Rammellzee (stylized RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ, pronounced "Ram: Ell: Zee"; December 15, 1960 – June 28, 2010) was a visual artist, gothic futurist "graffiti writer", painter, performance artist, art theoretician, sculptor and a hip hop musician from New York City, who has been cited as "instrumental in introducing elements of the avant-garde into hip-hop culture".
|Died||June 28, 2010 (aged 49)|
|Other names||Ramm, Hyte, Hytestyr, EG (Evolution Griller The Master Killer), Sharissk Boo, Razz|
Hip hop musician
|Years active||Late 1970s–2010|
|Known for||Gothic Futurism|
|Spouse(s)||Carmela Zagari Rammellzee|
Rammellzee was born on December 15, 1960 in Far Rockaway, Queens to an African-American mother and Italian father who worked as a transit detective. He grew up in the Carlton Manor Projects near the Far Rockaway–Mott Avenue A train terminal station. His graffiti work started to show up in the 1970s on New York City's subway cars and stations, specifically on the A-train since it was his local train.
Rammellzee studied dentistry at the Clara Barton High School for Health Professions, was a model for Wilhelmina (under the name Mcrammellzee), and briefly studied jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).
Discovered by a larger audience through the 1982 cult movie Wild Style by Charlie Ahearn, Rammellzee's earlier fame in graffiti circles was established when he painted New York subway trains with DONDI, OU3, and Ink 76, and doctor Revolt under his aliases Hyte, Hytestyr, EG (Evolution Griller the Master Killer), Sharissk Boo, Razz, and Maestro on the A, CC, 2 and 5 subway lines. Rammellzee was an occasional member of the Death Comet Crew, with Stuart Argabright, Michael Diekmann and Shinichi Shimokawa. He also formed the crew Tag Master Killers, consisting of A-One, Delta2, Kool Koor and Toxic.
Rammellzee became a friend and collaborator of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. In 1982, Rammellzee and Toxic accompanied Basquiat to Los Angeles while he prepared for his show at the Gagosian Gallery. They called themselves the Hollywood Africans as a social and political statement to counter the stereotypical portrayals of African Americans in Hollywood. The trio are depicted in Basquiat's paintings Hollywood Africans in front of the Chinese Theater with Footprints of Movie Stars (1983) and Hollywood Africans (1983).
Rammellzee was an original hip hop artist who introduced specific vocal styles which date back to the early 1980s. His 12-inch single "Beat Bop," in collaboration with rapper K-Rob and with cover art by Basquiat, is considered by some to be the most valuable (meaning collectible) hip-hop record of all time. "Beat Bop" was also featured in the film Style Wars. Rammellzee makes a cameo appearance near the end of Jim Jarmusch's 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise. Rammellzee's influence can be heard in artists such as Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill. In 1988, Rammellzee and his band Gettovetts recorded the album Missionaries Moving, with producer Bill Laswell, a frequent collaborator. Laswell also paired Rammellzee with writer William Burroughs on the 1989 album, Seven Souls, and featured him on several albums recorded by his revolving super-group, Praxis.
He also wrote an opera “The Requiem of Gothic Futurism” in 1985, "offered to send the U.S. military some of the intelligence he had gathered for national defense," and "tried to promote his ideas by producing a comic book and a board game."
In 2003, Rammellzee released his debut album, This Is What You Made Me, and performed at the Knitting Factory in New York with the newly reformed Death Comet Crew. Subsequently, Troubleman Unlimited re-released recordings made by DCC between 1982 and 1984. Their single for Exterior St was featured on the compilation Anti-NY with Ike Yard, Sexual Harassment, and Vivien Goldman, among others. In 2004, Rammellzee released his second album Bi-Conicals of the Rammellzee, produced by Gamma Records.
Rammellzee's graffiti and art work are based on his theory of Gothic Futurism, which describes the battle between letters and their symbolic warfare against any standardizations enforced by the rules of the alphabet. His treatise, Ionic treatise Gothic Futurism assassin knowledges of the remanipulated square point's one to 720° to 1440°, details an anarchic plan by which to revise the role and deployment of language in society.
