For our MoCA series, we put the spotlight on Fab 5 Freddy, his influence on graffiti and hip hop, and the stellar crowd he ran with back in the 80's.
Fab 5 Freddy was, without a doubt, a crucial figure in forming the connections between the emerging hip hop, graffiti and punk art cultures of the late 70's and early 80's in New York City. Not only was he the first hip-hop VJ on MTV, headlining "Yo! MTV Raps" but he kept a tight circle with some of the most notable names in our community.
Fab 5 Freddy was part of the Fabulous 5 crew, and in the early 80's he gained fame painting subway trains depicting his own variation of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup can.
In 1980, Freddy hooked up with Glenn O'Brien and Lee Quinones (heading up the outdoor installation for MoCA) to star in the film "Downtown 81". He also worked with Charlie Ahearn on the film "Wild Style", also featuring Lee, with a focus on the music of the Bronx. And then in 1981, he collaborated with other MoCA participants Futura and Keith Haring to curate the "Beyond Words" show that featured Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ramellzee and others.
Come 1981, he was referenced in Blondie's Rapture, which features Basquiat as the DJ (see minute 1:52) and in 1982, he released his single "Change the Beat" where he rapped in both English and French.
By the late 1980's, he secured a gig as the first hip hop VJ on MTV's "Yo! MTV Raps" certifying his position as a pioneer in hip hop and graffiti.