More Jay Shells “Rap Quotes”

March 31, 2014 | Aymann Ismail

So far, artist Jay Shells has installed a total of 68 site-specific “Rap Quotes” in New York, with more coming. Yesterday, just like old times when we first covered the project, ANIMAL followed Shells as he put up 21 new uncanny signs with hip hop lyrics that shout-out street corners and locations in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx. We even hit Hempstead, Long Island. “Peace to Roc Marciano,” Jay says. “My favorite MC.”

It was raining, which is good, because cops would rather not get wet than get on someone’s case for affixing a sign. Jay put up a Rakim quote next to the Apollo, Masta Ace at the Howard Projects, Busta Rhymes on Flatbush and Tillary, Slick Rick at the 205th stop of the D train and more.

Jay Shells recently travelled to Los Angeles for the West Coast edition of the project, installing 45 signs. He’s putting up 26 more before his Gallery 1988 East show opening on April 25th. In Los Angeles, where there were sometimes no poles for putting up signs using nuts and bolts, he’s learned about the perks of zip ties. It’s how the Cam’ron Rap Quote is affixed squarely onto the barricades of 100 Centre Street Criminal Court. A few people passing or riding by would recognize Jay, shout out some kudos and even snap photos of him installing. Recently, Q Unique took a photo under his Rap Quote at Swinton and Sampson and sent it to him. But it’s not always like that.

“99% of people we encounter love it,” Jay says. “Yesterday, however, an older fella in Harlem leaving church was deeply offended by the sign I put up on 110 & Lenox. It shows you how important context is with this project. The lyric was by Sadat X of Brand Nubian, arguably, one of the most Afrocentric groups ever. It said, ‘I’m on 110 & Lenox with these Africans, overseein’ our physical being, and how we doing it.” Jay spoke about context with him but he wasn’t having it. “We watched from across the street as he removed the sign and threw it in the trash… You can’t please em all.” Jay played The Return in the car.

“Hip Hop music/culture has played such a huge roll in my life and artwork, so having those two worlds combine with this project is amazing,” he says. This summer, Jay is headed to Philly and in the fall, he is going to Atlanta. “Hoping for the Bay Area, Houston, Chicago and New Orleans in 2015.”


(Photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)