Review: The London Black Book

Words: Paul Martin (B-boy P, Bad Taste Cru)

The London Black Book is 194 pages of freshness, not only a beautifully crafted book but a serious document of the London graffiti scene from the years 1985 – 2010.

Now I do not profess to know much (if anything) about the London graffiti scene, so I cannot comment whether this book is totally historically accurate/biased/has omissions or whatever. I am just writing this from a perspective of a b-boy who loves graffiti, a b-boy who does a bit of painting and as someone who respects graffiti culture.

What stands this book apart from the rest of the numerous graffiti books that are being released is that it is purely a book containing sketches and outlines. Of course there are other books with this format but there is something different about London Black Book. There are crisp clean sketches and then the scanned, crumpled, stained and dirty sketches, which ooze graffiti lore and character. By including these sketches in the book it gives you a feeling that you are looking at the ‘plan’ to one of many missions that the artist has undertaken in their writing career. This brings you that bit closer to the underworld of graffiti and into the mind of some of London’s finest and most notorious writers.

The London Black book covers a lot of different elements, from handstyles, to throwups, characters, train outlines, wall outlines, and many more. You can see the development of styles, the letters and the different techniques artists use to create. You can see the evolution of the London styles over the years. I like the fact that the book has included some very developed, stylised outlines, then on the next page, some rough, rugged, aggressive, banging in your face throw up styles. To differentiate these would be the usual thing, but this book feels like it brings you graffiti the way you would actually see it in reality. Tag here, piece there, aggressive throwup on one page, subtle character on the next, all banging, all part of the same culture and all equally as valid and as needed as each other.

I think what is fundamentally important about this book is that it does give all graffiti, whatever its genre within the genre, equality and respect. It gives the reader a chance to look at the different styles and applications without hierarchy or order. Simply a black book by writers for writers who respect graffiti in all forms.

If you’re into graffiti, and into the historical side of one of the worlds best cities for all styles of graffiti, then this book is an essential piece for your collection.

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