The first of the four original elements of hip-hop, graff-writing-aka graffiti, is said to have originated in Washington Heights in the late 60’s/70’s. The term comes from the Greek word "Graphein," which means 'to write.' Heavily adopted by New York City youth during this period, graffiti-writing—which started out as using magic markers as a creative way to write one’s name or “tag” on a suitable surface, usually subway car-- was the first form of hip-hop communication between rival crews; the first form of hip-hop “battle” in lieu of physical violence.
Throughout the 80s, as hip-hop as a culture began to grow in the US, “tagging” developed into “writing” which consisted of much more than just one’s tag. Graffiti writers were creating large scale “pieces”-short for masterpiece, and this form of graffiti started to spread around the world at a rapid pace. Countries such as Spain and Holland were among the first outside the US to adopt graffiti-writing as a bona-fide art form. By the mid-80s, graffiti-writing had spread to more than 30 countries around the world and was a strong and respected element within Hip-Hop Culture. Despite an ongoing battle with law enforcement, graffiti art had become an
intricate part of inner-city street life all over the world and was not going to be stopped. Today, there is a heavy demand [within the global art world] for more graffiti art and for the art form to be taken seriously by the mainstream art society. For that to happen, however, two things need to occur. One is that the institutional art world must accept graffiti as a legitimate art form. Next, the institutional museum industry needs to promote a better understanding of what graffiti is and where it comes from. NMoH is not the only institution that understands the true significance of graffiti art. Since the end of the 1990s, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Museum of Modern Art, and other galleries in New York City have displayed numerous photographic exhibits of graffiti art from around NYC. A few years ago, the Smithsonian Institute launched "Hip-Hop Won't Stop: The Beat, The Rhymes, The Life," which featured works by the graffiti elite. The exhibit has become a permanent part of the American History Museum and is one of its most visited exhibits to date.
Graffiti is now and forever a permanent fixture within Hip-Hop Culture. It is the cornerstone of inner-city self-expression through fine art, which is the underlying premise of Hip-Hop Culture.