Piece by Piece (2005) Movie Script

One of your most personal
possessions is your signature.
It is the essence and the embodiment of who
we are.
This is San Francisco, northern
Hometo some of the finest graffiti
artists the world has known.
A city famous for its beautiful
steep hills, and diverse cultures.
Graffiti has played a major part in
this city for the last 20 years.
This isthe untold story of our
city's graffiti history,
told piece by piece.
When we started out around '83,
there were so many cats doing
graff it was lovely.
Graffiti was rockin'. Frisco was
Ah man, San Francisco is a
playground for graffiti.
Every one I know who has come
always thought it was pretty
easy to get over.
It is a major small city, and it has a
ritch history.
This is where I crush.
You know, there were so many
so many writers, so many battles,
you know,
Iots of beef. I mean, nobody
wanted to stop!
Day and night, everyday, day and
You gotta bomb.
If you've never painted, if you've
never ran from the cops,
you don't know what
the hell you're talking about.
Sitting and home and painting on
canvas is weak.
Just trying to put my name where
it needs to be.
Give me anything; I'll put my name
on it.
Mailbox, tunnel, truck,train; l
don't care!
The name of the game is to put
your name up!
When I go out and do graffiti,
I inherently feel asthough I am
but I'm also giving something.
They still consider it vandalism.
If it is, it's creative.
Instead of focusing on the overall
Does it look pretty, you know,
is it eye candy? Doesthe
character stand out?
Once they change the dynamic,
you know,
the next generation follows that,
because that's whatthey see.
Like, I mean, people say, "oh, we
hate the city," you know,
we don't hate the city, we love the
city! This is our city.
That's why we crush, 'cause it's
our city.
I think graffiti is part of the urban
just like noise and buildings, and
smog, and people acceptthat...
It's against the law.
The police department has
dedicated officers
just to fighting graffiti.
If we catch you in San Francisco,
we'll slam ya'.
I put guys out undercover every
If we catch ya', we'll slam ya'.
If I catch heat while I'm painting,
I'm not trying to hang out
and see how the cops are going to
treat me,
I'm doing whatever the fuck I can
to get away.
All your doing is changing the
color of the surface,
a millimeter thick!
But they're saying it's a $5000
Because the building's worth
It only takes two seconds to brush
it over,
maybe $20 worth of paint.
I'm not saying it's right, I mean,
graffiti's not all good.
It'sthe good, the bad
and the ugly.
It's kinda interesting seeing the
different generations
throughout the '80s, 90's,
and now, the 2000s.
Its work given to the people who
are on the street, you know,
this is artwork for the people.
It's not that I can't stop, I don't
wanna stop.
I'm just gettin' started
Shit. I've been in some fucking
good chases.
I've gotten away from most of
I've gotten my ass kicked a few
I got my nose broken;
I got my head split open.
I got, fuckin', takento jail.
I always thought graffiti was dope.
I always wanted my first tattoo to
be a train car with graffiti.
And like, luckily enough I fuckin'
didn't get that, because
the shit would have been wack,
you know
They told me, don'twrite graffiti.
They said, "don't fuckin' write
graffiti, you're an idiot, you're just
going to get yourself in trouble
there's no point in doing it, don't
fuckin' do it!"
and I just did it anyways, you
Had everyone telling me I'm a fucking
idiot, "why are you doing this?
What the fuck is your problem?" And I just
kept doing it, and doing it and doing it.
Nobody you know, no one knows you.
Except for, the few who know who you are.
It's like some super hero shit, you know? Like,
you just fly out and do your shit, come back,
Iike you're just a mild mannered
I can't even drive a car. In the city,
my eyes are like the Terminators'.
Just like scanning, like,. Scanning like, every rooftop,
seeing every tag, seeing every
scribe. I just want to see everything.
Even if it's wack or not. "Ahh shit,
they got that, ah shit, they got that!"
You just look at your city like a grid,
like a map, and just look at everything
differently once you write graffiti.
This city has always been something for
graffiti. They've always had a little
heart for graffiti here. You know, San
Francisco's always been about it.
You meet people, old-ass people, who
are like, "Oh yeah, TWlST! Yeah, I love
TWlST is the greatest guy! You know,
like, he's the shit! We love his shit!"
"Oh the horses, those are so tight,"
you know, people have always had
Iove for graffiti in San Francisco.
