In the early days of hip hop, graffiti was a fixture on par with boom boxes and b-boys.
Hip hop trailblazer Fab 5 Freddy hailed the art form as a visual pillar of the bridge between New York neighborhoods where the music was born and the outside world. Following New York’s lead, artists across the country began expressing themselves in subway tunnels and on buildings. Today, cities use graffiti and murals to beautify neighborhoods and encourage the creativity of local artists.
Minneapolis, the city that spawned Prince and The Replacements, also embraces hip hop and graffiti art. Discover gorgeous pyramid murals in the Whittier neighborhood. Sixties icons are also well-represented: Minnesota native Bob Dylan is immortalized at the intersection of Fifth Street and Hennepin Avenue, and a collage that includes Jimi Hendrix and the moon landing covers the wall of Burrito Loco. The local music scene thrives with artists like R&B/rap artist Sophia Eris, the duo Kill the Vultures and the buzzing Zuluzuluu. Find them at The Armory.
Minneapolis Mural of Bob Dylan
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an incredible city that sits on the Mississippi River, with the St. Louis Art Museum as its anchor, “The Mural Mile (Floodwall),” a 4.5-by-15-meter explosion of color and artistry, recalls graffiti’s early days. Nearby hip hop music offerings include The Pageant, a mid-sized venue that brings national acts to its stage.
Kiener Plaza in St. Louis with the Gateway Arch in the background
The Anchorage Museum in Alaska features an outdoor public art exhibit that showcases a stone and marble mosaic structure and a 37,000-pound stainless steel sculpture. Also at the museum, you can watch a documentary about hip hop artists from northern countries and indigenous cultures. Get a taste of the regional cuisine in Anchorage at Ginger or join a Segway tour of the city with The Bear Square.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland features tributes to legendary hip hop inductees N.W.A., Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash. LeBron James’ hometown is also a slam dunk when it comes to public art; a 10-story mural of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball superstar hangs across from the team’s home stadium, Quicken Loans Arena. In the same neighborhood, beer fans will find hundreds of brews at Winking Lizard Tavern.
An artistic representation of the city name
The Motor City splashed its downtown with art installations, starting at the Detroit River and heading to the North End, to showcase murals, sculptures and fountains. A couple of murals to find in Detroit include “Rise Up Tiger” and “Fisher Canyon,” which recall classic hip hop graffiti styles. For live hip hop shows, go to the upscale St. Andrew’s Hall.
An inviting place to socialize and view one of the many murals in Detroit
Author and artist Caleb Neelon covered the Tobin School in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston with massive murals and paintings depicting the golden age of urban graffiti. The Modica Way mural in nearby Cambridge is a painted alley with color streaming down through overhead plastic panes. For shows, go to The Middle East venue in Cambridge, where the calendar often includes hip hop on superb upstairs and downstairs stages; you’ll find great food and local art on the walls.
A Mural on the Middle East Venue in Cambridge
They go big in Honolulu. The five-story, 1,300-square-meter World’s Largest Wave Mural in the Kalihi neighborhood looks like it’s about to swallow nearby people and cars. An equally impressive 14-story mural of Hawaiian moon goddess Hina can be found on an apartment building overlooking Pearl Harbor. If you want a hip hop fix, check out The District, a 316-square-meter nightclub with a seven-meter-tall DJ booth.
Mural-worthy views of Waikiki Beach and Leahi (Diamond Head)
St. Petersburg, Florida
Florida CraftArt offers walking and bicycle Mural Tours of St. Petersburg’s downtown Arts District, which also includes boutiques, local brews and outdoor dining options. The historic State Theatre offers hip hop shows, and Daddy Kool Records might have one of your favorites on vinyl. In the area, you’ll find lots of quality eats, including sushi at The Lure.
Nashville Art offers a mobile device app for those looking for public art that covers the city’s Arts District. Some of the best include “Teresa,” a transparent painting on the side of a building, and “Maybelle Carter,” an acrylic painting of the country music legend at Carter Vintage Guitars. For live music, The Basement East often hosts hip hop artists like Yung Pinch and artists known for their boom bap sound. For farm-to-fork fare with Southern flair, zip over to The Farm House.