A Closer Look at ‘Hollywood Africans’

Hollywood Africans portrays Basquiat alongside fellow artists Toxic and Rammellzee. Painted while the trio was visiting Los Angeles, the work speaks to Basquiat's interest in film history and his ability to layer references, also a trademark technique of hip-hop lyricism. Peppered throughout the canvas, notations such as “tobacco,” “sugar cane” and “gangsterism” allude to the limited roles given to Black artists in both Hollywood and real life. At the top, Basquiat drew a mummy figurine/Oscar statuette and nearby wrote “1940”—the year that Hattie McDaniel became the first Black performer to receive an Academy Award. On the bottom, he included his signature crown—linked to graffiti writers’ practice of designating the king of a train line.