Miami Graffiti

 September 2009
1) What do you write and what crews do you represent?

Dek 7UP - Seven Urban Poets from Hialeah--you know, the shitty part of town. In Miami places like Kendall and South Miami are where the people with money live! Why do these people do graffiti when they have so many more opportunities?

2) Where did you get your tag?

I just really liked the letters: short and sweet and easy to draw.

3) When did you start writing and what were some of your early influences?

I started drawing graffiti in 1980. In 1983, I first did a piece on a wall. Some of my early influences were the obvious: Subway Art, Wildstyle, Stylewars. We were really limited in our media and the exposure that we had to other styles of graffiti. Since we didn't have the media then, that we have today, we were forced to draw original art to separate us from everyone else who was using the same influences. Sae was a significant influence on me, and he basically gave an "art school" understanding of the science of graffiti. The man is God to me. I hold nothing but the highest respect for him.

4) What is your favorite Penit/Wall/Spot and why?

The Hialeah Penit; I lived in Hialeah and I did a lot of pieces there. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of most of them. One in particular is of the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull Can with my name next to it. The letters were stacked on top of one another so it was probably hard to tell that they read Dek. If anyone has taken a picture of it, I'd really appreciate seeing it.

5) Any crazy stories that stick out in your mind from days at that Penit/Wall/Spot?

Yes, there are many, but there's one in particular that stands out. One day I went to the Hialeah Penit to bomb with Dase and Era and we were walking around bombing. We heard a couple of guys entering the building, but we continued to bomb since it was common to have writers, or crackheads, in the same building. A couple of minutes later we looked up and saw two guys walking towards us. We knew something was weird since writers would focus their attention on the walls, but these guys made a bee line towards us. As they got closer, we realized they were wearing ski masks. I thought to myself it must be bullshit, someone playing a joke on us like I had done to others before--although I never wore a ski mask, or had a gun. Yup, a gun. The one with the gun yelled out, "What are you doing on my turf?!" That instantly made me feel it was bullshit because who says: "turf"? I replied jokingly, "on your TURF?" Based on his reaction and the look in his eyes I realized it was real. I still felt the gun was fake, but my instincts told me to walk away. I entered the next room which lead to the exit, grabbed a pipe, and hid behind the wall. He followed me, and as he entered, I swung at him. Guess what, I missed! That just made him snap! He was jumping and yelling, "YOU WANT TO DIE, YOU WANT TO DIE!!!" I was still sure the gun was fake, but I was feeling confident since I just took a swing and he did nothing, so I yelled, "You're not gonna do shit with that fake gun!" That's when he shot a metal shelf that was lying on the ground. I saw the smoking hole in the metal and walked out the exit. I was really surprised he did nothing, but learned that day that those who pull guns are pussies.

6) Name some Miami writers work (not in your crew/associated crews) that you respect a lot and why?

Shawnski, Dusk, Decifer, Lime, Tbscrew, X-men, Mega, Scan, Sar, Hec, Kaos, Marle, Glove, Frosty, Name189, Snog, Seam, Dash, Sparkling-Levis, and all the dudes that I can't remember from the Beat Club.

7) Any entertaining stories about a time you got chased or busted?

Chased, never busted. One time, Tame and I saw some cops checking the spot across from Hialeah Hospital where we did the blue and red 7UP. We quickly hid our paint, waited for them to drive away, and quietly climbed down off the roof into an alleyway next to a 7-11. There were three bums sitting there, so we sat down next to them. The cops came over and questioned us. They checked our hands for paint, but found nothing since we would always rub our hands in a puddle on the cement to quickly remove any trace. After they left, we chilled for about two hours drinking with the bums. Everybody should chill with bums! It's very insightful, not every day of course, but it's like when you stop to smell the roses but the roses are bums. A couple days after we finished, the local-gang-unit-dude who already knew us well said, "Hey, I saw what you guys did and we almost caught you. Next time you wont be so lucky." So we told him, "Yo, we're just juveniles, we are unaware of the actions we perform on or off the streets." He didn't think that was funny. I wonder if he is retired in his house thinking about how he was a failure in his career? If he never caught me, what about all those gang murders?

8) Whats the biggest problem with Toys nowadays?

The Internet. Today, people can go online and look at graffiti from all over the world. They take the influences that they see from other cities and use it where they live. This completely transforms the identity of the city. When I was growing up, my style was influenced by my surroundings, by Miami, and that cultural identity was reflected in everything I did. I used a lot of colors that are seen a lot in Miami, like lots of pastels and art deco influenced work. Once you start borrowing influences from different cities, the look of your home and it's distinctiveness gets lost.

9) You were part of the small group of early Miami writers that really shaped the city. Please share something about those days to enlighten all of us who came after you?

Well! We only racked our paint. The only way to live the real graffiti lifestyle is to steal paint and scout illegal walls. On the WS piece on the website, somebody mentioned that I was wearing bike shorts. There was a reason for that. If you ever stole paint, you know to wear sweat pants with bike shorts underneath so you can get about 5-6 cans in there, son!

10) What do you think of the Graf Scene in South Florida and Where do you think its headed?

I don't really feel I can make any comment. I've been a little out of touch since I've been living in New York City, where I tattoo at Rising Dragon Tattoos since 1997.

Some flicks courtesy of Dek:

Dek & Demo (by Dek) sketches 1987 & 1985

Old School Dek sketch

Old School sketch of Breakdancers