Collaborated Project:

City As Studio | Exhibition

One of hip hop’s most enigmatic figures, Rammellzee (b. 1960, New York, New York, U.S.; d. 2010, New York, New York, U.S.) was a graffiti writer, rapper and sculptor. Born in Far Rockaway, Queens, Rammellzee began a brief graffiti career on the A train in the mid-1970s after meeting graffiti legend DONDI. By the early 1980s, he was creating paintings and three-dimensional sculptures of letters, many of which were shown in galleries and museums. Rammellzee viewed lettering as a form of weaponry and believed graffiti could liberate the mystical power of the alphabet, a theory he put forth in the manifestos “Ikonoklast Panzerism” and “Gothic Futurism.” As a musician, Rammellzee had a nasal rap style, sometimes called “gangsta duck,” that would prove influential to artists such as the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill. He appeared in Charlie Ahearn’s 1982 film Wild Style, and his 1983 song Beat Bop—produced and with a cover design by Jean-Michel Basquiat—featured prominently in Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant’s 1983 documentary Style Wars. A reclusive artist, Rammellzee all but stopped exhibiting his work in public and spent much of the last two decades of his life in the TriBeCa loft he called the “Battle Station,” where he was rarely photographed without wearing one of his handmade, science fiction–style masks. He died in 2010 at the age of 49 and his given name remains a secret known only to his closest friends.