Ricky Powell - An Interview with The Funky Uncle & Gallery Opening Tonight @ 212 Arts LES, NYC January 7, 2016 12:13 1 Comment

So where do you start when discussing the infamous Ricky Powell? Ricky is an institution. He’s a NYC living legend. He’s the OG hip-hop street photographer who has worked with such legends as The Beastie Boys, RUN DMC, LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, and Big L…. just to name a few.
But beyond that Ricky is the most interesting person you will ever meet at a dive bar in NYC who will talk your ear off with tales of the golden era of hip-hop, current events, fashion, sports, food, and everything else the 5 boroughs has to offer.

I have had the pleasure to call Ricky a friend for the past couple years, and have been blessed with the opportunity to hear just a handful of his amazing stories (and a couple nights out on the town that I can describe as hazy at best).

Unless you have spent time with Ricky Powell, AKA The Rickster, AKA The Funky Uncle, AKA Uncle Sloppy, AKA Plorp Master Funk, AKA The Dirty Doorman, AKA The Kool Substitute Teacher you just can’t really understand the depth and importance of his work.

As an illustration of a typical chat I did my best to transcribe just 15 minutes of me Rappin With The Rickster about his new collaborative show opening tonight in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 212 Arts entitled “Changing Directions”.  

This collaborative show will feature many of Ricky’s most beloved images from his 30 year career re-interpreted by such street artist as Adam Dare, Amar Stewart, Chad Gordon, Dain, Emilio Ramos, Joseph Grazi, Rene Gagnon, Sean Sullivan, T-Kid 170, Whisbe, & Zimer.
If you miss this one you will seriously kick yourself. Airhorn!!

So Ricky… why “Changing Directions”?

Well for me it’s like watching a football player turn into a thoroughbred… it’s art. Like when someone catches the ball and the defense sees what they’re are going to do but at the last second they change direction and beat them. It’s like ballet, or a juke move, its natural. This title represent and signifies a new era in my lineage, life, career… I’m changing direction and I like that… its refreshing for everyone, it’s not predictable … I think that’s important.


So why these particular pieces?

Honestly I had these lying around my place. I’m a broke as mo-fo artist right? But on a the seriously tip each of the contributing artists picked pieces that spoke to them individually, and I gave them that particular print to work with. 

So how did this whole show come about?

Dude… funniest thing... I’m at my local café Jack’s Stir Brew on 10th St. and all of a sudden who walks in but T-Kid 170, and I’m like are you taping Candid Camera in my local coffee shop? Is a Bronx legend hanging out at Jack’s?

So then we sit down and have a laugh and this guy over here on my right is with him chillin’ out (Marc Leader from 212 Arts). So later that week I’m walking down my block in the West Village and I run into this cat Marc again and he’s like “Hey Ricky we met the other day with T-kid I’m working with him”, and I stop and look him up and down and said “You know T-kid… you???” So of course I gave him respect and we start chatting and low and behold the kid is a fan an offers me my own show at his gallery.

I have to say that I am psyched about the show… I’m mad grateful for the opportunity. I love it! I love the collab thing.

I don’t want to pontificate… but I was the first one doing the photographer collab thing. Some others photographers have been having others paint on their photos and not giving me any kind of acknowledgement. I don’t want to sound catty but…

Anyway, so I love this. I am happy to be continuing in my lineage of my collaborative series. This I believe is my fourth one.

I love the whole idea of collaborations because they are fun. You never know what you’re going to see.   You never know what they are going to do… it’s just fun… I get a look at the finished pieces and I’m like damb that great! It’s always a great time. It reminds me of one of my hashtags “#ifitaintfunforgetit. I truly believe the fun transcends. Plus, this is going to make some great new material for my instagram account @thelazyhustler. 

When can we expect another mixtape?

There is actually going to be a new mix-tape in the next week or so for The Rickford Institute call “Blackberry Stardust”.

_______ Interrupted by conversation on the other side of the gallery________

Yo Duke’s!!! A little quieter over there we’re in the middle of an interview (winks at the other guys)…. Yo it’s all good though… I’m only half kidding.

So… the new mix it’s very jazzy, very funky, it emphasizes all the good vibes you expect. All my mixes are perfect for an impromptu house party. You can get all zooted in the nude, it’s pleasant, an effervescent experience for all.

Maybe a record release at Fat Buddah?

I don’t know… that’s a good question. A release may be a good idea… a jump off. I’ll keep yall posted.

Any new clothing?

There is going to be some new Ricky Powell clothing in the New Year but that’s confidential for now. You know I got lots of hustle, eight different hustles actually… you know I’m the lazy hustler. I got some live performances coming up in Sweden, Italy, San Diego, Denver… I got gigs coming for y’all.

Last year I was celebrating 30 years on the pro photo tip… 1985 to 2015. But this year in 2016 I think I’m going to keep the party going, and it’s going to be even better. I mean when I celebrated my 50th birthday in November of 2011 I had a great show at Milk it was dope. But I did get thrown out of my own show because I got a little over zealous with the black cherry tequila. I was making out with old ladies and they threw me out of my own opening. But they did let me back in after... it was a very distinguished moment.

Anyway, I carried that party to 2012 and had a great year because I got to travel the planet. I remember at one point I was like stop the planet I want to get off, but I stuck it out, and ended up having an orgy in Tokyo and it was hype. You should have been there. 

Do you have any photos from that I can publish?  

No, I just had a bunch of little Japanese girls there who were happy to look on and observe, and compute and watch the situation go down. But enough of that I just want everyone to know that I am going to have a lot of shit going on in 2016, I just want to use my powers constructively to make good things happen with good people, and help good people come up as well. I just want everyone to know that anything I do that’s good for my career and others is great… I’m not a diva.

Can we expect more of your walking tours in 2016?

It’s funny you say that. I don’t call them walking tours because that’s what everyone else calls theirs. I have to do it differently…  So can I get an amen from the audience?


Thank you! So between you, the lamppost, and me I call it “The West Village According to Me”. I just take people around you know where I grew up, and tell them stories about things like the women’s penitentiary on 10th St. and how they would yell down at us and we would yell back to them having epic snapping battles across 10th St. You know they should really make that a movie. You remember they had that movie across 110th St.? I actually have a hashtag called #accross10thst. It’s about interracial freakiness. Getting zooted in the nude interracially… it’s quiet exquisite. You know… Anyway I’ll have the people on the tour be a lookout while I smoke a joint. You know it’s interactive… the people become part of the tour itself.

You mean accomplices?

Ya! Well put. Everyone has a good time. I’m all about making people laugh. Because when you make people laugh you’re the king.

So to wrap things up why should people come down tomorrow night?

Because yo… don’t be a douche bag… come down.

212 Arts Presents Ricky Powell “Changing Directions”
a collaborative art show
Opening: Thursday January 7th 6 - 9:30pm
Closing: Tue, Jan 19
240 East 4th St. (Bet. A & B) LES, NYC

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Author: Matthew A. Eller
All Photos & Text Copyright Matthew A. Eller 2016
Twitter: @ellerlawfirm