rammellzee.jpgLast week, another of the pioneers of early hip hop culture, Rammellzee, passed away. A versatile multimedia artist and cultural theorist, he remained at the margins of hip hop culture as it evolved into a worldwide, commercially successful phenomenon, marching to the beat of his own drum.

From hitting the A train in 1974 and bombing the metro as part of several of the seminal crews in the following years, emceeing at the Amphitheater at the close of Wild Style and recording the classic track “Beat Bop” with K-Rob for Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1983, to writing his treatise on the liberation of the letter from the alphabet Iconic Panzerisms, his work is emblematic of a greater movement in formation, of a time when these cultural manifestations were still being formulated and the possibilities seemed endless.

While graffiti, emceeing, deejaying and b-boying gradually became consolidated phenomena often regarded under the unifying umbrella of ‘hip hop’, Rammellzee seemed to stay in that generative creative zone, eclectically following his own creative path, laboring in relative obscurity as a painter, sculptor, installation artist and musician. People who love hip hop would do well to note his example, which is as relevant as ever to the culture.

Check out Rammellzee’s ‘Gothic Futurisms’ website, this this 2003 interview, and this one from 2008.