Navani Knows Graffiti: SSB and TATS CRU Collaborate on Tribute to Christopher “Shadow” Lee

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I don’t make it up to the Bronx very often, even to see my own family (sorry Titi!). But when two legendary graffiti crews collaborate on a project you don’t want to miss it. Saturday, September 6th the Brooklyn-based SSB (Soul Stoned Brothers) crew and Bronx-based TATS CRU joined forces to pay tribute to Shadow AKA Christopher Lee (Spike Lee’s brother). The late SSB crew legend was a respected artist for  over 40 years. Kicking off at The Point CDC this was the first of many murals all over the country to pay homage to the artist. But to see it you have to be fast! It lasted a whole of two days then it was transformed into another project. That is the exciting thing about graffiti, one day it’s here and the next it is gone. It is a constantly changing and moving art form. Luckily, some press were invited to document the event. While there I caught up with graffiti pioneer and SSB founder AIM, AKA George Colon to get some back story. Check out some pics of the mural and hear George reflect on his friendship with Shadow below.

Tell me what’s been going on so far today?

We got started around 9:30 am and we all got together and had a conference about the colors and themes. It was me, Spar SSB, Nicer TATS CRU, Bio, BG and we talked about the color scheme we were going to put and then Spar got us started. He laid it all out then I went in with the gold, then BG started his boombox then nicer started the shadow mural. Then TATS CRU comes in and does the perfect details.

BG TATS CRU

BG TATS CRU

What prompted this tribute mural?

This is the first of many. I go to Bushwick tomorrow then Chicago next week.  What prompted this is Shadow (Christopher Lee) was a close friend of mine, I went to high school with him at the High School of Art and Design from 1972-1974. Though they had a formal tribute in a spiritual place for him I have always had a special place for Shadow in my heart and I don’t think he got the tribute as the artist that I think he should have. So, this is a way of giving back to not only Shadow but his family who support SSB in their endeavors. This is our way of saying Shadow was a phenomenal artist.

Any other mural locations planned?

Bushwick, Chicago, Connecticut and then we are working on Massachusetts, Colorado and Utah. England is also going to put one out next week and we are working on Australia also. Kilo SIN FBA BMK SSB is working on England, he is the chapter president there. We have 20 chapter presidents in the nation and over four continents. SSB is the biggest crew internationally.

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What else is SSB working on right now?

SSB is really trying to take graffiti from what it used to be which was vandalism and elevate it to a place where we can tutor young kids. That way we can be role models and try to get them to see that their art is really worth seeing – but in a positive way. They don’t have to do the street thing anymore. We go to schools, we deal with colleges and museums. So, that’s the goal.

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What are your thoughts on the way the internet has impacted graffiti art?

Well, I was away from the scene for 35 years and a journalist found me in Florida. So, if it wasn’t for the internet I wouldn’t be here today. He had found me from a story about me from back in 1974 so he kept badgering me to do a story five years ago. His name is Jordan Stewart, a phenominal human being. He kept bugging me to do an interview then after I did the interview and  I told him ‘Look what you did, now I am back in New York!'[laughs]. So, it’s a positive thing.

 

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