March 9th, 2007 by steveWP
“The Social Element” Text
Once these social connections were made, much of the time outside of school was wrapped up in the social activity involved in either hanging out, partying and discussing graffiti, gathering materials, either legally if absolutely necessary, or “racking,” (i.e. stealing) if possible, and doing the actual graffiti. Both the explicit and the implied values, validation, respect of talent and loyalties that formed in this environment were and are profound influences on these writers.
Before ’83, I only saw gang writing, but in ’83, I started to notice something else which turned out to be hip-hop graffiti. And that’s when we realized you don’t have to be putting up a Neighborhood, you can put yourself up! The new graffiti was promoting yourself while the gang graffiti was promoting your Neighborhood. And you wanted to be up, famous and have people noticing you. A lot of guys would tag and not even put their crew, because you knew what crew they were from anyway and that was part of the special knowledge you had. It was something to see L.A. Bomb Squad up in ’84; and it was like whoa! Who are these guys getting together and actually doing it. They were doing big productions at Radiotron, and I thought This is cool, and I want to be a part of this! And I wanted to form or be part of a crew, although it was still mainly about putting yourself up.
“We would dream about it, smell it, that’s all we would talk about.”
Early on, everything was an emulation of New York style: fat laces, b-boy images. There was no internet and no thought of future rewards.
Because you traveled (by bus or bike) to see the yards, you eventually met everybody and had friends from all over the city at a time when most people were still regional and kids didn’t get around. I met Krush because he was walking down the street with markers hanging out of his pocket. Again, as a kid (especially from the Valley) with limited travel options, it wasnâ€™t easy to be exposed to all that was being developed no magazines, articles or internet.
My mom was a single parent, and she worked 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., so by the time I got home from school, she was at work, and I had a lot of time to mess around, as long as I was home when she got home from work!, and I found myself all over the place: right after school I’d be hopping on the bus and going downtown, or hanging out with Baba going to Venice. So I got around when I was younger.
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. Tempt was another influence, because of the heart he shows.
From “Comments On Gangs”
Drew, a founder of OTR is now a drug and alcohol councilor after having spent over 12 years in prison (for non-graffiti related crime). He is glad to be able to give back and make a positive contribution. A group of us that includes ex gang members and graffiti writers are doing programs at high schools, residential treatment facilities and drug and alcohol treatment facilities. It’s a bunch of us that have been there and done that, so we can talk to the kids about how to not go down that road to gangs and drugs, how to get past hate and have a life. The kids get a lot out of it.
“Crew Dynamics” Cuts
I’m not just a participant of graffiti, I’m a fan of it. I don’t watch T.V. I don’t play sports. Graffiti is my entertainment and my sport. It’s really what I love. I probably could have done a lot of things in my life, but good or bad, take it or leave it, this is who I am and what I love.
Skate was a true leader brother father teacher and a main reason CBS became a legendary crew.
I see other parts of the country trying to “regenerate” L.A. style. L.A. fools have distinct attitude; a little more rough, thuggish. A respect we demand. People from other cities feel we’re a little more gangster.
Saber, to Revok helping outline and put bubble forms around his piece: “Hey, that color’s too fruity,” Revok to Saber, “Well, don’t do such fruity letters.” There were times at Sanborn yard when Perk One was through before his friend and he would just sit back and call out colors that he thought should be used: “No, man, use Colonial blue there, not Jungle green!”
Graffiti Crew Standards Cuts and Additional Commentary
While rivalries and conflicts naturally arise between crews from time to time, crews generally donâ€™t want members that make trouble. Weaker leaders tend to have more trouble-causing crews, something that always ends up coming back to bite them. Conflicts or “beef” amongst writers and crews are as much of a problem as run-ins with the police, (sometimes referred to as ‘5-0’). Expression of beef runs the gamut from deliberately dissing pieces to violent “beat-downs” or physical altercations, and worse, the occasional stabbing or the even more rare shooting. And the public who easily see the cross-out wars view graffiti in progressively more negative terms.
