Mike "DREAM" Francisco 1993 interview @ No Justice, No Peace art opening
Exactly forty years ago today, August 15th 1969, Mike "DREAM" Francisco was born. But instead of what should have been a landmark birthday celebration today, this August 15th is just another sad reminder to those loved ones and friends and fans of the late, great Bay Area graffiti artist of how Mike "DREAM" Francisco's life was prematurely, senselessly halted nine years ago. On February 17th, 2000 on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, DREAM was gunned down and killed, the victim of a random street robbery.
Not only was DREAM (or "King Dream," as he is referred to by many) a gifted and prolific artist, with a passion for hip-hop -- having collaborated with countless hip-hoppers, including Hobo Junction over the years -- but he was also a most outspoken individual, one concerned about his community, and one never afraid to speak out against the ills of society.
Had DREAM been allowed to live today, you can bet he would have been at the front of the protests against the murder of Oscar Grant by BART police earlier this year. In fact, in 1993 he was one of the featured artists in the anti police brutality show No Justice, No Peace at downtown Oakland's Pro Arts Gallery. Above is a rare interview with DREAM at the opening of that show by A Debonair Affair's Melinda Bell which, despite the poor audio quality, gives you a great insight into the kind of person DREAM was: down-to-earth, fun, & witty, but also most passionate about his beliefs. I first met DREAM around 1990 and was instantly struck by what a genuinely good spirited and generous person he was, always upbeat and interested in what others had to say. But what is perhaps most profound about the DREAM interview above is how he defines what "reality" means to some people, like himself, as "to brothers like us reality is watching people die on the streets everyday!"
An important pioneering Bay Area graffiti artist in his lifetime, from the early eighties up until the time of his death, both as a solo artist and with his crew TDK (Those Damn Kids), the Alameda born DREAM's legacy has only grown in the nine years since his untimely death. Here in the Bay Area DREAM is an incredibly respected, larger-than-life figure, given the level of deep admiration reserved for such other loved (and tragically slain) hip-hop icons as Mac Dre and 2Pac. You don't have to travel too far anywhere in the Bay Area (or other areas beyond the Bay, such as LA, for that matter) before stumbling upon some wall with graffiti dedicated to DREAM.
Over the years these numerous pieces have included the one above in East Oakland and another out under the junction of the 280 and 101 freeways in SF, which is coincidentally where DREAM, along with SPIE, did one of his very last pieces.
There have also been exhibits dedicated to DREAM over the years, including the May 2007 one at the RX Gallery in San Francisco (flyer above), which was organized by fellow TDK (DREAM's crew) graf artist Willie Maze. Countless hip-hop songs have shouted out DREAM over the years. And some, like the video below by Nump ("Wanna Be Like Mike") from earlier this year or the freestyle by BAS-1, who grew up with Mike excerpted below (featuring DJ Pone and DnZ), are dedicated in full to the local legend. Also immediately below is a video featuring both BAS-1 (himself a former graf artist but better known as an outspoken emcee and major ambassador of hip-hop's four elements) along with graffiti artist Estria interviewed together recently on the topic of DREAM's legacy.
DREAM: Estria & Bas-1 reflect on legacy of Bay graffiti legend (2009)
It seems that everyone in the Bay Area knows of DREAM, but those who personally knew him in his lifetime are the ones most affected by him and his passing as well. And, of course, there is also his young son he left behind, Akil, who was only a baby when his father was murdered. Those who knew DREAM well include San Francisco-born longtime graffiti artist SPIE, who, like DREAM, witnessed firsthand the birth of the Bay Area graffiti scene and was instrumental in its growth."I think about DREAM every day. A lot of us do. It keeps me going sometimes. He was a positive spirit," said SPIE. "And it's pretty amazing how DREAM's legacy just keeps growing. He has become this really important figure to a lot of youth out here who may never have even met him."
It was 22 years ago when SPIE first met DREAM. One day in 1987 writers from all over the Bay Area converged on the Powell Street BART station for an informal graffiti meeting. SPIE and DREAM were among the group of young artists at that historic art gathering. At that time DREAM had settled on the name DREAM. For many years he had been tagging under various other names. And, like a lot of artists, he had also been getting in trouble with the law and it was while sitting in court one day that he first wrote the name DREAM, the name that would earn him his rep and one that he would proudly keep til the day he died. "One of the first DREAM sketches that he ever did, it was on his court papers," recalled SPIE. "He just got caught when he was like 16 years old and he [was] sitting in court and did a DREAM piece on the court paper as he sat in court."
For more on DREAM check out Art Crimes' Remembering Dream page or the Mike DREAM penned article, "Writing Is My Life" published on hiphop-elements.com, the b-boys.com dream memorial, or visit www.dreamtdk.com
REST IN POWER KING DREAM!
BAS-1 "DREAM's 40th Birthday Tribute" Hip-Hop Slam freestyle excerpt (2009)
Nump - "Wanna Be Like Mike" (2009)