Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Arts and Entertainment

Video: The Story Behind The 45 L.A. Street Signs With Local Rap Lyrics

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
Your donation today keeps LAist independent, ready to meet the needs of our city, and paywall free. Thank you for your partnership, we can't do this without you.

New Yorker Jay Shells has been spreading his wings in L.A., posting up rap lyrics about our city streets and landmarks as street signs. He released a video on Monday showing a behind-the-scenes look at how he got through the site-specific "Rap Quotes" street art installation.

Within two days, Shells managed to put up 45 street signs through the city. His Rap Quotes project included shoutouts to the City Of Angels from the Notorious B.I.G. to Eazy E and Kendrick Lamar, and the artist hit up everywhere from Hollywood to South L.A.

Shells first launched this project in New York City earlier this year, which garnered a lot of attention. He came up with the idea last February when he was working on a painting in his home studio and listening to Big L's first album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous.

"On a song I'd heard hundreds of times before, he utters the line, 'On 139 and Lenox Ave. there's a big park, and if you soft don't go through it when it gets dark,' and at that moment, I thought I should go mark that spot somehow," Shells tells LAist. "I decided that using a street sign was the vehicle that made the most sense for me as it's very quick to put up and would blend into the surrounding environment making it a little harder to see. I wanted it to be a surprise for people who really pay attention to their surroundings. I then decided I wanted to document every site-specific lyric in NY the same way."

Support for LAist comes from

In the video, he talks about how he hung up the signs in the daytime to avoid any trouble with the police. "Sometimes the more conspicuous you are, the less conspicuous you are," he says.

One of the most memorable things that happened during his time in L.A. was when rapper and barber Doc Holliday came out of his shop on Crenshaw Blvd. and Slauson Ave. to freestyle for him and his crew. They captured it on video at it can be seen at the 2:20-minute mark.

While Shells has done other street art projects around New York, such as etiquette and subway signs, he'll be focusing on wood-burnt portraits at the Fountain Art Fair in New York next on the weekend of March 7.

"After that, I have a head full of ideas to execute. Stay tuned."

Related stories:
Rap Lyrics About L.A. Streets Posted As L.A. Street Signs
Street Art Project Maps Rap Lyric Shout Outs Around NYC