This is additional material to the text of “Graffiti L.A.: street styles and art”
Though these cuts from the text make most sense in the context of the original text and seem a bit of a hash here, they should still make sense enough on their own. Material such as the following was cut from the original text for a number of reasons. Sometimes the editors didn’t feel enough information was presented about a particular person to justify a quote. Sometimes there just wasn’t enough room for everthing in a particular section. Many times I “rescued” quotes and information from cuts and got it back into the text, but other commentary was cut without my noticing it until too late. There had to be give and take with the publisher, especially under an extremely short deadline.
‘Early Influences’ Cut Text and Commentary
The anonymous source commenting about the beginnings of things (pg. 12) had this additional bit to say:
Our whole concern was just what’s this guy doing? And what’s that guy doing? And I heard someone did something over there, and someone would say Miner and someone would say “oh, I hear he’s this freaky dude with long black hair and long black nails!” And nobody was dressing in any special way at the time. There was Pjay, one of the best early writers in L.A., tall black dude, kind of black-consciousness proud guy, cool as hell, and then also in the same crew was Rival who looked like Eddie Van Halen with curly long hair, and Miner who was into punk. At this time you didn’t do Cholo writing unless you were in a gang. Along with that, unlike today, you didn’t dress like a tough guy unless you were a tough guy or were willing to suffer the consequences.
On page 18 I present some basic definitions, and give a general definition of “wildstyle” as the creative abstraction and manipulation of letterforms. I do recognize that some writers refer to wildstyle to mean a particular style of interlocking letters and use of arrow forms. Also, as with many terms, the meaning of “bombing” is not agreed upon universally. In talking to various veteran writers, the term might refer exclusively to throw-ups, throw ups and tags, or any illegal work. Some might refer to “piece-bombing” to be specific.
A recommendation that should have been in the book, is “Wallbangin'” by Susan A. Phillips. This book goes deeply into Cholo culture.
“Los Angeles Starts Up” Cut Text and Commentary
On the map (pg. 20-21) and in the text (pg. 34) I made a real screw-up: somehow I spaced out and I called the Northeast area “Northwest.” So to the Northeast writers (especially SHs), my appologies. Northeast writers such as Asylm even put an arrow pointing Northeast, so I should have caught that! Also I forgot to put Highland Park on the map: it would be right where it says “Northwest.”
The East Side (pg. 24)
Although a number of crews say they started in 1984 or even 1983, in talking to veteran writers, it seems that the crew to first have a real presence was LABS.
Crime/Rick: Radiotron [an all-ages club where kids could break-dance and hear rap] by MacArthur park, was where we [breakers] used to hang out, and that’s where many of us became friends. After being individuals, we (Crime, along with Shandu, Primo Dee, Risco, Dave) formed L.A. Bomb Squad (LABS) in late ’84, the first crew we knew of in L.A, and because we limited the size of our crew, others started to form their own crews.
The other important east side crew to start in ’84 was KGB (Kids Gone Bad). They shared a number of members with K2S, and were active until ’89. Crime continued: “In ’85 I put LABS on hold and started K2S (Kill To Succeed) with 5 people; Crime, Prime, Cartoon, Defer and Risco.”
The first battle at Belmont Tunnel, which was started as a yard by LABS, was between Shandu and Graff, AKA “Quickdraw” to create some buzz and see what happens,” according to Shandu. The technique according to Shandu (whose first inspiration in ’82/3 was a graphic, saying “Graffiti 1999” by Fab 5 Freddie of New York) was ‘still very bubble-ish’ at that early stage. It was not a battle by common standards: Shandu and Graff were never in the yard at the same time, but rather, worked back and forth on their pieces over some time.
In the following quote, the bit about Geo disappeared, but Rick (Crime) wanted to give top props to Geo.
I was on the streets in everybody’s face from East L.A. to Pan Pacific with tags, throws-ups, pieces. We started the all-city thing [although Alski was all-city tagging], writing ‘on the run’ just as a slogan with a little running stickman, ‘A quickie by Rickie,’ ‘A fast one by Rick One,’ Geo would write ‘this is only a test’ and then clone his piece.
The West Side (pg. 28)
Earlier, we mentioned Hex as the founder of CBS who later moved on to LOD, but another very important L.A. artist also used the name Hex. To distinguish them, L.A. writers usually refer them with their crew names, thus “Hex LOD,” or “Hex TGO.”
TGO meant “To God Only,” with biblical references or religious aphorisms often surrounding Hex TGO’s pieces. Indeed, although he still makes a living as an aerosol artist, he left the graffiti scene to devote himself to religious life.
Hex TGO, along with Omega, a seminal L.A. female writer (with UTI crew), whom he later married, ran the Hip-Hop Shop in Hollywood during the early to mid 1990s. The Hip-Hop Shop was across the street from Fairfax High School and sold graffiti supplies and hip-hop related clothing. But much more importantly, it was an important early legal gathering place where veterans as well as new-jacks (newcomers) could hang out. A number of important L.A. writers have cited Hex and Omega as very inspirational in how they dealt with them early on. Zuco, head of K4P, said “My desire to have a giving attitude came from Hex TGO because he always treated me with respect even when I sucked. And for him to be so skilled and yet open to people, was a real inspiration to never be arrogant.” Swank, SH writer extraordinaire, said “Hex and Omega were always cool with me and showed me the ropes, like telling me how to alter [paint] tips.”
Hex TGO and Slick K2S are widely regarded as two of the earliest L.A. virtuosos, not only of letters, but of representational work that consisted of characters and backgrounds (i.e. the environment the characters, usually human caricatures or cartoon figures, occupy; a cityscape, for example). These two writers engaged in two now legendary battles, one at the Levitz walls in Glendale in 1989 and the other at Belmont in 1990. Prime, who saw both battles, said “Slick did a little better in one, and Hex in the other, but they both did their best.”