Rammellzee performed in self-designed masks and costumes of different characters which represented the "mathematical equation" that is Rammellzee. On the basis of his Gothic Futurism approach, he described his artistic work as the logical extension into a new phase which he calls Ikonoklast Panzerism. This artistic work has been shown in art galleries throughout the US and Europe. His Letter Racers, and other Noise includes artistic works by individuals mostly identified with their musical contributions.
Rammellzee's work is considered to contribute to the canon of Afrofuturism, primarily through his repeated use of language as a technology. One of the central themes of Afrofuturist content is the use of language as a technology to transcend the Digital Divide. Conversely, Rammellzee had stated that "there is no such thing as Afro Futurism" and considered his work to be more part of a larger European monastic tradition than any part of an Afrofuturist tradition.
The theory of Gothic Futurism attempts to deconstruct the English language as it is currently conceived. The battle between letters seen in the Ionic treatise deploys language as a technology to fight the oppressive nature of the alphabet. The introduction of a new mythology in the treatise suggests that Rammellzee's language can serve as a force of liberation, thereby lessening the Digital Divide.
In addition, Rammellzee's Letter Racers are intended to pit each individual letter in galactic battles against each other, symbolically challenging the accepted standards and functionality of the 26-letter alphabet.
Rammellzee's description of the Letter Racers is as follows:
“Humans...in the 14th Century the monks ornamented and illustrated the manuscripts of letters. In the 21st and 22nd century the letters of the alphabet through competition are now armamented for letter racing and galactic battles. This was made possible by a secret equation known as THE RAMM:ELL:ZEE.”
In 2010 Buckethead released a tribute song called, 'Rammellzee: Hero of the Abyss'.
Rammellzzee was married to Carmela Zagari Rammellzee. He died in New York City on June 28, 2010, at the age of 49, having suffered from the exposure to glue, paint fumes, resin and other toxins through his work and from liver problems. The official cause of death was listed as heart disease.
He legally changed his name to Rammellzee in 1979 and friends who knew his birth name were unwilling to reveal it, in accordance with his wishes. He sometimes went by the shortened name of “Ramm”. He has stated that his name is derived from RAM plus M for Magnitude, Sigma (Σ) the first summation operator, first L – longitude, second L – latitude, Z – z-bar, Σ, Σ – summation. He has credited Jamel-Z, a mentor from the Nation of Gods and Earths he met in 1977, with inspiration for his name.
Rammellzee's live/work loft studio space on 46 Laight Street in the TriBeCa neighborhood, which he shared with his wife Carmela, was named Battlestation. It was a popular place in the 1980s and 1990s for artists to visit, because Rammellzee's artwork and costumes created a unique atmosphere. After 9/11, the building was sold in order to build luxury condos and this forced Rammellzzee and Carmela to move to a smaller place in Battery Park City, and relocate his 20 years worth of artwork into a storage unit. Some of this stored work was included in the 2011 art exhibition, Art in the Streets at Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. In May 2018, Red Bull Arts New York opened its exhibition RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder, billed in its press release as "the largest survey to date of one of the most influential yet overlooked artists of the 20th century."