Late nights, early mornings, trips to
go steal, trips to go paint.
Someone told me something when l
was a kid, and they said,
Being a graffiti writer is one ofthe most quintessential
things you can do growing up to have an identity."
I thought it was kinda silly when he said
it, but now when I look back in hindsight,
it definitely combines a lot of
different elements in life.
Balance is important, you
I will never stop doing it, because that's just me,
you know? I'm a lifer, I'm gonna do that forever.
We both grew up in Southern
California, I'm not gonna say where.
Having a good graffiti partner...
you either have a good one, or you
don't have one at all.
I mean, you're better off painting by
if you can't trust the person your
I really like having a good partner.
Having a good partner,
someone that's solid and steady, and
some one you don't have to worry about,
that's the best thing in the world.
I mean, graffiti is basically this:
It's 1. Creating some kind of letter
or message, right? So you gotta design.
2. Getting the supplies.
3. Getting the spot.
4. Getting to the spot.
5. Attempting it, pulling it off,
and then coming back and
documenting it. And that's it.
To get people to notice your shit, you just gotta
go up huge, right up in their face, humongous!
Like, "how the fuck did they do it?
What the fuck did they do that with?"
That's the approach I'm going for.
We got really good at doing pieces in
illegal spots. Like, full color, wild style
and most times, better than the
stuff you can see
on a legal wall that took four
It's vandalism. I like vandalism!
I'm a vandal!
I'm creeping past peoples' windows,
climbing their fire escapes.
Basically walking right past peoples' heads, almost,
to get to these spots. And nobody's saying shit!
Most writers are total fuckin' wankers,they're
just punks, you know. That's how I started.
I just got sophisticated, or
changed, adapted,
because it's something l
like to do, it's good therapy for me.
It's my release in life; it's what l
like to do.
I walk around town with my head
held high.
They don't know nothing' about
that.They don't know anything about it.
It's none oftheir business, that's
my business.
I'm a writer, a graffiti writer.
I write the Nom' de plume of my
alter ego, all over the place.
I've written on everything and
chances are
you most likely seen me
up in the streets.
I love letters
I'm a letter fiend.
I was a normal kid. Yeah
I was a bit of a wild child!
I was always into something, some
kind of mischief, some kind of trouble.
I picked up on writing at an early
age though, probably fourth grade.
And ever since then I've
dedicated myself to the craft.
At first it was fun and games, and
then the addiction kinda grew.
At this point, it's kinda' like a
religion to me.
I know it might sound strange, but
it's my way of prayer.
It's like a meditation in a way, a
It's a praise to the good, and
a sacrifice to the bad.
It's creative destruction really; you're
creating, and at the same time, you're destroying.
I figure I've gone this far,there's
no real reason to turn back now.
The first writing styles to influence
all of us,
were the styles ofthe Spanish
neighborhoods, known as Cholo writing.
These were neighborhood nicknames
announcing their affiliations to blocks
and certain hoods.
I came here in '82 the first time.
There was nothing New York style.
There was the local graf
from the Latin boys.
There were a lot of the Cholos
doing a lot of the taggin stuff.
Then they got into the Roman numerals.
Then after they got into the Roman numerals,
they started making their letters
bigger and their numbers bigger,
and they started putting 3Ds on it. Then
they start fading them from the bottom.
At that point, that was '81,
'82, early '83.
This style has sharp rigid lines,
usually a block-type font.
Not the graffiti we know today,
that was just a little neighborhood
oriented, kinda Cholo homeboy hit up.
I think that everyone in San
Francisco saw it,
and it's a permanently entrenched
part of California's history.
Early on, I think that the firstwriter that
we had met, out here, that was from here,
but he was already really knew what was
going on, he had been somewhat traveled,
and seen things, and under the
concept of graffiti as it is today,
and his name was Rif.
Rif, Rif, Rif, Rif was kinda my style.
The Dug, then Slim, then Bizzare;
Riftaught them all.
Picture real graffiti, then picture Cholo,
then something inthe middle. That was Rif.
Everything that Rif was doing,
that's how I wanted to be.
He would go to the store
and rack fifty cans of paint,
and I would wantto rack fifty cans of paint,
so he was definitely at that point an influence.
And his styleswere just off the
wall backthen.
We were creating a lot of stuff based on
what we thought stuff should look like,
and not really knowing, and so it was
really coming original and coming creative,
because we didn't know what was
going on.
