New NYC street art blends hip-hop and signage

| April 10, 2013
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Jay Shells pays homage to classic rap lyrics at the locations that inspired them (via @TheRapQuotes).

Artist and designer Jay Shells posted over 30 street signs for a project that memorializes rap lyrics using street art.  The initiative stems from a key component in hip-hop culture: when a lyricists represents where they came from in their music.

“On a park bench on 12th St., my whole crew’s famous”

– Prodigy

Walking through New York, you can unknowingly cruise by corners made famous by mentions in raps by legends like Big Daddy Kane or Mobb Deep. Fans of hip-hop would agree that this is a shame: these aren’t just street corners. They’re birthplaces of a culture. If we preserve homes of famous poets, artists, and politicians, how do rappers fit into that mold? Jay Shells is answering that question with his street-side installations. These lyrical signs are a tribute to the places that inspired these artists.

However, Shells recognizes the reality that these street signs are hardly permanent. “I think people will steal these. Within a week, I think they’ll be gone.”

So it’s fitting that instead of an archival walk through living room filled with Mozart’s dentures and pilgrim kitchen utensils, Shells’s street sign landmarks are portable, have humble origins and a brazen attitude.

His signs aren’t just limited to the most famous rappers, either. If you’ve got a rap calling out your corner, tweet him, and he’ll put up a sign.

Want to see the big picture? Below is a Google map of Shells’s signs: take a tour, and tell us if the signs are still up if you live in one of these neighborhoods:


View larger map

Where will Shells post next? He’s currently selling t-shirts to support his project. You can find them here.

Follow him on Twitter @TheRapQuotes.  Check out his video below by animalnewyork.com:

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Category: Miscellaneous

About the Author (Alexander Roitman)

Alex is SmartSign's outreach manager. Friendly and personable, he cultivates relationships throughout the safety and security industry. Alex focuses on helping small businesses and non-profits to succeed. He is also a graphic artist and movie buff drawing from his past experiences on the west coast. Contact the Las Vegas native about partnerships, general inquiries, or favorite movie quotes! alex [at] smartsign [dot] com