- 2018 - RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: A Roll of Dice - Lazinc Gallery - London - England - Solo
- 2018 - Rammellzee - Racing for Thunder - Red Bull Arts - New-York - United States - Solo
- 2018 - Le musée du street Art et du Graffiti - L'Aérosol - Maquis-art Hall of Fame - Paris - Group
- 2016 - La Velocità delle immagini (Collection Speerstra) - Institut Suisse de Rome - Italy
- 2016 - Graffiti Art - Tableau de légende (Collection Gallizia) - Institut culturel Bernard Magrez - Bordeaux - France - Group
- 2016 - Pressionnism, graffiti masterpieces on canvas (Collection Gallizia) - Fort Canning Museum - Singapour - France - Group
- 2015 - Pressionnisme, de Bando à Basquiat (Collection Gallizia) - Pinacothèque de Paris - France - Group
- 2014 - City as Canvas: Graffiti Art (Collection Martin Wong) - Museum of the City of New York - NY - United States - Group
- 2013 - The Shadows Took Shape - The Studio Museum in Harlem - New York City -NY - United States - Group
- 2013 - Urban Art Biennale 2013 - Urban Art Biennale - Völklingen - Germany - Group
- 2013 - Graffiti, Thanks a Lot - Fun Gallery (Curateur Patti Astor) - New-York - United States - Group
- 2013 - Tekens aan de Wand: Ferenc Gögös/Graffiti Art - Museum Tongerlohuys - Roosendaal - Netherlands - Group
- 2013 - White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart - Institute of Contemporary Art - University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia - United States - Group
- 2013 - Last of the Hollywood Africans: Toxic - Londonewcastle Project Space - London - England - Group
- 2013 - Abstract Mash-Up II: A Group Exhibition - Crown Point Press Gallery - San Francisco - United States - Group
- 2012 - Radical Presence: Black Performance In Contemporary Art - Contemporary Arts Museum Houston - Houston - United States - Group
- 2012 - God Save the Queen: Punk in the Netherlands 1977-1984 - Centraal Museum - Utrecht - Netherlands - Group
- 2012 - Brucennial 2012 - Harder. Betterer. Fasterer - United States - Group
- 2012 - Strongerer - Brucennial - New York City - United States - Group
- 2012 - Letter Racers - The Museum of Modern Art - NY - United States - Solo
- 2012 - Letter Racers - The Suzanne Geiss Company - NY - United States - Solo
- 2012 - The Rammellzee Galaxseum - Children's Museum of Art - New York - United States - Solo
- 2011 - Perfect Man II - White Columns - New York City - NY - United States - Group
- 2011 - Graffiti - New York 80's - Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont - Paris - France - Group
- 2012 - Speerstra Fondation (Collection Speerstra) - Apples - Switzerland - Group
- 2012 - Art in the Streets - The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA - Los Angeles - CA - Group - solo
- 2011 - L'Art du Graffiti : 40 ans de Pressionnisme (Curateur A.D. Gallizia) - Grimaldi Forum - Monaco - France - Group & solo
- 2011 - The Aerosol Experience - Zieglerzwei - Zurich - Switzerland - Group
- 2011 - The Rudolf and Ute Scharpff Collection - Kunstmuseum Stuttgart - Germany - Solo
- 2010 - Street and Studio - Von Basquiat bis Séripop - Kunsthalle Wien (Museumsquartier) - Vienna - Austria - Group
- 2010 - Un musée à ciel ouvert (Collections Gallizia-Emerige) - Bâche Wagram - Paris - France - Group
- 2010 - Printin - The Museum of Modern Art - NY - United States - Group
- 2010 - Rammellzee: The Equation - Suzanne Geiss's Gallery - New York - United States - Solo
- 2009 - Gothic Futurism - Galerie Renée Ziegler - Zurich - Switzerland - Solo
- 2009 - Subcultural Capital - Anonymous Gallery - New York City - NY - United States - Group
- 2009—The New Yorkers - V1 Gallery - Copenhagen - Denmark - Group
- 2009 - Ramm:Ell:Zee - Galerie Ziegler SA - Zurich - Switzerland - Solo
- 2009 - Tag au Grand Palais (Collections Gallizia) - Grand Palais - Paris - France - Group
- 2007 - Futuro del Futurismo - Gamec -Galleria d´Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo - Italy - Group
- 2007 - Graffiti Stories (Collection Speerstra) - Abbaye d'Auberive et Musée Paul Valéry, Sète - France - Group
