Miami Graffiti

January 2009
1) What do you write and what crew do you represent?

Nitro Deluxe or Gone84, KSN / FUKQ / USC (The Original 1980's USC. Those cats writing it these days are doing some nice shit, but it is not the same crew)

2) Where did you get your tag? Any special meaning behind it?

I started out writing Kid Crazy back in the early 80's and wised up to the goofiness of all that. Then I was bouncing between Zepher One and Sultan 207 until I was around 16. That was when I met this guy Newave from across the county line and we started hanging out together. By that time I was in, and then kicked out of, BBB which was THE South Broward crew, next to the Block Boys and PRP. All these dudes came from that neighborhood or somewhere close to it, so crossing into Broward was kind of a natural thing for me. I ended up living at Newwave's house for a while because of getting kicked out by my parents for random stupid acts. His friends were my friends, and his girlfriend happened to go to the same church we did (the same one mentioned in the Siner 10Q, WHATUP BROTHER!!!). So I knew her too. While visiting her (she lived in Miramar, among our bitter enemies) we met this odd cat called Aaron, who got me interested in making homemade bombs with beer cans (so much shit happened in that place, but its not graffiti related so i won't get off subject). I went mad drawing up bomb plans and actually created some pretty nasty shit (ask my neighbour whose window I had to pay for). Those times were a lot different than times these days. There was no wall battling, that kind of shit was for the breakdance set and whatnot. The battles then were pretty much I cross you, then you cross me, we find each other and someone's head gets smashed, someone gets shot etc. I guess maybe its not so different these days after all, HA! By that time the gang thing was in full swing, the breakdance/bboy thing was all but dead, and the writers found a new niche in the gang set. The name Nitro was a natural transition because of my latest hobby and the useful purpose it served in those surroundings. I started writing Gone84 after I left Miami and moved to PA for a number of reasons. For one, I started working at an art gallery in PA in a very small town where the curator was too cool and let me paint the walls. There were, and in my opinion are still, NO real writers out that way. So I couldn't go using my real tag hitting legals, while I was out bombing freights and shit nightly. Not to mention half the tags in the nearby downtown area. Being the only one, I would have gotten pinched quickly. I have always been into jazz music and the beatnik thing in a big way. "Gone" was the beatniks' "FunkyFresh", so it fit totally. The 84 was added later because it was the oldest existing picture I had of my work, the Ives Devils on the Ives Optimist Club. Besides, its less boring. A few years later when GB passed (RIP), I added to my reasoning that the word Gone represented so much about the important people I left behind in Miami. People dying, dudes I trusted turning into backstabbin tricks.....anything. Gone fit the purpose precisely. But I still put out Nitro when no one is looking, HAHAHAHAHA.

