had respect for one another's "master pieces." That would change once the roving iron canvases were covered from end to end with names. You wanted your name to be up there, too. But if you're gonna go over Shorty 140... you've gotta do something nice, big, and colorful. Something that may require some planning. Time to get a black book - the ultradurable sketch pad you'd bring with you to the yard..." Update: The original video I'd included with this post was unfortunately removed, and I don't (honestly) remember what it was, so I  updated this post with another video about a particular black book. Cont'd below...

"Black books are the jump-off point for nearly every artistic development that we've seen first on trains and then on walls," says writer-turned-world-renowned-artist Daze, who got his first black book in 1976 and has amassed well over 70 since. "They also served as communication device for writers, since they would take them from neighborhood to neighborhood." True that. Before there were books like Subway Art and documentaries like Style Wars, kids picked up styles by peeping the black book game. These books were like bibles to writers, man. Brimming with holy text and passed down from generation to generation, they schooled young artists on the intricacies of Uptown Manhattan's majestic Broadway Elegant and the revolutionary wild-stylings of the Bronx. You never knew whose hands your book would wind up in; it was like a message in a bottle or a rolling stone. And Lord help you if a king like Phase 2 or Tracy 168 happened on your jammie and blessed it even with a simple bubble letter blast. Who needed art school when you could learn from masters like Part or Dondi or Comet or Ghost while chilling the hell out in your bedroom?" - Vibe, June 2005.