Spie is a OG of the Bay Area Graf scene. A king in my opinion. Born and raised in San Francisco during the early 70s, he is from the second generation of writers is Frisco. He began writing on his own first, then he began joining crews. He’s one of the illest local style technicians of letters and has always tried new things whether painting wild style pieces, throw ups, or even just his handstyles. He is a representative of several well known Bay crews; TMC, TDK, and Irie Posse. He’s also reps FC, a NYC crew. Something that connects him to a long legacy of artists both in and beyond Graf is his use of art to speak truth to power. Being the child of an organizer/activists instilled him with a DIY spirit and awareness that he always shared with the Graff community. In fact, in his career he is known as much for his unique letter styles as he is for speaking out against police terrorism, racism, imperialism, colonialism, and the system that uses these tools to get more money and power. Something I learned is that he was a mediator between writers who had beef. A peacekeeper. He is a citizen of the world traveling to Jamaica, Cuba, Costa Rica, NYC, even Palestine. He’s a father, husband, activist, credentialed teacher, and a hilarious guy if you get to hang with him. If you have been impacted or inspired by Spie or his work please comment w/ a big up, fire emoji, or a memory so he knows how much we all love him. Thank you big brother.
Sources: One Track Mind magazine, My Life In Letters podcast, Life, My Mom
More: The first time I met Spie he was already a legend to me. As a kid obsessed with Graffiti I loved taking flics of his pieces both solo and with Mike Dream. His style leaps off the wall, often using two outlines to accentuate movement. My family has a connection to his, as my grandmother knew his parents and worked with them on some labor activism. My mom who knew him since he was a kid proudly introduced me to him at a huge show he did in Oakland around the anniversary of the Hiroshima Nagasaki bombing. I could not believe she knew him and was floored by his humbleness and skill. Since the mid 90s I’ve been fortunate enough to get to watch him work, to hang, to speak to his students, to ask questions, and to be inspired by him. To watch him show solidarity with Palestine, Puerto Ricans, Filipinxs, and Black struggles such as Black August and Black Liberation figures such as Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, and more. I think his choice to put more up on the wall than just his name spoke to me as a kid. I was and am inspired so much by him and consider him a big brother and a mentor. Its great to hear him talk about his experiences coming up in the Graff world. I highly encourage you to listen to his episodes on the My Life in Letters podcast. Much Love dude!
Did you see the last piece of Pardon My Hindi?
Also, here’s a piece I did of Mike Dream.
Bay Area born and bred I can tell Priya Handa is one of those life long artists, a scorpio, lover of good music, ice cream, and justice. As a muralist she has worked with Precita Eyes in SF, the Community Rejuvenation Project (CRP), Twin Walls Crew, the Zapatistas, Trust Your Struggle Collective, and the Bay Area Mural Festival. She has painted nationally and internationally traveling as far as Mexico and Palestine. She is a tattoo artist and an illustrator who works both big and small, aerosol, ink, acrylic, watercolor, and needle. She is an activist making work supporting Black Lives, Sex workers, Farmers in India, the Navajo nation, the military complex, and police brutality. And she is a child of South Asian immigrants (Punjab in India).
The first time I met Priya she had paint/gear in her hands and she came through as we (TYS) were working on a wall for Reem’s California in Oakland in 2017 just to help. The last time I saw her she brought a painting she knocked out for elder Emory Douglas of his art for the “Love and Protect: Chinatown Black & Asian solidarity mural project”. Both times her skill, humbleness, and generosity spoke for itself. Although I’m still getting to know her I implore you to follow and support her work now. She’s a hard working rising star and deserves all the shine. Follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/eightbirdz/
Sources: https://crpbayarea.org/meet-the-muralist-priya-handa/, http://www.puttpunjabi.com, Asian American Women Artists Association
Did you catch the piece of Maya Lin?
Last year I focused on Aapi musicians and this year I’m focusing on artists. If you’re new to this, “Kindred Journey” is a serious of paintings I’ve done of prominent and lesser known Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since 2016. You can find a gallery of all past paintings here.
