Monday, March 5, 2018

Black writers and Basquiat

Books by Amiri Baraka, Tony Medina, and Roger Reeves featuring Basquiat artwork on the covers

The late painter Jean-Michel Basquiat is easily one of the most referenced visual artist among black poets, especially black men poets. Kevin Young has produced a volume of poetry dedicated to Basquiat and his career. Jay-Z, who owns paintings by Basquiat, has referenced the painter in his music. Paintings by Basquiat adorn covers of books by Amiri Baraka, Tony Medina, Roger Reeves, and others.

Jay-Z purchased Basquiat's "Mecca" in 2013. Image source 

A few references to Basquiat in Jay-Z's lyrics:
"It ain’t hard to tell, I’m the new Jean-Michel" from "Picasso Baby."

"Come through with the 'Ye mask on
Spray everything like SAMO
I won't scratch the Lambo" from "Picasso Baby"

"Yellow Basquiat in my kitchen corner
Go ‘head, lean on that shit Blue, you own it." from "Picasso Baby"

"Inspired by Basquiat, my chariot's on fire" from "Most Kingz" and "Grammy Family"

"I got Warhols on my hall's wall
I got Basquiats in the lobby of my spot" from "Ain't I"

"When I say it then you see, it ain't only in the music
Basquiat, Warhols serving as my muses" from "Illest Motherfucker Alive"

Basquiat is referenced by various others in hip hop. Jay-Z purchased Basquiat's "Mecca" in 2013.

Adrian Matejka, Mahogany L. Browne, Rickey Laurentiis, and Roger Reeves have written poems dedicated to Basquiat and his artwork. Years ago, Greg Tate published an essay "Flyboy in the Buttermilk" about Basquiat. That essay title later became the title for Tate's first collection of essays. Tate's second collection was entitled Flyboy 2.

Early editions of Kevin Young's To Repel Ghosts contained artwork by Basquiat.

Kevin Young's To Repel Ghosts is perhaps the most extensive treatment of Basquiat in verse. The early editions of the book included the painter's artwork on the cover. Later editions and remixes of To Repel Ghosts did not have the Basquiat images.

Poems about Basquiat or his artwork 
• Mahogany L. Browne's "upon viewing the death of basquiat*"
• Rickey Laurentiis's "Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta" references a painting by Basquiat.
• Adrian Matejka's "& Later" references Basquiat's Trumpet.
• Roger Reeves's "Boy Removing Fleas" references a painting by Basquiat.
• Kevin Young's "Urgent Telegram to Jean-Michel Basquiat."
• Kevin Young's "Cadillac Moon."
• Kevin Young's "Beyond Words."

A short checklist of African American poets on artworks & artists
A Notebook on Black Boys, Black Men & Creativity

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