You look back at it know, it's like,
"what the fuck were we doing,"
but at that point, it was all new.
Things began to change. Influences from
outside of the Bay Area began to appear.
There was CUBA from Baltimore,
Zepherfrom New York, bringing with
them the new aesthetic, the tag.
The purpose of thetag is getting your
signature up on as many surfaces as possible,
quickly and efficiently without
being seen or caught.
Us not having a subway system,
we focused onthe bus lines, MUNl
getting as many lines as possible.
I use to ridethe 52 line. And I use to
see these two tags on the back of the bus.
Everytime I would get on the bus,
I would say, "Damn,
there's that name again, there's that
name again, there's that name again."
We would ride on buses in Daly City,
and they would go downtown and come back,
and when they would come back, they would have
all these new names on it, in the same day.
You know, maybe a couple of
hours later.
Bus hopper styles is a totally
different style.
Frisco hand styles are infamous.
I went to Paris, and there are Frisco
hand-styles in Paris, directly from Frisco.
It's up there with Philly's
Yeah, we got our own style, and as long as
people respect that and nottryto down it,
I don't got a problem. At the same
time, stay off my block.
This isthe first cat I ever seen, destroy
the bus, ran up to the bus, told me,
"Get out of the way," he just threw
me to the side.
He just crushed the 14! He's was
the shit!
But what we'd use to do, we'd just find
a place where we could all get together,
and we would just go bomb buses.
The first person get in front of the
bus, and everybody just kill it.
Everything's been cleaned up. Back in
the days, every one of them was bombed,
throw ups on them, tags, the trains
back in the days were layer upon layer.
It was
as bad as New York!
I bombed your bus, bitch!
Once I was on a 15, 3rd Street bus, and a
young man was marking with a funky marker,
they stink as well, and I told him it was
making me sick and giving me a stomach ache,
and he said, "l don't give a fuck."
It's our bus, you know!
Man, we own this shit, man!
People say, "Oh, we hate the city," we
don't hate the city, we love the city,
this is our city. We hate the buses
We hate the bus drivers.
That's why we crush, because it's
our city.
The kids who are writing on the
buses, they definitely have something
thatthey marketed as, that's their
own way of writing.
I don't always particularly agree
with the look,
but it's theirs, and they do it their
This style of tag has remained a staple
in SF's history for over 20 years,
and remains a vital link to our past.
I first became aware of it in 1983
when the book "Subway Art" came out.
I didn't really think much of it, then
I saw "Style Wars" and actually recorded
it on TV
when I was in high school in '84.
In 1983, PBS nationally broadcasted a
documentary, which showcased New York's
graffiti culture to
the masses. Everyone saw it.
Now, I watched it with my brother and cousin, and
I thought that we were the only ones that seen it.
But as time goes on, I realize that, I
wasn't the only one watching that night.
VOUGE was watching that night. CRASH was watching
that night. SCHMOE was watching that night.
The things that we saw were always train
pieces, so a lot of style that we kind of
looked up to were a lot of the train
writers in New York.
We never had subway cars like NewYork,
so, we gravitated towards walls,
but walls that were off the train tracks, because
it made you feel like you were in the subway yard,
you know, even though you
Around this time, the media began to
take notice of the hip-hop movement.
And with this, a media explosion
occurred, in the form of books, such as
"Spray Can Art," "Subway Art," movies
like "Wild Style," "Beat Street."
It took America by storm, inspiring the
craze that is now referred to as hip-hop.
I think the connection with graffiti, and
scratching, and hip-hop, and MCing and breaking,
is because..., it's just my roots.
They were all part of one culture.
Hip-hop, of which graffiti is one leg of the
four-legged stool, it's a major component,
it's a multi-million dollar business,
it's an art form that's in museums,
it's an art form that's everywhere. It's the
only art form that was ever created by youth,
I think, in all the history of art.
Back then was a pure time. Kids were
smiling; you look at those old pictures, man,
that's what they were doing.
You can see it on their faces, and
just out there to have a good time!
Graffiti. For some people the word conjures
images of illegibly scrawled messages
Spray-painted on the side of a
Authorities say some of the kids
who are hooked on graffiti
may end up stealing to support their
habit. Stealing markers and paint cans.
Paul Biango and hisfriends do burners and
bombs. Those are really big graffiti's.
