It’s Sunday, you got some time to kill. So study:
Words by Risk 9
Two writers that need no Introduction were cool enough to sit down with me and shoot the shit on writing, Manhattan, and life experiences. So kick back and catch a quick history lesson and try to imagine a time when trains were dogged. AAAAAHHHHHIIIII
RK9: Where you guys from?
R: West side, upper west.
What are your earliest memories of writing? What motivated you to get involved?
R: I saw a Junior 139 tag on a bus in like 1970 and I went to school with EFRO63. Back in the day everybody wrote graffiti, had some sort of name or tag.
Z: The guy you mentioned before, LSD, which is LSD followed by a sandscript symbol, which is pronounced “OM,” not three. He’s referred to as LSD3 a lot, but it’s wrong. He started the crew THE REBELS. He was my graffiti mentor and influenced me to write graffiti.
Your predecessors were actually the first pioneers, at what level were people at when you first became active?
Z: We’re actually latecomers. The fact that we came out in late ‘77 makes us late. Graffiti had already been through a lot of changes. Through strong periods and weak periods. A roller-coaster ride. We started at a bad time. We started on the 1 trains and they had just started buffing.
R: ’77 was the year of the buff. In ’78 it slowed up because they said there’s all these chemicals the TA used.
I also meant the levels of writing styles. We’re people burning lines.
2: Hell yeah. LEE was off the hook. Seeing his whole cars blew my mind.
R: PART was killer. BLADE, some of his shit was out there.
Z: DEATH SQUAD was big.
R: There was huge VOICE OF THE GHETTO tags.
You were also attracted to the mystique?
R: Oh yeah, definitely. Also the fact that someone could come in with such style. Certain crews represented a style. Manhattan, especially in the train era seemed to have writers with longer names. is there any relevency to that?
R: Two letters and a number was always typical, but what if you had a name like “Cheetah” or “Devil Rider” or some stupid shit like that? There’s more flavor.
Z: I had a shorter name before ZEPHYR. I wrote Sky. But then I saw other writers were able to get up still with more letters. Like I wrote with SHADOW, who was Spike Lee’s little brother and down with THE REBELS. Also CRUNCH. SHADOW gave me the confidence to get up with a longer name.
I’ve seen flix over the years of REVOLT tags on the tops of doors and ZEPHYR tags on the ceilings. Did you guys consciously make those your spots on the insides?
R: You were on a hunt for space, the headline tag spots. You wouldn’t want to tag in the afro buff spot. [laughter]
Z: In ’77 when I started to go to layups I noticed certain writers had their specific spots. Like WASP on the ends of the light fixtures. DONDI would have this spot above the two seater by the fire extinguisher. Hitting the ceiling was cool because they almost never buffed it.
Was there a more unified attitude in those days?
Z: It was pre-gangsterism. It was harmonious.You’d meet other writers and collaborate. It got more gangster later on. Things got more violent. In fact, the one tunnel, where we did most of our graffiti, by ’83 it was no longer safe to go. Guys were getting shot in there.
Did you guys stick to layups or move around to yards?
R: I started with layups throughout Manhattan and then the yards. Then we went to more layups and more yards.
2: Yards were safer then the tunnels. Tunnels were hectic and if cops came from both sides you were in for it.
Where did you guys bench trains?
Z: 125th and Broadway on the 1 line. The things we saw were mainly TDS and TMT. They were style masters.
Did you guys start out primarily as taggers?
R: Yeah, first with tagging, then signature pieces like the old STAY HIGHs; which were like giant tags with stars in them. Then the natural evolution to piece.
When did you really get into it?
2: MACKIE was one of all the RTW guys that inspired me and pushed me to do really good
pieces. He had the drive to get good and so did NE (MIN). I was just doing tag pieces. MACKIE wasn’t content with that. People around us were getting really good and he wanted to burn and for me to do it with him. When I met DONDI in 1980 thats when I really took it serious. Guys I started to hang with were so evolved I had to get better if I was to hang with them.
Who were your affiliates?
R: Original RTW, which was HUGHIE, BIL ROCK whose alias was SAGE, MIN who first wrote NE, HUNT RASTA, SAG 3, ZEPHYR and me, REVOLT, and a little later on SAURON and MACKIE.
Did you guys concentrate on every line?
R: We eventually went all city. It’s about going all city.
Z: We went after all the lines.
So did you guys network?
Z: Well before the Graffiti 1980 studio for writers, there was the writers corner at 149th andConcourse. The 1980 studio helped bring writers together and exchange phone numbers and ideas. Also form some unlikely partnerships. I never thought I’d meet DONDI, and through the studio I did. There were 3 or 4 crews that were all Manhattan-based which cross pollinated with each other. THE REBELS, THE SOUL ARTISTS and RTW. So when the studio began, the first artists to come and do canvases were our boys. REVOLT, MACKIE, ALI, BIL ROCK and legendary guys we knew like, TRACY 168 and STAN 153. The whole idea was me and FUTURA put the word out to get guys together to do this studio which was sponsored by this rich dude we knew. The roundup of all these different writers sorta just happened and a lot of different ideas and styles were in one room. Guys that normally kept to their own groups were interacting. It was cool.
At what point did you slow down?
Z: I painted from ’77 to ’84 and I was very into it. As I got older, things changed; my priorities
changed. I was trying to make a living through my art and had responsibilities I hadn’t had as a teenager. There’s a myth that because of galleries we put coffin nails into writing graffiti on the trains, which is false. The more we were exposed to the art world and the gallery world, the more we were inspired to paint trains. I’d always go back to the trains to recharge my batteries because thats where it all started.
You guys progressed beyond the trains and made design your livelihood. Where are you at these days?
R: Advertising, illustration, animation, logo design, drawing. Artists for hire.
Z: Revo|t’s always been down with the comic book thing. It’s always been his strong point, drawing in that style. We definitely are artists and designers for hire.
R: When you’re in trouble, who do you call? (laughter)
Cool. Anything you wanna add to this session?
Z: I’d like to add that partnerships in graffiti are classic; STITCH and SNAKE, COMET and BLADE, I2 and SACH, SEEN and PJAY etc.. Me and REVOLT have been collaborating for 25 years and are still active.
With all that said and done, I’d like to thank Zeph and Revolt for their time and words. For more info on the boys, check out www.zephyrgraffiti.com andwww.nytrash.com. I hope we all learned something today. I’m out like a trout on a new route. Peace.