In the heyday of rap and hip-hop, when what artists said, sang and did actually meant something, actually fueled real fire, a local from Los Angeles was tagging street corners in wiry stencil lettering. Almost two decades later, he’s a loud voice in the world of street art. You may not know his face (few people do; it’s a heavily protected secret), but you might know his work—you’ll certainly get his message.
ABCNT is a sociopolitical activist/anarchist, the product of mid-nineties expressionism and new-millennium activism, who describes himself as “[a] real west coast hip-hop fanatic, with a kind of militant attitude towards consciousness.” And how does he execute his expression and voice? Through avenues in politically charged street art and music.
ABCNT started tagging in 1996. Back then he was strictly focused on style and imagery, until around 2004 with the development of his iconic business bandit logo. The logo depicts a bandana-masked businessman in dripping black-and-white stencil style, often up against a symbolic red background or above an anti-corporate play on words, like: “United Snakes of Amerika.” His harsh view of the corporate world and political agendas may strike concern in some, or touch home to others. It doesn’t seem like he cares much about the former, though; he’s got a message and he’s getting it out there. As for the name ABCNT? It’s an evolution of an alias dating back to his early days of spray paint and stencils, when he was known as simply absent—a tonic acronym with a tonic maxim embodying the artist: Always Be Successful Entertaining New Terrain.
One new terrain, in a media sense, is music; though, today it’s hardly new to him. Starting off writing powerful rhymes, he soon birthed the DJ name Abcntmnded, eventually conjoining the two as things got rolling. And things are definitely rolling. His music, some of which can be found on his Soundcloud, is the sibling counterpart to his visuals. Songs are ambient, for the most part, as if (like his street art in urban areas) it truly belongs in the surrounding environment, then, at times, about as acerbic as a backhand bitchslap to your political point of view. Which it is, if you’re on the far right.
But, however great his tunes, the louder of his skills is definitely his subjective art. And it’s gaining attention. He has collaborated with the likes of Hit + Run, the viral, internationally recognized T-shirt company that works with established and rising street artists to create individually customized shirts at live, raving events. And everything he does has an inviting, urban aesthetic. Which is interesting, because the word ‘aesthetic’ is defined as “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.” The anti-politico dash of ABCNT’s street art is a jarring contrast to the standard conceptions of beauty. So the remaining question is, what does this tell us about standard conceptions?