The Art Adventures and Endeavors of Andrew J. Katz


Andrew Katz

Artist, Educator, Hip-Hop Head

Mission: Queens Hip-Hop History – Part 2

“Two years ago, a friend of mine
Asked me to say some MC rhymes
So I said this rhyme I’m about to say
The rhyme was Def a-then it went this way
Took a test to become an MC
And Orange Krush became amazed at me
So Larry put me inside his Cad-illac
The chauffeur drove off and we never came back”

Sucka MCs – Run DMC – 1984


…It took less than 10 minutes to get to 205th street – the epicenter of the Run DMC story.  I texted Nick to let him know that we could meet at the Jam Master Jay mural, and go from there.  DMC, himself, had suggested that I visit this iconic spot.  I wasn’t going to argue with The King DMC (The King of Rock).  It was incredible to have his suggestions.

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Serendipitously, Nick and Frank showed up only a few minutes later.  I had been enjoying the fact that I had reached this point in the trip, and I was overwhelmed with the notion that I could now explore.  After a few introductions,  and some gentle direction, Frank immediately began filming me in front of the JMJ mural.  They asked me to wear a small microphone, and I quickly realized that it would be me on camera…the rest of the day.  I hadn’t planned on this, and it made me a little uncomfortable – I’m not really a guy who likes to be on film. That being said, I decided to refocus, and stay true to the larger mission.


As a small posse, we worked efficiently and quickly.  We rarely stopped, except to discuss the next site, and answer questions from curious passersby. Everyone we talked to lit up with excitement when we told them what we were doing.  Many of them wanted to be captured on camera. Obviously and justifiably, there is still a lot of pride attached to the names DMC, Run, and Jay.

We decided to go to the spot that used to be Hollis Grocery.  Seemingly, the only thing that has changed is the name of the store, and the awning above the door. In what has always been one of my favorite Run DMC images, the trio is clad in black, with DMC in a B-Boy stance, while Jay and Run, wearing thick rope chains hang out of a parked convertible.  This image, by Ken Regan, gave an eager public a view of Run DMC that illustrated so much about who they were, and where they were coming from. To drive up and see the unchanged brick facades, imagining that their car had only recently driven off, felt a lot like time travel. It was exhilarating.

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Nick and Frank filmed me trying to get the shot from the street, and we realized that images from the same photoshoot probably employed a ladder or higher platform. The photographer had also used some sort of fish-eye lens in order to create more dramatic angles and perspective. Still, I got what I needed, and I was all ready to keep moving.  At that point, Nick and Frank were caught up with trying to set up a drone camera, and render a 3D mapping of the block.  I was noticeably impatient, and Nick took pity on me. He said “Why don’t you go to one of the non-Run DMC spots, while we figure out the drone thing?”  I quickly decided to find Andrew Jackson High School. I thought it might take me awhile to go down to St. Alban’s and locate the spot.  Much to my surprise, the GPS stated that it would only take me about six minutes to get there. I would only be gone for about twenty minutes, but it gave them the time they needed, and I got to visit this quintessential Hip-Hop destination.

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LL Cool J - 'Bigger and Deffer' album cover - Delta Bravo mash-upAndrew Jackson High School is the building in the background of LL Cool J’s 1987 Bigger and Deffer album cover.  The photograph is by Glen E. Friedman, and it shows James Todd Smith a.k.a. Ladies Love Cool James, standing on the hood of a car, outside of the school at night. The combination of the music on this record and the photography on the cover, brings me right back to my junior year at my own high school. The tracks I’m Bad and I Need Love propelled LL to superstardom, with the added bonus of turning him into Hip-Hop’s first legitimate male sex symbol.

I hadn’t been gone long, but by the time I came back, they had the drone challenge sorted, and they were ready to keep moving.  We decided to walk around the block to Bardwell Avenue. My research, and a few nuggets of intel from DJ Hurricane, led me to explore this street on-line.  My goal was to find the exact spot where Janette Beckman had photographed Run DMC in 1984. Some images from this photoshoot are connected to Vikki Tobak’s Contact High project, and Janette herself had recently asked publicly if anyone remembered the street name and address.  I was reasonably sure that I had found the right line of houses, when the gable styles in the background, combined with Hurricane’s information, matched up with her beautiful collection of images.

As we walked down Bardwell, a few people were noticeably concerned with the buzzing of the low-flying drone – including me.  We feebly offered an explanation, while everyone wondered why I was worthy of being filmed. The fun part was watching people’s faces light up when we would mention Run DMC, and our modest goals of documenting their origins.  It was like we had stumbled upon the secret handshake.

It was a very quiet street, and we had no trouble lining up the shots.  I was giddy with the knowledge that I had reverse-engineered this photoshoot.  I wanted to make Janette proud.

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I was ready to get back over to Hollis Ave to explore the area west of 205th Street.  Before I left home, I had discovered a short video of Darryl McDaniels showing a reporter around his neighborhood.  Although it was a relatively recent video, it connected a lot of dots, and confirmed some of my theories about where the early photos were shot. There were a few images that left me stumped. I couldn’t figure out the locations, and the background details were too vague to yield any usable clues. I decided to go right to the source.  I wrote Glen Friedman a short note to ask him about his Hollis images of ‘Run and Them’.   I’m a big fan of Glen’s photography, and I had been fortunate to connect with him a few times over the years.  He was very gracious in his replies, and I tried to figure some things out on my own, too.  He is about to release a new Beastie Boys / Run DMC book, Together Forever, and evidently it will include much of the information that I needed.  This might mean I’ll need to plan a return trip. For now, though, I was ready to find some of my ‘white whales’.

We drove less than a mile down Hollis Ave, before we found parking again.  All of my locations were clustered within a 1/2 mile of the JMJ mural.  I wanted to check out some of the murals around the neighborhood. We took a few images of Dollie’s corner store, as it figured prominently in the background of some photos, and we even got to meet Dollie, herself, when she came outside to find us inspecting the mural on her building.  After striking up a conversation with her, I realized that just over her right shoulder, she had also been included in this colorful tribute to Hollis.

It was time to go to 196th Street and find some of Glen’s locations.  I was worried that the back alley gate would be locked, and some of the best images would be impossible to locate.  We walked up and took in the large brick building.  We lined up a shot from the front steps looking towards the Hollis Ave street sign; with a house in the background that hadn’t changed much in thirty-plus years.  We spun around and snapped some flicks that incorporated the front of the building, including a unique stacked-stone wall that featured in some of my favorite Friedman photos. It was all coming together.

We stopped to talk to a man who had approached us and started playing a harmonica, when we all noticed the sound of a loud lawnmower approaching.  The small patch of grass out front needed some attention, and as we rounded the building to find the alley, we spied that the gate had been propped open with the lawnmower-man’s gas can.  It was meant to be.  We easily pushed past the swinging gate, and sprung into action. I wasn’t sure how much time we would have, and I wanted to take advantage of every second.  I recognized the railing from the recent DMC video, but more importantly, I began to realize that many of my favorite images of the group had been taken behind this building.  I was sure our time back there was going to be cut short, but it never happened. We spent about twenty uninterrupted minutes recreating angles and shots, dutifully walking the steps that Glen and Run DMC must have taken, so many years ago.  It was amazing to be in the spot where Run, Jay, and DMC honed their craft, and prepared themselves to take over the world.

This was one of those times in life when you remember to step back and appreciate the absurdity of the situation.  I was so excited and happy to be in an alley in Hollis, NY…and I was. I was really excited that all of the pieces fit.  It’s why we do what we do.  The mission was accomplished, and everything else was going to be gravy.

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We walked back to the car. Well, Frank and Nick walked, I strutted; and we peeked at the map to see the rest of our little green flags. There were two locations that represented my ‘white whales’ – The image for the 12″ single of Walk the Way, Glen’s Hollistown image, and my favorite image of Run DMC – the one where they are sitting against a nondescript garage door on ‘any street’ USA.


