Siam2nite had the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with Fab 5 Freddy, shortly before his appearance at Q Bar on Saturday 10th November.
As a teenager in the 1970s you were a member of the Brooklyn-based graffiti group "The Fabulous 5." How did you get involved in graffiti?
It was just what a lot of rebellious teens were doing at the time, a way to boost popularity in your neighborhood.
You got your artist name for repeatedly painting on train number 5 of the Underground Subway IRT. What's the story behind number 5?
I was down with a legendary group of graff artist called the Fabulous 5.
Graffiti made it’s way from the streets of New York to art galleries worldwide. Was it something you wished for?
It was something I wanted to do, so I made it happen. My close friends at the time were Jean Michele Basquiat, Futura 2000 and Keith Haring. We looked at ourselves as field generals in a movement to take our work into the art world, so we did. I went to museums a lot as a small child and liked what pop artist like Andy Warhol had done and thought it was time for some new energy in the art world. I recently had a major new work of mine auctioned at Sothebys auction house in New York and it’s good to know that people support the work.
Who do you consider the most influential graffiti artists of all time?
There have been many influential in different eras. In the beginning it was TAKI 183, a Greek kid from upper Manhattan who got it going in the early 70’s then thousands joined in. Others became influential for developing different styles and innovations using spray paint too numerous to mention. See the documentary “Style Wars” and the film I produced and starred in, “Wild Style” for a look at the scene at its most colorful and creative back then in the streets and on the subway trains. When it came to taking it into art galleries in the 80’s, I’m influential for that.
You were the first host of Yo! MTV Raps. How did you get involved in the show and what was it’s initial concept?
One of the producers at MTV saw me in my film Wild Style and knew I was connected to people in the New Wave & Punk rock scene like the group Blondie who were early supporters of my work and they made their hit song “Rapture” about me and I’m featured in the video doing graffiti o the set. So they asked me to host the show. Rap music was starting to get very big then and MTV was like an apartheid system showing almost NO black music so the concept I came up with was to go to the artist and show them, their environment and talk about hip hop music and culture to show America and the world what we were doing. From Dr Dre, to Tupac, to Jay Z, to Will Smith, their first time on national TV in America was on YO! MTV Raps.
You directed several Hip Hop music videos. Which videos would you recommend to someone as an introduction to your work?
I directed over 70 music videos including the first for Queen Latifah, Snoop Doggy Dog, NAS, Krs One and others. Check my web site, www.fab5freddy.com under videos to see some of my favorites.
You were involved in the creation of the movie "Wild Style" - A movie that presented all elements of the Hip Hop - Rapping, DJing, Breakdancing and Graffiti - for the first time as one culture. The movie is one of the most important movies about Hip Hop culture ever made. What was your motivation to work on this movie?
My idea was to create a movie to showcase what young kids like myself from the ghettos of New York City were doing and to make them see this was all a real cultural movement. That’s how Wild Style was born. At that time in the early 80’s all the press about graffiti was racist, negative and no one knew about rap music, DJing and Break Dancing. The idea was also to show these forms were all connected. It was not my initial plan but I ended up starring in the film as well as creating all the original music and producing. Search it o YouTube to see some of it if you never have.
Did you ever think that Hip Hop music could/would be as successful as it is today?
I always knew it was original and special and that honest open-minded people would find it interesting. The fact that 30 years later its all still going strong and world wide is amazing and wonderful.
You have been involved in Hip Hop since the beginning. Are you happy with the development of it?
Yes, I’m very happy that it has given a voice to millions of people around the world and allowed them to express themselves. The internet has now become the main window into whatever form of the culture your looking for. Just google underground hip hop to see and hear for yourself and find strong powerful and un-commercial music. And street and graffiti are strong world wide and online as well.
Rap is an art of storytelling. How come these days the stories increasingly often are about the same topics?
Like I said before, just look around and search the web, there is all kinds of hip hop musical flavors out there. Just look!
Hip Hop used to give a voice to the oppressed. Where do you see Hip Hop today?
Hip Hop is bigger and better then ever, again it all depends on where you look. In New York and most American cities radio and TV now has lost it’s edge and gotten very corporate and commercial so they play a lot of the same bad boring stuff over and over. Search the web and you can find the good stuff.
Who are your favorite hip hop artist of all time?
There are too many to answer this question but I mostly like great and original lyricist and producers. All the most important innovators are my friends and were first seen on YO! MTV Raps with me. So it’s a very long list for different eras of the music.
Are there current artists that you like?
Again, too many to name but if they have great interesting and intelligent lyrics and music, I like them.
What are you currently working on and how can people get access to it?
I am making fine art, exhibiting in galleries and museums world wide. I am also involved in directing and producing film & TV projects, basically the same stuff I’ve always been doing. I just had a cool exhibit in Hong Kong with Hong Kong hip hop street art pioneer MC Yan www.kungfuwildstyle.com and will have some work on exhibit herein Bali now at….. and will have some also on exhibit at Ku De Ta in December – January. Also my web site, www.fab5freddy.com and on twitter I’m fabnewyork.
On 10th November you will be at Q Bar Bangkok and there will be an early evening screening of "Wild Style" followed by a Hip Hop history set by yourself. What can people expect of that night?
You can expect a great time, that’s for sure!