Get to Know: Bisco

Noah Wunsch

There's a brain on a city wall. The wall is brick, but the red is shaded in white with electric green lighting bolts shooting out. That's yours. That's your brain. The potential it has to create. Just focus on it. Grab a paintbrush. Grab a can. Grab a mic, a pencil, a pen, anything. Get to work. Look down the wall and you'll see lungs with blue bolts shooting out. This is your air. The city air. Breathe it in and get to work. Bisco Smith put these up there for you, and he's not slacking any.

The graffiti artist/rapper has packed up his gear and jetted out West. Don't worry, he'll be back to continue his mentoring work with Arts by the People. He's just getting back to the newness of a city. Fourteen years in NYC will leave you with a warehouse of memories, which are great for a rainy day, but there ain't many of those in LA. He's working on his art based website Daylightcurfewanda new album, coming off the release of the Peter J producedJackson P EP. "Two track beats, recorded at my place. It's got a lot of looseness to it." That looseness is rare in rap today. Overproduced white sound that ends up coming out like a brick of noise. For the idiots who are thinking awesome a brick of noise, try getting hit in the head with a brick sometime. There's no message. No moral. CLUNK. Splat. Nada. Bling and bitches, because the bigger world don't sell today.

Bisco thinks otherwise. And I'd have to agree.

You follow in the footsteps of other street artists turned rappers, KRS-One, Bigg Jus, etc. What have you learned from their trips? What sets you apart?

I can't say I pay too much attention to learning from those experiences. I'm just on my own journey. I go back and forth between art and music all the time. It's a rotation for me. I go as I go. I don't look to others for lessons.

How do they inform each other?

There's an audience on both sides. For me personally, they're both releases. One's external, one's internal. One is conscious based, one is visual. When you're writing and making music there's more of a message. I was painting a lot in the mid-2000's. Was doing a lot of walls in New York, but I wasn't saying anything. Music attracted me because I could say more.

How has NYC inspired your music and artwork? How has LA?

I grew up romanticizing New York. Always. That place for me is the end all. After I lived in New York for 14 years-I loved it-but it's not the same. LA is new now. It's more inspiring in that regard, because every corner has something new. New York has a memory stamped on each block.

They're both so different. I'm by the beach in LA, not in the city. It's where I need to be right now. New York turned into a hamster wheel for me. I love the city and the people, but I feel like what I came for originally in the late 90's, that energy, it's not there as much. Maybe I've gotten older, but it's not there anymore.

What's your role in the organization Arts by the People?

My friend Gus, he reached out to me. Paul [the founder] was working with him. Working to bring up the art side of his programming. So Gus hit me up, we worked for a not-for-profit called Urban Art Beat. It started in the Bronx. I helped co-found it in 2005. Gus and I have just been back and forth on mentoring opportunities since then. Paul, the founder of Arts by the People, he's a great guy. Really amazing energy. He brought me on. The way they run their thing is that they let you do your own thing and present it. We've been building a lot of different things. I feel like I'm just at the beginning.

What started your interest in graffiti?

Skateboarding man. Definitely skateboarding. When I was young the two went hand in hand, writing and skating.

In the last ten years street art has blown up to this high celebrity platform. Do you think the soul of it is still there? How do you even find clean space anymore?

I think the soul's still there. It's constant creativity no matter what. The space is hard. It's dwindling in America, that's for sure. There's a fight for it. My root is more graffiti vs. the street art. I think the street art stuff is a whole other universe. The same rules don't apply. I also don't think the same spaces apply.

What are the rules of tagging?

There's a hierarchy. Somebody will paint something, and then someone will re-paint over it, and you don't do that kind of shit. It depends on the tag. Whose tag it is, y'know?

You've said your music is aurally like "therapy." In what ways?

My style of writing is very cerebral. In the same way that I'd keep a journal or something, it helps me get the shit out of my mind. With age you change. In your 20's it's angst, but as you get older you have a lot more figured out. Less stress. My energy is different now. I don't need that therapy like I used to. All creativity is therapeutic though. If I don't make something I feel like I'm gonna go crazy.

Hip-hop has become this mass-marketed over produced junk trap, without any real messages. How do you see message driven hip-hop overtaking the platinum bangers rapping about things that don't matter?

I don't think it will, unless human consciousness evolves. Maybe the 2012 shift will make people smarter or change the value system. But as long as the value system is where it's at now, it's never going to be. But you still got Mos Def and people who are socially conscious. It's not Lil Wayne, but I think those guys are good living artists. But we're gonna continue to hear the junk rap on the radio until something big changes.

You run the website HYPERLINK which is like an arts renaissance all it's own. Do you sleep? And what do you look for in featuring content on the site?

LA got me sleeping better than New York to be honest. I keep making things. That's the whole point of that site and the project. I'm surrounded by so many good people who do great work. Wherever I go, I find new people. It's a no brainer giving it to the world. It's between me and the other founders. I work with people whose aesthetics are similar to mine. No one's vetoed anything. We're putting quality work up there. We look for integrity. If it's not there, it's not gonna be respected. That's my baby. It's slowly growing. It's cool.

Who do you look to for inspiration? Who's one to look out for right now?

I'm looking at Known Gallery, they're featuring a lot of dope stuff. I'm enjoying the West Coast and Europe more than the East Coast and Asia. Daylightcurfew isn't a struggle, but it's tougher for me, because I live in my own world, andI have a personal relationship with everyone I feature. I'm not looking at galleries everyday, they're from my world. The more I make, the less I look outside the world. I don't know if that's good or bad, but that's how it works.

What're you working on right now?

I have a record that I just finished, produced by two Italian guys, BQ and Ram. I collaborated with them a few years back. When I was in Europe I wrote this whole record and worked with them on it. That's the music step. I'm not working on any major art projects, just focusing on my work with Arts by the People right now. Just keeping up my skill set and enjoying the art.