Glen had offered some help with the Walk This Way image, letting me know that it was near a bridge overpass at the Long Island Railroad.  For the garage door image, he simply said “It’s difficult”.  Fortunately, I had found another image from that same photoshoot that included some architectural detail. This helped me narrow it down to Jamaica Avenue, a large thoroughfare pushing through Hollis.  I was in business.

We moved to the area where the Hollistown/Walk This Way photoshoot took place.  Incidentally, the Christmas in Hollis single sleeve image confirmed we had arrived in the right location.  Run DMC had posed for several pictures that day, and the combination of the clothes they were wearing, and the background from the shoots helped us to zero-in on the path they took.

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Confident in our accuracy, we moved towards the tracks. We wanted to find the pedestrian tunnel, and capture an additional few compositions. We were nearing the end of our mission.  We had only to go to Jamaica Ave, and double-back to get Frank’s car, when I remembered that we needed to boogie down to get the Down With the King album cover shot.  We hit Blair House, an apartment building of some significance in the Run DMC story, shot over to Jamaica Ave to grab the ‘white whale’ image in front of the garage door, and drove the mile-and-a-half (our longest drive of the afternoon) to finish with the Down With the King shot. Our time as a trio was dwindling – Frank had to get back to Astoria, and Nick needed to get to JFK for a flight back to Vancouver (Did I mention that he flew from Vancouver to NY for the day?)



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We spent a few minutes lining up some over-head drone footage of the car, I drove straight and slow, and we returned to Bardwell Avenue. I took off the lapel mic, and we said our goodbyes. It was great to be around some creatives that were willing to spend the day in this fashion.

Once I was alone, I cued up The Breakthrough by LL Cool J, and started towards the center of St. Alban’s.  I had a couple of images of LL by Liberty Rock, and I wanted to drive by a house where Jackie Robinson once resided during his Brooklyn Dodger years.

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It was late afternoon, and I was tired but thoroughly happy.  I had managed to see every location that I had added to my map.  It was time to head for home.  It had been a great day of exploring, photography, music, and history. Exhausted but satisfied, I pointed my car towards the Belt Parkway. Once again, I rapped along to the music and poetry that had inspired this exploration.  This time around, I felt just a little more connected to the lyrics and the era.  Thanks, Glen, Janette,Ken, Darryl, Run, Jay, James Todd Smith, Jarobi, Q-Tip, Ali, Phife, and anyone else who had a hand in getting through to me at that vulnerable, impressionable time in my life. It was because of you that I made this trip. Grateful. – AK'”

“A few years ago my name was Joe
And then I went to a party, cold stole the show
Stole it as sure as birds have wings
Now they’re callin me DJ Running Things
Got Kurtis Blow down with the two
And my man Larry Lah makes beats for you
Keepin up the funky beat is the Hollis Crew
So D, take the mic cause you know I’m through” –

Hollis Crew (Krush Groove 2) – Run DMC – 1984

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Darryl McDaniels’ (The King DMC) Hollis Home

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Mission: Queens Hip-Hop History – Part 1

My A-didas, standin on Two-Fifth street
Funky fresh and yes cold on my feet
With no shoestring in ’em, I did not win ’em
I bought ’em off the Ave. with the black Lee denim
I like to sport ’em, that’s why I bought ’em
A sucker tried to steal ’em so I caught ’em and I fought ’em
And I walk down the street, and bop to the beat
With Lee on my legs and Adidas on my feet
And so now I’m just standin’ here shootin the gift
Me and D and my Adidas standing on Two-Fifth – My Adidas

My Adidas – Run DMC 1986


This summer, I made a small list of travel priorities. I was fortunate to journey to London and Liverpool, England, and I have been exploring my hometown in Maryland via ambitious bike excursions, in and around Kent Island.  While these deep dives into the UK and the Maryland Chesapeake Bay environs have been satisfying and productive, in the back of my mind I had always wanted to visit Hollis, Queens – home of Run DMC, and the geographical catalyst for mainstream Hip-Hop.

I realize that traveling to a small neighborhood, outside the tourist-heavy, and more action-packed, exciting New York boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, might seem a strange place to set my sights, but I have been determined to get there for a long time.  As a student of Hip-Hop culture, and attempting to be a steward of this genre of music, art, and dance, I often revisit the photographic images that captured my imagination and attention back in the mid-1980s. It was one thing to hear the music, and decipher the lyrics, often trying to conjure the scene on a sidewalk three hundred miles from home – It was another to realize that these voices, and the neighborhoods from which they emerged, were minutes from where each of my own parents grew up.  Dad was from Brooklyn and Mom was from Queens.

“Kings from Queens from Queens come Kings
We’re raisin hell like a class when the lunch bell rings
The king will be praised, and hell will be raised
S-s-s-suckers try to faze him but D won’t be fazed
So what’s your name? DMC! The King is me!
Your High-ness, or His Majesty!
Now you can debate, you c-c-c-concentrate
But you can’t imitate DMC the Great!” – Run DMC

About two months ago, I logged into a Run DMC Facebook group, and I threw down the gauntlet. I announced that I’d be going to Hollis, Queens to find locations made famous by photographers Glen E. Friedman, Janette Beckman, and Ken Regan.

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Now that I had verbalized my plan, I felt that there was no backing out of it.  I committed to making it happen before the summer was over.  Much to my pleasant surprise, one of the other members of the FB group, and a friend from the Beastie Family, Nick Light, texted me to say that he would like to be involved with my loosely-planned trip. If I could give him enough notice, once I picked a date, he would come down from Canada to meet me in Hollis. This commitment from Nick served to steel my resolution, and I doubled my efforts to get there. I started looking for open dates on my calendar.

In the month leading up to my trip, I spent many hours researching and cross-checking images and addresses.  My modus operandi for these travel missions, usually involves a great deal of ‘driving around’ virtually on Google Maps ‘Street View’.  If you haven’t done this, it is an incredible way to immerse yourself in the planning of a visit to a destination. This approach is especially useful when traveling to a place you’ve never been, and in the observation of how neighborhoods, cities, and architecture has changed (or not changed) over time. My plan was to go into Hollis, prepared with dozens of historically significant photos, some rock-solid addresses, and to match up my photos with the images made famous by Glen, Janette, and Ken. I dropped flags, discovered some obscure, little known locales, and labeled all of the destinations I hoped to hit. I selected July 24th or 25th, a Wednesday or a Thursday, sent Nick a note, and hoped for the best.

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It turned out that the only day Frank, Nick’s cameraman friend, could meet us, was Wednesday the 24th of July. A date had been picked.  I would meet Frank and Nick on the street in Hollis. Wait, a cameraman?  What is that all about? More on that, later.

In the week leading up to the trip, I boldly and nervously announced my intentions to Darryl McDaniels (DMC), Glen E. Friedman, and Janette Beckman.  I wanted their blessings to undertake this work, and if possible, glean some all-important intel for the photographs that were tricky to pinpoint.  Of course I also invited each of them to join us, and although they each replied kindly, none of them were free that day.

I was a bit disappointed that none of the VIPs could meet us, but I wasn’t too surprised.  I hadn’t given them much notice, and the recent resurgence of vintage Hip-Hop photography has Glen and Janette busy with book launches, panel discussions, museum events, and tours.  Vikki Tobak’s Contact High and Glen’s My Rules, two beautiful coffee-table book collections of early Hip-Hop, skate, and punk visual histories, were the combined impetus for my impending journey.  I was set to go.


