Max Roach himself was a popular American Jazz drummer and once we become aware of that, the entire artwork suddenly becomes much clearer. There is a full drum kit on the left hand side of this painting, and then elsewhere the artist throws paint around in a chaotic manner which is entirely typical of the Abstract Expressionist movement, of which he was loosely connected. In truth, this artist was very much his own man and would create a style which was very much his own, using content that most other artists of that era would not have chosen. His unique nature helped Basquiat to become one of the most loved and respected artists of all time and he remains integral to the development of American art in the last few decades of the 20th century.
Basquiat would plan his artworks more than you might think from looking at them. This is a common misunderstanding because of the random look of some of his compositions. He worked quickly and aggressively, seeking to deliver messages to the world that needed to be heard. In actual fact, he would carefully plan different elements in his work, adding text where necessary if his messages were too specific to deliver just through these expressive images alone. Today he is rightly celebrated for his popular artistic style, but also the impact that he had in making some communities consider the status of others, when normally they might prefer to put it to the back of their minds. We all prefer comfortable lives, and sometimes it is for art to shock and exite, opening the avenues for new discussions that need to be had. One can today see these types of conversations being held, something the artist would surely have approved of.
One can identify certain similarities in content across the full breadth of this artist's work - objects that represent meaning which are then re-used across artworks in a manner of a type of iconography. One can find themes across the likes of Irony of Negro Policeman, Pez Dispenser and Bird on Money which discuss various social ills that concerned the artist at the time, and he would use his public voice to draw attention to them through his work. Basquiat was entirely aware of his ability to speak out on behalf of communities who otherwise would be silent, because of their unfortunate status in American society at that time. We are all aware of his criticism of police in some of his paintings, and these issues feel particularly relevant today because of their prominence within daily news and ongoing protests, bringing back an increased focus onto his life and achievements.