The New School Can't Be Stopped
By Sharp Blade 50mm Staff Writer
Take a moment and consider the vast numbers of graffiti writers and crews that come and go in any major city over a period of years. Factor in law enforcement, gangs, politics of the streets and the time and effort needed to maintain a presence. Odds are that most crews alive today won't survive tomorrow let alone remain dominant through several generations of graffiti writers. Leaders get locked up, active bombers grow old, die, or they simply leave the game. What's left are the faded photo albums, pregnant hoodrats or perhaps worse yet the crew morphs into something completely different from what the founders intended.
Through out the history of Los Angeles graffiti art only a handful of crews have survived and continued to paint year after year after year. CBS, a crew founded in the infancy of the scene in LA by HEX (NASA LOD), THEORY, FROST, and DEMO is one of only a handful of crews that has maintained a strong presence over it's 20+ year history. Though none can dispute the energy and leadership that was lost with the death of it's leader, SK8 one, in the early nineties, the crew is now experiencing a renaissance fueled by a new generation of bombers who have shown this city yet again that the crew Cannot Be Stopped. We got together with some of the newer members and founding member HEX to attempt to gain some insight into what it takes to maintain a top crew and inspire the new generations to push that crew to new levels.
50MM-From the time span of when you were a youth tillnow , what is the most drastic change you havewitnessed withen our underground culture.
HEX-things are more technical now a days...from paint being developed by graff artists, to these different tips (i can't keep track), to bombers finding new, innovative ways of "getting up". i give it up to those who keep pushing for new ideas.
50MM-Who originally pioneered CBS. What was the storyof SK8's rise to leading the crew. How did the crewchange after his passing.
HEX-around '84 i started a crew called CBS...CAN'T BE STOPPED, along with demo, theory, who had came out here from the east coast and frost, who was a local. soon after, i met a kid named aaron, better known as SK8 ONE (RIP)!! he used to always be hype about graff...he used to pump me up. thats when SK8 joined the crew and that's when we came up with CBS 4+1. honestly, i thought that "4+1" shit was wack...but it stuck. a couple years later, CBS was burning out. everyone kind of just drifted apart. SK8 approched me and said he wanted to push this crew further. he said he knew some kids with skills and wanted to put them down with the crew...those kids turned out to be guys like, anger, axis, mear and (DJ) rob one. this is undoubtedly skates crew. he worked hard in building this CBS empire and it shows in how much admiration he gets even today.....i trip out on writers who hit up "SK8 RIP" and never even met the man!...now that's respect!! SK8 ONE, definately a legend. today, CBS is one of the dopest crews ever!! there are writers in the crew that have put in some work...and there are younger guys that are making some noise. the crew was tight before SK8 and still stay tight today. 50MM-Loyalty in the graff game is a must amongst a crew,especially one that has been around as long as thisone has. Would you say that throughout the years thatloyaly has changed. If so do you see the direction itis aimed at something you would consider knoble.
HEX-loyalty is definately important, especially out here. a crew can't survive without being down for each other. i do see a downside though...to what extent should we be loyal? iv'e been shot at, gotten a shank pulled out on, chased by crews (and i know everyone has a crazy story)...and all this just because i wanted to get up. man, i just want to paint!!
50MM- Style. Trends come and go and im shure with yourtime line in graffiti you have seen many differentletter formations spawn. What to you is the definitionof true LA pattented style.Some say it's clean block letters that you can seefrom miles away on a freeway. To others its superintricate almost abstract compositions often refferedto as "spaggetti letters" . What is your take on truestyle.
HEX- in the late 80's LA had a big influence in style from NY of course. a writer named SOON, who i believed was from the east coast, came out and puhsed that NY style and hit some unbelievable pieces over at pan pacific when it was still an abandoned warehouse. then came PRIME K2S, who had those fresh, big block letters that interlocked within each other. LA has gone through it's phases and there are so many styles out here that i'm not sure if LA has it's own pattened style...but, if i were to compare LA graff to the rest of the world, i would say LA has a sort of a old english-feel to it...it's smooth...it's gangta!! 50MM-Does the definition of ALL CITY that wasestablished back when the LA scene was still in itsimphant years still hold the same meaning as thewriters that claim ALL CITY as of today.Do you see anyone currently that can dawn that term.
