Off Topic Is Graffiti Art Or Vandalism?


Slice & Dice
*** illest o.g. ***
Battle Points: 1

In the Hip Hop world, there are four elements: Emcee, B-Boy, Deejay, and Graffiti. Everyone loves the music, there's no doubt about that. From a rapper busting out tight lyrics to the beat in the background, it's one of the biggest and most popular forms of entertainment. DJ's have always had their place too, from the first scratch ever to mixing in front of a packed arena. B-Boys are still going strong and the break dancing style has morphed into something else to the point where it's an integral part of modern dance that we see in live shows and on reality TV. Graffiti on the other hand, still teeters the fine line between art and breaking the law.

The Original

Of course back in the day spraying your name up on a wall or even on a train (especially in New York), was the thing to do. It was highly illegal then in the 1970's and it still is today. Many graffiti artists have an undeniable talent and have been able to utilize it to make an actual living or as a side job by creating amazing murals for local businesses. There's no denying that when done right, graffiti is definitely an art, however, most people still view it as being against the law no matter what.

When hitting up the train yards, they would have to watch out for the cops or security and many times had to drop everything and run, sometimes getting away, other times getting caught. No matter what the penalty was, it still did not stop them from going right back out and doing it again because they simply love what they do and they consider it art. But is it?

The Art

I've seen countless murals and drawings from individuals that indeed make something truly special every time they put pencil to paper or spray can to wall. Some of the graffiti is simply phenomenal and I always wonder what the average person thinks of these works of art - do they stroll by not paying attention? Do they know it's there and mutter to themselves that it's against the law? Or do they stop to admire the time and effort that was put into it?

The Vandalism

Vandalism is not necessarily the proper term to use when defining graffiti but since it's law-breaking, it's hard to find a better, more endearing term. There are tons of tags sprayed all over the world, from small towns to large metropolitan cities and for some it is a big nuisance. Who can blame them for thinking like that? It's not nice to walk outside your house and immediately see names sprayed on a wall, mailbox, bus, train, etc. Nobody can actually say that it's nice to look at!

I understand that to those doing the tagging, having their name up somewhere in their city is a big accomplishment but what a lot of them don't realize is that there's a big difference when it comes to spraying "Fuck the police" on a mailbox versus this:

Art vs. Vandalism

Let's set things straight - art and vandalism are two completely different things and when it comes to graffiti, it should be split into two different terms. I've always said "Graffiti Art" when talking about a beautiful mural for example, and "Tagging" when refering to someone spraying a word on the side of a bus.

Graffiti Art is just that - art. It's a work of art that was pieced together by an individual using pretty much just some spray cans and tons of talent. Tagging is on the other hand, vandalism. "Eddie Wuz Here" on the back of a bus seat is not graffiti and it's not art, it's simply vandalism.

The Perception

When the media does a story on graffiti, they always seem to always bunch the art and vandalism together and base their report around everything that was done with spray cans (and markers too). However, they should seriously educate themselves and realize that there is an obvious difference between the two and should focus on the vandalism aspect.

This leads me to the documentary that will be released soon titled, "Between The Lines". It's based on all of the graffiti happening in the Toronto area and how the mayor wants to eradicate it. Because of the mayor wanting to do that, it's prompted all of artists and taggers to do even MORE graffiti! Some of it is actually quite good, but then some of it is just regular tags.


Just because there's some nice graffiti art on a wall somewhere doesn't mean it should stay there. Or should it? When seeing a huge work of art on the side of some building, I'm left scratching my head as to why the city usually decides to water blast or paint over it. Sure, it's up there and it's not supposed to be, but if it's really good then why take it down? I've seen some graffiti that was really well done and yet it was taken down. I've also seen tags all over a wall (looking like a third world country ghetto) and yet it's there for years. What gives? I say get some graffiti artists to do a mural OVER the bad stuff. At least they will make it look nice and add some flavor to the neighborhood!

What do you think?


IllMuzik Mortician
*** ill o.g. ***
Graffiti in this day in age is usually very temporary. Most graffiti writers accept this and understand that something they paint might be gone the next day, it comes with the territory. I've noticed a recent trend for more legal murals or ones commissioned on store walls to deter tagging. It's worked for a large part, but you still have crackhead kids who will tag over anything.

In regards to legality and what is art... well, let's just put it this way, if someone paints a nice mural on the side of your business that might keep clients away, are you going to keep it? Or what if it was your apartment building that you just happened to spend 5 hours painting the day before? So when graffiti writers who do illegal work whine about their murals being painted over... well sorry but they can lick my nuts. That comes with the territory. A lot of old heads understand this, but they keep on chugging along without complaining.

I've been documenting graffiti since the early 90's, and I love it, but I sometimes find all the moral and legal bullshit that follows it mundane. I guess in the end of the day, people can complain if they want to, but graffiti writers are a minority, and most people don't give a shit what happens to their work.

And on that note, I think I'll go through some old graf photos.


Slice & Dice
*** illest o.g. ***
Battle Points: 1
I think the legal murals are a great idea and when done right and in the right area, it spices up the area.


Old and dirty...
*** ill o.g. ***
Battle Points: 304
Graffiti is vandalism when the property owner does not allow graffiti to be applied to their wall. I think it is art when people tag their names artistically...not just put letters with flair, in my opinion....what Jus Ripe does is art....because of all that comes with just going over the name. Murals are awesome, like the Big Pun mural....But murals are vandalism when it isn't allowed and should not be done... It's always art.......sometimes both art and vandalism.

The Mastermind

This Illuminati Be Illin'
*** ill o.g. ***
Our communities have been totally commercialised and the only way to 'contribute' is through some form of paid advertising, such as a billboard. That people who live in a community can't help define the look of that community but some corporation stationed half a world away can, is bullshit.

I don't like seeing scratched up train windows or walls covered with tagging scrawl but people who want to contribute to the beautification of their environment should be able to without fear of a dumb ass legal system.


Graffiti is vandalism. All writers know this. Murals would not exist without the evolution from "scrawls". Real graffiti is in the streets and on trains, not in art galleries or commissioned walls, and it makes a city vibrant. It tells a story. You can get to know things about a writer just by following his tags throughout the city. Much respect to all the vandals out there doing their thing every day for the love of it, because 99% aren't seeing a dime from it.


Mister Miyagi Beats
Battle Points: 22
Lets say graffiti that looks nice me personally i don't see it as vandalism while it is vandalism. But good graffiti requires certain skills for real. What i think is vandalism you know those quick graffiti tags useless really. But those big pictures with well everything requires skills.

Dahmi Mortals

Battle Points: 39
Its vandalism period. Get hired or get permission. no body pays back the businesses when they have to hire people to clean it up, walls, signs, trains, billboards etc etc. somebody payed for it thus its not your property. I love art and admire the colors and skill behind graffiti but when its legal. Its not hard to take a pro-folio of your work and present it to the owner and ask that you would like to have some artistic freedom and really love there location and exposure of the wall or whatever it is and maybe if your pro-folio is any good they would be honored, I think that would be more encouraging even for the artist to be free to express. So with that said even if someone was like "Picasso" and the other was tagging his turf, we shouldn't be like leave "Picasso's" up there, its like saying give the black guy ten years and the white guy community service for the same crime... Thats BS. AnyHoo thats my 2cents, make a wish.


Audio Magician
Battle Points: 1
Ah graffiti should not ruin public art, man if a graffiti artist treated themself like a real artist it would probably stand out more than anything because were seeing a street artist taking a more formal approach.

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