Thanks for the opportunity to say wassup to the writers down under…man that sounds like a dope crew name…WDU “Writers Down Under”…. I’m SKEME, NYC Graff writer, 80-82. Back in the days I wrote for TMT TNT TDS INDS 3YB TED and TC but I’m a die hard member of The Magnificent Team…big ups to TEAN and KADE, VP and Pres respectively. I bombed the insides and outs of the 1, 2, 3, 5, A, CC, and D lines and also hit the 4, E, F, and M lines as well as a few buses.
So, basically nothing that moved inner city was safe, huh? What line was your favourite line to run on? Was there a specific one you wanted to showcase your panels on?
Well the showcase lines were the 2s and 5s and the Broadway 1 line, so that’s where I put my attention…I hit the Broadway 1s from many different spots, but the best was the 3 yard by my house because the 3s and 1s were continually interchanged, and if you ain’t up on the 2s and 5s…you ain’t up. These lines were coveted because they ran outside for photo ops and they were IRTs, meaning they were flat and perfect for piecing. Plus following in the lines of tradition, these are the lines all my mentors got up on, gotta keep tradition alive. Also the 2s, 5s and 3s ran all the way to Brooklyn, so that’s how we (Harlem and Bronx writers) sent our kites to the BK. Lastly, these were the trains I rode in my everyday travels…got to see my shit runnin!!!
What are your thoughts on the fame you acquired during your early exploits? Do the constant accolades ever get old?
Well I joined the army when I was 17 and was away for almost 30 years so believe it or not, it’s still new and fresh to me. I know what you mean by fame but I try to stay humble and grounded. I think it’s important to stay accessible to the youth and new writers because those that come after us are what keep it (Graff) alive. As far as fame, I don’t think in those terms or as an elitist because that’s not how I was treated. When I met established writers like Phase 2, Kase 2, Part 1, Chain 3, Kool 131, Smily 149, Mackie, T-Kid 170, Tean 5, Kade 198, and Daze, they were all approachable and cool people to kick it with. Even when I was a TOY nobody treated me like shit… but that’s not to say that I wasn’t told I was a TOY and that I needed to improve… because I was.
That is cool. I have also painted with some big names that were just so down to earth, no egos or anything, although they would call a spade a spade.
Everyone I mentioned earlier was exactly like that… if your joint was fresh… you get thumbs up, not fresh… you get the gas face!! But you’re rarely told overtly that your stuff is up to par…. you know you’re in there when one of the greats gets on a car with you!
Ooh! But then there are the other wankers! The full of shit people you wish you’d never met or had to deal with. From books, videos and stories here and there, NYC was as tough as hell. With such fierce rivalry going on, how hard was it to keep it together and avoid that beef?
I’m assuming wanker is like dick head???
Yeah there were some of those too. Although I am not and never have been a beef type of person, beef was really unavoidable, and much of it was inherited from generation to generation. I had a few scraps, but that’s definitely not how I define my contribution to the craft…if you become a member of crew A, and they have beef with crew B, guess what? You got beef with crew B…. That’s just how it was. It wasn’t that hard to keep together, I had good friends, good partners, good crews…good times!
Beef does sometime lead to regrets, like for instance there was so called beef with CIA crew, but the fact is I really respected DONDI’s work and wanted to piece with him…God bless the dead, its an opportunity missed for some shit I cant even remember the reason.
I tend to call it the young and dumb period in our lives. Now that we are grown up and mature we look back and can only shake our heads, but we all know beef goes hand in hand with Graff at times. Down under, apart from the usual writer vs. writer rivalry, we have a certain clash of generations. Old schoolers think the next and upcoming generation have or show no respect, while the younger generation are tired of inactive old schoolers trying to claim this and that. What are your thoughts? Is this happening in NY?
Mmmmmm??? Castle short… as I adeptly avoid that question, lol. I’ll save that for another time and place, No comment, except the only thing I’d admonish both sides to remember is that the term Old Skool is time and era relevant… meaning today’s stud is tomorrow’s old fart. So 30 years from now, the Old Skoolers will be in diapers and the new skoolers will be the Old Skool! That’s the way it goes.
Fair enough! Well said.So then, what are your thoughts about graffiti in galleries today?
I know, I know… I told the world that “I didn’t start writing to go to Paris” (didn’t say Australia though!! hint-hint!! lol) but I believe Graff in galleries is the natural evolution of this art movement. The era of writing on trains, and any other illegal surface for that matter is gone. Many countries and cities have taken tough legal and punitive stances on vandalism, so I believe it’s our (seasoned writers) responsibility to educate the next generation of writers so they don’t jeopardize their lives or futures trying to emulate our exploits. ”Fame is a hell of a drug!” That having been said, in light of Graffiti being one of the components of Hip Hop and one of the most popular vehicles for self expression, it would behoove these same countries and cities to build more “legal” walls for people to paint on, they could easily be incorporated into new and existing parks. Take New York for example, who the hell plays handball anymore???Graff in its purest and exponential forms is a true art form, and true art deserves recognition, admiration and a spot on the wall next to the works of the masters. Unfortunately there are small pockets of resistance to legitimizing an art movement that spawned out of the ghetto.
Very good points. Down under, our society unfortunately, is generally anti-Graff. We are losing more legal walls than we are getting… But do you think us writers, are our own worst enemies at times? For example, we had war memorials tagged on recently, which featured heavily on the news and media and only served to make our legitimate art culture less accepted by the community at large.
Well war memorials definitely fall under the umbrella of off limits spots for writers … we as a rule generally don’t write on Churches, Mosques, or Temples, we shy away from hospitals, and we def try to the respect the dead regardless of religious, social, ethnic, or political affiliation… but here’s something to consider… maybe the tags were a set-up by those who rally against Graff to make the movement look bad??? I know I can mimic just about anyone’s tag with a little effort.
I’ve had many passions in my life, the ladies, my kids, the army, but Graff is and always has been an integral part of who I am. Graff shaped me in so many ways I can’t list them all. Graff in my days was like a job, I lived, slept and ate Graff. A piece first starts as an idea, the idea is then formulated and put to paper. Next, you gather the materials, then you plan and conduct a risk assessment. Sounds a lot like an army mission right? Well that’s what Graff gave me… at an early age I learned important organizational and leadership skills that made me successful in my professional life. On a personal note Graff gave me a legacy to leave my kids…not many kids can say their dad was a well-known Graffiti writer who wrote on trains, trespassed into train yards and stole untold cans of paint and ink. I know it sounds weird because its technically illegal, but I’m proud of it.
Nice interview with the don that is Skeme from the Montana Australia site, for the rest of the interview read it here