Thursday, June 16, 2011

VurseOne on graffiti, Spanish-language hip hop, and his Christian faith


On Saturday, Houston’s Jose “VurseOne” Ramirez is hosting an art show for graffiti writer Mario “MOE131” Jimenez. I caught up with him via e-mail recently to discuss that event and his own artistic expressions through aerosol and Spanish-language Christian hip hop.


Sketch: What exactly does it mean to curate a graffiti art show?

VurseOne: To curate an art show means that a person would need to scout and secure a gallery in which to exhibit the artist’s work and cover any costs associated with the show such as promotional materials and marketing. In our case, I was able to secure a financial investor that covered the cost of the gallery to run a whole week. Also, one closely advises the artist on how to best display his work, at what prices they should sell for, etc.

Sketch: What drew you to Mario “MOE131” Jimenez's work?

VurseOne: I met Mario my sophomore year of high school in art class and we drew together, painted together, and just hung out. Since day one I have been an admirer of his work because it is a reflection of his life and the people around him. His use of mixed mediums is very impressive with acrylics, automotive paint, airbrush, aerosols, and who knows what else.

His work is a very dark and colorful world. I believe that a true artist can make art out of anything and Mario is a true artist.

Sketch: You're both a Christian rapper (bilingual even) and graf writer. How do you explain those passions to people who think they're mutually exclusive from your faith?

VurseOne: I would explain it as talent with a purpose. Talent with no direction tends to not be very effective. When I rap I do it with the purpose of trying to deliver a word - almost like a lyrical sermon or a new way to present the Word of God to new generation.

And graffiti, to me, is just another medium in which to create art. My faith is the inspiration and motivation for all of it whether expressed musically or visually.


Sketch: Which artform is more rewarding for you?

VurseOne: That’s a good question. I would say the emcee part of it. I think people can connect more with what I’m saying and how I’m saying it as compared to what I painted and what they are seeing. Graff is limited in what it can say, but rap appeals to more of our senses.

Sketch: Which scene is more underdeveloped and deserves more attention and appreciation: Spanish, faith-based rap or faith-based graffiti art? Why do you think that is?

VurseOne: I think in Houston they both are. You have some really talented Spanish rappers but not enough emcees. These days anyone can rap, but not everyone raps about relevant messages.

For years Spanish Christian rap has been corny and cheesy, but The VRS.BOX Project [Vurse’s group effort with producer FXBOX] is trying to expose the listeners to a different side of that. I think it deserves more attention because of the creativity in bilingual rhyming. It’s hard to write in Spanish and still make it sound clever and witty.

Faith-based graffiti art is virtually non-existent in Houston. It’s bigger in places like San Francisco and Australia. There you have very talented individuals creating detailed and creative murals with a spray can who are well respected in the graff world. That’s the thing about hip-hop, whether Christian or not, if it’s well done it will be respected.

I think a lot of the under appreciation and lack of attention is due to the people who were doing it wrong. Hip hop is very non-discriminatory. If it’s wack, no matter who you are, it’s wack. If it’s dope, it’s dope.


Labwerks Media & ENB Magazine present Mario "MOE131" Jimenez for his first solo show "Moe's Dark & Colorful World." It will take place Saturday, June 18, 2011 at War'Hous Gallery - 4715 Main St, Houston, TX 77002 from 7-11pm.

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