"JOEY. TPA "
( The Crew )
Started : 1970's
Area : Queens N.Y.
Writing Groups : TPA , TC , TMB , BYB.
Lines Hit : 7's, RR's, E's&F's .. ALL CITY
I was Originally born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, but grew up in all the streets of New York from the tip of Battery Park to the graves in the North Bronx, from Staten Island's woods to the beaches and slabs at Far Rock. Thru Canarsie, and down thru Williamsburg, to the Lower East Side, back up Broadway beyond the Cloisters and into the Hell's Gate. You name it baby, been there smokin' pot with KB TSS on the bridges with bats flying around our heads, to eating stale Captain Crunch out of the box with IKE in a one bedroom the size of a closet somewhere near the beach, to chillin' at the Mudclub with PINK, and at The Devils Nest in the Bronx with Caroline from the Covergirls.
My journey into the world of GETTING UP began in 1972. It began quite humbly actually, on lamp poles, and school desktops
The jump into the movement via the transit system, was in 1976. That was the bicentennial year, and I had to express my patriotism somehow. (laughs) That year was really lucky for me, (1976) because I witnessed a revolution with my own two eyes, and participate in what would ultimately become the Golden Age of subway graffiti. 1975 was probably the best year ever, and I had been watching it all unfold before my eyes in the 4-6 years before
I hit my first "Iron horse" in '76. It was at it's cultural peak, and I
had to get in. This was way before the artistic craze set in, and as much as I respect the beauty and the financial ends of it today, back in THOSE days, there was only one thing on a writers mind: GETTING UP! BLITZING, BOMBING, KRUSHING, whatever you wanted to call it.
Graffiti was about the PROLIFERATION of tags and FAME man! Not necessarily art. The artistic beginnings came about thru an individual's desire to make their tag stand out from the others.
The "ARTISTS" were born in black books in the halls of places like Art and Design High School. The WRITERS however, were born traveling in the
|streets and transit systems with a need in their blood for recognition and fame among their peers. It began with the adolescent need for identity, and Graffiti was the medium that helped one shout out who you were to millions of people. The trains were the canvases. Besides other writers, there were all the commuters, and of course, the authorities that were forced to see your scrawl. Big difference. Another one of those "socio-economic" issues. What you are going to read here is what anyone that knows me well will agree with; the truth. The reason is
posterity and historical accuracy, not the go-fueled,
intellectualized baloney head shrunk by some P.H.d behavioral scientist who
never wrote a lick on a wall in their lives....Just the bare
bones to keep the whole thing in the perspective it should be seen in. That in
and of itself is the strength and veracity.
Not the crap in between so often manufactured by plebocytes, money-takers, and hangers-on. Graffiti was plain and simple. It was about having fun. Not making money. (yet!) Please understand that in no way does any of what you read here reflect on the personalities, characters or integrity of anyone mentioned here as of today, or where they are in their careers, whatever those may be. This is specifically written to achieve the purpose of explaining the metamorphosis of graffiti, and who was responsible, involved and integral to it's beginnings. What I have written examines and attempts to explain the evolution of what was originally a revolutionary social commentary, into a legitimate and accepted art form.
I will begin by listing a few guys who were true to the craft by being
WRITERS firstly, and ARTISTS secondly: CAINE 1, TRACY 168, , COMET, STAN 153, PHASE 2, BILLY 167, BLADE 1, DIME 139, IZ THE WIZ, FUZZ 1, the late great DONDI. This is a sampling of dudes that were WRITERS first, then became the great artists/business people that they are or were. They bombed the hell
out of lines FIRST.. and after succeeding in attaining fame that way, they became wonderful painters, photographers or artists. Or maybe just a stockbroker. These guys are also considered KINGS, because they made the jump from bombin' to stylin'. Just remember, they did the hard work first. Some of them are PIONEERS also. But I will give props to them, the PIONEERS, a little later on down the page. By the way, write those words down in yourglossary; KING(S) PIONEER(S), and if you like, ARTIST(S) and WRITER(S) since so many don't even know the freakin' difference as it applies in the world of Graffiti.
I realized long ago that the greatest artists of the world in human history from the cave man to the renaissance, have all been ego-maniacs. ALL of them! Today, it's no different. A typical retort to that may be to say the speaker is a "frustrated artist"; I scoff at this, since the speaker here has more than enough
money to keep the artists merrily and head fully (pun definitely
intended) employed....by buying their works should he wish to...he he he he.
That aside, read on:
A lot of credit to other great artists is due, fellows like SEEN, ERNI,
and LEE TF5, one of the
pioneers of the transformation from graf to art. These guys are fantastic, talented artists, arguably three of the best ever. Original graffiti however, was about getting up first....these fellows were able to skirt that pre-requisite by the stunning beauty of their art work. Did they get up that much? No.
Not at all. But you didn't have to when you created murals as beautiful as they did. These guys got overnight fame by their amazing whole cars, or handball courts, not by going out and grinding out 10,000 throw-ups,100 burners, and 50,000 tags. Did a guy like FUTURA 2000 get up a lot?
No. Was/Is he well known? Yes, extremely so. He
is very fortunate, well-spoken, and talented, and good for him... God bless
But I also recall hearing that style was all it's about...that guys like
KILROY and TAKI 183 had nothing to do with style. Pity to hear that. Not much style perhaps, but definitely heart. Tons of it. I can tell you that its only right to respect the TAKI's of the world. Without them, there would have been no inroad for the Stylists. But hey, fuck it...every ones entitled to their own opinion right? That was the work of the PIONEERS and KINGS.
These blue-collared marines, the noble outlaws of a movement that would eventually become a great venue for subsequent artists to show themselves off. One could have NOTHING to do with graffiti, but if you latched on, dropped a few hundred tags on the
insides, then you were in (and lucky). The common thread here was, that for a piece tobe done in aerosol paint, you needed a large canvas, i.e., a wall or eventually a train. That's where the "writer/artist"
|overlap came in. Artists saw a great way to get free exposure all over the most populated city in the world. The great advantage about the train canvas was that it rolled! It moved intra-city, giving the writer as it may be, a free billboard to show off their work. It was even better if the trains rolled outdoors on the EL's, visible for blocks, a flower of color to be seen bursting seemingly, from the streets below, on a humid summer day; hence, the battles for domination
ofthe IRT's. The IRT's area hugely visible division for the
most part. The writer got big fame from being visible on every single car,
train after train after train; the artist from his singular
examples of beauty.
The original graf writer that some of todays most financially successful "artistes" scoff at as being weak on style, was focused on the BOMB....that's it. Fame and "beating the system" as we used to say. Graffiti was, back then, a basic system of expression and a true-blue, adolescent, mostly male, inner-city, minority dominated, cultural revolution that eventually became an artistic movement. Remember that. The old guys at UGA made the transition happen sure enough, but they were all mostly prolific bombers at one time earlier on, not jump-ins cashing in on what was originally done for fun, thrills and a little glory.
It started out as crude tagging, then the fancy-tag, then moved to the
rudimentary outline or bubble letter fill-ins which were nothing more than fat
-cap tags with an outline, then the throw-ups, and finally, the
absolute best period of all was from 1973 to 1978, with '75 probably being THE
YEAR! I have to disagree with some tremendous painters who were BORN
to be artists through the medium of aerosol; those who refuse to call it
graffiti; If they used graffiti to get to the galleries, then it should be
recorded that way; truthfully. Art should not diminish what was and still is
the memory of an important
factor of social movement in urban history. I still call it graffiti, not some fuckin' politically correct term like "aerosol art" Fuck
that. Bottom line is, early on before the profiteers became involved, it was all about "FAME"....getting up, and showing your peers how well you could operate.
Rackin', which we called "inventin'" (for inventory), hauling ass, beatin' the man...and of course, the knowledge of getting around and thru Gotham City and everything in between it, was what got you your bones. The coolest, most awesome feeling was to have your tags seen by someone on the wall of some obscure street in the bowels of some neighborhood, in a bathroom somewhere, on some school's handball court miles and miles away from where you lived, just ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE. GETTING UP
and AROUND was the motive. It showed everyone how much you traveled, that you had no boundaries; it reflected all the places you had seen; showed how down you were with the ins and outs of recognition and the risks involved in getting it. Too many people today call themselves "KINGS", not knowing what the hell it even is
or originally was. Some guy
paints a beautiful burner, or adozen fill-ins, and he's a
"KING"! Bullshit. "KING" meant only one thing back in the beginning.
It meant you were the dude that was up the most at that time.
Kingship wasn't something you walked around proclaiming, it was something your peers whispered about you. It was the silent acknowledgement by other writers that you were top dog at the time. That invisible crown was worn with well-deserved pride, but could be taken by another writer within a week of heavy bombin'. You had to work to keep it. There were dudes that went
ALL-CITY and tried to KING several lines at once....this was monumental and rare, accomplished by maybe a handful at best. That's why the word "KING" got diluted....It got to be stupid. "king of revolving doors, and king of supermarket check-out lines, and king of vans, king of the hallways, king of the blackboard, king of the stop signs, and king of schoolyards, and king of this, and king of that". Screw that, there are only a few true KINGS in the
world of GRAFFITI, the dudes that blitzed the transit system, streets,
bridges and anything else that had mass transit upon it. That's what it was, period. To get a king to tag your hood, your park, your school, your black book, your pants, even your freakin' yearbook or face, was a privilege and an honor.
We had "KING of the IND's, then KING of the IRT's, KING of the BMT's". That was cool....real competition. Eventually, when more guys started writing, there were kingdoms. (territories), and that's why the cliques developed. A clique could take over a line or better yet, a whole division. Note that I said
|CLIQUES, not gangs; another word for your glossary.. The REAL stuff. Give credit to the guys out there that inspired the stuff, man. If it weren't for the likes of them, the whole thing today would have never come to be; a guy whose own where a cat can sell a wild style for $5000.00. I speak as artistic talent is nowhere near good enough (commercially) to
go that route, but also as a guy who has seen it from it's days
of origin, and who remembers and feels the original bones of the craft.
Someone has to represent those dudes who are even more old school. Some old
-style writers will adhere to the fact that part of what made Graffiti cool
was the danger in making it. "Legal" graffiti, though similar in style, was
not considered "real" back then since it had no element of beating the system.
You had to make your ink or steal it. Invent your paint, not buy it. Paint on trains not in galleries. Today it's about the cash-ola man. Remember......it was mostly a young minority inner-city thing
....I remember looking with shock at the first white guys I met getting into it. Especially the ones from "Silver-Spoon" back grounds, obviously none of whom I will mention. Pure and great talent, but no
"BONES", these guys who painted once a year and were connected
to a gallery owner. But heck, it was glorious seeing guys of all stripes and backgrounds getting down.
Take guys like BILLY 167, TRACY 168, COMET, CAINE1, DUKE 9, UNCLE JOHN 178. These writers were cool to me because being white dudes, they were a little unusual, but they were not rich boys
from prep schools. Beingpoor, if not a minority, was a big part of it (being "down" or cool). Crazy, huh.. Once again, socio-economics. Just like today rich kids wanting to be "ghetto" how stupid and backward. Some guys like DUKE 9, a very good friend of mine named DUCK 77, and UNCLEJOHN 178 had it just a little tougher,
being from the "burbs", or Queens, not the hard-core ghettos of the Bronx and Brooklyn, like some of the other "lucky" white dudes...shit.. go figure. Reminds me of the suburban kids today with a Mercedes and a future at Harvard trying to play Kool Moe Dee.....LMAO! Jesus, nowadays you can BUY freakin fat-caps.....Christ, back then we stole 'em off Niagra starch, Jiffy Foam, and Panel Magic, and kept them clean with turpentine and stashed for repetitive future use. Back then however, since the motive was getting up and not pure art, you could not produce the exquisite, finite, sophisticated murals of today.
Like check this out....graffitti was meant to be outside the "system"
...so when you throw it in a gallery and make it legal, putting
it "in the system", so to speak, it changes the flava. That is what it is
today, making a few grand per painting....who's to say it's wrong? It's not. Lemme just give respect to the old dawgs that started it. Before I
|do that however, let's pay homage to two dudes that knew the dangers of being eaten up by the "art world", and who operated both on the inside and outside of it, but indeed, began their careers on the outside of the system. They indeed made their bones. Ironically, they are both gone now;
Keith Haring and Jean Michelle Basquiat. These guys knew the
truth....and though not "graffiti artists" they were more pure and true to the
faith of graffiti than a lot of the graffiti-gallery wanna-be's out there
making millions right now. Special place
for those two, because even if born into fortune, it was the vision and heart and practice that make them real and innovative. Here are two cats I should mention that graffiti ARTISTS of the last 10 to 20 years
and of today, should also thank for paving their road. JULIO 204, CORNBREAD, KOOL EARL and The great TOPCAT, from Philly. They helped start the thing back in the mid to late 60's. In NYC, ya gotta give a lot more credit to TAKI183 than he really gets. It was him who got the ball rolling in a way. RIFF and SUPER KOOL 223 were some of the first to ever "piece" while I remember guys
like PHASE 2 getting innovative with new designs and styles. Special place for these guys also. Some I met, some I did not, but the fact is, it was rep....and legend that made them alive then and keeps them alive now... not just a sweet burner in some black book. This is
back in the day when all these artists of today wouldn't survive
.....cos there weren't even any fuckin' colors man....(Laughing my ass off). It was Black, Red, watery White, an ugly Orange, some sick Blue, and maybe Silver. That's it Bro, 6 or so freakin' colors..if you can call them colors. Here is a section on some of the notable PIONEERS I mentioned earlier, that I would give props to: It was these folks who knew about getting up in it's most basic aspect:
AFX 2, SPIN, CHI-CHI133, SUPER-STRUTT, SEXY 158, TAN
144, TREE 127, LSD 3, SLY 108, UNCLE JOHN 178, The great TAKI 183, STAYHIGH
149,JUNIOR161, STEVE 61, PIPER 1,SUPER KOOL 223, RIFF 170, JOE136, ACE 137,
FDT 56, IN, MINGO 1,CLIFF,
JESTER, just to name a few of the PIONEERS. Let's not ignore BARBARA 62 and EVA 62!!! These two gals were also pioneers of tagging, and some of the first to ever piece as well. These were the people who also firmed up and helped further the movement by employing the usefulness of CLIQUES.