Never stop, never settle—a life mood.
Making art visible has been a mantra for Lisbon-based artist Vhils and now his vision has come to fruition in NYC. The official tour DJ for A$AP Ferg and Lil’ Pump, DJ Mizell, is being honored on the corner of Broome and Elizabeth Street in Manhattan as part of the Lil’ Italy Project. In case you didn’t know, DJ Mizell is also the son of the late and great Jam Master Jay of Run DMC. In seeing his “disruptive, scratch-the-surface” technique in-person, the crowd was in awe of the detail in the piece.
Born in 1987, Alexandre Farto better known as Vhils has spent his life experimenting with graffiti, ultimately using his craft to level up abandoned neighborhoods in his home country. Within a few years, he elevated to large-scale expressionism, capturing remarkable interest with legends such as Madonna. We had a chance to sit down with him to discuss his mission for this particular project.
VH1: How did you get to collaborate with Hennessy on this special project?
Vhils: I got the invitation, and after talking about what I can do, they were quite open for me to come up with this project, which was important to me.
VH1: How would you describe your art style?
Vhils: It’s very difficult to describe. It’s between a sculpture and a painting—more like an archaeologist type of project. I never know what I can find beneath the wall, so it’s mostly working with what I find.
VH1: What inspires you to liven up abandoned neighborhoods in Portugal?
Vhils: The intention was to work in places that were completely abandoned. The relation to people and these places changed completely. It changes the way people perceive the place where they are.
VH1: We hear the legend, Madonna, is a big fan of yours. How do you feel about that?
Vhils: She’s a big supporter. She’s very nice. I’ve collaborated with a lot of other artists that I admire as well. A lot of the work I do is to try to give visibility to people who are struggling. At the beginning, I struggled as an artist, but it’s something I want to do to give back.
Mizell, a.k.a. TJ was also excited to speak with us regarding this piece, which has his entire visage featured on a New York street.
VH1: How would you describe yourself.
TJ: I’m a producer/DJ out of NYC. I’m currently on tour with A$AP Ferg for about four years now. I’m his tour DJ. I currently make music with him and picked up an artist Lil’ Pump as well, spreading out the duties between me and my team. We started a record label called Dope Roots, which is NYC-based. My father is Jam Master Jay of Run DMC so I tour with Run DMC as well. I’ve just been continuing his legacy as best as we can.
VH1: How were you approached to collaborate with Vhils on this amazing opportunity?
TJ: It’s beyond my imagination. Vhils is such a ridiculously talented street artist. Hennessy reached out and said they want to do a massive mural for me in the Lower East Side. My father had bottles of Hennessy in our wall units as decoration, so Hennessy has been on my rider forever. Not to pigeonhole them with hip hop but as long as I can remember everyone in that industry praised the brand.
VH1: Can you tell us a bit more about the Jam Master Jay Foundation?
TJ: It’s a foundation that my mom started a year after he passed, and my brother and I took over. We raise money for inner-city schools and their music programs. My father himself was taught music in school and if it wasn’t for that educational program, he wouldn’t be able to change society the way he did as a DJ, as a producer, as an icon, as a legend, so we want to give every kid that opportunity regardless of their socioeconomic status. You should be able to get that education ’cause it’s extremely important.
And that it is. You can also see Vhils artwork on these limited edition Hennessy bottles.
Shout out to remarkable people like Vhils and TJ who are consistently taking strides to better our community. Now that’s dope!