RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Wednesday, November 11

SONG OF THE DAY: Cheeba Cheeba


Randomly decided to look up famous graffiti artist Stay High 149, and turns out he was born in Southside Virginia, down in Emporia, before moving to the New York City at age 6 in the mid-1950s, and ending up in the Bronx around ‘66. Apparently he never knew his dad, but early on in graffiti’s late ‘60s/early ‘70s days, Stay High 149 became well-known, turning a haloed stickman figure from a popular TV show into a smoking character that was thrown up with his every time he did it, stylizing it in a way not everybody did at the time. By the time hip hop and graffiti was blowing up towards the mid-70s, Stay High 149 was a legend. He apparently had a job as a messenger downtown, so rode the train all day long, saw other tags, so started carrying markers with him and tagging all over. He got featured in a New York magazine article in 1973, including a picture, and the cops busted him afterwards once they knew what he looked like. He switched to other tags after that, then he sort of disappeared, still tagging but also battling drug problems, while raising and supporting a family. (He apparently tagged the stairwells of the World Trade Center extensively, because that’s where his job was based, before he lost it due to drug issues.) Around 2000, as internet culture and information sharing was developing, he ran into another graffiti writer, and found out his name still carried legend. He resurfaced, getting mobbed at a couple art shows he showed up to at the time, and got back into graffiti for a while. Norman Mailer’s “Faith of Graffiti” long essay had been released as a book with photographs of prominent graffiti back in ’74, and featured Stay High 149. It got reissued in 2009, and had a picture of a Stay High 149 tag on the cover of it. At the same time, the actual Stay High 149 could be found haggling prices for graffiti canvases on the streets of NYC. Once again, the archivist from within the system of respectability and authority got more wealth out of the deal than the originator and source of the material. Stay High 149 died in 2012, from liver disease, after a life spent battling those addiction demons. He’s got a government name that his obituaries go by, but his real name is Stay High 149, and to think otherwise is fucking stupid and disrespectful to how he lived his life.
Emporia used to have both an east-west and north-south train line, but the east-west has been shut down, like a lot of shit in Southside Virginia. Folks try to gentrify them into rails to trails, but weekend bikers will never bring the economy that actual functioning textile mills and factories gave folks. It’s a dead end town for the most part now if you don’t already have wealth to live off of. The north-south line still runs, operated by CSX, and the Amtrak still comes through, carrying folks up north to better opportunities or family or an escape to this day. There’s no yard there, so probably not any old freights sitting around, but I wanna go down there and tag up some Stay High 149s, as homage to an illegitimate arts legend, and where he was born, because ain’t nobody there gonna bother trying to remember shit like that.

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