Many categorize Hip Hop as just rap music. However, it’s made up of four different elements; emceeing, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti.
The latter element, graffiti or street art, seems overlooked. This expressive art form has been adorning the album covers of many rap artists over the last three decades. We’ve even seen it on sides of buildings, on vehicles and on clothing.
O4L Online Network spoke with French street artist Kou De Bebom from K2B Graff about her career in graffiti. We discover some of her work including impressive portraits of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
O4L Online: Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I’m a graffiti artist from France, I was born and raised in Normandy. My passion for graffiti came during my adolescence.
It combines my passion for drawing as well as my passion for hip hop
O4L Online: Did any particular graffiti artist/artists influence you to take up the art form?
During my youth, my uncle influenced me a lot, he was an excellent designer who became a tattoo artist. I really like Odeith’s works now. There are no artists in particular who influenced me but rather all the walls that I could cross and that I too wanted to scribble
O4L Online: Although worldwide as an art, a small minority of people view graffiti as negative. What do you wish these people knew about your art form?
Today, we are fortunate to be more and more accepted. I would tell those who are open-minded to read through the eyes of the artists to see the flame of passion love and sharing around this art.
O4L Online: Included in your portfolio are some very powerful images. These include a thought-provoking dedication to the Central Park Five, who in 1989, was wrongfully convicted for a crime that they never committed. When people see this type of art, do you want them to feel or think a certain way?
When I do this kind of art, I do it above all because a subject comes to touch me. It is a primary need to express my feelings. Then it’s to take a stand, then I hope to raise awareness among people who don’t know his stuff. I realize that my drawings will not change the world but just talking about and sharing these injustices is fine with me
O4L Online: Hip Hop features a lot throughout your art. Growing up in France, can you tell us what the Hip Hop scene looked like and how it influenced you to pursue a career in graffiti?
French Hip Hop is very good and very active. He influenced me in my journey, even more than American hip hop. Sometimes I choose my production based on music, instrumental or rap text. There are many festivals created by activists who combine dance, DJ, graffiti and rap.
O4L Online: Looking through your work, you’ve created some fantastic portraits of a few iconic emcees including Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls. How have these artists made an impact on firstly, you as a person and secondly, as an artist?
These are artists I have listened to since childhood. I grew up with their music in my ears. They obviously had an influence on my way of evolving. When we were younger, we didn’t necessarily understand the lyrics here in France. We liked that it hit and the flow was good. We were on board with this Hip Hop wave. Then as we got older we made translation efforts to understand what we were listening to.
O4L Online: Two of our favorite portraits done by you are the Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls pieces. On your Instagram, you merged the two portraits together, making for an incredible picture of the two legendary rappers. The majority of people think that Tupac and Biggie would have resolved their issues given time. What is your opinion?
This is a subject for which only the two people concerned have the answer. But indeed I think that without the pressure of the entourages, the public, the ego just from man to man they would probably have resolved their disagreements.
O4L Online: As a fan of both Tupac and Biggie, can you name your favorite song from each artist and give the reason for your choice?
Firstly Tupac, I really like ‘Changes’ for the text and the melody and because I listened to it in loop with my cousin. ‘Dear Mama’ too, a classic. As for Biggie, ‘Juicy’ because it’s the sound that made me discover Biggie here in France.
O4L Online: Classic songs! If you could share a message with the next generation of graffiti artists, what would it be?
I would say to them not to be in competition with the other graffiti artists but to be in competition with oneself. To remain yourself, to take responsibility with their particularities. To keep the passion and the sharing and to paint again and again.