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Fab 5 Freddy


Born: Fred Brathwaite, 1959, Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York

How it all began: Freddy started doing graffiti in the 70's, using the tags "Bull 99" and "Fred Fab 5." After graduating high school in the late '70s, he went on to study painting at Medgar Evans College. He was inspired by fine artists such as Rauschenberg and Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Tobey, and Franz Kline. He especially dug Andy Warhol, whose work he emulated in one of his most famous subway car paintings - a piece in which he painted Warhol-esque Campbell soup cans.Freddy was excited about the role of graffiti in art history. He later said in an interview:

"To me, what was going on in the subways at that time fit chronologically into the whole history of art going back to the classical periods, coming into all the movements, Dada, Futurism, going into Abstract Expressionism, going into Pop Art… I saw graffiti fitting in historically. And that’s what gave me a lot of energy."

Little known fact: In 1985, he auditioned for the role of Russell in Krush Groove. He lost the part to a 21 year-old actor named Blair Underwood. It was Blaire's first film role.More movie roles : Freddy went on to land roles in fellow Bed-Stuy filmmaker Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It (1986), as well as 1991's New Jack City and 2004's Denzel Washington-starrer The Manchurian Candidate.Career highlights: One of his biggest early achievements was his collaboration with Charlie Ahearn on 1982's classic hip hop film Wild Style. Freddy was musical director of the film and also starred in it along with other artists such as Lee, Lady Pink, Afrika Bambaataa, and others. Most of the songs on the film's limited release soundtrack were written by Freddy.

He also exhibited his artwork as part of the hip East Village scene of the time with the likes of Lee Quiñones, Futura 2000, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Crash, Daze, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and more.

In 1982, he was part of the first hip-hop tour to Europe with Afrika Bambaataa, Rock Steady Crew, Rammellzee, the Double Dutch Girls, Phase 2, Futura 2000, Dondi and Grand Mixer D.ST. & The Infinity Rappers.

In 1983, he had a cameo on Futura 2000's single "Escapades of Futura 2000" which featured the Clash.

Later that decade, Freddy began directing music videos for folks like KRS-One, Shabba Ranks, Queen Latifah, EPMD, and others. He was eventually recruited by johnny-come-lately MTV as host of Yo! MTV Raps. To this point, the network gave no exposure to African-American music outside of the works of Michael Jackson, and virtually ignored hip-hop for years before realizing its money-making potential. Through Freddy's exposure on MTV, he was able to expand on what seemed to be his mandate - educating people about hip-hop culture.

In 1992, he compiled a dictionary of hip-hop slang titled Fresh Fly Flavor. Today, his name remains synonymous with hip-hop celebritydom.

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