Below is my first map to depict the world of Hip Hop in the late 1970s, before records were released, when it was a local culture. These spots were considered the most important at that time. To liven it up, I added some of my photos of Flash, Busy Bee and Whip Whip, all key Hop Hop pioneers of the time. The map was originally a black and white sketch on paper, to be included in my Hip Hop oral history book, Yes Yes Y’all (not used). It was included later in Joe Conzo’s Born In The Bronx book. I intended it to look like a pirate’s treasure map.
Lee Quinones refers to this area as the “Lower Deck” (of the Lower East Side) to include his world by the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a portrait of Lee and his hand ball court murals and a picture of Nathan Ingram, the star of my 1978 Kung Fu movie, “The Deadly Art of Survival,” made in the Smith housing projects when Lee was painting his murals. Included is the kung fu movie theater in Chinatown that Lee frequented along with Lee’s climactic painting of the amphitheater in my 1981 film Wild Style. This map also charters my work as a filmmaker during this heady time.
Using the standard subway map as a model, I wanted to mark where prominent painting spots were, most of which were subway yards and layups. I included my photos of writers near spots they frequented, such as Dondi next to New Lots yard in Brooklyn. I spoke to many of subway writers to absorb their experience and added some of my own. I always thought this map would draw writers’ arguments over what spots were there and what was missing.
Charlie Ahearn has been involved in Hip Hop since late 70’s with his super8 kung fu movie The Deadly Art of Survival. Working with Fred Brathwaite led to him directing Wild Style which was released worldwide in 1983. Ahearn made two Hip Hop books Yes Yes Y’all, and Wild Style The Sampler. Ahearn has taught university classes on contemporary art, hip hop and film production and directed short films such as The 5 Grand Masters, Dirt Style and Dancing Industry. His feature documentary Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer was released through Oscilloscope. Ahearn recently did a one person art exhibition Scratch Ecstasy at PPOW gallery and participated with silkscreen paintings at Beyond The Streets LA 2018 and NY2019. Ahearn resides in New York.
Text by Charlie Ahearn