Even the torrential rains that nearly drowned New York from Tropical Storm Andrea couldn't dampen the feel good atmosphere that greeted me at the White Rabbit Lounge on June 7, 2013. The lounge, located on Manhattan’s Lower East side for one night only, was transformed into a graffiti gallery honoring the memory and passing of one the very first graffiti writers. The legendary Wayne Roberts aka “Stay High 149” & “Voice of the Ghetto” was one of the first graffiti writers to emerge on the NYC subway graffiti scene in the early 1970’s. Mr. Roberts literally started, what has now emerged into a global art movement known as street and Graffiti art. Wayne Roberts had to learn a lot very quickly. He started to write on trains with markers and aerosol paint in train yards, layups (underground yards for trains) and on the streets of New York City. Robert Dyer aka RD said that he met Wayne Rodgers about 15 years ago became and stayed friends with him until his untimely death last year. Dyer was quoted as saying” the world lost the true Godfather of graffiti” RD went on to add “people out there need to respect the history of this graffiti game”.
Graffiti art has become a mainstream respected art medium with “street Art” classes available in most towns throughout the country. No one who wrote graffiti with Roberts in the 70’s could have ever imagined that the ink and paint they applied to subway cars would go on to inspire break dancing, rap music and relevant clothing styles that emerged as Hip Hop culture, in large part started by Wayne Roberts right here in NYC.The Stay High Memorial show was well organized and executed. Notable artists such as Sago (President of WOW crew), Demo, RD of 357 crew, AX One (President of STM), Checkers 141, Dover, Bilroc161 (President of RTW), along with Slave (of the legendary Fab 5) and Fab Five Freddy were in attendance and/or donated artwork in memoriam for the event. A brief slide show was shown that featured many of Wayne Roberts’ most famous works.
This celebration of the “Voice of the Ghetto’s” life was well-received with widespread support of graffiti writers from every corner of the Big Apple. This event and events like it show that graffiti is alive and well thanks to the vision and pioneering efforts of Wayne Roberts/Stay High149. The “Voice of the Ghetto” will be severely missed by the masses.