Eventuallythey are marred by throw-ups. Those
are initials of tags sprayed overthe burners.
The gangs call themselves crews.
Crews began to form.
A crew is a group of friends that
was working towards the same goal
of dominating the visual
The Perfect Crime, OutTo Crush,
Can't Stop Us Now, Those Damn Kids,
Master Piece Creators, Together
With Styles.
But the ones who stood out above
the rest, were TMF.
I think when the whole break- dancing,
hip-hop movement came to California,
that's when I picked up on more
elaborate styles.
Like, oh shit, there are these guys that are
doing this big, BlG pieces, with color in it.
And it was nothing we had
seen before.
TMF, when it first started was in
school. Itwas me, BlSARO, and CYPHER,
and back then he wrote DlSK, and
it was three mellow fellows.
It was mellow, not so much because we
were mellow, but we were close friends,
we were the Mellows.
In school we weren't necessarily squares,
but we were kinda like this new pocket of kids
that were kinda half-cool because
we had something up on everybody.
We wanted to bethe biggest and
best, along with some style.
There wasn't that much outthere, so we
were always constantly evolving our own
style and working on what we
could come up with.
It's a trip, when we first started;
we thought we were the shit.
Well, actually, we knew we were
the shit.
It was kinda rolling out on whatever
kind of media commercials, backthen.
But they weren't really sure what it was
about, but we knew exactly what it was about!
It was about being down.
My cousin took me on this tour of San Francisco
and Daly City graffiti, and after that, man,
it just flipped me overto the
otherside. I wanted to be a writer,
and I want to be a badass writer
like those guys.
The important thing was just gettin'
up, gettin' noticed, gettin' recognized,
makin' noise, startin' shit.
It was more of a family though.
It wasn't something you had to be
good enough to be in,
it just happened that those guys
were dope.
Writers now began to innovate
their own particular styles,
branching away from the traditional
forms of graffiti, breaking all the rules.
When this happened a conflict arose
between the opposing schools of style.
The style back then, you had the
Funk, which was what TMF was doing,
which was kinda more of a New York
flavor to it, more of a funky feel to it.
Then you had the new
wave that TWS was doing.
TWS, they were a popular crew, a lot of people giving
them props for all the shit that they were doing,
Legal pieces, illegal pieces. Those
kids, they had skills,
I'll give them props, the shit was
I think TWS is the essence of the original San
Francisco flavor, where, they mastered that form,
they were innovative, they were executing shit
that had never been done in the fucking world.
We created this crew called TWS,
with me, RAEVN,
Our concept was, every guy could pretty
much handle the whole ball of wax.
We could do characters, we could
do letters,
we could do straight letters, wild
styles, whatever.
And then you took that and you
amplified it.
We hooked up with Jim Prigoff when
he was doing the book, "Spraycan Art,"
and he was showing me things
from Paris, or from London.
That influenced us to do what they
were doing, and try to top that,
so our stuff looked different, you
know what I'm saying?
Before I met those guys, I had style
and I was doing full color burners.
But as soon as we started hanging
out, started painting together,
they kind of showed
me how it's done, so to speak.
It was like, check it out, my pieces
got longer, they got bigger,
taller, more wild, the style became
more complex.
We started doing Ferraris up on
the wall, crazy Robotek characters,
stuff that normal people wouldn't
get influenced on.
So, we started doing different stuff,
you know? It was a badass crew, man.
The two dominant styles at the time were traditional
Funk, based on New York style subway graffiti,
and New wave which stretched
the boundaries,
pushed the limits on what had
been done previously.
These two opposite schools of style
battled forthe visual supremacy of the city.
A battle is settled on the walls by crossing each
other out, basically taking over an opponent's work.
People here are strong in the art of letterform.
Toys who come up, are grounded in letterform.
You know, everybody down with
the Funk could not even fathom
how those kids could
claim to be kings in graffiti.
You know, because they didn't
have no letters... No letters!
I think he called it "slice and shift," and
it had a lot of thick bars going to thin bars,
and to me it just didn't make of
it was too artsy and there was
no structure to the letters.
Letters; that's graffiti. You know
what I'm saying?
That's the foundation of graffiti. If you don't
have letters, you're not a dope graf writer.
It was like, a lot of politics going on
with what side of the city chose what crew.
If you were in the Richmond you
kind of went with CRAYONE,
and if you were in the Mission, you
went with TMF.
A lot of people hated on Roger,
And all he was doing was just
pushing the boundary on graffiti,
and not saying that it's gotta look
this one way, or whatever.
Either you understand how to rock
styles, or you don't,
and it can't really always
be explained to people.
And backthen, it was just like, we
weren't really feelin' their style
and to kind of back that up we
would just start beef about it.
There was a lot of animosity, man, other
than the fact that, we were the two top crews.
I didn't want to beef with anybody;
you know what I'm saying?
But I wasn't going to back down to
We'd do a few pieces, but a lot of the Mission was
like, "Fuck them, we'll just go write in theirs."
At that point, when you're beefin' with somebody,
yeah, it's just fun destroying somebody's stuff.
I believe battles is like a double edged sword.
It's good forthe system of pushing the element,
for pushing the culture forward to do
some new stuff, but it also has animosity.
You know, I think nowadays, there's
just really a good will among writers,
but at the same time, it makes
things kind of soft.
When you're battling sometimes you have to
get up at night, and there's a whole new...
things you have to deal with, that
normal artists don't deal with, period.
So we're unique in that area.
San Francisco rapidly became the
epicenter for writing.
Writers all overthe citywould
visit the cityto decorate its walls.
People from Berkeley, San Jose,
Sacramento, Hayward, San Mateo.
One who stood out was a writer
from Oakland bythe name of DREAM.
I remember him being a skinny kid,
just hungry, just readyto start bombing.
And he wound up making a name
for himself.
When he did that "Best of Both
Worlds" piece, man,
when he did that piece, bro, that was
like a shockwave throughout the Bay Area.
It was like, "BOOM, I'm here now!
My name is DREAM!"
I felt like I knew dream so much because I
had been following his graffiti for so long.
And thet hing that stood out about DREAM wasthat
he wasn't getting famous off his characters,
he was getting famous off his
dope pieces.
The main thing that he evertold was,
"make sure your tags are always dope,
because if your tags are dope, people
want to see more of what you can do."
His styles were just, unmatched.
He was our, like, SEEN, you know?
He was the pioneer of it all.
I did like his work. But he had like,
if I'm not mistaken,
a NewYork type style going on.
The reason I respected DREAM was
because he came over, got up, and hit,
what was on the wall spoke for
When I met DREAM, thatwas like, the first thing.
He was like, 'Yo man, I wanna hook up with you,
and hopefully do something and come back,"
and I was like, "Yo, that would be phat.
That would be hot to represent, plus, you
know we both represent the same crew, FC,
and I would have loved to do a
piece with DREAM.
When I heard that he passed, it
was sad.
It was just wrong.
Dream was the king with an
untouchable style.
In 2000 he was tragically
murdered onthe streets of Oakland.
We all suffered a great loss.
The dude was really a very positive
person and just a pleasure to be abound,
and... He was just a good dude,
and I miss him. I miss him a lot.
DREAM was a street hustler and style
technician yes, but he was revolutionary minded.
He studied. He always stressed
that people should know themselves,
Iearn their roots and their culture.
Well, DREAM should be remembered for the
fact that we was a good person at heart,
which is what you say, not too rare,
usually, not like a mama's boy or whatever.
He had a very unique style that
was good to remember.
You know, Mike was definitely real to it man.
He did what he did, and you saw it evolve.
You saw when he started, and saw
it up to when it ended.
You can't help but give somebody respect
who put something down for that long.
So many different generations of graffiti
got to catch glimpse of what he did,
and there's not that many people
that last that long.
Most people probably write for,
what, a couple of years?
You know, get up for a couple of years,
after that they're written about in the books,
but he was there for the long haul.
One of the aspects of writing is
going out and seeking places to paint.
These are often called yards.
Some of the notorious yards ofthe Bay
Area were places like Crocker Amazon,
Silver Terrace, Oakland tracks,
Clockwork, Franklin,
Walls of Fame in San Jose.
However,the most notorious was a place
located in SF, atthe heart of downtown,
Market Street and Van Ness
The Mecca for writers the world
The spots that were dope, were
like, Psycho City, number one.
psycho city was the premiere place
for bombers man, to go do pieces.
The first time I painted
it was July 4th, 1985
in broad daylight.
There's a bunch of other pieces in
there but itwasn't like a popular spot
until Dug got his production there.
I never went there with intentions
that I'm gonna name this place.
