Best Non-Music Writing 2009: The Blake Lethem Story Retold


Kind of a fascinating day for investigative reporting in places I generally find links to sneakers and the like. Complex offers today the story of Blake Lethem, alias KEO, whose years as a graffiti writer and proto-M.C. provided the model, in part, for the narrator of his older brother Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude. Lethem, after various brushes with drugs and incarceration, is apparently living on his own in Queens, where Complex’s Ben Osborne found him. His story–the manic adventures of a white kid in an ’70s/’80s rap world, as a graf-writer in the Haring/Basquiat-era, and as a guy who had a hard time getting older–will be recognizable to anyone who’s read Fortress, or ever cared about New York’s downtown and outer-borough past. “I pretty much ran wild,” he says. “I was writing on trains, I was tripping on mescaline and acid and stealing 40s and spray paint every day. Boosting clothes. I went to jams, I went to places where even my friends were like, ‘You need to get the fuck out of here. This is no place for a little white boy.’ It was like that.”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 15, 2009

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