Hip-Hop Utopia artist talk featuring Easy A.D. and Famey. (Photo Erin Ripton)
Cold Crush Brothers founding member, Easy A.D and rising hip-hop talent, Famey talked to Hudson County Community College students on the history and influences of hip-hop culture.
From the MCs rhyme, to the graffiti writers spray can tip, to the breakdancer’s velour tracksuit, to the needles scratching on the record; hip-hop is one of the most influential art forms worldwide. ‘Hip-Hop Utopia: Culture + Community’ is a current exhibit at Hudson County Community College curated by Michelle Vitale and Fred Fleisher, that explores the cultural phenomenon of hip-hop.
Hip Hop Utopia Exhibition. Artist: Rapheal Gonzalez. Prints mounted on wood panel, resin. A Hand of an Artist, 2016 (left), It’s a Trap, 2017 (center), The Art of the Throw Up! Giz, 2016 (right). (Photo Erin Ripton)
The exhibition features artists Karlos Cárcamo, Raphael Gonzalez, and street art aficionado Lois Stavsky from the popular graffiti art blog, Street Art NYC; along with alumni and community artists Yishai Minkin, Freddy Samboy, Alex Melo, Eligio A. Rosa and Karon Clerk.
The exhibition will be on display through February 21 and there will be a listening session “Turntable Tuesdays” with Jersey City based DJ Kevlove and DJ Cipha Sounds (former HOT97 Morning Show Host) on February 20, from 6 to 8 pm.
Since its inception, hip-hop has always creatively and strategically told a story. From the early days of jams “they used to do it out in the park” (M.C. Shan) to the multi-billion dollar industry of today, hip-hop is a platform and voice for the marginalized and disenfranchised. Now, the bold expression utilizes its social influence and commentary to current issues including culture, ethnicity, class and gender.
Hip Hop Utopia Exhibition. On January 23 graffiti artists tagged fat tire bikes donated by Grove Street Bicycles (one of which will be raffled off in a free giveaway-you can enter to win one at the exhibition). (Photo Erin Ripton)
On February 8 a panel discussion “Utopia or Bust” was given by Easy A.D. (Adrian Harris) a founding member of the Cold Crush Brothers, a pioneering hip-hop group that formed in 1978 in Bronx, NY and rising hip-hop artist, producer and painter, Famey (Lester “Famey” Bridges Jr.) who recently released a project called Crowns and Confidence. The two artists spoke to a room full of students about their careers and the history of hip-hop.
Where are you from?
Easy A.D.: I’m Easy A.D. from the legendary Cold Crush Bothers, one of the pioneers of the hip-hop culture. Born in the Bronx, raised in the Bronx and I live in Manhattan now.
Famey: I grew up in Philadelphia P.A. in the Germantown area close to North Philly. In my house, it was my mother, older sister, two little brothers, little sister, my step dad and me. I did a bunch of shows in Philly; I auditioned for the Apollo and the Gallery Mall (The Gallery at Market East is in Center City Philadelphia, P.A.). So, I’m a real Philly boy.
Hip-Hop Utopia Exhibition. Artist: Karlos Carcamo. Vinyl records, concrete, pedestal, 2011. A Concrete Movement, Incredible Bongo Band (left), A Concrete Movement, Ultra-Magnetic (right). (Photo Erin Ripton)
Who are some people who have influenced you?
Easy A.D.: Most of my influences are part of the [hip-hop] culture. But I really fell in love with this guy, his name was Roberto Clemente, he went to save and bring supplies over [to Nicaragua] after an earthquake and he died on his way back. He was an incredible baseball player. I also love Willie Mays. (Roberto Clemente was a Puerto Rican professional baseball player and a devoted philanthropist. He died in a plane crash while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. In memory of him, Jersey City has a little league and baseball field named after him). Some other influences of course are Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, my mom, my dad and my seven sisters.
Famey: Jean Michel Basquiat, Kayne West and Jay Z. I would have to say my mother for her work ethic, my father as well and my mentor Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis (Grammy Award-winning artist, musical composer and record producer for The Fugees, Mary J. Blige, Shakira, Melissa Etheridge and others) – they really influenced me. My father was very present, he was my manager when I started doing music. He passed away in 2009.
Hip-Hop Utopia Exhibition. Public Spoken Word Wall. (Photo Erin Ripton)
What brought you here today, to speak to the students?
Easy A.D.: It’s important to share the information, share the origins, the history and the stories; so the students have a better understanding where hip-hop came from and where it is today.
Famey: It’s important to spread the message, especially somebody of my age. It’s important [to me] that other young people know certain things about the music industry and the history. There are certain things you can do to get yourself out there, because it can be hard. The music industry for a young person, especially if they are not educated [on how the industry works] can be hard. I can pass on what I have learned. It’s important for them to hear from someone like me, who has been knee-deep in it for a minute now.
Do you have any ties to Jersey City?
Easy A.D.: We use to perform in Jersey many years ago with Sweet Slick and Sly back in the 1980s. We came out here many times to perform so we have ties to Jersey City in that way.
Famey: I love Jersey City. I have done a few shows here and actually have some coming up. I am in talks with the college to possible do an art show here. I would love to do a mural in Jersey City. (Famey is also a visual artist who has had art shows in NYC and Atlanta).
Hip Hop Utopia Exhibition. Artist – Freddy Samboy. Wood, glass, acrylic, spray paint, 2016. Windows on Window. (Photo Erin Ripton)
Do you have any other talks or performances planned? How can people keep up with you?
Easy A.D.: I perform in schools now. I am part of the Hip Hop Public Health Education community, I am the Educational Director. We go around to schools and do a one hour performance teaching kids about obesity, healthy eating and lifestyles. (Hip Hop Public Health, is a multimedia musical educational curriculum for economically disadvantaged elementary students. The program works with notable artist and musicians to improve health literacy and foster positive behaviors).
To keep up with Easy A.D visit, easyadcoldcrushbrothers.com.
To keep up with Famey visit, iamfamey.com.
The Hip- Hop Utopia: Culture + Community exhibition will be on display through February 21. There will be a listening session “Turntable Tuesdays” with Jersey City based DJ Kevlove and DJ Cipha Sounds (former HOT97 Morning Show Host) on February 20, from 6 to 8 pm at Hudson County Community College in the Dennis Hull Art Gallery, 71 Sip Ave. For more information, visit hcc.edu.