Now that I have chilled out, and I have a job, a kid, and a life to try and facilitate, I have calmed down on the graffiti front. I still catch tags, and I will until the day I die, but the long nights of planning out missions and staying up until 6AM are long over for me. I know that I have some kind of responsibility, but that urge to pick up a spray paint can and make my name will never leave my body. It is like an itch I will never be able to scratch.
Buschwick Permission Paint
Recently, I got asked to paint what is called a permission wall, in Bushwick. It’s essentially when someone owns a business and wants graffiti on the side of it. It’s more a mural than graffiti—truthfully graffiti refers just as much to the illegal nature, as the style of art. Street art is different than graffiti. Permission graffiti is different than graffiti. It seems like it’s all the same, but it truly is not.
I accepted the job. It paid $500 and I needed the money, and it was to paint my name, something I loved to do. Seemed like a no brainer. I started painting it, and in the course of the three days it took me, numerous people came up to me and said “oh wow, you’re ___. That’s what’s up”. I could tell though, that they were almost bummed I was painting something legal. Like the luster had worn off. Like meeting a child movie star, except now they’re 35 and star in D-List movies.
I finished the piece, got paid. In the coming months though, I got a lot of messages from people in my inner-circle about it. They were disappointed. The idea of me being a sell out was very weird for them. I didn’t think I had sold out, but somewhere along the line I had risked my street credit for $500. The idea that I would take this art form, and compromise the main ingredients of what make it the very thing it is rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Including those very close to me, in my graffiti crew and my inner-circle. Big mistake.
" I had risked my street credit for $500."
I tell this story because in New York, your reputation is everything. It’s a “what have you done for me lately” city, which is evidenced by everything from the sports section in the newspaper, to the messages on my phone about painting someone’s business. Graffiti is an act of defiance. It isn’t meant to be right. There are rules and regulations written into the sub culture—don’t write on places of worship, don’t write on mom and pop shops that can’t afford to buff your graffiti—that sort of thing. This is deeper than that. This is the visceral side of the coin.
I never painted another permission wall. My reputation as a big time graffiti artist is priceless to me. It’s not worth $500 or $1M. In a big city, our name is all we have. I have my word and my balls, and I’ll break them for nobody. I learned this lesson the hard way, but the lesson learned is that New York isn’t for the faint hearted. Especially when you’re dealing with subculture.