Far Rockaway, Queens, New York City, New York
|Died||June 27, 2010 (aged 49–50)|
New York City, New York
Hip hop musician
|Years active||Late 1970s–2010|
|Known for||Gothic Futurism|
|Spouse(s)||Carmela Zagari Rammellzee|
Rammellzee (stylized RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ, pronounced "Ram: Ell: Zee"; late 1960 – June 27, 2010) was a visual artist, gothic futurist "graffiti writer", painter, performance artist, hip hop musician, art theoretician, and sculptor from New York City.
Rammellzee was born in 1960 in Far Rockaway, to an African-American mother and Italian father who worked as a transit detective, He grew up in the borough of Queens in New York City 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'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 was also an original hip hop artist who introduced specific vocal styles which date back to the early 1980s. His influence can be heard in artists such as Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill. His 12-inch single Beat Bop, in collaboration with rapper K-Rob and with cover art by Jean-Michel 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.
Discovered by a larger audience through the 1982 cult movie Wild Style by Charlie Ahearn, his 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 also an occasional member of the Death Comet Crew, with Stuart Argabright, Michael Diekmann and Shinichi Shimokawa. As a student, he 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). 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." He was also the first artist to collaborate with the streetwear brand Supreme, making hand-painted trucker hats at their first store in 1994.
In 1988, he and his band Gettovetts recorded the album Missionaries Moving. 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 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 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."
- 1989 – Hip Hop ’til You Drop, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
- 1994 – Rammellzee vs. Gen U One (Gen Atem) - Exercises in Self Presentation, Eigen + Art, New York
- 2006 – Music is a Better Noise, MoMA PS1, Queens, New York (group exhibition)
- 2009 – Looking at Music: Side 2, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (group exhibition)
- 2010 – Printin', with Ellen Gallagher, Museum of Modern Art, New York (group exhibition)
- 2012 – Art in the Streets, The Geffen Contemporary at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, California
- 2018 – Rammellzee - Racing for Thunder, Red Bull Arts, New York
- 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|
|1987||Death Command||Rammellzee with Shockdell|
|1988||Gangster Lean||Gettovetts featuring Rammellzee|
|1989||Equation||Material featuring Rammellzee on vocals||Seven Souls 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)|
Rammellzee's work is held in the following public collection:
- Kennedy, Randy (2 July 2010). "Rammellzee, Hip-Hop and Graffiti Pioneer, Dies at 49". The New York Times.
- 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.
- Dery, Mark. "Introduction". In Mark Dery. Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture.
- Rammellzee was often identified as an artist apart of the Afrofuturism canon[by whom?], a discourse concerned with revisioning racial identity through the tropes of science fiction and fantasy narrative or aesthetics.
- Chiaverina, John (2018-02-21). "Beat Bop: Red Bull Arts New York to Mount Extensive Rammellzee Survey". Art News. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
- Zwickel, Jonathan (August 9, 2004). "Death Comet Crew: This Is Riphop". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
- Hsu, Hua (2018-05-28). "The Spectacular Personal Mythology of Rammellzee". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
- Gotthardt, Alexxa (2018-04-26). "How 1980s Cult Artist Rammellzee Mesmerized Everyone from Basquiat to the Beastie Boys". Artsy. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
- Hsu, Hua (2018-05-28). "The Spectacular Personal Mythology of Rammellzee". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
- 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.
- 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.
- http://redbullartsnewyork.com/exhibition/rammellzee-racing-thunder Red Bull Arts Rammellzee Racing for Thunder Exhibition. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
- "MoMA PS1: Exhibitions: Music is a Better Noise". momaps1.org. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
- "Looking at Music: Side 2". www.moma.org. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
- "Vocabularies Revitalized: Ellen Gallagher and Rammellzee in Printin'". MoMA. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
- Chiaverina, John (2018-02-21). "Beat Bop: Red Bull Arts New York to Mount Extensive Rammellzee Survey". ARTnews. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
- "Rammellzee". www.moma.org. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
- "Official website: GothicFuturism.com". Archived from the original on 27 March 2013.
- Rammellzee on 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"