It would be a mistake to think that I was going to Queens just for Run DMC and Hollis.  The pantheon of Hip-Hop has incredibly strong roots and ties to the suburban, middle-class neighborhoods to the east of big brother Brooklyn. Jamaica, Hollis, St. Alban’s combine to boast a Hall of Fame line-up of Run DMC, LL Cool J, and A Tribe Called Quest (among many others).  The fact that these three all-star acts all came up on the streets of Queens, within a few miles of one another, had me champing at the bit.  I loaded up the car with gas, water bottles, books, LP album covers (without the vinyl inside – I didn’t want the vinyl to melt if I was to leave them in the car), and artwork.  I wanted to be prepared to share my visual tributes, in case we ran into some Hip-Hop dignitaries. Stranger things have happened (ask Malcolm Riddle)*.

I got a good night’s sleep, and I woke up early the next day. I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible. I figured on a four hour drive, and I wanted to get up there before noon.  I pulled onto the highway around 6:30 am, and I clicked ‘Shuffle Playlist’ on my carefully constructed Classic Hip-Hop collection. I was on my way.

While it was a bit hot, it was a beautiful day, and the traffic was light.  Early in the drive I received an alert that there was an accident on Staten Island. I chose the offered alternate route, that would ultimately save me about 25 minutes of traffic.  Before I left the New Jersey Turnpike, I cued up Woke Up This Morning, the theme song from the opening of The Sopranos.  I glided into the lane that would take me over the Outerbridge Crossing, and into New York.

It was a winding, new route, and it took me through some of the residential, ionic and doric-columned neighborhoods of Staten Island. I drove by Bobby Thomson Park, named for the Brooklyn Dodgers killer and New York Giant’s outfielder who hit ‘The Shot Heard ‘Round the World’.  I realized I was right next to the beach, when I spotted the suspension towers of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

I uneventfully crossed the span, while getting a good eyeful of the Manhattan skyline. It’s always tricky to spy the Statue of Liberty, while simultaneously trying to avoid slamming into a braking car – but I did it.  Once I touched down on the other side, I took the Belt Parkway through the southern edge of Brooklyn. My GPS said I’d be there soon, and I noticed that I’d be taking the Farmers Boulevard exit once I crossed into Queens.  As I approached the exit, the song Mama Said Knock You Out emanated from my car stereo speakers. A huge hit for LL Cool J, during the final moments of the track, Ladies Love Cool James shouts “Farmers”, and presumably friends from his neighborhood respond, “What?!”.  As this part of the song reverberated throughout the car, I made a left onto Farmers Boulevard, and entered St. Alban’s, Queens. “Farmers! (What!?) Farmers! (What!)”

“Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years
Rocking my peers and putting suckas in fear
Making the tears rain down like a monsoon
Listen to the bass go boom
Explosion, overpowering
Over the competition, I’m towering
Wrecking shop, when I drop
These lyrics that’ll make you call the cops
Don’t you dare stare, you better move
Don’t ever compare
Me to the rest that’ll all get sliced and diced
Competition’s paying the price” – LL Cool J

My first destination was neither an LL Cool J spot, nor a Run DMC locale. I’d save those for later.  Instead, I chose the Nu-Clear Cleaners brick and mortar building. As many Hip-Hop fans will remember, this is the location of the roof-top video shoot for A Tribe Called Quest’s Check the Rhime video. This is arguably my favorite Hip-Hop song of all-time.

Having researched this location on Google Maps, I began to feel a familiarity with the neighborhood as I approached Nu-Clear. I found parking on 192nd St., the street that has been renamed for Phife Dawg.  Excitedly, I hopped out of the car, and went to find the Tribe mural on the side of the building.  Initially there was no one around, and I took my time letting my surroundings sink in.  I tried to imagine Linden Boulevard filled with friends, family, and fans of A Tribe Called Quest.  I squinted my eyes, and could almost picture Tip, Jarobi, Phife, and Ali on the roof, pantomiming their own lyrics, and bouncing to the beats. I took a handful of pictures of the building, and made a bee-line for the new sign announcing Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Way.  This intersection was an important flash point in my Hip-Hop evolution; and here I stood.

“Okay, if knowledge is the key then just show me the lock
Got the scrawny legs but I move just like Lou Brock
With speed, I’m agile plus I’m worth your while
One hundred percent intelligent black child
My optic presentation sizzles the retina
How far must you go to gain respect? Umm…”

– A Tribe Called Quest

When I turned around, I noticed a guy standing in the middle of the Tribe mural, trying to take his own picture.  As I approached, I offered to take his photograph.  He was dressed in a black suit, with a black tie. Additionally, he wore a crisp, new, fitted Yankees cap.  Once we took each others’ picture, he shared with me that he was back in town for a friend’s funeral.  He launched into an informative description of growing up in the area, and pointed to a building that was his day-care center when he was a child.  He looked past me while he reminisced, and I couldn’t help but feel wistful, right along with him. We were two perfect strangers, but his presence in my story suddenly made perfect sense. We chatted for awhile, never exchanging names, but ending our conversation with a warm handshake and a smile.  After collecting more photographs, I headed back to the car.  I wanted to get to Hollis, and I wanted to find Nick. I was getting close. – AK


Below:  The first ‘mash-ups’ from the trip.  Inspired by the Delta Bravo Urban Exploration Team, once I capture the imagery from a site, I attempt to match up the photos that made that spot notable.  The haul from this trip was a personal best for me – Twenty-nine successful smashes in one day (although it should always be quality over quantity). I had gone in well-prepared, and these are the tangible evidence of an incredible experience…

LL Cool J - 'Bigger and Deffer' album cover - Delta Bravo mash-up
LL Cool J – ‘Bigger and Deffer’ album cover – Andrew Jackson High School – 207-01 116th Avenue – Cambria Heights, Queens, New York – 1987
“LL’s thicker than butter, well-known throat cutter/
When I’m involved all the amateurs stutter”
Original photograph – Glen E. Friedman
A Tribe Called Quest - 'Check the Rhime' video - Delta Bravo mash-up
A Tribe Called Quest – ‘Check the Rhime’ video – 192 St. (Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Way) and Linden Blvd. – Queens, NY – 1991
“Back in the days on the Blvd of Linden…”
Q-Tip - 'Check the Rhime' video - Delta Bravo mash-up
A Tribe Called Quest – ‘Check the Rhime’ video – 192nd St. and Linden Blvd. – Queens, NY
*This is my best guess, as many of the houses have had extensive renovations. Some of the brick walls have been removed, in favor of updated fencing. I didn’t take much time in trying to line things up because I didn’t want to disturb residents. I was surprised that I had any usable photos when looking through my images. I think this is the right spot, but would welcome any better information.


Phife - 'Check the Rhime' - Delta Bravo mash-up
A Tribe Called Quest – ‘Check the Rhime’ video – 192nd St. and Linden Blvd. – Queens, NY

*This is my best guess, as many of the houses have had extensive renovations. Some of the brick walls have been removed, in favor of updated fencing. I didn’t take much time in trying to line things up because I didn’t want to disturb residents. I was surprised that I had any usable photos when looking through my images. I think this is the right spot, but would welcome any better information.

The story will be continued in Mission: Queens Hip-Hop History – Part 2

The Hip-Hop Road Trip

“I had to roam so I picked up the phone
Dialed Ali up to see what was going down
Told him I pick him up so we could drive around
Took the Dodge Dart, a ’74
My mother left a yard but I needed one more
Shaheed had me covered with a hundred greenbacks
So we left Brooklyn and we made big tracks
Drove down the Belt, got on the Conduit
Came to a toll, and paid and went through it
Had no destination, we was on a quest
Ali laid in the back so he can get rest
Drove down the road for two-days-and-a-half
The sun had just risen on a dusty path
Just then a figure had caught my eye
A man with a sombrero who was 4 feet high”

I Left My Wallet in El Segundo – A Tribe Called Quest



Until recently, I’d say the last six or seven years, music was something that I would consume on a very personal, individual basis. The exception would be when I would have people in my car, and an iron-grip-of-control on the music coming from the speakers.  Music was always setting the mood, providing the soundtrack, and willing me to be my best.

