Long before Covent Garden took on the more ubiquitous, gentrified look of jet washed paving, high street shops and before lots of sheer glass shop fronts arrived. And way before buskers performed in carefully designated spots, Covent Garden was much more down at heel. It was also a Mecca for graffiti writers from all over; the place to see new pieces of art – a hall of fame for an influential group of graffiti writers at the time: the Trail Blazers and Chrome Angelz.
“Devious” was the seminal piece. Produced by Scribla, it was bold, with upper-case and cut-up letters and a shock of white running through the middle. It also featured the much sought after Buntlack pink paint. At the time “Devious” looked like it was from another dimension. It still looks computer generated – it is such a polished piece of artwork.
The piece was as a statement of intent for UK Hip Hop. If the word “devious” can define things as “departing from the proper or accepted way” (a devious route), the subculture was certainly throwing up rappers and artists out to try new styles and art, whilst making their mark. And this was no more so than the graffiti writers who created works in Covent Garden around 1985.
“Devious” also cemented Covent Garden in the lexicon of UK Hip Hop. Young graffiti writers would gather there to talk graffiti, swap stories and share pieces. The Garden’s art centre, Jubilee Hall, was also the venue for 1985’s Hip Hop Expo, Freestyle ‘85, which I was lucky enough to get along to. The event went a long way to establishing the serious intent of Hip Hop in the UK.
The artists on show at Covent Garden really did blaze a trail: Scribla, Mode 2, Bando and Pride to name but a few. Their artwork went on to permeate popular culture: Scribla’s artwork even gracing the backdrop of the Lenny Henry show around the time. And whilst the word “devious” can also mean “skilfully using underhand tactics” – the Covent Garden artists certainly raised the graffiti bar and brought it to the public consciousness, leaving a lasting mark. Devious, yes, but also just damn fine work.
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