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Painter Justin Bua now lives in LA, but his years growing up in New York - when hip hop was born and break-dancing was the rage – are what really influenced his unique style, dubbed “distorted urban realism”. Street life, graffiti and the sounds of artists like Afrika Bambaataa and Run DMC left a lasting imprint. He shares stories from his turbulent youth as part of his Guest DJ set. Bua recently released a book called the Legends of Hip Hop.
For More: http://www.justinbua.com/
1 - It's Just Begun - The Jimmy Castor Bunch
2 - Paid In Full - Eric B. & Rakim
3 - Planet Rock - Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force
4 - Paint It Black - The Rolling Stones
5 - It's Like That - Run-D.M.C.
Hi this is Eric J Lawrence from KCRW and I am here with artist Justin Bua. The New York native now based in LA is known for capturing urban culture in a style he calls distorted realism with lots of vibrant colors. We're here to talk about songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Justin thanks for coming by.
Justin Bua: Pleasure is mine.
EJ: So what is the first song you've got for us?
JB: “It's Just Begun” by the Jimmy Castor Bunch. Probably the quintessential anthem for B boys and B girls around the world. I was a professional break dancer. I was actually on tour in Europe when I was first to bring break dancing to the theaters all over Italy and Germany and France. I actually danced with Nureyev in 1984 and one of the songs that we used to dance to was all the time was “It's Just Begun”.
Song: “It’s Just Begun” -- Jimmy Castor Bunch
JB: I think “It's Just Begun” became really popular in “Flashdance”. That famous scene when Normsky, Mr Freeze, Crazy Legs, Ken Swift are dancing. And you know when the girl does the back spin? That's really Crazy Legs with a wig. It was at that moment where I think the world really associated that high energy intense music with the dance, with the culture. It really resonated with the entire world, cinematically and sonically.
EL: That was the Jimmy Castor Bunch with “It's Just Begun” selected by our guest Bua. What's the next track you've got for us?
Song: “Paid in Full” by Eric B and Rakim.
JB: “Paid in Full” by Eric B and Rakim. Rakim's voice is just so hard hitting and “Paid in Full” is so reminiscent of what my life was like in Brooklyn. You know all the times I was mugged, (laughs) all the times I was beaten up by people who really looked like Rakim's voice sounded, you know what I mean. It was just really like, you know getting me in a headlock like ‘yo, act like you know me’. I'm like, ‘why don't you act like you know me and remove the gun from my head?’, you know what I mean? "here's my $10 and leave me alone". So “Paid in Full” represents really the essence of hard rock New York City culture and it's the essence of hip hop really.
“Paid in Full” was playing out of every boom box ghetto blaster everywhere. It was like 'don't silence me'. Everybody wanted it to be heard. And it was.
EL: Had you begun your work in visual art at this time?
JB: Yeah, I was painting a lot of the things that I knew. A lot of people were painting landscapes and portraits and I was doing portraits of guys with guns, hustlers, DJs, and B Boys.
I think I painted and designed not only to the rhythms of graffiti and dancing but really to the rhythms of this music. I was doing it unconsciously visually not knowing what my style was or anything. It was this innate echo of the energy of all of that music around me.
EL: That was “Paid in Full as selected by our guest Bua. What's the next track you've got for us?
JB: I was a professional popper and “Planet Rock” is the popping song, by Afrika Bambaataa who is the father, in my opinion, of hip hop. Afrika Bambaataa really gave it its name and took care of it. When I was 13 I use to walk from like 103rd Street all the way down to the Roxy on 18th Street. You know that's where they did Beach Street and they had all these great musicians play and I use to watch everyone from Afrika Bambaataa to Red Alert, Africa Islam, all of these people spin. That was the first time I ever heard Planet Rock was, I think, in person before it came out you know on the radio waves. I was actually experiencing it. And to this day you know when I go to the gym and I just want to get a good workout you know I start with “Planet Rock” because it just inspires me. I can keep going. I got “Planet Rock” on. Whooo, it just gets me.
Song: “Planet Rock” - Afrika Bambaataa
EL: That was “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaata as selected by our guest Bua. What's the next track you got for us?
JB: I'm taking it off the hip hop track and I'm going to rock and roll because when I was young my mom was a rock and roll-aholic, so she played a lot of Rolling Stones, Mamas and Papas, Jefferson Airplane -- but mostly Rolling Stones. “Paint It Black” was one of those songs that every time I heard that I was blown away. It had that kind of raw, you know, it's like that early Stones raw, blues, like rock and roll energy. And I don't know what it even means -- you know I see a red door and I want to paint it black -- I don't know what that means. I feel like its way deeper then anyone can have a definition for. But I love it.
Song: “Paint it Black” – Rolling Stones
EL: Talking about doing the art work do you listen to music when you're doing your work?
JB: Yeah. You know sometimes I definitely have the music lead me and inspire me. You know sometimes music is like a jumpstart to get motivated. It's like, BAM! I'm inspired because I just heard “Paint It Black”. I just heard “Paid In Full”, “Planet Rock”, “Just Begun” and BAM, it just makes me you know get crazy, get busy.
It takes away the internal dialogue that internal conversation which often times says I don't know why you're doing it, you're not good enough, don't start that. Who knows where it's going to go. It's going to be a process. It's going to be painful. Are you ready for that? So, when you put the music on it shuts those voices down.
EJ: That was the Rolling Stones with Paint it Black as selected by our guest, artist Bua. What's the last song you got for us?
JB: The last song is Run DMC, Jay Master Jay, “It's Like That”. It was the first song which…first of all I was dancing all over you know, New York to that song. I just remember cutting school, going down to Performing Arts and battling kids to “It's Like That”. I had so many battles to “It's Like That” that I just can't not think of that song. But it was the first song also that had so much social significance. It was the first time that I really heard the words really meant so much more then just bravado, machismo. It was about culture. It was about politics. It was about the times. It was about social inequalities. And it's like that and that's the way it is.
It's Like That plays…
Song: "It's Like That" - Run-D.M.C.
EJ: That was Run DMC with “It's Like That” as selected by our guest Bua. I want to thank you so much for coming down and sharing some of your thoughts with us.
JB: Well, it's a pleasure.