It wasn’t until the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, that I considered driving a long way to get to the music.  Normally, the music travelled with me; and it was always accessible.  That night in Cleveland was a wake up call and a reminder that we have a finite time to witness live shows and memorable performances. It was the night we found out Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch would not be in attendance. He would not be performing with his two band mates and friends, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz.

I have written about that night, in my ‘Mission: Chuck D’ piece, but I have also been ruminating on the embryonic nature of the event.  It presented to me, with much clarity, the finiteness of life and how we choose to live it.

I was glad to have been there, and made up my mind to be present in generating and enjoying my own experiences.  I came home a changed man.

What has followed is a newly developed alter ego.  For forty years, I had always been boringly rational, safe, and responsible. With the exception of a few bumpy years in high school, I was exceedingly predictable, often relying on my friends to provide spontaneity and adventure.  It’s not to say that I am irresponsible now – that’s why I use the term ‘alter ego’.  During the day, I’m still reliable and consistent.

Now, however, I throw caution to the wind.  I make attempts to put myself in positions where interesting things will happen.

“But if leading the perfect life is unlikely, it is still entirely possible to lead an interesting life – and I would maintain (as my modest contribution to art theory) that if you lead an interesting life you are on track to make interesting art.  Your job is to put yourself on an intercept path with interesting experiences.”  – The Studio Door | Ted Orland

Since 2012, I have used my artwork as a ticket for adventure. I hide behind it, and I wield it as my confidence and nerve.  So much so, that the act of bringing my artwork to live events has become my art.  It’s a bit of a performance, with the finale being written by the cast of characters who dip in and out of the scenes; and ultimately by the subjects of my paintings and drawings.  This blog serves as an archive of these unscripted experiences.

The friendships and connections that have been forged, as a result of these new adventures, are life-long and gratifying.  I relish each new relationship and the stories that inevitably result in meeting new people and traveling to new places.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Masta Ace, a criminally underrated and slept-on MC.  It was a wonderful experience, made even more memorable because I was surrounded by my new friends when it happened.  When we regrouped after the meeting, and Ace had gone on his way, we began casually joking around about driving to Adelphi University, to see Chuck D deliver a speech on the history of Hip-Hop.  The event was something we wished was closer, but we still wanted to be there to support Chuck.  Assuming that we were all busy that day, I quickly forgot about the idea.  Two days later, the day of the event, my friend Myron sent me a text – 1:34pm “Still thinking about Adelphi fellas?”


The die was cast. The gauntlet was thrown down.  We decided that we could make it up there – just in time.


We made it up to Adelphi University, on New York’s Strong Island, with 15 minutes to spare before showtime.  Via text, we let Chuck know that we were in the house, and found seats in the middle of the small theatre space.  As I sat there, flanked by my two new friends (and Dinco D from Leaders of the New School), I realized how fortunate I am. I have been able to fall in with people who have the same curiosity and thirst for knowledge as I do.  They want to immerse themselves in experience, history, culture, and tribute. They want to retell the same stories and have the same debates over and over again.

On location at Adam Yauch Park – Brooklyn, New York – with (left to right: Yankee Fan, Leroy Henry, Andrew Katz, Mike Kearney, and Malcolm Riddle

“Who is in your Top 5? Ok, Who are your Top 5 groups?  Did I ever tell you about the time I rapped with Run DMC? How about the time I took the train to NYC to see Tribe open for Kanye West (and skipped the Kanye West part)”.  To friends, these stories never get old.  If they do, they are too polite to tell me.


Although I’m way behind, I wanted to share some of the road trip stories here.  Recently, we drove to Philly to see the Beastie Boys book tour –  We drove to New York one Sunday, to attend Bumpy Knuckles birthday celebration (that was an incredible night!) – We went to Brooklyn to clean up Adam Yauch Park, when some playground equipment had been defaced – We drove up and back to the Tribe 25th Anniversary show in NYC – We went to Philly to see a Public Enemy / Stetsasonic / Chubb Rock show – We always made it to Brooklyn to celebrate MCA Day – and we have been in and around the DC Hip-Hop scene for several years.


It’s difficult to summarize these trips and missions (as I call them).  There are countless hours of waiting, joking, talking, debating, and laughing. I’m already looking forward to the new adventures that will arise in the coming months.  Fortunately, my good friend Malcolm Riddle has documented several of these road trips on his ‘American Riddle’ podcast.  I’m going to leave them here.  Let me (and Malcolm) know what you think:


American Riddle Podcast – Adam Yauch Park Road Trip

American Riddle Podcast – Road Trip to Philly – Public Enemy, Stetsasonic, Chubb Rock

American Riddle Podcast – ATCQ 25th Anniversary – Santos Party House – NYC

American Riddle Podcast – MCA Day Recap 2015 

‘Move as a team, never move alone’

Public Enemy

Welcome to the Terrordome

Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch – Mural

Thanks! -AK


Mission: Masta Ace

“Listen closely, so your attention’s undivided
Many in the past have tried to do what I did
Just the way I came off then, I’m gonna come off
Stronger and longer, even with the drum off”

Masta Ace’s first lines of The Symphony

Marley Marl & The Juice Crew



A couple of months ago, I noticed a small, on-line flier, announcing a Record Store Day event at Records and Rarities, followed by a concert at Union Stage.  The picture, and accompanying text, explained that Masta Ace and Marco Polo would be appearing at both locations, in support of their A Breukelen Story album.


Immediately, I began making some mental plans to get to one of the locations to meet another original member of the storied Juice Crew (I’ve met Roxanne Shanté, Craig G, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, and Biz Markie).

To be honest, I had to put a lot of this on the back burner, and had some doubts that I would be able to find time to make any original artwork for the event.  That being said, I had the Madina Golden Era ‘Stamp’ poster beckoning from the wall of my studio, and Chuck D’s This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History book, to bring along. I would have plenty to get in front of the Brooklyn-born MC.  In the meantime, I had many responsibilities at work, keeping my schedule full.

As the date approached, I made some attempt to gather materials; including some Prismacolor colored pencils and a new 16″ x 20″ wood panel.  If I could find several hours over the subsequent few weeks, I might be able to pull something together.

In researching the imagery for the new piece, I found a beautiful photographic portrait from which to work.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, one of my new friends, and fellow mADurgency artists, Confuse Art, had recently rendered a stunning digital version of the same picture.  It wouldn’t make any sense for me to tackle the same image. He had knocked it out of the park, and there was nothing left for me to say.  He had said it all.

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Beautiful, right? Following that act would be futile, but I still wanted to give it my best.

After some searching, I landed on an album cover-art photograph that had striking blues, oranges, and dynamic light and shadow. I was in business.

Each night of the week leading up to the event at the record store, I carved out a few hours to get some work done. It began to come together nicely, and I was feeling good about finishing it up in time. Everything was in order.

Record Store Day arrived, and I plugged the coordinates for Records and Rarities into my GPS.  I wanted to get there early, and check out the vinyl, as well as the lay of the land.  Although the event was in northern Virginia, I had plenty of time to get there.  I was hoping Malcolm and Myron would meet up with me, but I wasn’t sure of their plans.

I got to Springfield Mall around 11:30 am, not too long before Marco and Ace were scheduled to appear. I found the store on the second floor, and wandered around a bit; eventually purchasing the special 7″ record that they were there to promote.


I texted Malcolm and Myron, both, and I suggested I wait for them to show up, before getting into any kind of line.  While there was evidence of an earlier crowd – a tray of mini cinnamon rolls, coffee, and a sectioned off area out front for lining people up, the young guy behind the counter told me “That was for when we opened this morning.”  After all, it was Record Store Day – There were all kinds of special releases and sales.

