Randy "KEL1ST" Rodriguez was born and raised in New York City, and quickly emerged as one of the masters of "Wild Style" lettering in the graffiti revolution of the 1970s. As the new art form called "Hip-Hop" was created, KEL1st quickly became recognized as a cultural icon, and a master of graffiti and street art by his peers and art critics alike. He was featured in the cult classic, "STYLE WARS", the first film documenting hip hop cultural innovation, and is highly regarded as a member of one of the most prolific graffiti crews (ROCSTARS).
Over the last 20 years, his work has appeared in museums, galleries and auctions around the world and is a part of the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art
Kel1st: "I use 139 because it's the street I grew up on. But I switched to 1st to further set me apart from my peers in the competitive environment of graffiti."
Kel1st: "We are writers first and artists second, the work can be called art. But because what we do is write (tag) we identify ourselves as writers, not artists. An artists work was seen as a gallery or museum hanging piece. A writers tag is used to 'get up' (promote/advertise/market) our brand."
An important part of Kel's legacy in graffiti art are the various relationships he developed with writers from the other boroughs. Kel made it a point to collaborate with many well known writers and produce a large body of work that inspired the newer writers that came after him.
The signature styles of KEL1ST masterpieces are graphically bold, with an unlikely color palette unseen in the work of his peers. Covering the entire sides of MTA subway cars from 1977-1987, KEL's large scale lettering was enhanced with highly stylized renditions of caricatures, setting him apart from his contemporaries. As a result of Hip-Hop's global impact, KEL1ST has become an Art & Cultural Historian.
Kel embraced technology early on to create a platform and a level of confidence for others to feel empowered. He now incorporates the development of digital publishing to preserve the history for future generations.
Kel has been able to use the creative vision he developed with graffiti to give a new perspective to his commercial work.
Graffiti transformed Kel's life as it opened the doors to commercial opportunities and a path out of the economic hardships of the inner city.
Kel's attraction to graffiti was the excitement he felt from riding the subways as a young boy. It was a neighborhood thing which made it easy to get involved. Also it was a way to explore the city and meet other writers from the outer boroughs.
Kel1st: "Graffiti is as old as human civilization. Graffiti, meaning drawings or scribblings on a flat surface; 'Tagging' is a modern form of scratching one's name on a surface. It is usually done with spray paint or markers.
2Many 2Name App - The New York City Graffiti history of the number 2
Kel1st: "The power of 2 cannot be understated...it has a deep and profound impact in life. It was evident on the NYC trains that were covered with masterpieces created by teams of 2 or more. This was a natural progression for us, we painted, and got up in teams of 2 or more...some may appear to be just one...but there was always a crew behind them. No man was an island. This is the subject of my book app called 2Many 2Name, I have dug deep into my archives and presented the best of the best that existed on MTA during that time. A small history lesson in Wild Style and the brilliant creators behind the works. In some of the pieces I share with you personal stories of my impression and admiration of their work and interviews with them as well."