Graffiti is an essential part of hip-hop culture. As hip-hop was in its infancy in the early ’70s, a young Greek kid from Washington Heights would start tagging his street name around the city, becoming a local legend in New York as his tagger name, Taki183, would be painted all over the city.
The New York Times would publish an article on the 17-year old graffiti artist on July 21, 1971, marking the 50th anniversary of the article this year. The Manhattan teenager would run around New York City tagging TAKI 183 on public walls, subway stations, subway cars, along Broadway and around walls at JFK airport. The teen would even tag spots in upstate New York, eventually becoming a local celebrity for his street art.
TAKI 183 would inspire other kids to follow in his footsteps, spawning some intimidators with the likes of Joe 136, BARBARA 62, and EEL 159. Artists signing their mononym and the street they grew up on would be a popular part of youth and street culture and is used to this day by rappers, graffiti artists, DJs, and breakdancers alike.
In 1972, it cost about $300,000 to remove vandalism in New York. TAKI was unphased learning this, comparing his tagging to the countless amount of advertisements and political campaigns put up in the city every year. “Why do they go after the little guy?” the tagger asked. “Why not the campaign organizations that put stickers all over the subways at election time?”
Filmmaker and art curator, Robert Gatsman, took to his Instagram to remember the now-iconic New York Times article that would expose the world of graffiti to mainstream media after 50 years. TAKI 183, now 67 years old, is still tagging to this day. Keep an eye out for his name next time you are walking around NYC.