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

That's actually a funny question. If you ever get a chance to watch Welcome Back Kotter reruns, check out the opening credits. You see the train with the bubble letters and shit? That right there is what turned me on to graffiti as a child in the 70's. In the 6th grade I was drawing nothing but letters on paper. Over and over and over... and I didnt even know what graffiti was. But on walls, I'd say 1982 or so I started hitting up the cement factory and putting in serious practice. The real epiphany came to me when I saw the "AIRBORNE LOVES YORKIE" piece at Lake Forest football field. So in an indirect way I guess Airborne got me started taking it seriously. I met a lot of people out at that cement factory, but I would have to say that very few people took me beyond what I had to learn on my own. I will however, give big props to AIM Crew, who walked up on me while I was doing a piece on one of the back walls in Ives. It was Pro, Solo, and NME (can't remember if Seel was there, I only remember hanging out with him once, but he might have been). I was doing a piece that said Indian with this character for the D and was almost finished, but something was missing. Those cats turned me on to webbing between the letters and from there some other stuff that characterized Miami's Signature Style. Another big influence was KAOS BBB. That dude could draw like mad and was pretty random in how he did things. I learned a lot from just being around him. Also a kid named Paul (wont give you his last name, even though I dont think he writes anymore) that had come to my high school from California. He lived in North Miami and hung out with Arson and Snair VO5 (RIP). Dude used to bring in blackbooks FILLED with their work. Meeting those VO5 guys just motivated me further. Arson could work markers like no other, and there is no need to mention Snair's contribution to Miami Style, cause whoever could deny those old cats their glory just don't know history and needs to find a mentor. Can't forget to mention this cat Theme (not the one out there these days), who put me down with FUKQ when he came from queens in the 1980's. I never dreamed that shit would go so big. In the late 1980's I went away for a while and came back just in time that KSN was starting to happen. I hooked up with Siner when I got home and he said "Man you gotta meet this guy GB". No surprises here, on the bus ride home I saw HUGE fuckin GB shit everywhere. He and I differed a lot on our notion of the purpose of graffiti, because he was all about bombing big and didn't care for burners and making shit pretty. Where as I was more into letter styles and the aesthetic of the whole thing. But those forces together just worked in such a way that KSN was a devastating force. Siner had been around the block for a while and had lots of friends from out of town, I had my friends (and not so friends) from before I moved, and together the influence just spread like wildfire. Nothing in my life matches the KSN years. I think I'm the only dude still actively writing it. But I'd have to say my greatest influence were the cats that say I influenced them Siner, DE, Jaype... all them kids from out my way that took the torch and did great things. Its these dudes that kept me going and gave me a reason to continue drawing and bettering styles. These people outperform me on a daily basis, but are honest and humble enough to remember their roots. KSN Originals all the way... One Love

4) What was your favorite Penit/Wall and why?

That has to be the ever forgotten Ives Cement Factory. That shit was a penit before North Dade knew such a thing existed. I'll try to run down the whole story because it should be told. Around 1982 or so my dad was involved in the Ives Optimist Club and used to drag us down there to these bluegrass festivals they had down there. Needless to say, I wasn't about to go hanging out there for long. The cement factory was right across Ives Dairy from there, close to the 7-11. It had a big iron conveyor belt that went all the way up to the top of the silo. For a twelve year old that place was the shit. Had to go explore. What I found was better than I had ever expected. It had been abandoned for a long time and was mostly covered in trees and vegetation. The walls were laid out similar to the unfinished houses out by the Malibu Grand Prix (I guess that turned into a penit also) and it looked like it was a party spot for the local teenagers. There were broken bottles and shit all over the place and typical white-boy rocker type graffiti on what walls could be seen. At the time I had some early semblence of a crew going called TAG with a few of the kids from around the way. Looking around I found the longest wall out there and FACING I-95 NO LESS! The only problem was that it was covered by trees and shit. One day one of my boys and I went out there and I made it a point to paint a big old "reserved for tag" on the I95 side of the wall (still covered in trees). Not two weeks later, I looked over at my future superwall only to discover that the trees had been cut down and the words Real Zealous was painted on there with characters in the middle and I have to admit that shit was better than I was gonna do at that stage. But they took my wall, so they got crossed out. So began the war between TAG and TCB and the official beginning of that wall. I didn't give a fuck if they did all that work or not, my opinion was that I reserved it so it was mine. Plus it was my neighborhood and these cats came from Miramar so that shit just wasn't gonna happen. The shame of it these days is that I never got flicks of that wall. Time went on, I learned that those dudes from TCB also hung out with a gang called LEGION and all those dudes were way the fuck bigger than me and my little homies. But on we went, they would come around, I would cross them out over and over. I challenged them officially with the HEADS WILL ROLL attack a year or two later, and one way or another that mess stayed up for sometime. I took to painting on the back walls and they had other things to deal with so we kind of forgot about each other until a few years later. I had started writing Sultan207 by then and had become a member of BBB. I kept painting the back walls trying to get better and better and improving slowly. Finally making this badass Sultan piece in the back of the big wall in what was sort of like puzzle pieces with shadows and effects and all kinds of shit. Riding the bus to school one day, again to my surprise a new piece had been painted on the big side of the wall. I thought "here we go again" and prepared for battle. The piece was a top to bottom HYDE ONE blockbuster that was fucking devastating. It was grey and black and simple and so goddamned clean it looked like it was supposed to be there. I went back after school to get a closer look and saw that my Sultan piece had been tagged all over by some unknowns called TFF. Without paying attention I went to town on the front wall which turned out to be a mistake. HYDE ONE was not a TCB guy, but a TMOD guy which started some significant beef for BBB, who I proudly represented all over that guy's shit. KAZ ONE (BBB) and myself painted the "For the Females" piece over top with him doing the letters and my designing the character. Around it we stuck BBB's all over the damn place and made ourselves known. Although HYDE and ESSENCE (TMOD) and I came to terms with each other, there was no fixing the politics and I was kicked from BBB for life. I was quickly recruited into USC and that story is even longer than this one. Anyway, by this time, myself and NEWAVE (USC) had an up close and personal run-in with Real TCB and his Legion buddies and squashed our differences, we'd made an agree to disagree pact with TFF/TOG and life was pretty peaceful. Turns out that in the end, TCB, FROSTY, HYDE, and those TFF cats were all writing together at the time and squashing it with one crew helped to patch relations with the next. We still kept watch over the cement factory, but we let good shit run if it was good. It was a fragile situation but it worked. In the end, Newave and I walked up on the wall ready to do some shit on the back and FROSTY, HYDE and a few other cats were finishing painting the "Merry Christmas Miami" piece. That was the last piece on that wall. The funny thing is that around the middle of all that was the early bit of when AIM was on their massive effort to destroy every TCB piece out there so they ended up in the area. If those beefs never existed, I would have never met those guys and would have probably lost interest after a few years and never brought on the cats I did into the scene. I think the cement factory and beefing with TCB really was the spark that brought the north and south together in Dade county, not to mention the best Broward had to offer at the time. Those Miramar cats were blowing shit up out their way, whether or not we liked them.

