Graffiti Rock

Before Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City hit the markets in the late ‘80s, New York culture maven Michael Holman first made the move to put Hip Hop culture on TV with the show Graffiti Rock.

In 1984, Holman—who played music with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Vincent Gallo in the legendarily obscure band Grey—got a bunch of banker friends to put together $150,000 to shoot the pilot for the series at Madison Ave. and 106th St. It screened on WPIX channel 11 in June 1984.

Holman turned the show into a seminar of Hip Hop culture. Alongside future superstars Run D.M.C., Kool Moe Dee and Shannon—and cameos by “Prince Vince” Gallo and Debi Mazar—he featured his own crew the New York City Breakers, pieces by graf artist Brim, and hilarious slang translations. For the time, the show is pretty slick and ready for prime-time.

Holman made sure that his show would showcase every aspect of  hip hop lifestyle — Hip Hop fashion, b-boying,  rap, graffiti, and DJ Jimmie Jazz spinning records on the set — and there was even an unconventional rap battle between Kool Moe Dee and Special K (Kevin Keaton) and Run-DMC, although Kool Moe Dee (who was likely to win an outright real battle as he was the takedown king, having won lots of freestyle battles around the Bronx by then)

Graffiti Rock proved a legendary snapshot into what hip-hop TV was about to be. What a shot in the arm it would have been for the culture.

Unfortunately, despite encouraging TV ratings, Holman and his producers were unable to sell their TV show, which they’d intended as an on-going series. Most of the TV station managers that Holman and Memishian met at NAPTE (National Association of Producers of Television Entertainment), an annual convention gathering in Las Vegas, told them that they already had “Soul Train” (Disco music)  on their schedules. They simply couldn’t comprehend the vast difference between the two shows.

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