As Hip Hop celebrates its 50th anniversary, all four of the culture’s pillars have celebrated their contributions, but graffiti has received the least fanfare, even though graffiti art is older than all of the other aspects of Hip Hop. Some graffiti purists disregard graff as a part of Hip Hop culture, but more of an art form and no graff artists or enthusiasts can speak about the history of graffiti without mentioning DONDI CIA.
DONDI, whose given name is Donald White, began his interest in graffiti in the mid 70s, joining the TOP(The Odd Partners) crew in 1977, which included artists such as DURO and TOP founder JAMES TOP. DONDI eventually formed his own crew, CIA(Crazy Inside Artists). For the next two decades, DONDI was recognized as one of the most prolific style creators in the art form and even was gifted the moniker “Stylemaster General” by his contemporaries.
DONDI appeared in the Hip Hop educational documentary Style Wars, created by Tony Silver and filmmaker Henry Chalfant. DONDI was also the first graff artist to host an international one-man show in the Netherlands and Germany, with other European museums displaying his art in graffiti exhibitions. DONDI worked with the Fun Gallery and together with artists of the like of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lee Quinones, Keith Haring, ERO (Dominique Philbert), Rammellzee, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura 2000, Toxic, Zephyr, rbinging art from the streets to art galleries.
DONDI died in October 1998 from complications from AIDS, but his legacy continues with family members and graffiti writers that continue to push his influence in the street art form forward.