Malcolm and Myron texted me back individually, both letting me know they would be here closer to 1:00 pm.  I’d have to wait awhile. I asked the employee, “Where is everyone?  You’d think they’d be lining up to meet Masta Ace!”  He replied, “Yeah, we’ve been promoting it all week.  We said ‘Masta Ace!’ So people will be here”.  I walked out to get a bite to eat, and looked back over my shoulder to make sure they weren’t arriving as I was leaving.  It was pretty quiet, so even if they showed up while I was gone, I would be able to get close again quickly.

At around 12:30, I walked back over to the store, and got a surprise text from Malcolm – “Parking now”.  He was earlier than he thought he’d be – great!  I looked through the plate glass window, and once again, saw that Ace and Marco weren’t there.  I guessed that it’s a lot like a live show – sometimes the talent arrives a bit late (so you’ll buy more drinks or merch).  I’m not a fan of waiting, but it’s part of the mission.

I was waiting for Malcolm outside the store; I wanted to greet him when he came around the corner, so we could go in together.  About 10 minutes went by, and I was wondering what was taking him so long to walk in from the parking lot, when my phone vibrated.  It was Malcolm – “Where are you?”  I replied – “I’m standing right out front of the store.”

Malcolm – “They’re here. Where are you? I’m looking right at them.”

Me – “What?” – (sinking feeling)

Malcolm – “What mall are you at?”

Me- …(Um) “Springfield”…

Malcolm – “We’re at Tyson’s”

Me- “Where’s that!?” – (F**K!)

Even though I knew the answer, I went back into the store. I went straight up to a guy I assumed was the manager. Pointing to all of the posters announcing the Masta Ace and Marco Polo event, I inadvertently interrupted the moment he popped a whole mini cinnamon roll in his mouth.  “Excuse me, is there another Records and Rarities?!”  I knew the answer, but stood there watching him chew just enough to mumble out a crumb-spewing “Tyson’s”.  I spun on my heels and started for the car. I left the dude chomping on his cinnamon roll, in a cloud of profanity-laced disappointment. Not my finest moment. I probably owe him an apology.

I had to get over to Tyson’s Corner mall, and I didn’t know how far, or how difficult it would be to get there.  The 495 beltway around DC is notorious for its traffic and overall unpredictability.

Although in hindsight I made incredible time, the next 15 to 25 minute drive seemed like an eternity. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t know if they would stick around long enough for me to make all of this running around worthwhile.

To break up my mad dash from Springfield to Tyson’s, I hit the Bluetooth phone option in my car – “Call Malcolm Riddle!” – The disembodied voice calmly replied “Calling Malcolm Riddle”.  After a few rings, it went to voicemail.  “FU*K!”  I imagined Malcolm chilling with Ace, and the phone ringing silently in his pocket.  “FU*K!”  I waited a few minutes before trying again, but ultimately I got the same result.

Little did I know that those phone calls were, in fact, interrupting Malcolm getting his photo taken with Masta Ace and Marco Polo. Our good friend Saleem was holding the phone, and declining the call each time.  While Saleem was focused on snapping a good flick, the phone would vibrate and the name “Grandmaster Katz” would fill the screen.  Malcolm has called me this for awhile now, but Saleem thought he was declining calls from Hip-Hop legend Grandmaster Caz. He said, “Malcolm, Why is Caz calling you!?”  I’m sure everyone was disappointed to know that it was just me calling to confirm my idiocy.

Mercifully, Malcolm called me back.  He was quiet and calm, and explained “You’re good. They knew you were coming, so they’re gonna wait for you.”  I was closing in on the mall, and not-so-quickly, found a parking spot.  I sprinted through the garage, with my portfolio case and heavy backpack in tow.  I wasn’t sure if the entrance I was using was even remotely close to the store. I guess I got lucky, as the store came into sight.  I was huffing and puffing, and I’m sure I looked a bit disheveled. When I came through the door, I received a Bronx cheer, and heard a few people laugh and call out my name.  In the middle of the small group, I saw Saleem.  He was laughing at me, but offered a handshake and a hug.  “I know, I know, I’m an idiot” –  I said.  Malcolm sidled up next to me, and was all ready for pix.  I’m pretty sure he explained to everyone that I was on my way.  He made it happen.  I think he was prepared to make sure they wouldn’t leave before I arrived.

“Move as a team, never move alone” – Public Enemy (and now mADurgency’s motto)

Deep breath.  OK, I got there.  I pulled out the ‘Golden Era’ poster, and opened my portfolio to reveal the new colored-pencil piece. Marco came over and immediately started taking pictures of the work, and offered to snap a few of me with Ace.  I was settling in quickly, and the duo was making me feel right at home.  Surrounded by people who really look out for me, I felt incredibly fortunate, and began to relax.

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Ace asked if I would step behind the table so we could get some picture of the two of us with the artwork. He could tell that I was excited to meet him, but he was soft-spoken and totally focused on the moment. He asked me questions about the media and the surface.  I thanked him for his time and attention, and explained my attempts to get the work, not only signed, but tagged with lyrics. I produced a small card from my pocket.  On it, I had written a short line from The Symphony – “There’s a sign at the door: No bitin’ allowed”.  – To be sure, a classic lyric.  I said, “If I’m really lucky, you’ll sign the artwork, but also add some lyrics.  I brought this one with me.”  He read the card, and said “Would you mind if I wrote a different one?”  “Ha! No I don’t mind a bit! I’d love that! Thank you!”

You see, that’s the connection.  It’s so much more authentic if the artist is thoughtful about the collaborative nature of the exchange. I was thrilled.  I wanted to take a video of the signing, and by the time I had focused my camera, Ace was seated and contemplating what he would be adding to the piece.

He chose the opening bars from The Story of Me, a beautiful, personal, and introspective track.

It took me 15 years to understand my worth
It was 1988 when Marley planned my birth
Had to get my feet up out of the sand and surf
Never thought that my rap lines would span the earth


I continued to thank Ace, although I felt he understood, perhaps more than others, just how much this experience meant to me.  We exchanged handshakes and promised to stay connected.  Malcolm and I also began to explain the mADurgency endeavor.  He signed Chuck’s book, Madina’s poster, and even helped us record a video shoutout for the mADurgency artists’ collective.  It was time to leave this guy alone.

Malcolm, Myron, and I went to sit down just outside the storefront.  I collapsed into my chair, as the adrenaline of the drive and the meeting was wearing off.  We had a good conversation about the day, and began to strategize about other ‘missions’.  We were there for an additional 45 minutes, when we looked up, and saw Ace walking out of the store.  He waved to us, and we said our thanks again.  We marveled at how this Hip-Hop legend could navigate the crowded mall with nary a raised eyebrow.  He wordlessly walked out of sight, unbothered by the passersby.

Thanks for waiting for me, Masta Ace. You made it an incredible experience. – AK

The Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch Tribute Skateboard

In 2012, the world lost a great man.  Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, founding member of the Beastie Boys, continues to be missed and celebrated.  As a tribute, and to continue his Hip-Hop and activist legacy, I decided to design a skateboard paying tribute to his memory.

Originally, I hand-painted a deck, and brought it to New York City. I had an opportunity to meet AdRock, and my goal was to get the board in front of him. I wanted to express our admiration and feeling of loss to Yauch’s bandmate and friend.  When AdRock and his wife, Kathleen Hanna, curated an art show, I made it a point to be there.

After the charity art exhibition, I began to wonder about making a pro deck.  I was operating without a map, and I didn’t know where to begin. It became very important for me to figure things out.

I was watching a documentary called Skateboard Nationfeaturing the construction of skateparks that served the Native-American youth community.  The film featured an interview with Jim Murphy of Wounded Knee Skateboards (quite possibly the perfect name for a skate company in service of the Native-Amercian community).  I was moved by this story, and decided to attempt to contact Mr. Murphy.  I wrote him a short, impassioned note, explaining my motivation and goal to make my deck idea into a professional-quality skateboard design. I was pleasantly surprised when he replied to my message, almost immediately.

