He’s hit the streets of NYC and Hotlanta. Philly and Inglewood. His name is Jason Shelowitz, more commonly known in the art world as Jay Shells, and his mission is a simple one that started in 2013: blend hip hop history, way-finding, and art to create what has become known as The Rap Quotes.
Of course, when he first tackled LA County—arguably the largest spread of hip-hop artists in A area, “Long Beach to Rosecrans”—he had already hit the East Coast. What he faced in LA County was of an alternate breed to hip hop’s geographical spread.
“It’s very different than New York,” Shells said in a video about the first LA edition of The Rap Quotes. “I mean, I’m driving 18 miles south of LA—I don’t think you can even drive 18 miles in New York so I have no idea how long this will take me.”
The LA County aspect of Rap Quotes, which was largely driven by hip-hop enthusiast Robert Mullalley of San Diego who sent Shells a plethora of West Coast snippets that heralded LA intersections from 104th and 10th to Van Ness and Imperial, began in December of 2013.
Of course, anyone with an iota of knowledge about hip hop’s history knows that Long Beach’s roots in it run deep, from Nate Dogg in the 1990s to Vince Staples currently.
Shell’s project in the county, with its 45-plus signs, had two that managed to creep their way into Long Beach: one by Warren G at 21st and Lewis—“So I hooks a left on 2-1 and Lewis/ Some brothers shootin’ dice so I said, ‘Let’s do this’” from the iconic song “Regulate”—and another by Snoop at Martin Luther King Jr. Park—“Yeah, King Park was the location/ And the Bigga G that was my destination”—from “21 Jump Street.”
It’s been over a year-and-a-half since Shells has come to Long Beach, his ephemeral work largely come’n’go due to people wanting to jack his work and hang it on their own walls. (Selfish but surely understood: after all, if those in the places represented don’t get their keepsake, City officials will take them instead since posting random signs is, well, illegal.)
But you can get a brief glimpse of his work, should it still be there, since he has returned to the Beach of Long to honor than other than Daz Dillinger at 20th and Myrtle. The Los Angeles Times, for those who have missed the spectacular signs, have created a map of where his first 45 were installed (which is outdated but still an Probably Slightly Less Boring Than Working reference).
More rap quotes? We say mos def.