Rammellzee (or RAMMΣLLZΣΣ, pronounced “Ram: Ell: Zee”, born 1960 in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York), was a graffiti writer, performance artist, rap/hip-hop musician and sculptor from New York. His death was announced on 29th June 2010.
Rammellzee’s graffiti and art work are based on his theory of Gothic Futurism, which describes the battle between letters and their symbolic warfare against any standardizations enforced by the rules of thealphabet; his treatise, “Iconic Panzerisms”, details an anarchic plan by which to revise the role and deployment of language in society. Rammellzee is often identified as an artist apart of the Afrofuturism canon; Afrofuturism is identified discourse concerned with revisioning racial identity through the tropes of science fiction and fantasy narrative or aesthetics.
He was also instrumental as one of the original hip hop artists from the New York area who introduced specific vocal styles which date back to the early 1980s. His influence can still be heard in contemporary artists such as The Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill. His song “Beat Bop” was featured in the film Style Wars.
Discovered by a larger audience through the 1982 cult movie Wild Style by Charlie Ahearn, his fame in graffiti circles was established when he painted New York subway trains with Dondi, OU3, and Ink 76, and doctor Revolt. Rammellzee was also a member of the Death Comet Crew, with Stewart Albright and Michael Diekmann. In 1988, he and his band Gettovetts recorded the album “Missionaries Moving.” In 2003, Rammellzee performed at the Knitting Factory in New York with the newly reformed Death Comet Crew; subsequently, Troubleman Unlimited re-released recordings made by DCC between 1982 and 1984; additionally, their single for “Exterior St.” was featured on the compilation, Anti-NY, with contemporaries, Ike Yard, Sexual Harassment, and Vivian Goldmann, among others. In 2004, he released his debut albumBi-Conicals of the Rammellzee, produced by Gomma Records. Rammellzee also performed at Knitting Factory with guitarist Buckethead several times.
His artistic work has been shown in art galleries throughout the US and Europe. Currently, Rammellzee’s Letter Racers, and other Noise includes artistic works by individuals mostly identified with their musical contributions.
In a recent interview, he stated that his name is derived from “RAM” plus “‘M’ for ‘Magnitude’, ‘Sigma’ (Σ) the first summation operator, first ‘L’ – ‘longitude’, second ‘L’ – ‘latitude’, ‘Z’ – ‘z-bar’, Σ, Σ – ‘summation’.” He now performs in self-designed masks and costumes of different characters, which, as he states, represent the “mathematical equation” that is Rammellzee. On the basis of his “Gothic Futurism” approach, he sometimes describes his current artistic work as the logical extension into a new phase which he calls “Ikonoklast Panzerism.”
Rammellzee makes a cameo appearance near the end of Jim Jarmusch‘s 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise.