Fab 5 Freddy Ain’t Nothing To Fuck Wit
Long before he appeared in the hip-hop movie “Wild Style” or hosted the equally seminal TV show “Yo! MTV Raps,” Fred Brathwaite was a teenager in Brooklyn with two main interests: art and Bruce Lee.
His genre of choice was graffiti, which, like rapping, breakdancing and beatboxing, was just beginning to take shape on the streets of 1970s New York. At the same time, Bruce Lee’s star was rising in the U.S., where Mr. Brathwaite first watched his films in Times Square.
“New York City in the ’60s and ’70s was a time of much civil unrest,” Mr. Brathwaite says. “To see this minority stand up against authority and oppression was inspiring.”
Known today as Fab 5 Freddy, Mr. Brathwaite is now an accomplished artist (Sotheby’s recently sold a graffiti-inspiredwork of his for $23,750), and he’s combining his two original inspirations for a collaborative art project in Bruce Lee’s hometown of Hong Kong.
Titled “Kung Fu Wild Style,” the project comprises 10 graffiti-style recreations of iconic scenes from the actor’s films such as “Enter the Dragon” and “Fist of Fury.” Five were illustrated by Mr. Brathwaite; the other half by Hong Kong’s Chan Kwong-yan, better known as MC Yan.
The artworks will be on display at a pop-up space in the city’s Sheung Wan district, following a free screening of “Wild Style” in the Kwun Tong industrial area. Both Mr. Brathwaite and Mr. Chan will attend.
For Mr. Chan, a graffiti artist and rapper for pioneering Hong Kong rap group LMF, working with Mr. Brathwaite was a no-brainer. “Everyone who loves hip hop has seen ‘Wild Style’ at least once,” he says. “And obviously, I’m a fan of Bruce Lee, who is a cultural icon.”
Mr. Chan made news last month when he and Taiwanese rapper Dog G recorded a rap song titled “Brainwash Education,” supporting Hong Kong students’ protest against so-called national education. The song was banned in mainland China within 24 hours of release.
In response to Mr. Chan’s rebellious ways, Mr. Brathwaite smiles.
“That’s what makes hip-hop unique, man,” he says. “It sends a message to stand up for what you believe in – just like Bruce Lee did.”
“Kung Fu Wild Style” is on show at Pop-up Space (66 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan) from Oct. 20 to Oct. 27. “Wild Style” screens at Hidden Agenda (2A, Wing Fu Industrial Building, 15-17 Tai Yip Street, Kwun Tong; hiddenagenda.hk) on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.