Jason Shelowitz


Street Signs With Street Cred: Why I'm Posting Hip-Hop Lyrics from Long Island to Flatbush

Marking hip-hop history: Why one artist is marking every NYC corner with its related hip-hop lyric.

My brother and I run a twitter account that once a day tweets rap lyrics that we think are extraordinary. As a result, we both pay very close attention to the hip-hop songs, hoping to find something tweet-worthy.

A few weeks ago, I was working in my home studio listening to Big L’s first album Lifestylez Ov Da Poor and Dangerous when I caught myself rapping along to one of the songs, with the lyric “…on 139 and Lenox Ave. there’s a big park, and if you soft don’t go through it when it gets dark…” That’s when I paused and thought that it would be cool if that corner was marked in some way with that lyric so everyone who walked by was aware of its part in New York City’s hip hop history. I quickly began to think of other lyrics that mentioned a specific corner or location, and wrote them down as they came to me. Over the following days, friends became involved, sending me lyrics I hadn’t thought of.

Before I knew it, I had 30 verses from 30 different rappers. It was time to decide how to get them into their respective locations. I’ve used street signs before as a way to get ideas out in the public and decided that this was the best vehicle for my “Rap Quotes” project. I appropriated New York City’s standard (read: boring) visual language for municipal graphics and began designing the Rap Quotes signs. I made sure to use red and white as my only colors hoping that the signs would blend into their environment just enough to make them a surprising find for the most aware pedestrians. I thought it would be more fun for them to be discovered among the existing visual clutter than to scream out at everyone.

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