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Hartman grew up just north of the city in Westchester, and explains that, until recently, he was working “a pretty corporate job—like, corporate enough that I had to input shit into Salesforce and all that stuff which I hated.” Running a buzzy Instagram account has led to a few opportunities—helping brands with their digital strategy here, freelance meme making there. (“Insane collection of words, ‘freelance meme making.’”) Nolita Dirtbag isn’t yet his prime source of income, but Hartman nonetheless considers himself a “huge sellout” for making some money through sponsored posts and collabs with brands like M Jewelers. “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” he jokes.
That’s part of why we’re talking: Hartman has his sights set on the future. He’s hyped about a collab he’s working on with Small Talk Studio. He jokes about franchising his niche meme page and starting a “conglomerate” of pages for different cities all across the country. He’s got plenty of ideas, some of which require losing his anonymity: “I also want to do longer-format content in front of the camera and bring some of this ‘commentary’ to life in different ways,” he explains. He’d also love to get into the consulting space.
Hartman started making memes and posting them to the Nolita Dirtbag account in 2021. One of the first to gain any traction was a simple white background post with “IMMÁ PEE ON THE FLOOR” in the same font as the Aimé Leon Dore logo. His timing couldn’t have been better: this was right when all of New York’s pent-up pandemic boredom, aggression, and horniness seemed to express itself in lower Manhattan.
Hartman’s account takes its name from one of those New York acronyms that comes to stand in for more than just the set of streets or neighborhoods it describes: North of Little Italy. The name itself dates back to the 1990s, when realtors were looking to rebrand and draw big money to neighborhoods thought to be tarnished by crime and neglect: SoHo, Tribeca, NoHo. The city that Hartman documents is long past that. New York City has long been an expensive place to live, but recently, with rents hitting an all-time high, it has become downright unaffordable for most people. It is fully post-gentrification, no longer the weird, seedy place that has long been obsessed over by historians and pop culture geeks. Patti Smith, Richard Hell and Jean-Michel Basquiat have been replaced by people that can afford to look like they know what’s cool and interesting—but that doesn’t mean they themselves are cool and interesting.
These, more than anyone else, are Hartman’s subjects. I’ll just let him describe them: “Guys with the paint-splattered canvas carpenter pants. Potentially wearing a crop top, maybe they’ve got a hoodie on—there are different levels to it. If an AI was to generate it, they’d also be wearing a pair of Salomons or Asics and a Western Hydrodynamic Research hat. Then there’s the ironic camouflage thing,” he says, rolling his eyes towards the lid on his own head, which is camouflage. “Obviously 90 percent of this is making fun of myself. I make fun of shit all the time that I’m into.”