Blake Lethem aka KEO, also known as SCOTCH 79, is a bona-fide Brooklyn legend, graf writer/visual artist/MC, in the realm of NYC graffiti and hip hop. Keo came of age in the Brooklyn of the 1970s and learned his craft in the tunnels and yards of the MTAs subway system.
Keo got interested in graffiti as a very young child. He started tagging on his school and its yard and the neighborhood. But at that time you weren’t a real writer until you hit the trains. So he went in ’79 to Fort Hamilton lay-up and that’s what he consider as his official start. Even though long before that he was trying to king the neighborhood, and walk into different areas of Brooklyn and taking tags.
KEO is well known for his actions with the X MEN crew during the early to mid 1980s. He frequently hit the IRT division at the famed Kingston lay-up in Brooklyn. In the late 1990s he continues to write for X MEN and has participated in the reseriction of two legendary crews of the 1970s, The 3 Yard Boys and The Odd Partners.
In 1996, Lethem met Daniel Dumile aka DOOM, they made strong connection and after shortly time Keo helped him to create the well-known cover art from DOOM’s debut LP, Operation: Doomsday.
Keo’s stories, 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 novel “Fortress of Solitude” by his brother Jonathan Lethem, or ever cared about New York’s downtown and outer-borough past.
“I pretty much ran wild. 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.”
KEO has also coordinated a variety of gallery displays of aersol art, including the widely acclaimed “Metalergy” show in 1999.
In 1984, at the age of 17, KEO was selected to exhibit in his first group-show at the legendary FUN GALLERY alongside Jean Michael Basquiat, Dondi White, Keith Haring, Futura 2000, and many other luminaries of the movement. Keo has gone on to show his fine art around the world, as well as curate exhibitions and auctions of Graffiti Art. Commercially, KEO’s work has graced album covers, book jackets, sportswear and apparel, signage, product packaging and just about every conceivable surface and substrate. His art has appeared in many music videos and major motion pictures, His talents are often called upon by companies such as Nike Sports Wear, Supreme, Sony, MTV, and Bertelsmann.
KEO has taught private instruction, summer youth classes at the Wyndanch Public Library, Paint Straight programs in conjunction with the New York Department of Probation, as well as Art Therapy at Rikers Island’s Adolescent Reception and Detention Center. Keo has given workshops at Brooklyn Friends School and been a guest Lecturer at Rutgers University, The Jewish History Museum, The Schomburg, St. Francis College and many other Institutes.
With an old school aesthetic Keo continues to ingrain his charismatic signature into the tapestry of urban art & pop culture, while also redefining classic graffiti styles into fresh new work through his fine art and design outlets.
Blake Lethem aka KEO lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.