When you think of modern renaissance men, what individuals come to mind? Off the top of your head you might say an actor or filmmaker who can sing, dance, act and write? A musician who has successfully crossed over into film or television? The definition of a renaissance man is defined simply as being an individual who is knowledgeable and interested in a great-many things. DC, something of a legend in the graffiti and hip-hop circles, is very much a renaissance man. I was fortunate enough to chat with this modern-day renaissance man.
In the short time I had with DC, we covered a ton of topics, from his time as a graffiti artist, to published author, to his clothing store and to his latest project – I Am Strong Island.
“I grind a lot. I’m the type of person who’s been involved in the music industry for a very long time and I’ve always been a person who’s been dedicated to helping other artists, helping professionals and giving back to the community,” DC said. “Whether you’re an underground artist or a public figure, whatever I can do to help the community’s cause, I try to do that. I’ve always been very community-minded and I’ve always had the opportunity to help people out.”
DC, who’s also the co-author of a fantastic graffiti book entitled New York City Graffiti, thrives in giving back to the community through his various efforts. He also is the proprietor of a clothing and apparel store called Central Station in Baldwin, which is loaded with the latest trends and styles. The store features some of the finest, sharpest graffiti work in the area, and DC’s passion for the art is evident when you chat with him.
“I started a graffiti team called Destiny Children in the mid-80’s, that consisted of three of us,” DC said. “We were from all over Long Island. The makeup of the team was multi-racial, which was great, as we’re three different races coming together, almost by destiny, hence the name. We took our talents, conquered Long Island, the handball courts, bodegas, stores, all over Long Island. Then we moved to the subways in the Bronx, where we took that over, too. We did something like 300-plus trains. We were the only graffiti artists in history to ever do that.”
DC is a fascinating guy. When he speaks, he has a certain level of authority without belittling you. He’s a man of experience and it shows. He measures his words carefully and brings you in with his stories of publishing, graffiti and the community he cares about so deeply.
“I’ve been a small-business owner in the community for over twenty years,” DC said. This is primarily how he stays on top of what the community and those around him need, politically, socially and more. “It’s probably the perfect way to keep your ear to the ground to get a sense of just what is needed in a given location, by having a popular store where individuals can come in, purchase your wares and voice their opinion on what’s going on in the community.
“As I see in the community, there are people who will come to you that have needs,” DC said. “Certain things. People will come to you and tell you about certain things that need to be done. I love helping people out, because I’ve got such extensive roots in the area. I’ve got the connections to help make things happen.”
I Am Strong Island is one of the most integral aspects of DC’s story. The Long Island connection is incredibly important to DC, even to the point where he created a fantastic YouTube video highlighting Long Island’s famous musical roots. I Am Strong Island has expanded into providing a concert series, and rap battles all over the country, through Enj Battlegrounds.
“The rap battle arena has grown immensely,” DC said. “We’ve taken the battles to Cleveland, Vegas, outside of Long Island. Every aspect of what we’re trying to do with the music, with the concert series, it’s all so important to me and my label, Concept Music.”
DC will be keeping busy with I Am Strong Island cigars (by Cohiba), the I Am Strong Island Awards (coming soon), and future releases from his label.
INTERVIEW BY: ROBERT OTTONE