Hip-hop is comprised of four elements–emceeing (rhyming), DJing, b-boying (breakdancing), and graffiti. There was a time when graffiti art was celebrated nearly as much as emceeing, but the element faded into the background as rap artists came to the forefront. Modern graffiti artist Cornbread out of Philly brings the spotlight back onto the art form.
Here are five things to know.
Cornbread’s real name is Darryl McCray. He was born in 1953. McCray was raised in Brewerytown, a neighborhood of North Philadelphia.
In 1965, McCray was sent to juvenile detention for two years. While there, he complained to the cafeteria cook that the traditional quickbread they served was dry. The cook yelled for him to get out of the kitchen, but McCray went back again and again, asking for fresh cornbread. Fed up, the cook grabbed him by the shirt and dragged him out of the kitchen.
“He took me out to the cafeteria to my counselor, Mr. Love. He said, ‘Mr. Love, keep this ‘cornbread’ out of my kitchen,’ and threw me on the floor,” McCray recalled to WHYY, a PBS TV station. “People started laughing at me and calling me ‘Cornbread.’ I didn’t mind them calling me Cornbread. I wrote Cornbread on the back of my shirt.”
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A young McCray became fascinated with tagging and began to write his new nickname “Cornbread”on everything–bus stops, street signs, park benches, even on the side of an elephant at the Philadelphia Zoo, WHYY reported. Legend has it he once tagged the private jet on which the pop group Jackson 5 arrived in Philadelphia.
Tagging is the writing of a nickname or mark on a surface by a graffiti artist.
Cornbread is now recognized as the first tagger to consistently write his name in public spaces. This was even before the explosion of hip-hop in New York City. Some even say Cornbread’s tagging was picked up by people in NYC, leading to the begins of graffiti.
But his tagging got him in trouble and he was arrested as a vandal. He became known as a wall writer.
“Today, I’m a street artist,” he said.
According to Cornbread, while he was once being held overnight at a police station for vandalism, officers asked him for his autograph.
His fame grew and in 2007, documentary filmmaker Sean McKnight made a film about his life called “Cry of the City Part 1: The Legend of Cornbread.” The street artist is also prominently included in the documentary film about the history of graffiti called “Bomb It,” also from 2007. In August 2013, McCray was honored at the Graffiti Hall of Fame in East Harlem.
He is now known as the Godfather of Graffiti and the world’s first modern graffiti artist.
Cornbread’s graffiti art has been on display at various galleries around the country. Today, McCray works as a public speaker and youth advocate, Philadelphia Weekly reported.
CornBread speaks about his Hoodstock event with Muralarts in Philadelphia, screenshot from YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQpUSLcMpX0