Graffiti: Rising Up From Rochester's Underground

Graffiti: Rising Up From Rochester's Underground

This article was scraped from Rochester Subway. This is a blog about Rochester history and urbanism has not been published since 2017. The current owners are now publishing link spam which made me want to preserve this history.. The original article was published March 26, 2010 and can be found here.

The story of the Rochester Subway is not complete without at least mentioning Rochester's deep-rooted hip hop culture. If you're less than familiar with Rochester, I assure you, this shizzle is fo' real. The "Flower City" has street cred, and our abandoned subway tunnel has long been used as a canvas to show off some of our best underground talent...

Take for example young Giovanni McClain--aka Graffiti--who shot parts of this music video in Rochester's graffiti-filled subway tunnel. This rising rap artist is just 19 years old, was born and raised in Rochester, and although he's now attending school in Neptune Beach, FL, it's obvious where he's drawn much of his inspiration from.

While working on their debut U.S. albums in the early 90's, Missy Elliot and members of R&B group Sugah, lived in the same Rochester studio along with Ginuwine and Magoo who lived upstairs and Timbaland who lived in the basement of the studio.

Graffiti is in some very good company. Rochester's contributions to "higher" forms music and dance are well-noted... Cab Calloway, Chuck Mangione, Garth Fagan, Eastman School of Music, etc. But did you know there are also several Hip Hop artists that have traveled through Rochester on their way to stardom? In the early 90's artists such as Jodeci, Tim "Timbaland" Mosley, and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott spent months at a time in Rochester writing and recording their very first tracks with songwriter/producer Devante Swing at the now-defunct Dejilon Studios. Artists such as Tupac Shakur and Ginuwine also spent considerable time here. In fact it's rumored that Ginuwine worked for a few weeks at a local Foot Locker before he released his first record. Let's not forget Que Mosley--member of Day26 and contestant on P-Diddy's     Making the Band    reality TV series. Hey, it counts.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Check out this documentary,      Beyond Gotham    , which focuses on Upstate New York's Hip Hop scene (by filmaker Juse One)...

Some highlights from Rochester...

Graffiti art blankets the interior walls of the abandoned Rochester subway tunnel. Photo taken 9/2008 by

And with the music comes the more visual form of Hip Hop. If you've rolled thru Rochester's inner city streets no doubt you've seen writing and murals that look like this. One of the groups responsible for this "street" art is called FUA (From Up Above or Famous Urban Artists). FUA is the dominant local graffiti "cru" and they have national, if not international tentacles. It's founder, Carlos Perez (aka Evak FUA) was born in Bayman, Puerto Rico and is now a local graffiti, tattoo, and airbrush artist who's work can be seen in     art galleries    as well as on the walls of the     Rochester subway    . Rochester even plays host to an annual Graffiti Convention every summer at N. Clinton and Clifford Avenue where each year the numbers of artist participants and spectators grows.

So next time you're driving down 490 and you catch a glimpse of some of that "colorful" writing beneath an overpass, don't be so quick to dismiss it as graffiti. There's a story in that writing. That's all for now. Please leave your     comments    below.

More About Giovanni McClain (Graffiti)

Giovanni McClain (aka Graffiti)

Giovanni McClain aka Graffiti was born on September 12, 1991 at Strong Hospital in Rochester, New York. He attended Chestnut Ridge school and Churchville-Chili Middle School. His family moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 2002, and he is currently attending Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, FL. He is also a traditional artist who's drawings and paintings have been displayed in Florida. Graffiti is currently in the second round of the Apollo-like talent show at the Ritz Theater in Jacksonville, FL and will be performing in South Carolina at the High School Theater in Hilton Head. You can see more of Graffiti's music videos at     .

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA