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Black Book

History of Writers









    1942  - 
















1950's - 




1960's -











































































































1973 -  












1974 -























1976 -









































































1984- 1986









1989 - 1990








(Subway Writing)

1969 - 1989



    There is no way to pinpoint the true start of graffiti writing.  The pioneers that we spoke to will generally agree on a few specific points:  the social unrest of the sixties, the invention of spray paint, and the re-emergence of gangs.  All of which, played out on the landscape of the city walls.




While Graffiti iconography has been around since Egyptian times, it was not until World War II, that one name became identified with Graffiti.  That name was KILROY.  “KILROY” worked in a bomb plant in Detroit where, after checking a bomb he would scrawl in white chalk “KILROY WAS HERE", on its side.  These bombs found their way throughout war torn Europe and “KILROY” became a celebrity.  As American forces took back towns from the Germans, a soldier would invariably write KILROY WAS HERE" on whatever wall was left standing.  After the war, the name “KILROY” became synonymous with Graffiti, finding its way on countless student's notebook covers.



1950's - After the death of Charlie "BIRD" Parker, the great jazz musician, the slogan "BIRD LIVES" was scrawled throughout jazz clubs
across the country, particularly New York; but it was short lived, and certainly didn't have the impact that “KILROY” had.


 "CORNBREAD" and his partner "KOOL EARL" two Philadelphia writers, helped define the role of the modern day Graffiti writer; a major part of that role was fame.  For "CORNBREAD", what began as a way to get attention from a girl he liked with a few tags, soon turned into a full time mission, getting up so much that he gave himself a crown. "CORNBREAD'S" exploits were chronicled by the black press and the two, soon fed off each other.  At times journalists would mention an idea that would strike "CORNBREAD".  An idea, for example, that it would be amazing if somebody tagged the Jackson Five jet as it landed in Philly.  As a result, "CORNBREAD" would do it, and the press would publish it. By the late 60's a sub-culture had started in Philadelphia, it had its own distinct style: long letters with platforms on the bottom.  Years later when it came to New York it was dubbed "Broadway elegant".  The one thing missing from the Philadelphia movement was the prominence of the subway.  "CORNBREAD" stopped writing in 1972.



1967-1970:      The late 60's saw an explosion of names on buildings and walls throughout the city, gang Graffiti weaved its way through political slogans that reflected the social change of a nation.  The peace sign was certainly ubiquitous around college campuses.  Black militancy was seen with spray painted messages of "FREE HUEY" and "OFF THA' PIG".  In most “barrio's” (neighborhoods) there were Puerto Rican flags painted everywhere with the expression; "VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE".

    The first generation of New York Graffiti writers were distinct in that they assigned a number to the name they had chosen.  Most numbers reflected the street that they lived on: “TAKI 183”, “FRANK 207”, “TREE 127”, “JULIO 204”, “CAY 161”, “JUNIOR 161”, “EDDIE 181” were all writers from the upper west side of Manhattan.  In most histories of early Graffiti in New York the other boroughs usually got short changed, but there's no denying that “LEE 163” from the Bronx, and “UNDERTAKER ASH” and “FRIENDLY FREDDIE” from Brooklyn and many others, played just as significant a role as their Manhattan counterparts.





1971:  By 1970; "tagging”, or "hitting" as it was known, began to enter the insides of the trains; in 1971 the first tags appeared on the outside.  The early tags were usually done with a marker just as the writer exited the train. Style began to evolve as “LEE 163RD became the first writer to join his letters together turning his tag into a logo. Other distinct tags belonged to: “SCOOTER”, “STAY HIGH 149”, “COOL CLIFF 120”, "TRACY 168", “BUG 170”, “SPIN”, and “PHASE 2”.  The days of simply printing your name were over.  As the writers made it to the yards, the exteriors of the trains would get bombed overnight; and JOE 136 from Manhattan dubbed the first king of the one line.

LEE 163RD” got credit with another first as he purposely hit the front of every car he could with the knowledge that eventually that car would rotate into the lead car.  That would be the first car other writers would look at as it entered the station.  “LEE” and “PHASE 2”, his cousin and protégé became the first kings in the Bronx.

In an ironic twist, the first Brooklyn kings were a group; "THE EX VANDALS".  The first Graffiti gang was started by “SNAKE 1” and “STITCH 1” and was named for the corner they hung out at; "WRITERS CORNER 188", or “WC 188”.  If you were down with them then you had the honor of hitting the words after your name.  "THE EX VANDALS" were created in Brooklyn with the sole purpose of mysteriously getting the name up overnight.  Legendary writers like “DINO NOD”, “LAZAR”, and “WICKED GARY” all hit up the crew first and then their own name.  They were most famous for actually gridding the city out on a map and going into foreign neighbor- hoods where they would catch the highest, most out of reach tag available.  


Other writers that gained prominence in 1971, were the first of the females, “EVA 62” and “BARBARA 62”; “MICHELE 62” joined them later as they wrote throughout the city with some of the leading writers of the day.




The first to use clouds around a tag was done by “SUPERKOOL 223”, who took this design from the speech bubble found in comic books.  “BABY FACE 86” was the first to use a crown over his tag in New York. “CAT 2233” was the first writer to use the term “Ism”, (which meant more then one) at the end of his name.  “TOPCAT 126” moved from Philadelphia to New York and developed a hand writing style called "Broadway style".  Brooklyn started the first real Graffiti crew: the “EX VANDALS”.



The "masterpiece", a designed name, (usually running from the bottom of the window to the undercarriage of the train), is the foundation for the evolution of style.  The first pieces were called "signature pieces" and generally date back to 1971 which were found on the walls in Manhattan.  A number of writers credit “BARBARA 62” and “EVA 62” as being the first to carry out the simple act of outlining their names.  By 1972 some writers were adding dots, stars and candy cane spirals that was made famous by “HONDO 1”. “SUPER KOOL 223” helped writers thicken their names by introducing the "fat cap" - an industrial spray nozzle that widened the arc of the paint.



The signature pieces vied for competition with "Broadway elegant", a style that had been introduced to Harlem writers by “TOPCAT 126”, a writer from Philadelphia, where there was already an evolved style.  Broadway style featured long slender letters with platforms on the bottom of the stems.

At Subway Outlaws we love both styles, but we also recognize how limiting they could be; so did “SUPER KOOL 223”.  According to “PHASE 2”, a piece had to start with the outline first; most writers of that generation agreed that “SUPER KOOL 223” was probably the first one to meet that criteria.  Some credit “LIONEL 168” as the first.  Regardless, it was “SUPER KOOL 223” that did it over and over again.

Now that the first piece had been established someone had to mold it into an alphabet that was more malleable then its predecessors, something the writers could expand on.  In late 1972 “PHASE 2” unveiled a rough version of the bubble letter – a.k.a. "SOFTIES".  As “PHASE” took this giant leap in the Bronx, and the "EX VANDALS" blanketed Brooklyn and the rest of the city, Manhattan was no longer the Mecca for fledgling Graffiti writers.  With 1973 around the corner, the future of subway art seemed endless and eternally optimistic; things were not always what they seemed.

 By 1973 the IRT redbirds were so covered in graffiti that fights began to break out in the graffiti community. The city, without realizing it, gave the writers their canvasses back by painting the fleet silver with blue stripes. Graffiti continued at an amazing pace as more innovations developed. The first 3-D piece was painted by the legendary Brooklyn writer PISTOL 1, FLINT 707 followed it shortly with a 3-D top to bottom piece. In some circles graffiti was beginning to be viewed as art. Hugo Martinez, the founder of United Graffiti Artists - with COCO 144 as it's president,  began to get media coverage for his stable of elite writers. A list that
included: PHASE 2, STAYHIGH 149, STITCH 1,  SNAKE 1, RIFF 170, JEC STAR, BAMA, SJK 171,
 C.A.T. 87 and others.

Richard Goldstein wrote a long essay for New York magazine that featured the group
and included photo's of PHASE 2, NOVA, SNAKE 1 and all city king - STAYHIGH 149.This article helped launch a whole new generation of writers.1974 - More fame came to the New York City movement with the release of "The Faith of Graffiti", a photo essay book with arbitrary tags and pieces. At a time when most of the innovations were coming out of the Bronx through writers like: PHASE 2, RIFF 170, PEL, TRACY 168, KING 2 and PNUT 2, "The Faith of Graffiti" focused on Manhattan;
however, everyone agreed that STAYHIGH 149 got his
rightful props. The first "superstar crews"  were gaining notoriety in 1974. They weren't as democratic as prior crews, instead trying to put down the best writers possible. The IND's and WANTED were sometimes interchangeable with writers like PNUT 2, and
BILLY 167 hitting up both. THE CRAZY FIVE, led by whole car king BLADE, developed their own unique style and dominated the 2's and 4's. By the end of the year almost every type of piece had been painted and PHASE 2  retired as the reigning king of style.1975- The very rare title of all city king was handed down to three writers in 1975. If you stood on a train platform anywhere in the city in 1975 odds were that you were going to see the names: TRACY 168, CLIFF 159, and IN ( KILL 3 ).

 The requirements needed for this honorary title had changed since the pioneering days of JUNIOR 161 and CAY 161. Todays writer had to kill the streets and trains, paint whole cars and window down burners, and devour whole lines overnight with their throwups. These three met that criteria. IN had started to popularize the throw up in late '74,  by '75 it had become huge in Brooklyn and a favorite weapon of crews like TOP, TC, SSB and TMB. Brooklyn was also developing it's own unique piecing style with bent hard  letters made popular by UNCLE JOHN 178, TEAR and TAIN 1. IN was also a large component of the resurgence of the THREE YARD BOYS with CLIFF 159. 3YB and the graffiti community were dealt a huge blow with the death of STIM 1, the first graffiti related fatality.

1976 - Whole cars made a ressurgance with CLIFF 159, BLADE, TRACY 168, KINDU and others doing their names with cartoon characters. CAINE 1, a prominent
writer on the 7 line with a number of whole cars to his name, decided to paint a 10 car train for the bicentennial. ROGER, CHINO 174,  DIME 139, TAGE, FLAME 1
and others painted each side of all 10 cars; the train was immediately The city was developing a love hate relationship with dismantled.  the movement. While  
it broke up CAINE's bicentennial car, it made sure to line up it's best graffitied trains on the lay up outside Yankee stadium during the playoffs. Graffiti began to define New York and when the TV show "Welcome Back Kotter" aired on

 ABC the opening sequence featured a shot of trains rolling by with DIABLO and  PNUT 2 pieces. LEE and the FABULOUS FIVE were gaining favorable reviews for their whole cars, drawing comparisons to BLADE. Between whole cars and throw ups there was a whole new generation of writers that wanted to get back to the roots of style and in November of 1976 THE DEATH SQUAD was formed by KOOL 131, MR. JINX 174 and
CHAIN 3 with PART as it's first member.


 In one school day they had put together a line up of writers that would shape lettering systems for years to come. Their influences were old school legends that continued to write like: PEL, RIFF 170, and TRACY 168. 1977 - SOLID 1's death prompted one of the most important cars of the 1970's. As RIFF 170 explains it: " I was playing basketball when these writers I knew came by with bags of paint, they asked me if I wanted to  go with them to the yards but I said no 'cause I had retired. Then they told me they wanted to do a piece for SOLID 1 and I was down with that; it would be my last train". RIFF improvised the outline for the entire "SOLID, BOT, DON, RIFF" piece. It's combination of style and wordplay inspired crews like TDS, TMT, and CIA. 1977 also saw another landmark train with LEE's "Doomsday" worm. While BLADE had created the conceptual piece in 1974 and had his own

 unique vision, LEE's "Doomsday" piece seemed to strike a resonant chord with writers and the public in general. LEE had just begun. By the end of 1977, with the help of TF5 he had painted a 10 car number 5 train. Unlike CAINE's attempt the year before LEE's train actually ran together.

The art form hit a new plateau from Broadway writers like “PART 1”, “CHAIN 3”, “KOOL 131”, “PADRE 2”, “ADROCK”, “FED 2”, “TEAN”, “KADE”.  In addition, they did the best pieces in those years as well as groups like “TDS”, “TMT”, “UA”, “CIA”, “TSF”, “TMT”, “MAFIA”.  The 6 line belonged to “SMILY 149”, “SKULL 2”, “SEEN”, “PJAY”, “DUSTER”.  Whereas the 2 line and 3 line had work by “DONDI”, “NOC 167”, “COS 207”, “ZEPHYR”, “REPEL”, and “AERON”.  On the 5 line works were done by “BLADE” & “COMET”, “BOOTS 119”, “MARK 198”, “FRITOS”, and “KIT 17”.  The 4 train one would catch sight of a master like “MITCH 77”, and others like “MAX 183”, “2 FAMOUS”, “BOO 2”, “DISCO 92”, “CRASH”, “KEL 1st”, “BAN 2” , “KID 56”, as well  “DUEL” who was BAN 2's arch nemesis .  There was a major presence of several known writers on the number 7- line, such as “SON 1” & “PRO”, “CHINO 174”, “SKY 2”, “FUZZ ONE” & “FLAME PIC”, they did the most volume of colorful works that work set the trend many newer writers to that line to follow  .   


FBA” took over where “TDS” left off on the 1 line and took style into a new direction.  “AIRBORN”, “SPADE 127”, “TACK”, “KAZE”, and “RASK “left an impression on writers in the mid to late 80’s.  However, “SKEME” & “DEZ” had the most cars running during those years.  “CAP” & “PJAY” took on a war that lasted for years, which was depicted in the film “Style Wars” which was released in 1982.  Inside artists, who were very overlooked in the history of writing, displayed a very artistic calligraphy hand writing style that many reveled over.  Writers like “ZEPHYR”, “BT/BADTAXI”, “FLIN TOP”, “G-WIZ”, “OE3”, “P13”, “SOE”, “PEO”, “CRIME 79” “BABY 168”, “BADBID”, took over the BMT’S.  However, on the 2’s and 5’s there was a consistent presence by “BOMOO5”, “SEEN TC5”, “DOZE”, “TC5”, “SKEME”, “AGENT”, “RUSH  & “REST” MPC” , “DURO”, “KIST”, “ BT ” “ JOE NUTs” “SES”.  On the 4 line the biggest inside king was “BAN 2” (a.k.a. “DELI 167”), but others like “DUEL”, “MAURICE 167”,  “PEPSI”, “ARAB”, “DIL”, “SED 2”, “RUB 5”,  and “REC 2”, also held a consistent presence.


Graffiti was coming to an end on most of the subway lines.  The 7 line was painted all white and shortly after painted red, which became untouchable to the artists that sought them.  But there where some hard core writing groups, that continued on many other lines, such as “RTW”, and “TNB-TAT”.  “T-KID 170”, “CEM 2”, “KENN”, “MACK”, “BIO”, “SHAME 125” were the main members of the groups “TNB-TAT”.  They kept away un-welcomed visitors to train yards, such as the “Ghost Yard” as well as a few other IRT locations.  Other writers like “DELTA 2”, “SHARP”, “SERVE”, “RIZE”, “SADE” & “DUNE”, “SASH”, SAK was the known king of Broadway from 1984 to 1986.  “FLITE”, “POEM”, “POKE, “WEST”, “JON 1”, “CAP” POVE , , “COPE 2”, and “CONE” were names also consistently seen on IRT’s.  “RTW” ( Rolling Thunder Writers) was one of the most dominant writing groups of their time originally put together by Broadway writer “BIL ROCK 161” in 1976. BIL ROCK and his original Squad, REVOLT, HUGHIE, VANDAL, ZEPHYR, MACKIE, SAURON, MIN and RASTA owned the Broadway number one line inside and out. It was BILROCK and REVOLT  who started the city-wide RTW onslaught in late 1978, painting  the A's, AA's, CC's, E's, F's, B's, RR's, N's, M's, QB's, D's, 3's and 7 train. BILROCK was the Graff world's contact for Jean-Michel Basquiat, it was him whom he asked to get down with the C.Ahearn Times Square show in 1980 (before LEE and FAB -FIVE- FREDDY). BILROCK was also responable for bringing all of the writers to the Esses studio in 1980.

BILROCK would  later hand the group over to NE (a.k.a. “MIN ONE”).  “NE” then helped them became one of the all-time bombing groups.  “RTW” or sometimes referred as “RTW WOW” held a very strong presence on the BMT’s, as well as, a very intimidating presence among other competitors looking for recognition.  The most notable members of the groups were “PADE” (a.k.a. “PD”), “TRIKE GND” (a.k.a. “TO”), “MIN” (a.k.a. “NE”), “RICH 2” (a.k.a.” RH”), “BOE”, “SAGO”, “QUIK”, “SACH”, “HAZE” (a.k.a. “SE 3”) kept other writers out of the Coney Island Yard and the City Hall lay ups.  However, there were other writers who were also seen consistently during this period; “MAGOO 2”, “DEMO”, “WEBONE”, “TRACK 2” (a.k.a. – “TEKAY”, “GHOST”, “STRIDER”, “ICEMAN LSD”, “SASH”, “REC 127”, “NEO”, KP, AT, “JOZ”, “JON ONE”.

New York City transit was basically clean except for the 5 line in the Bronx and the J & LL lines in Brooklyn.  Many writers had quit and very few kept up the movement going.  During these years, groups like the “RIS” crew, “COD”, “TC5”, “AOK”, produced some of the nicest whole cars of the time.  By September 1989, the last train was cleaned which lead many writers to quit due to the severity of the laws and jail time that was given.  Regardless of the new strict laws, very few of the painters continued the Graffiti movement like “KET”, “GHOST”, “VEN”, “SAR”, “VEEFER”, “CAV”, “MIN 1”, “IZ THE WIZ” & “FUZZ ONE”.  They called this movement the “Clean Train Movement”.