- 2007 -L’art modeste sous les bombes (Collection Speerstra) - Musee International des Arts Modestes - Sete - France - Group
- 2006 - Music is a Better Noise - MoMA PS1, New York City - NY - Group
- 2006 - Sound Zero - Kunst Meran - Meran - Italy - Group
- 2005 - Bi-Conicals of Rammellzee Tour - Venice Biennale - Italy - Solo
- 2004 - Smile away the parties and champagne - Zeen keuze uit de collectie - Gemeentemuseum Helmond - Boscotondohal, Helmond - Netherlands - Group
- 2002 - Americas Remixed - Careof – Fabbrica del Vapore - Milan - Italy - Group
- 2002 -Cowboys en kroegtijgers - Gemeentemuseum Helmond - Boscotondohal - Helmond - Netherlands - Group
- 2002 - Americas - Fabbrica del Vapore - Milan - Italy - Group
- 2001 - Oostduitse meisjes en andere stukken - Gemeentemuseum Helmond - Boscotondohal - Helmond - Netherlands - Group
- 1998 - Smile away the parties and champagne - Gemeentemuseum Helmond - Boscotondohal, Helmond - Netherlands - Group
- 1994 - Rammellzee vs Gen U One (Gen Atem) - Exercises in Self Presentation - Eigen + Art - New York City - United States - Group
- 1992 - Coming from the Subway (Collection Speerstra) - Groninger Museum - Netherlands - Group
- 1991 - American Graffiti: A Survey - Liverpool Gallery - Brussels - Group
- 1991 - Graffiti Art : Artistes américains et français 1981/1991 (Collection Speerstra) - Musée des monuments Français Paris - Group
- 1990 - Rammellzee - Galerie B5/Speerstra Gallery - Monaco - France - Solo
- 1989 - Hip Hop ’til You Drop - Whitney Museum of American Art - New York - United States - Group
- 1988 - Comic Iconoclasm - Cornerhouse - Manchester - England - Group
- 1987 - The Equation - Lidia Carrieri Gallery - Rome - Italy - Solo
- 1986 - Retrospective (Collection Speerstra) - Gemeente museum - Helmond - Netherlands - Group
- 1985 - 18° Bienal de Sao Paulo - Bienal de Sao Paulo - São Paulo - Brasil - Group
- 1985 - Ikonoklast Panzerim - Galerie Renée Ziegler - Zurich - Switzerland - Group
- 1985 - Between Science and Fiction - Bienal de Sao Paulo - Brasil - Group
- 1984 - Rapid Enamel The Art of Graffiti - The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago - Group
- 1984 - Ein anderes klima - a different climate (II) - Kunsthalle Düsseldorf - Dusseldorf - Germany - Group
- 1984 - Graffiti - Groninger Museum - Groningen - Netherlands - Group
- 1984 - New York Graffiti (Collection Speerstra) - Louisiana Museum - Humlebaek - Denmark - Group
- 1984 - Artists from New-York in Monte-Carlo - Speerstra Gallery - Monaco - France - Group
- 1983 - Post-Graffiti - Sydney Janis Gallery - New-York - United States - Group
- 1983 - Graffiti, Thanks a Lot - Fun Gallery (Patti Astor) -Group
- 1983 - Museum Boymans - Van Beuningen - Rotterdam - Netherlands - Group
- 1982 - New York - Institute of Contemporary Arts - London - England - Group
Rammellzee's work is held in the following public collection:
- Studio albums
|2003||This Is What You Made Me||Rammellzee|
|2004||Bi-Conicals of the Rammellzee||Rammellzee|
- Singles & EPs
|1983||"Beat Bop"||Rammellzee vs. K-Rob|
|1984||"Crazy Sneaker"||Slinky Gym School featuring Rammellzee|
|1985||"At The Marble Bar"||Death Comet Crew featuring Rammellzee|
|1987||"Death Command"||Rammellzee with Shockdell|
|1988||"Gangster Lean"||Gettovetts featuring Rammellzee|
|1989||"Equation"||Material featuring Rammellzee on vocals||Seven Souls album|
|1995||"Tales From The Rails"||Lordz of Brooklyn featuring Rammellzee||All in the Family (album)|
|2004||"Pay The Rent"||Rammellzee||(12")|
|2005||"This Is (Re)Phop"||Death Comet Crew Featuring The Rammellzee|
|2005||"Service Of Arms"||Rammellzee||(CD Single, Limited Edition DVD)|
|2015||"Brainstorm"||Rammellzee||(12") (2015 Gamma Proforma)|
|2015||"How's My Girlfriends"||Rammellzee||(12") (2015 Gamma Proforma)|
|2015||"Crayzay"||Rammellzee||(12") (2015 Gamma Proforma)|
|2015||"Fight My Fire"||Rammellzee||(12") (2015 Gamma Proforma)|
- Kennedy, Randy (2 July 2010). "Rammellzee, Hip-Hop and Graffiti Pioneer, Dies at 49". The New York Times.