This is Deb Never, a young musician from LA, by way of Spokane Washington. Just down the block from the Cour d’ Alene Indian reservation. Deb is fresh and I’m not really sure what music category to put her in yet. She sings, can rhyme a little bit, plays guitar, piano, and probably some other shit. She’s a Korean American church kid who started working on music in her teens. Self described as hella awkward and nervous, she’s come out of her shell to drop her first EP called House On Wheels. She lead into that with the singles “Swimming” (How I found her) and “Ugly”. She just released a new project dedicated to frontline workers for covid 19 called “Intermission” and she started releasing music on Soundcloud in 2017. She dipped to LA, started releasing music, and got signed with some friends, the cats who run “We Did It” records ( Shlomo, RL Grime). Style wise, besides the moody and whatever vibes she gives off you can tell she has a sense of humor and I urge you to check her out.
Fav Song: Swimming
Sources: Complex, Red Bull, Fader, NME
Did you catch the last one of Blue Scholars?
Blue Scholars (play on Blue Collar) is a pioneering hip hop group from Seattle Washington and met at the University of Washington in 2002. They’ve had a prolific career as a group, solo artists, and as founders of other groups. Their self titled first project dropped in 2004 and they’ve released three LP’s and four EPs. Geo (Pinoy) brings a deep voice, incredible delivery, lived and studied experience to the mic as a rapper, educator, and former poet. Sabzi ( Iranian) is a versatile musician/ producer whose beats bring a cinematic storytelling element to each song; spanning many genres. Geo started rapping in high school and worked as a community organizer in addition to the Wing Luke Museum. Sabzi is a trained pianist who also was a punk music drummer. These cats have performed all over sharing stages with big names and hitting the on stages at Rock The Bells, Bumbershoot, SXSW, and the Sasquatch fest. Some of the projects were released with labels but most has been done independently. Good old bars, hip hop culture, race, class, imperialism, cultural heritage, and their native Seattle are common topics.
Sabzi has produced for many artists. He co-founded “Common Market” with rapper RA Scion and “Made in The Heights” with singer Kelsey Bulkin. He’s got his project called Town Folk (Because both Seattle and Oakland call themself “The Town”), and has put out a bunch of instrumental albums.
Geo (Prometheus Brown ) is now a Dad and co runs a bakery called “Hood Famous” with his partner, chef Cherla Amlag. Besides that he started a group with LA native Bambu called “The Bar”, signed to Beatrock Music, and has a project called “Rappers with Cameras”.
Although I know Seattle for its indie rock scene. I have to remind myself about how big the hip hop scene there is with cats like The Physics, Macklemore, Canary Sing, Good Medicine, Jake One, Mario & Malice Sweet, Thee Satisfaction, and the OGs Sir Mix-a-lot and Ishmael Butler (Shabazz Palaces/Digable Planets). Please listen to Blue Scholars and support their respective projects. Fellas, visited last year and I love your city. Respect.
Sources: KEXP, Seattle Times, Hip Hop DX, Okay Player, Chris Jespersen, The Word, Wikipedia
Fav Song: 50 Thousand Deep
This artist is one of my favorite soul musicians beginning to get her just due. Raveena is a singer songwriter from NYC via Connecticut. She grew up hearing her family members sing old Bollywood songs and its hopeful to hear about some of her early influences from D’Angelo, Sade, to Taylor Swift. She started writing music in her early teens and later attended school for music at New York’s famous Tisch school of the Arts. She released her first EP “Where We Wander” in 2013 while still a student there. She would go on to release other projects such as “Shanti”, the LP “Lucid”, and the new EP “Moonstone”. The song that caught my attention first was “sweet time” and I can remember my friends Franklin and Lara playing her music in a long car ride.
Raveena’s music to me is super soulful, beautifully produced (shout out to Everett Orr), very original in its lyrics, and sonically colorful with all its beautiful melodies and chords. She is very smooth, gentle, and soft spoken but I don’t imagine she’ll always be that way. With a strong fashion sense, a keen eye for directing videos that feel fresh I look forward to seeing a long career for Raveena Aurora who has already been working at it for almost a decade. What else? She is from a supportive Sikh, northern Indian family. She is queer. She sings about spirituality, pleasure, love, abuse, and definitely gives a fuck about justice. Give her music a listen. And when this pandemic is over go see her live! Oh and she was featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk, go watch that.
Sources: NPR, Wesleyan Argus, Jai-pur.com, Aerogram
Fav Song: Temptation