Safety First: an interview wit’ the local visual artistic sensation Safety First

by Minister of Information JR

Safety-First-painting-3, Safety First: an interview wit’ the local visual artistic sensation Safety First, Culture Currents Safety First is one third of the super art crew Black Diamond Shining, which also consists of Dead Eyes and Ras Terms. These brothas are very talented visual artists who seem to be everywhere in the Bay where people are talking about young Black and Brown art by contemporary artists.

I ran into the work of Safety First and Ras Terms at the popular World Ground Cafe in East Oakland and thought to myself that I had to make sure that the rest of the Bay View readers knew that the Black Diamond Shining crew is meticulously working on their artistic legacy, because they are some up and coming legends, making art on the Bay Area-Northern Cali scene.

We have to buy and support local art so that we can keep our local dope artists in business. Check out Safety First in his own words …

Safety-First-painting-2, Safety First: an interview wit’ the local visual artistic sensation Safety First, Culture Currents M.O.I. JR: When did you realize that you were an artist and that that is what you wanted to do with your life?

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Safety First: I would have to say I realized that around 14 or 15 but didn’t really get that’s the only thing I wanted to do until I was 30.

M.O.I. JR: How were you trained?

Safety First: A lot of doodling during class, in school and comic book/cartoon characters as a kid, some high school art classes and a semester of art college in Brooklyn.

M.O.I. JR: Who inspires your work?

Safety First: Definitely everyone in Black Diamond Shining. Painting with them has been a huge influence. There’s a lot of local artists whose work I dig. Karen and Malik Seneferu, Eesuu, Emory Douglas, Favianna, Trust Your Struggle, just to name a few people. There’s a ton of awesome artists in Oakland, though – so much talent here.

One of my biggest influences is Justin Bua. Seeing his work as a kid is the first time I saw someone paint hiphop art that wasn’t all graff or spraypaint. Buddy Esquire and Phase 2 for all those early hand drawn hiphop flyers. My homie back home, Jay Stooks. His art still influences me.

Safety-First-painting-1, Safety First: an interview wit’ the local visual artistic sensation Safety First, Culture Currents When I was a kid getting to visit New York City I was intrigued by walls that just looked like a million different artists had worked on them, with a million different mediums. Getting to see West FC and Ezo paint walls was a big deal to me as a kid.

As a kid in Ithaca, N.Y., I always liked the work of Belladonna, Pride, Swine and Dance. Of course various forms of African art influence me. I’m really into the South African barber shop paintings, and I like checking out contemporary African artists on the internet. I also really dig sign paintings and like Lester Clay and signs by Pam. Both of those artists are from New Orleans. I’m really into paintings of food. Oh yeah, and don’t forget Basquiat.

M.O.I. JR: What is your creative process like?

Safety First: Paint until the voices in my head say it’s finished.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell me a little bit about your crew Black Diamonds Shining? How did you guys come together? Why?

Safety First: Well, BDS came together from me and Ras Terms and Deadeyes having shows and always including each other in them. You know one of us would have a solo show and call up the others to bring art or participate in some way. Why did we come together? Because it was pre-destined and out of our hands to come together. You’d have to ask my ancestors what’s going on there.

Safety-First-painting-4, Safety First: an interview wit’ the local visual artistic sensation Safety First, Culture Currents M.O.I. JR: Where can the public see your art? Where can they purchase it?

Safety First: You can see it on Facebook at safetyfirstpopbds and Facebook at blackdiamondsshining. Also you can see work on Tumblr at firstcomessafety. I’ve got work currently hanging at World Ground Cafe up on MacArthur in East Oakland. A lot of those paintings are collaborations with Ras Terms.

I’ve also got banners hanging in the Laurel District on the poles right now. Also my work is in downtown Oakland at the new store Nneka at 1431 Broadway. They have art by myself and Ras Terms, and T-shirts by local company Dreamers Rule, that feature Deadeyes and I.

M.O.I. JR: How do people get in touch with you?

Safety First: Facebook is really the best way right now, and you can find me on Facebook at safetyfirstpopbds.

The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at