Tagging over a piece is a common form of dissing (disrespecting) either a specific writer in a crew or an entire crew. But often, tag toys simply disrespect whoever happens to be up on a wall. Although tagging on pieces is often deliberate disrespect, sometimes one can see a respectful tag, that is, one that is done neatly between the lines, usually near an outer edge, as if to say “I really want to be part of this piece but not mess it up.”
Less than tagging, but an annoyance to writers nevertheless, is “side-busting,” or when a writer squeezes into a space next to a piece even if there is little room so they can take a photo to be seen as associated with a superior writer. “Spot jocking” is a situation in which other writers begin to crowd in on a spot that has been discovered by another writer.
Two classic cases of writers being the problem more than law enforcement are that of MAK’s Mickey Mouse, and a Zes/Pysa rooftop. On the 110 freeway going north out of downtown L.A., Neo, Mandoe and the rest of MAK, painted a cool Mickey Mouse character on the overpass’ supporting wall. This was right at eye level for any of the thousands driving by daily including the Highway Patrol and any number of ostensibly anti-graff authorities: It stayed up for years, obviously because people enjoyed it. It was finally painted over, not because anti-art Republican’s wanted to repress artistic expression, but because toys started going over it with garbage throws-ups until it was obscured and only then painted over by the city.
The Zes/Pysa rooftop shown on page 168 was up for years and probably still would be if toys hadn’t climbed up to spot-jock and went over business windows.
Similarly, a writer told me that in the Hollywood hills there were walls from the foundation of a house, now gone, that was becoming a popular place to piece in peace: local toys coming out of the yard kept tagging up the neighborhood, and although some of the writers tried to clean up the tags to keep neighborhood heat off of the site, it was shut down because “toys will always out-number real writers.”
The Social Element Now, Text Cuts
“I don’t like going to shows much or people knowing who I am. I don’t like people, because I have so many encounters with ignorance. Unless I respect you for some reason, because I like what you’re doing or you have drive’ are righteous for some reason, cool, I’ll be open. People that like your work expect you to be a certain way, and if you’re not excited to meet them they act disappointed. Like what do they expect a red carpet and a foot massage? With people outside of the graff world it’s different, you can converse with them and see where they stand, have a human conversation, but writers, all they want to do is talk about graff! I enjoy painting, but I hate the fame part.”
“I’m not trying to be a dick, I’m just anti-social, and people when they meet me might think I’m arrogant. Sometimes you meet an artist and fit their personality with their style, you wish you never met them and just admired their artwork. Some kids just want to meet you so they can tell you their tag, like it’s a way of verbally getting up.”
“Everyone wants to be written into history. It’s all hearsay. Graffiti is not one big happy family, it’s dysfunctional within itself.”
“If you are going over someone, you show some respect by covering their piece completely, don’t leave parts of it hanging out.”
“Dash (of UTI) refers to some of these gaffes as “baby bomber dramas” and told of a recent incident where one of the relatively new UTIs went over somebody’s piece and he burned it [did a superior piece], but left some of it hanging out, and guess who got the complaint call, me. So then we had to make it up to this guy by buffing a wall space for him to paint so there wouldn’t be beef between our crews.” UTI did this out of graffiti etiquette and not out of fear of physical confrontation, something that is also considered an appropriate response according to the situation.”
“It’s toys only that bomb over a good piece, but, if it’s a really fresh tag over a lame bubble throw-up or a fresh throw-up over a lame piece, that doesn’t bother me.”
Graffiti As Resumé Filler
Now that what was once counter-culture is a standard requirement for aboveground hipness (from tattoos, piercings and weed-wacker hair cuts to $150 pre-torn jeans), there are questions about peoples’ motivations for their involvement in graffiti. Do they really have a feel for graff or is it just a hip resumé filler?
“To call yourself a graffiti writer, you need to spend ten years in the streets.”
“I think in looking at some writers, has that fool really paid his dues to be claiming he’s a super-star graffiti artist?”