When hip-hop moved into the diverse fray of Downtown 1980s New York, one man stood as the primary connector. Fab 5 Freddy, born Fred Brathwaite in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, joined Glenn O'Brien's famous public access show, TV Party in 1979—years before his groundbreaking work on Yo! MTV Raps. On TV Party he met Debbie Harry, and brought Blondie’s lead vocalist as well as Glenn O'Brien uptown to expose her to hip-hop. Artistically, he was also mixing uptown and downtown references, blending Warhol's pop vision with his own graffiti stylings and making art both on the streets and in the studio. He became, for lack of a grander term, a connector.

Fred Brathwaite connected styles. He also connected people. One of those was Futura, a young artist at the time fresh from a stint in the Merchant Marines. With a sense for the art world, Brathwaite saw Futura's talents as an artist and his charisma and brought him into a fold that included Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and a bright cast of young artists with the aim of expanding graffiti beyond its demonized public image.

For Futura Week, Complex Senor Editor Rob Kenner spoke with Fab 5 Freddy about his early experiences with the graffiti legend and how the two helped bring hip-hop to Europe.

Introduction by Nick Schonberger (@nschon). Interview by Rob Kenner (@boomshots).

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