by TRUE 222 (Formerly known as Phase 2)
The late 1960s and early 70s ... burn baby burn. It seems appropriate, that during a time period of political debate, racially heated atmosphere and struggle, black and Latin power let their voices be heard. Writing [graf] became a voice of many of the youth in the inner cities of New York.
Philadelphia had its Cool Earls, Philadelphia Phils, names of whichever rang a bell in New York City where the writer who made a name for himself like Comet, Ajax, or Mr. Clean, was a Greek kid named Demetreus who says he adapted the form after seeing the name Julio 224, on upper west sidestreets in his neighborhood.
Adapting the moniker "Taki 183," and using a thick marker, "Taki," as he called himself, scribed his signature with a vengeance throughout New York City and the Tri-State making it part of his job as a messenger - thus becoming the culture's first official born icon and king.
In time, through influences such as his, writers became somewhat of a sport ... calling themselves "writers" and their signatures hits, they eventually moved the practice to New York City's underground subway system. Spray paint was introduced, they say, by a writer named R.A. 184, also of Manhattan. While in the meantime, Brooklyn was also making its mark while creating (as was Manhattan) a distinctive style of its own. Brooklyn's scribe seemed precision-cut and ornamented, adorning arrows and calligraphic swirls and neatly rendered letters. Undertaker Ash, The Last Survivors, Flowers Dice, App super. The latter two combing the named of two writers. While names like King of Kools and Fuzz or Dead, incorporated images as well as drew marker rendered letters to impact their names visual esthetic.
Manhattan's was a style - mixed with swerves and curves and traditional handwriting, its Js and Ts were often cropped by disconnected curls and combinations of letters that merged or force to represent underlines such as Cay and Spy 161's y's. The uniqueness of signatures or hits, as they called them, stood out amongst Frank 227, SJK177, Tan & 0202, 744, JOE 136, Jec Star and Junior 161 who were among the first kings of the first subway lines bombed (Manhattan 1, 3, A Lines). While Barbara and Eve 62 became the first female superstars, the ever-evident influence of mentors like Joe 182 and Babyface 86 was clear with its adorning crown still shown as more and more names appeared at a rapid pace.
Bombing the system did indeed seem to be the inner city youth's battle cry and with that, last but not least, the fever caught on. Amongst its very early writers, who combined their own styles were SLU II and El CID, followed by LEE 163d!, the Bronx first king, who along with Phase 2, set another unprecedented stage for bombing, where writers like Super Kool would catch on an take the trend to heights as yet to be known. Its early influences were Uncle Rich, Johnny 800, Pior 168, Lionel 168, Tracy 168, M&M 177, and a DJ known in the Bronx as Kool Herc who's face in the letters K-O-O-L changed about as much as his beats in a Jam.
Super Kool's summer of '72 brainstorm, forever changed the writers approach to writing. By placing his name on the side of the train in thick extra letters, the master piece was born and adapted by the entire writing movement, as was his next venture - a masterpiece that started at the top of the car to its bottom practically from one end to the other. He also introduced a spray cap which enabled one to fill in their pieces with more efficiency and also write their signatures large with less effort. With the culture ever evolving and adapting different paths to "Get Up," (have ones name in as many places as possible), the transformation of the letter as it was known, was taking place, bombing had to reckon with the style factor and concepts such as 3ds. At the same time while cars and scenic backgrounds came into the picture to compliment its most important element - the name - which in the light of respect, one seemed to cherish as they did life. Indeed. To go over one's name was indeed as if to break a law, which could result in the harshest of penalties. The name was one's honor, one's claim to existence, thus an area where violation was virtually intolerable.
From the early to mid 70s, writing now with a basic foundation, had more or less a blue print for up-and-comers seeking to fill its ranks. As time past into the later 70s and 80s, those picking up and taking on its trade continued metamorphosing the letter, defining style and continuing the evolution that's been a trademark of aerosol writing.
Hence forth in the 90s, the science of the letter and the sport of getting up/around remains as a forum for youth worldwide to adhere to and become practitioners in, which in itself, is a testament to its longevity and the strength of its existence, as a force to be recognized and reckoned with.This article was commissioned by the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame and originally appeared on this website in 1999: http://www.rockhall.com/exhibitions/past.asp?id=495
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