When you go to New York City, you may observe the tall buildings, or the diverse population, or the abundance of McDonalds, but there is one part of the city that is impossible to not notice: graffiti. From huge tags across walls and buildings, to tiny symbols drawn on signs along the street; it's everywhere. With the help of New York's subway system, new art materials, media attention, law enforcement, and vibrant social scene, graffiti erupted in the 1970's and '80's.
New York City's graffiti can be traced back to an emergence of two writers in Philadelphia named, "Cornbread," and, "Cool Earl." Throughout the 1960's, these two underground graffiti artists were known for using black markers to display their nicknames all over walls in the city. It wasn't until 1970 that the practice of graffiti was brought to New York City. Graffiti writers, TOPCAT-126 and JULIO-204, are often credited for carrying the art from Philadelphia to Washington Heights, a neighborhood in Northern Manhattan. .
As graffiti grew in practice, it gradually became more and more noticeable as writings of graffiti-writer's nicknames appeared in black marker along subway cars. The idea of graffiti at the time was for writers to gain fame through city-wide recognition of their name or logo. Using nicknames based off their street number, more and more kids became intrigued by the idea of having themselves displayed in writing to the public and taken through the city alongside the trains. Some writers simply tagged to communicate with friends within the city, like TRACY-168, an early graffiti writer said, "We just took a marker out. We thought we'd never see the tag again, but on the way back, we caught the same train and it had other new writing on it.".
By 1971, the graffiti movement had reached new levels of awareness in the city's environment. The practice was heavily promoted by the brand-new hip-hop culture and New York's downtown art scene at the time; most of the writers part of the poor minority youth community, usually under 18 years old.