One of rap's most colorful and recognizable characters, at various points in his life Fab Five Freddy has been a nationally exhibited painter, an actor, a screenwriter, a rapper, a graffiti artist, a producer, and a host for MTV, each endeavor carrying Freddy's trademark zeal and charisma.
Growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of New York, Freddy first entered the underground culture as a popular graffiti artist. Using the tags "Bull 99" and "Fred Fab 5," Freddy's work became a fixture on subway cars and walls throughout the city. Graduating from high school in the late '70s, the young artist studied painting at Medgar Evans College where he emulated the pop art of Andy Warhol. After fostering a friendship with music columnist Glenn O'Brien, Freddy became a cameraman and regular guest on his public-access show. It was through this friendship that Fab Five was introduced to the downtown hipster scene which included Debbie Harry of the group Blondie, Warhol, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat (Harry even mentioned Freddy in the lyrics of Blondie's 1981 hit "Rapture"). Though he pursued painting throughout the early '80s, Freddy gradually became more interested in other aspects of black culture including breakdancing and hip-hop. This interest led to his production of the soundtrack album and a lead role in the 1982 film Wild Style.
During the late '80s Freddy began directing videos for rappers such as KRS-One, Shabba Ranks, Queen Latifah, EPMD, and others. At around the same time Fab Five was also approached by MTV producer Ted Demme to host a new show, Yo! MTV Raps. Through his exposure on MTV, Freddy was widely acknowledged as a champion and founding father of hip-hop culture. In 1992, the multimedia star compiled a dictionary of hip-hop slang titled Fresh Fly Flavor.