- Campion, Chris (4 July 2010). "RIP Rammellzee – a true hip-hop visionary". The Guardian.
- Rammellzee. Iconic Treatise of Gothic Futurism.
- Tompkins, Dave (2011). How To Wreck A Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip-Hop: the Machine Speaks. Brooklyn, NY: Stop Smiling Media/ Melville House Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61219-093-8.
- Luckman, Will (1 July 2010). "R.I.P. RAMM∑LLZ∑∑". Impose Magazine.
- Gotthardt, Alexxa (2018-04-26). "How 1980s Cult Artist Rammellzee Mesmerized Everyone from Basquiat to the Beastie Boys". Artsy. Retrieved 2018-04-28.
- Hsu, Hua (2018-05-28). "The Spectacular Personal Mythology of Rammellzee". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
- Wieners, Brad (August 3, 2018). "How Cult Artist Rammellzee Changed the Game by Demolishing Traditions". Red Bull. Retrieved 2021-01-04.
- Zwickel, Jonathan (August 9, 2004). "Death Comet Crew: This Is Riphop". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
- "Rammellzee: Graffiti Writer, Artist and Deity "Racing For Thunder"". Brooklyn Street Art. July 25, 2018. Retrieved 2021-01-04.
- Hoffman, Fred (March 13, 2005). "Basquiat's L.A." Los Angeles Times.
- "Last of the Hollywood Africans: Toxic, Rammellzee and Jean-Michel Basquiat". Very Nearly Almost. February 8, 2013. Retrieved 2021-01-04.
- "Hollywood Africans: African Americans and the Entertainment Industry in Basquiat's Work". Singulart Magazine. July 26, 2017. Retrieved 2020-09-27.
- Chiaverina, John (2018-02-21). "Beat Bop: Red Bull Arts New York to Mount Extensive Rammellzee Survey". Art News. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
- "Basquiat's 'Beat Bop': An Oral History of One of the Most Valuable Hip-Hop Records of All Time". Spin. November 14, 2013. Retrieved 2020-09-27.
- Dery, Mark. "Introduction". In Mark Dery (ed.). Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture.
- Rammellzee was often identified as an artist a part of the Afrofuturism canon[by whom?], a discourse concerned with revisioning racial identity through the tropes of science fiction and fantasy narrative or aesthetics.
- Galli, Chuck, "Hip-Hop Futurism: Remixing Afrofuturism and the Hermeneutics of Identity" (2009).Honors Projects Overview. Paper 18. http://digitalcommons.ric.edu/honors_projects/18/
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2013-03-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Tate, Greg (April 2004). "Rammellzee: The Ikonoklast Samurai". The Wire. Archived from the original on July 3, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- Weiss, Jeff (July 1, 2010). "R.I.P. Rammellzee: The original abstract-rapping outlaw". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 3, 2010.
- Kennedy, Randy (2012-02-23). "Art Excavated From Battle Station Earth". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-05-26.
- Nosnitsky, Andrew (30 June 2010). "Remembering Hip-Hop Legend Rammellzee: "You Hit The Bank, You Rob The Money, And You Leave"". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 3 July 2010.
- see Excerpts from Rammellzee's Iconic Treatise Gothic Futurism
- Kennedy, Randy (2012-02-23). "Rammellzee's Work and Reputation Re-emerge". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
- Rudick, Nicole (2018-05-18). "Staff Picks: Garbage Gods, Bachelors, and Doinks". The Paris Review. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
- Red Bull Arts Rammellzee Racing for Thunder Exhibition. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
- Press Release (PDF). Red Bull Arts New York. Retrieved 2021-04-20
- "Rammellzee". www.moma.org. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
- "Official website: GothicFuturism.com". Archived from the original on 27 March 2013.
- Rammellzee at IMDb
- Rammellzee discography at Discogs
- Artist biography at Magical-Secrets.com
- Excerpts from Rammellzee's thesis Iconic Treatise Gothic Futurism
- Interview with Rammellzee
- Video Interview with Guerilla Art
- Art gallery representation
- Red Bull Music and Culture Video Profile "RAMMELLZEE: It's Not Who But What"
- Art gallery