He turned me on to Chapman Skates in NY state, and I quickly contacted them.  Glenn Chapman answered the phone on one ring, and clearly and concisely laid out what would be my next steps for fabrication.

I set the number of decks at a limit of fifty.  I wanted to get these decks into the hands of fifty people who felt the same way that I do about Yauch.  While it has been six years since I started this endeavor, I continue to be excited and inspired by the connections this story evokes.

I set aside board number one of fifty.  I would keep this deck, and bring it to live Hip-Hop shows.  There, I would ask MCA’s peers to tag the surface, paying tribute to their friend, and sharing stories and memories during the exchange.

As of this writing, I have obtained signatures and stories from:  DJ Hurricane, Danny Boy O’Connor, Dante Ross, Phife Dawg, Posdnous, Trugoy, Maseo, B-Real, Eric Bobo, SenDog, DJ Julio, Mix Master Mike, Monie Love, Chuck D, Doug E. Fresh, DJ Kool, Billions McMillions, Speech, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, DMC, Glen E. Friedman, and Cey Adams


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The deck has brought me on many adventures, and has allowed me to meet many interesting people.  Of the original fifty, I have about 10 decks left, and I’m so pleased that people have gone out of their way to celebrate Yauch in this way.  Each of the fifty decks are signed, numbered, and come with a letter explaining the impetus for the design.  In the future, I hope to add to deck number 1 – although it’s getting a bit crowded on there! – AK


A couple of ways to obtain one of the Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch decks:

On location at Adam Yauch Park – Brooklyn, New York – with (left to right: Yankee Fan, Leroy Henry, Andrew Katz, Mike Kearney, and Malcolm Riddle



People Like Us Do Things Like This: My New T Shirt Endeavor

If you’ve stumbled upon my blog, you may have wondered, “Why is it called This Might Not Work?”  Aside from being an art teacher and a Hip-Hop enthusiast, I have consumed much of the work of Seth Godin. Seth is a well-respected guru-type who exists in the business and marketing world.  While I am not a businessperson, I do encounter people who would like to purchase my artwork.  I want to become savvy and helpful when someone is attempting to navigate the arena of acquiring a new piece of art.  I want the quality of the work to remain the most important aspect of the transaction, and always strive to insure that all parties are satisfied with the experience.  Seth’s podcast Akimbo, and books like The Icarus Deception (among others), have empowered me to get my work out into the world.  The title of this post – People Like Us, Do Things Like This, and my blog title This Might Not Work, are both  ‘Godinisms’.  He writes these phrases often, and they serve as reminders for each of us to ask the questions – Who are you?  What do you want to do?  What do you hope to accomplish?

People Like Us Do Things Like This

There is no more powerful tribal marketing connection than this. More than features, more than benefits, we are driven to become a member in good standing of the tribe. We want to be respected by those we aspire to connect with, we want to know what we ought to do to be part of that circle. Not the norms of mass, but the norms of our chosen tribe. – Seth Godin

I was looking for T-Shirts to wear to live Hip-Hop shows.  It’s no secret, if you know me, that I constantly point out my favorite lyrics in my favorite Hip-Hop tracks.  I’m sure it gets a bit redundant, if not annoying, but my goal is a quid pro quo conversation where someone will offer their favorite lines, as well.  I’m always trying to find out what inspires other people.

My search for cool t-shirts made me realize that I have pretty specific tastes. I like simple, bold, textless imagery. I couldn’t find anything like that. Either the designs were too busy, gawdy, or over-the-top (Sylvester Stallone), or they were hitting you over the head with block-letter messages; leaving no room for interpretation or imagination.

I decided to make my own designs.  People like us, do things like this:


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If you read this much, and understand my approach, you are a part of my tribe. I invite you to check out my new Classic Hip-Hop lyrics T-Shirt designs.  Each new image is inspired by my favorite lyrics and my favorite turns-of-phrase.  The Hip-Hop genre is rife with vivid, colorful, and vibrant descriptions. These compositions are my celebration of those clever combinations of words and imagery. Let me know your favorite lines!  Thanks for checking it out! – AK

ajkatzart for browsing and purchasing


ajkatzart for browsing or purchasing





Classic Hip-Hop ‘ILL’ustrations – Stickers

I’ve just completed a new trio of classic Hip-Hop lyrics illustrations.  As a group, they will serve as the second set of stickers that I’ve designed through Sticker Mule.

The three new images emerged from the amazing wordplay and descriptive lyrics of iconic Hip-Hop tracks.  First, I mined the vivid and clever lines of the Microphone Fiend – Rakim.  His opening bars for Paid In Full paint a clear picture of how his abilities as an MC have provided him with an alternative to a nefarious past. In the Master Plan illustration, I wanted to capture the line simply and boldly.

Thinkin’ of a master plan
‘Cause ain’t nothin’ but sweat inside my hand
So I dig into my pocket, all my money spent
So I dig deeper, but still coming up with lint
So I start my mission, leave my residence…”

Eric B and Rakim – Paid in Full

untitled_artwork 16
Master Plan

The second of the new designs, also a Rakim gem, is one of my favorite sequences in all of Hip-Hop.  From the song Microphone Fiend, we hear of The R’s frustration when someone tries to take his mic. It doesn’t go over well.

“Music-orientated so when hip-hop was originated
Fitted like pieces of puzzles, complicated
‘Cause I grabbed the mic and try to say, “yes, y’all”
They tried to take it, and say that I’m too small
Cool, ’cause I don’t get upset
I kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug, then I jet.

Eric B and Rakim – Microphone Fiend


Most recently, I went back into my archive and brought back a design that was 95% complete.  I had drawn the quintessential LL Cool J – I Can’t Live Without My Radio image, even before I started making stickers.  I’ve always love his ability to construct a visual with his braggadocious approach to rhyming.  So simple and clean, his songs remain relevant and inspiring.

“My radio, believe me, I like it loud
I’m the man with the box that can rock the crowd
Walkin’ down the street, to the hardcore beat
While my JVC vibrates the concrete

LL Cool J – I Can’t Live Without My Radio

Vibrating Concrete



I now have six of my favorite lyrics available as stickers.  Collect them all, and be on the lookout for t-shirts emblazoned with the same selection of imagery.  I’m really looking forward to constructing a library of the best Hip-Hop visuals. Stay Tuned!

Each sticker is approximately 4″ tall. If you’d like to acquire the stickers, they are available here:

My Big Cartel Shop – ajkatzart

My Etsy Shop – ajkatzart


Thank you! – AK



The Up.St.Art Magazine Article and Cover

I’ve lived and worked in Maryland my entire life.  I live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and I’ve held a teaching position in Annapolis for thirteen years.  Unfortunately, I had been struggling to connect to the art and music community that seems to thrive in this capital city.  Although I teach visual arts, and I’ve been enthusiastically making paintings and drawings, my work had instead been finding homes in Washington DC and Baltimore. After a chance meeting with local artists Sally Comport and Linsday Bolin-Lowery, the connection I was hoping for was suddenly cemented.

One day, after school, I had visited Sally’s Art at Large studio on West Street.  I was invited there to discuss public art and uses for augmented reality and the HP Reveal app. It seemed that there was new interest in making mural endeavors and museum exhibitions come to life.  I was eager to share how I’ve experimented with this interactive technology.

The meeting went well, and we strategized new ways that we could bring this to the Annapolis community. I was demonstrating the app, and lamenting the fact that I hadn’t been successful gaining a foothold in the local scene, when we heard voices in the FIN ART gallery next door. Lindsay suddenly lit up.  She said, “I think Jimi is over there! I’ll go get him, so we can show him what we’re talking about!” She disappeared for a few seconds, and returned with Jimi Davies, a.k.a. Jimi Ha Ha – musician, artist, and creative.  I knew about Jimi from his music (Jimmie’s Chicken Shack) and I had seen his popular culture art pieces all around town.  He is a multi-talented guy and a ball of creative energy. It was cool to finally meet him.

After the introduction, and a brief explanation of how the augmented reality app works, Jimi said matter-of-factly, “OK, let’s do it!  Let’s put your art in our magazine, and use the app to make the issue interactive.”  Normally, I have to convince people of the innovation and advantages of this type of technology.  It didn’t take me long to realize that Jimi is a creative risk-taker.  His ‘what’s the worst’ that could happen?’ attitude was inspiring, and I was blown away by the openness to include me and and my artwork in the winter issue.  It was that simple.

In the months leading up to the launch, I figured that I’d hear from the design team. I thought they might struggle with the app, or they would have questions about the layout of the article.  Instead, Cory Deere, the art director for the magazine, crafted a beautiful layout, and included augmented reality ‘hotspots’ throughout the issue.  I heard absolutely nothing about the project until the night of the launch party.  I was on Route 97, coming back from the airport, when Jimi posted some teaser details on social media.  From the partial picture that he shared, I knew that my corrugated cardboard portrait of Chuck D would be featured on the cover.  I couldn’t get to the party fast enough!

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I pulled up at the bar, and waited to see someone I knew.  After a few minutes, I pulled out my phone to text a few people. Just then, a magazine was slapped down on the countertop. “I figured, you should get the first look at the new issue!” said a friendly voice.  It was Jimi, and he had arrived for the concert and party.  He clapped me on the back, and I thanked him profusely for his kindness and generosity.  With that, he excused himself to get a few things set up.  I had a few minutes alone with the new article. Julia Gibb, the author of the piece, had come out to Kent Island a few months back to interview me.  Although she recorded our conversation, I was a bit worried that she had the herculean task of distilling it down to a few columns. I was elated at how she capably wove together my long-winded ramblings and pieced together a flattering biography.  It was overwhelming.  Thanks, Julia. Thanks, Cory.  Thanks, Jimi. Thanks, Sally. Thanks, Lindsay.


The attention to detail and the professional quality of this magazine is not easy to forget.  It’s surprising that this is a free, local publication, that serves as promotion for musicians, galleries, artists, and restaurants. Although it costs nothing, it is a rich, vibrant snapshot of an exciting, close-knit, burgeoning community of creative people.  I’m humbled to be a part of it.

Once I heard about the cover, I shared the news with Chuck D. After all, it was his image that would be out there.  He offered this short, supportive message.  What can I say? He is the best.

Once the article was published, and I got my hands on a few copies, I began sending them to friends who don’t live in Annapolis.  One of the coolest messages of support and thanks came from Germany.  Giovanni Fichera, curator of the Public Enemy On-line Museum, and arguably the world’s biggest Public Enemy fan, posted this photograph –

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It’s been a fun few weeks, and I hope these new connections will become solid friendships and strong ties.  I’m fortunate to be welcomed into this unique community.


Please follow the directions on the first page of the magazine.  This way, you will be able to interact with the photos and the advertisements using the HP Reveal app.

Special thanks to Academy Award-nominated photographer, documentarian, and friend Mig Martinez. He and Rebecca Groom were so kind as to construct a video of me with my work (back in May, at the Blind Whino in DC). I used those photos and video to enhance the article and the augmented reality. Thanks, Mig. Thanks, Rebecca.

When you get a chance, check out Mig’s movie Farewell Ferris Wheel.


Here is a link that allows you to view the whole magazine:  Up.St.Art Magazine – Winter 2018 

Here is a clear, easy-to-read version of the article:  Andy’s Instinctive Travels by Julia Gibb

On HP Reveal ‘follow’ – Up.St.Art public auras and ajkatzart public auras to successfully view all of the hidden content! Good luck! – AK


IG – ajkatzart

Mission: Wu-Tang Clan

“Shaolin shadowboxing and the Wu-Tang sword style. If what you say is true, the Shaolin and the Wu-Tang could be dangerous. Do you think your Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?”

“En garde, I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style.” –

Bring Da Ruckus – Wu-Tang Clan



November 1 loomed large on the calendar.  Announced at The Anthem in DC, the night of the Black Star show on April 20th, the Wu-Tang Clan would be performing together in honor of the 25th Anniversary of their iconic Enter the Wu Tang: 36 Chambers album. The end of October, Halloween, signaled a deadline for any new artwork to be made.


Overwhelmed at the thought of making ten portraits, I decided to let myself off the hook, and I instead focused on trying something new.  I toyed with the idea of making a group piece, but quickly dismissed the idea in favor of traditional headshots. It was important to stress quality over quantity, and I purchased a wooden panel on which to attempt the first drawing.

For the past couple of years, I had reverted to black and white imagery, mostly rendered on corrugated cardboard.  For the Wu-Tang pieces, I wanted a bold, fresh, and louder look.  I wanted to experiment with colored pencils, and decided to invest in some Prismacolor supplies.  I was hoping that I could stay tight and realistic, while emulating the look and feel of an oil painting.  The woodgrain of the panel would serve as a background, while setting off the hard edges of the portrait’s contours. I cued up season one of Breaking Bad, found a strong image of Raekwon the Chef, and I set to work.


Although it took a bit longer than the cardboard work, I was pleased with the contrast between the natural color of the board, and the vivid colors afforded me by the soft pigments of the pencils. It seemed to strike the right balance, and I was reminded of the smooth oil paintings of renaissance portraiture.  It was then I realized that I’d finish each piece off with gold-leaf.

An in-progress look at the ‘Raekwon the Chef’ portrait.  Here, you can see my process of lightly drawing contours and edges. This is how I begin my watercolor paintings, as well.  At this point, the flesh tones were still a bit transparent, and not as rich as they would become.  I was excited at the sense of light that I was able to achieve.

As the day approached, I was spending every spare minute working on the portraits. I was bringing them to work, furiously scribbling during my lunch hour, and working into the night. It was evident, that I would only get a few of them done.  I had previously made digital paintings of Method Man, RZA, and Redman, and I planned on bringing them along as gifts for each of them.  Still, I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to have a piece for each member to sign.  To add an additional hurdle to my time crunch, I was running up to New York City for the Bumpy Knuckles Family Reunion event at SOBs.  There would very little time to make any additional work.

Using one last, desperate gasp of energy, and with a suggestion from my buddy Malcolm, I decided to pull together a portrait of Russell Tyrone Jones – Ol’ Dirty Bastard. If I could get it done in time, I would have something to show all of the members of the group. This was the best part of the plan!

I would now have seven portraits, and a G-Scale toy train car to bring with me to the show. I began to worry – How would I carry all of this stuff?

IMG_3270As the window of time for art-making dwindled, a few logistical pieces began to fall into place.  DJ Bee, Real Fresh Radio, and KEJA Marketing (Norfolk, VA), reached out to say they’d be providing the pre-show music for the event.  They have all become friends, and I was excited to find that they were offering their help.  Between Feed the Scene connections, and our Real Fresh Radio family, we would obtain three backstage access passes. This would surely help to clear our path.

Three members of our newly minted mADurgency artists’ collective, Myron, Malcolm, and I, agreed to meet at the show.  I precariously piled my new panels in plastic sleeves, delicately crammed the train car in my backpack, and gripped my portfolio case, as I waddled up to the entrance to The Anthem.  I had everything I needed.


As I hadn’t met Malcolm, Jeremy, or Myron yet, I decided to go in alone. Upon entering the spacious venue, I went to the stage edge to gather a perspective from the floor.  Immediately, I saw DJ Bee already in position and moving the early crowd.  I decided to get my pass, and head backstage to get a lay of the land.

There was a lot of activity – moving stagecraft, positioning performers, and setting up security.  I found a corner, and created a home base for my artwork and supplies.  Surveying the area, and realizing that I was plenty early, I began to relax a bit. It was then that I noticed another person standing in the wings of the stage – DC legend, DJ Kool. Having met him before, and wanting to say ‘Hello’, I walked up to him to offer a handshake.  He saw me, and began shaking his head.  “How come I’m the only one that doesn’t have a dope piece of art from you!” he bellowed, with a smile. What, He remembered me and my artwork?  With that, he offered his hand, and I laughed.  He said, “Oh yeah, I know who you are!”  It was a great moment.  We talked for a few minutes, I thanked him for Let Me Clear My Throat!, reminded him about the time we met on stage with Doug E. Fresh (that’s a good story)and we agreed to connect on some artwork in the future.


More and more people were filtering into the backstage area, and it became apparent that I wouldn’t be in some small, select group of lucky fans.  There were going to be a ton of bodies in this tight space.

Myron, Malcolm, and Jeremy each arrived separately, and we started to strategize the best way watch the show, while still trying to get a few seconds with the group members.

We went up to higher perch, and looked over the small crowd.  Just then, a small entourage of people brushed past, and somebody who was the spitting image of ODB, was in the middle.  It was his son.  Quickly, I pulled out the portrait, and asked if he would add his name to the new piece.  He obliged, and took a few pictures with us.  It was great to get him to co-sign the image.  It meant a lot that he approved.


Seconds later, with a cacophony of activity, Method Man came up the stairs and entered the space next to the stage. What had recently been a small group of people milling about, suddenly became a crowd swarm – everyone wanting a piece of Mef. Once he got his bearings, and a few people gave him some breathing room, he began addressing people who were nearby.  One person gave him some CDs, somebody began recounting how he and they knew some of the same people, and I tried to hang back a bit.  Eventually, Malcolm took the print from me, and got it in front of him. He took a moment, and realized that we were giving it to him as a gift.  Recognition spread across his face, as I explained that he had asked for one when I met him at the Howard Theatre.  He shook my hand, turned, and I put the ODB portrait in front of him.  He quickly scrawled his name on it, and Malcolm snapped a few flicks. He floated out of the area, with people trailing behind him.

It never occurred to me to take the train out of my backpack, and I decided that would be the right approach. It was too cumbersome and awkward to navigate these tight spaces with something so delicate. Besides, I was having a lot of trouble organizing all the other pieces.  It was going well, but it was obvious that this was not going to be a cake walk.

Just then GZA walked by.  He was almost unnoticed, as he made his way towards the stage.  He double-backed towards the staircase, and I managed to get his attention with the artwork.  He stopped halfway up the steps, and turned towards me. His companions were complimenting my artwork, and he was saying “Where do I get one of these?”.  He quickly signed the bottom of the composition, and he was back on his way.


The staff at The Anthem began organizing the crowd. They gave us direction to clear the area, and before we knew what was happening, the elevator opened.  A small group of people emerged from the car, and made a bee-line toward the stage.  Surrounded by other performers, in the center of the group, was Redman.  He took the stage, and the crowd began to disperse. They all wanted a better vantage point.

A few of us regrouped, and hung back, taking turns going out to the floor to see the show.  While Redman was doing his thing, RZA came through the remaining, backstage crowd.  He leaned up against a railing chatting with a few people, as the crowd swelled behind him. It was a very cramped space, and people were working together to keep it from getting out of control.  When RZA turned around, he started taking pictures with those who were asking.  I decided to get up there with the ODB portrait. When I finally made it through the crowd and got it in front of him, he paused, and said “You see now, this is a beautiful thing.  This lady right here (he jerked his thumb towards the woman to his left) is ODB’s sister!”  It was really a cool moment, and even better that he thought to point it out to all of us.  She deflected the attention, but you could tell she appreciated the acknowledgement.

The rest of the night was an attempt to enjoy the show. While we were on the second level, the Anthem crew readied the floor leading up to the stage. It was obvious that the rest of the group would be coming down soon.  They erected barricades (even though we were backstage), and created a lane that allowed an unimpeded path.  Any shot that we would have to meet the rest of the group would have to be after the performance.

Wu-Tang rolled out of the elevator, came up the stairs, and more or less regrouped on stage.  The crowd on the floor went ballistic, and the majority of the backstage audience searched frantically for the best view.  Myron and I took a few minutes to assess the situation, when I noticed Malcolm had disappeared.  Thinking that he had gone out to the floor for the show, I settled into our unique spot behind a large black curtain. We could hear the show, and from certain angles, we could catch glimpses of the raucous action.  It wasn’t ideal, but we were working.  I was on a mission.

Malcolm reappeared. He had been back in the dressing room hallway.  Now I had lost track of Myron.  “I think he went to find some water”, Malcolm said.  “Redman is just chilling back there.”  He had finished his set, and with all of the movement and action downstairs, he had made it back to his room without notice.  Malcolm said, “Let’s go!”.  I had been back there a few moments ago, and took polite direction from a friendly security guard.  It was his job to keep this area free of too many people. When Malcolm and I went back a second time, the guard looked up to protest, when Malcolm ‘Kenobi’ said, without breaking stride, “Oh, we’re dropping off artwork for one of the artists”.  Immediately, the guard relaxed, seemingly satisfied with this explanation. We fell into a slow walk, and casually found the correct door.  Without overthinking it, we knocked lightly.  A gentleman that neither of us recognized opened the door a bit, and asked us our business. We explained that we had artwork for Redman, and that we were there on behalf of mADurgency and Chuck D.  He pulled the door open for us to enter, as we had evidently found the correct combinations of words. We entered the dressing room, replete with a buffet of food, smoke, and around 7 or 8 people.  As we rounded a small corner, there he was – Redman.  He had changed his clothes, and looked relaxed and approachable.  We introduced ourselves, and began a conversation about art, logo-design, our last meeting at The Howard Theatre, and plans for future connections.  Red seemed genuinely interested in how I had made the portrait, and peppered me with questions about the tools, the time, and the process it takes to make a piece like this.  He signed one for me, took one as a gift, and posed for a few pictures with us.  We gave our information to his manager, the man who opened the door, and tried not to wear out our welcome.  It was a great conversation, and a meaningful exchange.  Malcolm is obviously getting good at this.



It was time to head back out to the floor. We wanted to catch the show, and see if we could finish the mission.  My plan to deliver prints to Red and Mef had succeeded, and I was still hoping to get the rest of the Clan on the ODB portrait, and the Raekwon, and the Ghostface, and… Man, we still had some work to do.

When the show ended the barricades came back up. This time, we stood against the railing with the artwork.  Myron held the Raekwon, I had the Ghostface piece and the ODB portrait.  As they came through, they spent a few, quick moments with those who were offering kind words and pats on the back. The ODB portrait functioned like a magnet, as each member would glance up, and make their way over.  U-God, Ghost, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck; one after the other.  I did manage to miss Cappadonna and Masta Killa, but it was not for a lack of trying. There was just so much happening, so quickly.

Just like that, they disappeared upstairs.  I think we could have pressed our luck, and headed up after them.  Instead a wave of contentment washed over me; as well as exhaustion. It was getting pretty late, and I was riding high. I didn’t want to push, so we decided to call it a night.

We walked out of the venue into the cool night air.  People were grabbing cabs, recounting their favorite tracks, and laughing together on the sidewalk.  Myron called an Uber, we said our ‘goodbyes’ and Malcolm and I walked to the parking garage.

It was cool to have a few minutes to review all that had happened.  We were shaking our heads and laughing, as we knew it would be hard to keep all the best details straight.  That’s a big reason that I write all of this down. I don’t want to forget the fleeting moments of exhilaration, the worry, and the payoff for all of the logistical planning.  It’s incredibly fun, but it’s not always easy.

This was a satisfying and exciting mission.  I look forward to tracking down Masta Killa, and Cappadonna another time. For now, I’m going to think back on November 1st 2018 as the night we accomplished our Wu-Tang mission. – AK


@ajkatzart  IG- ajkatzart @mADurgency


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