On Saturday night in Los Angeles, a crowd filled 1988 Gallery for an exhibition of “Rap Quotes,” a series of works by Jay Shells. The right side of the gallery housed the artist’s New York City street signs, which he’s been hanging at specific locations mentioned in hip hop songs since last year; the left side showcased his more recent LA work.
The DJ played classic hip hop, including many of the songs featured in Shells’ street signs, and the rappers Murs and Masta Ace mingled with attendees. Both men said they were honored to have their music included. “When I’m putting lyrics in a song, I’m trying to speak on the reality of what my life was. In most cases, when I’m talking about these places, it’s part of a realistic story,” said Masta Ace, who hails from Brownsville, Brooklyn. “I never think about the fact that other people are hearing these lyrics and wondering where this place is. It’s really an incredible project.”
For Murs, “Rap Quotes” brought on memories of a trip he once took to Chicago. Drinking Old Style, a cheap beer that’s popular in the city, he finally understood the meaning of an evocative line from Common’s 1997 track “Hungry.” “I was like, ‘Old Style!'” he said. “This is a beer; this is what he’s talking about.'”
“I feel like that’s what hip hop should be. Connect with the artist; connect with the city. It’s authentic,” he added. “This just makes it real. It’s a visual representation of the spiritual connection you feel when you have that happen.”
(Photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)