Other penits, I would have to say Hialeah. That Power piece by DK was a fucking monument, and I think honestly that the whole second phase of Miami Style was invented and honed in that warehouse.

5) Is there any crazy story that sticks out in your mind from the early days?

Well, I already told the cement factory story from beginning to end, but I remember a crazy thing at Hialeah. It was GB (RIP), Siner, Zot, and myself. We went in and the first thing we noticed was that fuckin POWER piece. We all looked at each other and just knew that shit was history in the making. We walked around and explored some, did some tagging, but nothing special and then went to leave. As we were crossing the street to go back to George's orange VW bug (loved that car), a posse of International Players were hard rockin us from across the street throwing up signs and shit like that. We casually disregarded that shit as we were out of our neighborhood and really didn't give a shit about the gang thing by that time anyway. We got in the car and started to leave. just then Siner sticks his head out the window and yells out LATIN KINGS, FUCK NIGGA!!!!! (No, he wasn't down with that shit, he was just trying to cause chaos). We were almost stopped, and those guys could have easily found their way to the car and got shit started. But I think they were thrown off for a sec just by the whole unexpected nature of the thing that they just stood there and we took off laughing. I swear it was the funniest fucking thing that happened before I left Florida.

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

Shit man, that one's really tough because there are so many and I havent lived there for a lot of years. I wouldn't say writers so much as crews. VO5 stands out as a big one, AIM of course, WHO, WBB, all those crews that became STV. All these cats in one form or another INVENTED Miami Style in the 1980's. If it weren't for them, shit would have just been another emulation of New York, like you see in most of the other big cities. Those guys laid the foundation for Miami being a contender on the international graffiti stage. Then 7UP, BSK, TVC, STV KVee, Terms.... these guys gave Miami its last proprietary and definitive style before the internet came around. Of course all those cats that keep it goin to this very day and the ones takin it further. A lot of dudes have pretty pictures out there floating around, but the true spirit of Miami lives on in those older dudes. The ones that came before the internet..... the ones from before Miami became like everywhere else in terms of style.