HEX- i remember riding in a car with chaka & sleez through l.a....we ended up in downtown... and whole way there, all they kept saying was "where were you when i hit that up?", where were you when i got up right there?" (each taking turns pointing at a throw up or a tag they did)...for reals, i couldn't go a couple of blocks without seeing at least one of their tags along the whooooooole way...NOW THAT'S ALL CITY!! there are definately more writers getting up today, therefore there's more competition. writers are having to get more creative to get noticed. to be all city today, not only do you have be up everywhere, but you have to stand out. today, i think revok and atlas are killing everything. Their work stands most to me. they are absolutely amongst the top elite all-city writers.
50MM-Theres alot of kids that hop into graffiti wantingto make a name for themselves. Their influenced by theMags , the Videos, and interviews like this one. Soyou knowing that is there a message that you wannasend the youth who look up to the super hero's ofgraffiti. Should they aspire to be the next atlas andfigure out ways to get their names on bridges, andfreeway directory signs across the greater los angelesarea? Or is there truly a way to do graffiti in apositive way without focusing on the illigal aspect.
HEX- is there truly a way to do graffiti in a positive way without focusing on the illegal aspect? i don't think so...your either a writer or an artist. anyone can pick up a spraycan. Graffiti is the truest art form. kids scale builings, hang from freeway signs, get-up in neighborhoods full of gangsters, just to hit up their name...man thats true!! i see alot of artists around the world today putting out some amazing work using spraypaint and i'm taling anything away from them, but they're being labeled as graffiti artist...should they be??
|We made our presence strong in like four days. The key to this was large amounts of sugar intake, a car to sleep in, a McDonald's bathroom to bathe in, a trunk full of paint, and no sleep. -DEAS |
For those who don’t know DEAS and ESEL fucking crushed the city in 2000 and 2001. Devastating highways and city streets all throughout LOS ANGELES...
DEAS-When some one finds that person that just feels like paintingthe same thing as you, at the same time as you, and in the same colors as you... Well that just makes it flow. The connection was based on more then the simple fact of graffiti but a friendship as well. I knewthat if shit ever went sour no one would rat the other out. No crying games here. No leaving one another hagin'. Good old trust bond.
50MM-What do you feel the highlight spot of your bombingcareer was?
DEAS- The highlight spot for me was when we were doing all this shit we didn't get caught. That is one highlight for sure. Being able to drive around and get on just about any freeway with a bridge on it and seeing our names was also fun as well.
50MM- FRISCO. TELL US ABOUT THAT TRIP.
DEAS-We did make our presence pretty strong in more like four days. The key to this was large amounts of sugar intake, a car to sleep in, a McDonalds bathroom to bathe in, a trunk full of paint, and no sleep. San Francisco was already pretty much burnt by the time we made it there. One of the funnest times by far.
|Writers are trying to move here right now, and make a name for themselves in the LA graff scene. -CLOWN |
Hailing from Santa Cruz. CLOWN. Being one of the most admired pioneers of style of that area, and now one of the newest recruits to the squad, we had to sit down and get into his mind.
CLOWN- the most important thing I bring to the table is laughter, mucho laughter and possibly some experience in recognizing problems before they materialize. Also I have only been in a small(family like) crew and I bring that mentality to cbs, in other words we've closed the doors.
50MM- What was the main attraction for you to join CBS ?
CLOWN-When I moved to LA my intention was to paint with all of the crews that I've always been inspired by, and do so by pushing my TITS CREW only. In all reality, only about half of the LA crews wanted to paint outside of their crews and out of that half, CBS wasDown to paint constantly, basically they were hilarious with an above average wit, and clown loves to party down!
50MM- Being a city like Los Angeles, is the amount of politics greater here than in your hometown?
CLOWN-Well there is no beef in Santa Cruz. LA though the politics are funny. There have been times a group was going to paint and somebodydidn't show up, because of some beef they had with another writer that was going to be painting with us. The LA power writer scene is in the process of invasion, I think this is going to be the next "CITY" , similar to how frisco, seattle, portland , and recently new york have been. Writers are trying to move here right now, and make a name for themselves in the LA graff scene
50MM- Where do you see the crew going in the next 5 years?
CLOWN- Good question. that is something I don't want to make aprediction on, as far my mind is, i believe society the way we know it , won't even exist in 5 years.
|Toy or King we all go to jail the same way. -AUGS |
We tend to root for the underdog when we watch stories in movies or read them in books. But rarely do we get to see one unfold before our eyes in real life. From being on LA’s shit list, one of the most hated and looked down upon writers has done the impossible and proven over and over there is no stopping him.
AUGS- The controversy between kids coming up and blazing new trails in the graffiti world, along with the already established graffiti "LEGENDS" has got to end. We all fight for the same battle; yet our ego’s are what destroys us. Toy or King we all go to jail the same way.
50MM- What does the word "KING" mean to you?
AUGS- It’s hard to say what makes a king. Or even what makes a "real" writer. Ive been through many trials throughout my short-lived career so far that have tested me mentally and physically. Examples spawning back to even being 14 and having a grown man pull a gun to my head for bombing his truck, luckily his wife showed sympathy and called him back inside. Others such as dropping out of school because of what the life style graff put me in made me not able to concentrate on my studies. Even sleeping on the street cuss your lost on a wack bus mission and cant find your way home hahahahaha 16 was a weird year. Almost dieing from blood loss was an experience to. Even waking up in jail many many mornings to a cold mal nourishing breakfast didn’t take away the passion to do what I do the way I do. It just made the fire grow more for almost loosing it made me want to grab at graffiti more, to the brink of even loosing my sanity.
50MM- How does your thought process behind bombing work?
AUGS- I will take up to 4 hours to make sure I feel it comes our right. As long as I have a good hiding spot it doesn’t matter how long you’re on a spot for. Why not even do productions with backgrounds and characters dead on the street or on rooftops, it’s all too easy with the right planning. It’s all about the planning that makes a spot what it is.
50MM- The STEALTH billboard you and SPE changed raised the bar for LA bombing. What was the thought process behind executing a mission of that level?
AUGS- I suggested it as a joke for I didn’t think getting it down would be possible. I could defiantly see matching the SPE with the letters but my name would be a total transformation in itself. Also,the billboard had no ladder. We tried many things including climbing the electric poles of it I think I even tried to hump the billboard pole. It was looking grim until our last resort being a rope got us up there. Kind of imagine Batman and robin using a grappling hook to climb one of gotham’s skyscrapers. We busted our assess to match the stealth designers logo concepts and pulled it off good enough.
50MM- You did a sequel to the stealth billboard that didn’t get to ride for very long didn’t you?
AUGS- The doom billboard was approached with the same concept as the stealth. Change the name to say my own in the font the original letters were. I was puzzled about how to pull it because the letters being so high. I though first a ladder would work but after contimplating it, it seemed that a ladder would make to much noise. So I did it rancho style, and strapped afew milk crates to my belt and used them to build make shift stairs on the walkway of the billboard. It was a very wobbly, and I can recall one slipping afew times. Luckily it went through with no injuries and no cops.
|One day you are hanging with your homies hitting up everything in sight. Next day you are the person whose family is having a hard time paying the bills. -CRAOLA |
The transition from graffiti writer to gallery made artist is common today. Yet few if none are able to totally revamp the way the gallery scene is today. A true master of style, who stands high above others in his own skill level. You can find is work in the pages of JUXTAPOZ, and many other art related magazines and books.
CRAOLA- CBS was one of the first big crews my naive eyes ever caught onto.
50MM- How did you get involved with CBS?
CRAOLA- I was introduced to them after meeting Circus back in 1992. He schooled me on a bunch of graff history, and CBS history. Later he took me to a CBS meeting and I met a bunch of the guys and was blown away with the quality work they put out. It wasn't until 1998 with Natoe that I went to a CBS meeting and eventually get down in 1999.
50MM- When approaching a piece do you pre sketch it, to ensure an idea of what the finished product will resemble, or do you free flow your letters?
CRAOLA- At first I used to always have a sketch with me, occasionally I still will keep some rough sketches and ideas. If I do have a sketch, it generally is of the 'R', and then I just go from there. But most of the time I just free flow it.. Doing letters is the most fun I have in doing graff these days..
50MM- Does graffiti have to be illegal for it to be pure?
CRAOLA-At first that was the cool and exciting part of it, and I still see why it is the focus for most writers. I think every writer you ask is going to give you a different answer. Everybody lives a different life. One day you are hanging with your homies hitting up everything in sight. Next day you are the person whose family having a hard time paying the bills just had to buy a new storefront window because some jack ass toy had to try out his new etch bath.
50MM- You have grown in popularity in the art world, the shift from giving away your art to desolated yards and walls, to now having people toss money at you for one of your canvases seems like it took allot of hard work.Any advice to writers who want to do the same?
CRAOLA-It is a funny transition. I still don't get it. I feel blessed everyday to be doing what I am doing with my art. In all honesty, I learned a lot of skills that transferred over to working on canvases from graffiti. Stuff like color theory, layout, and perspective. But the stuff I do on canvas and for galleries has little to do with graffiti. The references I hide in many of my paintings that reference my crews are simply out of respect for the people in these crews. It is my way of saying thanks to all the guys that I have been able to learn to paint with over the years.
As the world turns, laws get passed, societies fall, and bonds are broken.