Other notable crews to emerge in the west side included AM Seven (Amongst Majority’s Garbage [“G” being the seventh letter]), TPS (The Private Sector) and WAI (Wild Art Images). AM Seven was founded by Krenz AKA Yem in 1990 and though some members are from the west side of Los Angeles, they were an all-city crew during their more active early days. It was Yem that was really the first to do “corporates,” i.e. the front of billboards with full-color pieces, sometimes integrating the pieces into the existing billboard image. TPS (The Private Sector) was started in 1992 by Joe Joe, in West Los Angeles at Uni High School, and included the distinctive stylist Kofie, who took the unusual route of starting with figurative spray-painting, and later moving onto letters as well. Most of the TPS writers ended being active in other presently active crews such as RF (Rapid Fire, founded 1996) as personal associations shifted and TPS became less active as an entity. WAI started in the South Bay area and are now providing new blood for CBS with their collaborative efforts which can easily be seen in the alleys of the Melrose strip in Hollywood.
Motor and Venice Pavilion
Of all the yards that have come and gone in Los Angeles, Belmont, Motor, and the Venice Pavilion were among the most important venues for writers to gather and represent their work. It was at these yards that writers wanted to get up and be seen. The ‘first’ Verse and Siner, both of LTS were among the first writers to begin using the Motor and National yard in 1986. The walls had to be buffed out, a term co-opted from New York where train graffiti was literally buffed off with scrubbers and solution. Walls are also “buffed out” with house paint and rollers by writers themselves if they plan on writing anything larger or more complicated than a quick throw-up in order to make a clean area (if going over other graffiti) or to seal the pores of raw wall so the paint adheres evenly.
People searched all over for yards. Venice Pavilion was for “locals only”; Venice Breakwaters, a junior-high [gang] of V13 Suicidals, had it down [controlled]. The word didn’t get out until Venice got hip around 1984. That’s when people started going down there and writers too and saying Hey, check this out! And at the same time Zephyr and Revolt [both from New York] did a piece right on the breakwater. In 1987′ “88 it blew up and a lot of writers came.
Page 30, re South Side crews:
Cre8 [one of the founders of RTN] was very cool: he brought his mom and family to the yards to share what he was doing with them.
Page 32, re mid-city crews:
RTA (rapid transit artists), formed from those in the mid-city neighborhood interested in either piecing or catching tags, became LTS (Last To Serve).
I think LTS is one of the best crews in the history of LA.
Page 33: to see the main inspiration for ‘Genius’ character work and why it was so sophisticated compared to most, see www.wrightsonart.com
Page 33 (this is a fuller text bit): GFA (Graffiti Force Artists), formed in ’84/5 with local Burbank and North Hollywood high school friends Plex and Grem. Grem brought a lot of legitimacy to the valley, but the goal was to paint at the big yards, not just their little alley in the valley. Plex was from the Burbank area, and Wise was from the opposite edge in Woodland Hills where he formed TCF (The Chosen Few) with Rage, also in ’85. Baba had been in Burbank and moved to Canoga Park which was a link. As in other areas of L.A. prior to hip-hop, tagging was a mix of Latino/Cholo, skater-punk and heavy metal stoner graff with some gang activity. Graff came out of that street language. Some graffiti was even using 3D at that early stage. TCF linked people to AWR and KSN.
One of the few big disappointments in the book is that a page-and-a-half wide shot of an Ayer bridge piece should have accompanied the Revok/Zes comments on “All City Influences” but got cut. That and one other Ayer bridge piece are in the CD-Rom that come with the book in any event
Alternate Chaka Views
The following views complement Revok and Zesa’s comments (“All-City Influences”) on page 36, about Chaka.
KSN was don’t you had these guys rocking all these big pieces, and then you had this little fucking freak Chaka going around and doing all this stupid shit. After Chaka it was like trying to get out of quicksand; every single writer in L.A. paid dues to make graffiti a legitimate art form. And then right when we start getting recognition and shows, this little idiot shows up and he killed it for everybody. We all wanted to be able to say “look teachers!, look parents!” that said we’d never amount to anything, that we made it on our own terms; it would have been the greatest form of anarchy. It was like mid-80s beatniks, doing our art by our rules and made society look at us, and then this little asshole just killed it. To this day I’ll never forgive him. He spawned a million little wannabes. So a lot of crews just died.
“Chaka is just L.A., and I don’t mean that in a good or a bad way. He caught a break: Jay Leno made a joke about Chaka, so he went to world-wide fame overnight, and he got all this publicity because they wanted to make an example out of him. Why did they pick Chaka? Probably because that was the only one they could read. To the average person, all tags looks the same, but Chaka’s didn’t because they could read it. So he accomplished what he wanted. As far as him “messing things up” for graffiti or not, it just doesn’t matter anymore.
“Regarding Chaka, if it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else. We wanted media fame and he got it. We give him props for it. And graffiti is still here. Bus mobbing probably had as much to do with negative public perception as well.”
– Make and Size
“That’s graffiti at it’s best; going nuts, exactly what graffiti is. But there was also Jimer, Gin, Stanz.”
“He got stiffed with the bill. Dope. If he was in it for fame, he got a nice check by being busted. He’s modest by today’s standards.”
Again, the anti-Chaka reaction pushed kids onto freights; and once that went across America, then kids across rural areas were like “I’m on it!” thinking that must be the cool thing to do. Chaka inspired harsher legislation, and before that, it was more under the covers and people were more cool about it. Scribing became a way to “beat the buff” and that’s also the inspiration for heavens; that became the permanence factor.
– Plex and Wise