Milton Keynes Hip Hop Culture Part 1A (MK Gallery Exhibition 2021)

During the months of July and August 2021 Break to the beat, Arkade Graphics and MK Gallery collaborated to host an exhibition highlighting Hip Hop Culture that evolved in and around the city of Milton Keynes, England between the years 1980 – 1990. The exhibition that was held at the MK Gallery Project Space in Central Milton Keynes featured artwork by local graffiti artists, footage of local Hip Hop crews and displays of memorabilia such as records, cassettes and flyers from the above dates. Local DJs and artists from the city also supported the event by demonstrating the various artforms associated with Hip Hop culture. In this series of articles Break to the beat aim to recreate the exhibition online and give visitors to the website:

  • A visual incite in to the exhibition
  • Detailed background information on the artists included
  • Document the various impromptu performances by local artists that supported the event.

MK Hip Hop Culture Part 1 – MK Gallery Project Space, 2021.

Before we go in to specific details the below video was created to capture the exhibition and its contents as it appeared visually to the general public. The soundtrack to the video was recorded in 1987 by MK Hip Hop crew Double Deff Chillers who’s performance from the same era was screened at the event. Since the exhibition took place in summer 2021 Break to the beat have documented the achievements of all the artists covered. Further information on the various artist/crews can be obtained by clicking on the orange hyperlinks contained in this article.

MK Hip Hop Culture Part One Exhibition – MK Gallery, 2021.

Milton Keynes Hip Hop Culture Part One was curated by Barry Watson (DJ Kraze One) with assistance from Arkade GraphicsDJ Moschops, and MK Gallery staff members Roisin Callaghan & Patrick Phillips. The text below has been recreated from the introduction to the exhibit: in association with Arkade Graphics present Milton Keynes Hip Hop Culture Part 1, an exhibition offering an insight into the Hip Hop scene which emerged in Milton Keynes during the 1980’s. Bringing together archival materials from throughout the decade, the exhibition explores the various elements of Hip Hop culture with a focus on three of the founding fathers of  local graffiti art; Urbanist, Rolek One, and James Jessop as well as MK Hip Hop crew The Criminal Minds, and their position within the wider Hip Hop scene. The exhibition also features artwork by Arkade who in 2019 brought together several pioneering graffiti artists from this period to collaborate on a project to regenerate an underpass between Tinkers Bridge and Simpson. To date this is the only time this group have collaborated on the same mural. Exploring the interaction between the visual art of local graffiti alongside other elements of Hip Hop Culture and its participants, the exhibition features references to other artists including breakdance crew Asiatic SoulDJ Mixmaster MSC, rap crews Double Deff Chillers, Science Revealed, The Sindecut and Shoes.

For the purposes of referencing the artists documented in Milton Keynes Hip Hop Culture Part One we have included hyperlinks with the artist names that will allow visitors to our website access to further information.

As Milton Keynes Hip Hop Culture Part One was predominantly a visual experience the exhibition centred around four prolific graffiti artists (Urbanist, Rolek One, James Jessop, and Chase One of Hip Hop collective The Criminal Minds) all of which established themselves locally during the 1980s. The exhibition also featured artwork by Arkade who although is from a different generation has organised and worked on local projects with all of the pioneering artists mentioned above.

Tinkers Bridge artwork slide show.

The first collection of images shown in the slideshow above are taken from an underpass regeneration project organised by Arkade Graphics in 2019. The significance of this event and the reason for its inclusion in the exhibition is that it marks the first and only time to date that Urbanist, Rolek One, James Jessop, Chase One and Arkade have collaborated on a joint mural. For full documentation on this historic event and details on all the artists involved please check the below article:

Graffiti artists Rolek One, Urbanist, James Jessop and Arkade all contributed to the creation of two exclusive wall sized murals for the exhibition which were used as canvasses to compliment several prints of artwork connected to each artist. The first mural pictured below was created by Rolek One and Urbanist.

“Jes” by Rolek, “Character” by Urbanist – MK Gallery, 2021.

The below slide show contains more detailed images of of the printed artwork included in the display by Rolek One and Urbanist:

  1. “Rolek” by Rolek One, 1989.
  2. “Fresh Mode” by Rolek One, 1999.
  3. “Rolek” (metalic sculpture) by Rolek One, 2019.
  4. “Buggin’ out” character by Urbanist, 1989.
  5. “BLM” by Arkade & Urbanist, 2020.
  6. “Urbo” by Urbanist, Arkade, Vaypor, Cimi, Pie, 2021.

Rolek One & Urbanist slide show.

As part of the exhibition Urbanist also provided a custom airbrushed Timberland boot and his first personalised pair of Nike Air Force 1 trainers which can be seen in the below image:

Customised trainers & boot by Urbanist.

For further information on Rolek One and Urbanist and for a detailed incite in to how their graffiti art roots influenced their art please see:

The second wall size mural included in the exhibition was created by James Jessop and Arkade. The second mural was also used as a canvass to display artwork by James JessopArkade however recreated a wall size character of the design included on The Criminal Minds debut release “Guilty as charged” and the team constructed the right hand section of the mural as a tribute to The Criminal Minds collective.

“Pink panther” by James Jessop, “TCM Character” by Arkade – MK Gallery 2021.

More detailed images of the printed artwork are included in the below slideshow:

  1. “Tek” by James Jessop, 1991.
  2. “Diab” by James Jessop, 1992.
  3. “Jungle Tekno” by James Jessop, 1994.
  4. “Chaos” by Chaos 2 (The Criminal Minds), 1990.
  5. The Criminal Minds music crew, Early 2000s.
  6. “Duck Rock” by Chase One & Arkade, Late 2010s.

James Jessop & The Criminal Minds slide show.

To compliment The Criminal Minds display section the organisers were also able to include a vitrine containing examples of records, photos, flyers and artwork relating to the collectives musical and street art history.

The Criminal Minds vitrine – MK Gallery, 2021.

For further information on James Jessop and The Criminal Minds and an incite in to how graffiti art influenced both parties please see the below articles:

To continue to the second part of the series of articles please visit:

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