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


8) Whats the biggest problem with Toys nowadays?

What's the biggest problem with toys any days? There is no humility whatsoever in the scene anymore. When we were kids, people looked up to cats that took the time to teach them. A lot of people complain that there are no mentors out there anymore, but I think its the other way around. No one wants to learn the right way. They love reading about tradition and dropping fucking names all over, but when it comes down to actually submitting themselves to a mentor to learn the craft they get impatient. They want fame, but they don't want to work. There's not a single one of the surviving Miami writers from the 1980's that will tell you they didn't somehow pay for their knowledge in blood. People got crashed by their own crews for putting up wack shit. That shit would never float these days. Everyone wants the fucking instant solution, bite some shit from the internet and start off with wildstyles. It is disgusting. Crossing art just to get a name quicker, then wondering why people crush their shit. I dunno. I am old and probably pretty fucking jaded over everything. But the new generation lends very few good opportunities for the passing of the craft. Everyone wants to be a rockstar.

9) You have seen almost 3 decades of the evolution of Graffiti. How do you think the internet has influenced the world of Graffiti?

That's kind of tough to answer really. If it weren't for the internet I would never have been able to run into some of those guys I left behind. I have found more of my old friends on the internet, its amazing. So many of the historic flix have changed hands that people thought were lost forever. Now that we are all old and most of the stupid beef is gone, its great to look back on the shit that happened and the amazing art that everyone took so much for granted. I'm also a moderator on a website where I get the opportunity to pass on the benefit of experience to dudes all over the world and a few people have actually benefitted from that.

Writing is almost a religious thing with me, and there is so much online that makes it so easy to bypass the true experience and growth that developing styles and painting them can bring. People are half-assing the system and learning the techniques without being truly enlightened by the experience that comes with it. Its a shame and it cheapens the whole culture. All those caps we had to make and find and experiment with are now available from the internet to anyone who has a credit card. All those Design markers and Prismas we had to steal as kids are now readily purchased by moms and dads for graffiti loving kids the world over. No work, no appreciation. even Miami Style. Look at the website and you can see it clear as day. The internet stole Miami's identity because it globalized style. There is no more definitive Miami Style. Do you remember Miami Method? (I still have the first issue.... were there any more?) That shit was unique, a showcase of style and hard as fuck to get unless you lived down there. I wouldn't have my copy if GB didn't send it to me. But that shit was the true flavour of Miami. That is gone. Internet fame is easy for cats that shortcut the system. They just upload their own shit enmasse and instantly they become famous regardless of their peers opinions of them. There's no longer a need to work for respect, because if the dudes in the know don't like you, there are plenty of wannabes out there that dont know any better. I'm not denying that painting well has a hand in fame, but its hardly all of the picture. My shit is nowhere near the calibre of the stuff kids less than half my age are doing, but I can promise you my shit has roots as deep as Miami's graffiti tradition itself and that means more than anything.

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

I haven't the slightest idea really cause I haven't been around in so long. There are a lot of technically skilled dudes down there putting up some very nice work, but are they putting in WORK? Are people getting out and bombing those tough spots? Ya'know what i mean? From looking at the site, I have to throw props out again to those old cats, because even if they are mostly painting legals or at least only posting legals, they paid their dues. Those ones starting off and ONLY painting legals.... thats a shame. I hope its headed good places out there really. Y'all have a big helping of surviving talent out there that could really be a benefit. Instead of being internet tough guy and starting forum beefs, maybe learning from these dudes' experience would help you appreciate your work more. Its all about self improvement. The fame happens on its own.

Don't get me wrong though. Some serious fucking talent is coming from Miami. Just recently I passed a MURDER fill-in out by Harrisburg, PA. Soduh trains run through there like mad. That cat CHISME/RUMOR is making serious waves in the greatest of oldschool fashion. You guys have some great heads out there.... I just hope all the rumours aren't true about everybody beefin all the time......