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© 2019 Brian Redondo

Like many teens around the world, Queens high schooler Ninjaboy (an alias, obviously) became addicted after his first try. Most wouldn’t expect it from him, as his small frame and good-humored grin are too innocent for something like this. But his classmate persuaded him anyway, and Ninjaboy was intrigued. He had just travelled through a dank train tunnel, hopped the third rail, and slinked past MTA workers only to be stunned by the sight before him. It was the abandoned Canal Street subway station, forbidden to all but now his own to adore. The graffiti-lined walls and dim lighting widened his eyes and stirred his imagination. It was an instant high, “an adrenaline rush” as he describes it.

You’ve seen this spectacle before. A squatter camp of teens and twenty-somethings in the freshest kicks are penned in by metal barricades along the sidewalk. The red in their eyes is an equal mix of sleepless weary and anxious anticipation. They’ve been waiting feverishly overnight, some even for days, for a chance to cop those new old Jordans, that hyped up hoodie, that crisp white tee. It’s any given Saturday at Foot Locker, any given Thursday at Supreme. You scurry away in fear that it might turn ugly.

Ann Lewis (the street artist known as gilf!) put New York City on notice when she wrapped 5 Pointz in a giant “Gentrification in Progress” banner. Not only was the faux police tape a final “fuck-you” to the real estate company demolishing the graffiti mecca, but it also cemented Lewis as an important street artist confronting major social issues. Following the stunt, Complex Magazine named her one of the ten rising NYC street artists you should know.

Plywood portraits of Kanye Brest (the rapper personified by anthropomorphic areolae) and Dicki Minaj (her signature booty reimagined as twerkin testes) stare down at the greying Wisconsin couple from across the room. Nearby, Bill Murrito (the comedian-cum-burrito) and Hamuel L. Jackson (“Yes they deserved to fry and I hope they smoke in hell!”) also stand watch.

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