Graffiti has always had a strange relationship with hip-hop. The accepted theory is that graffiti art was created spontaneously with hip-hop’s other elements, sometime in the early 1970s. The truth is that graffiti or public name writing as I refer to it, is more like the adopted sibling of hip-hop, brought into the family, and has a history that stretches back more than a hundred years prior to the rise of hip-hop music.

Most graffiti writers in the early-1970s were more likely to be jamming out to Led Zeppelin in the yards than be at Sedgwick and Cedar, but as hip-hop grew to prominence during the late-1970s, it drew graffiti writers closer to the music and dance that was coming to define New York street culture. By the early-1980s, it was inspiring hybrid artists that merged graffiti writing and rapping and gave a voice to the long anonymous graffiti writer.

While it is widely known that many prominent hip-hoppers got their hands dirty putting in work on the streets and trains. Most did not reference their connection to writing in much detail besides the occasional “I used to tag my name up” line you got in various songs. However some emcees took the opposite route and put it on the line representing how they felt about graffiti writing in song, these songs laid the foundation for the sub-genre of Graff/Rap.

Graff/Rap is different from other sub-genres of hip-hop because of its longevity in the culture. Unlike other sub-genres like Crunk or Horrorcore, its relevance is not confined to a local or a trend. The records that make up this genre span the history of hip-hop’s recorded music and come from artists around the world.

With that in mind, not all of the songs on this list are Graff/Rap. However, most are.

Check out the 25 Best Songs About Graffiti.

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