I think people named it cuz maybe i twas a
first like uh.. Iarger burner that was there,
but it picked up like how graffiti
spreads man, you have a throw up here
and a couple tags right here and then you
get a few feet away and before you know it
you have it across the way and
before the whole area's covered.
It was an ill spot, right on Market
Street. How can you beat that?
I remember going to psycho city, seeing some
crazy colorful pieces and it bugged me out '
out 'cause it was a legal spot. you go
there and do a piece and the next day
anybody can go over you, and it
kinda bugged me out.
yeah it's just really raw pieces, going over
raw pieces and it just seemed more competitive.
it was kinda a spot on the
weekends where you go and
for damn sure you'd run into a
bunch of damn writers.
Psycho city was a really cool yard.
It was pretty big.
It was cool that was right in
downtown. It was good.
A lot of people would come do cool
pieces. It was constantly changing.
There was always a new burner,
always a new whole wall.
People came from all over. That's
how I met fools from Oakland,
Berkeley; Daly City even all the
way down to San Jose fools came from.
I mean the wall had probably 150
layers of paint on it.
come on, oh their gonna bust me for
graffiti, but what about all this shit.
The city is circulating the word that it
means to get very tuff with graffiti artists
mayor Finestine took her paint brush and rollers
to the mission district carrying her fight
against filth and graffiti to the streets she
was joined by an army of roughly 200 volunteers.
police have joined the fight with an undercover
task force making 200 hundred arrests.
Jordan, remember when Jordan
first became mayor okwhat
Jordan did was went around to some
of the owners of the these warehouse
where they where giving the kids permission
like psycho that was the end of psycho
he threatened these people at
Franklin auto
that if you let these kids write on
this we will shut you down
and show the fuck did,they just
like...that was the end of psycho
that was the end of Franklin that
was the end of clockwork
the cops would just come though and started
telling kids that wasn't cool anymore
an then they fenced it down
it really just kinda got contained in
that area for so long and
once they got rid of it was kinda of a
good thing cause things started to spread
new spots started to come up.
Once they shut done psycho city in about
92-93 or so once they shut that down
illegal graffiti in San Francisco
so as much as they where trying
to put our culture under arrest
all it did was put some fire under our
ass to be like well we have to go back
to the street we have no choice
now, it also did that with style
because now that your out on the
street you know you have to get up quick
it made people go back to their
straight letters
if the city was smart, at that point
they probably would have left it cause
it would have kept the problem to
a minimum
but you know they don't always
see these things. ha-ha.
this is Psycho City today, there's
nothing left,
it's a vacant parking lot
you can actually go to the wall
and chip away at it
you can reveal the history that lies
hidden in there.
it's sad in away thousands of
layers of stores gone
white washed forever.
Rest in pieces.
With the closure of psycho city SF
became a playground for illegal works
what is commonly referred to as
TMF had slowed down TWS l think had
called it quits who else was painting.
It really got to that point that when
psycho city was closed
it was all about finding the ill spot
it has nothing to do with how fresh
you are how dope your styles is
or how many styles you have
its you make one throw up and you
just get it up everywhere in town.
Twist throw-ups everywhere Jase
throw-ups everywhere
this whole city got pretty crushed
during 93 and I think most of 94.
there where kinda more the
taggers, taggin you know.
twist was capable obviously of
doing what ever he wanted really,
but thatw as just what he chose to
Yeah they definitely set it off for a
lot of kids.
I remember one time when l was 15 or
something I was in an abandon building downtown
cause I ran away from home or
whatever got kicked out ofthe house,
and that night when I was
sleeping there Kr and Twist came
and I watched them do the throw
- ups on the fire escape at 6th and Howard.
Kr brought "Krink" to San
Francisco and him and twist
where like the ones wrecking shit
with mop tags.
and when we started seeing Kr and Shok
and you know we new twist the whole time
but he was bombing with them and these
guys where going all over the place
doing these beautiful throw-ups
you know it really inspired us.
I think that you know I was just
coming from New York
that was just the kind of graffiti
that I knew at the time.
I mean throw-ups, caught tags, hit spots,
and that's just how your supposed to do it
you like graffiti?
ahhh, so-so
depends on what it is right?
yeah if it's artwork then it's cool,
you know.
Man I saw something really cool once,
there's some guy who does like a horse...
oh that's a girl. Reminisce that's
her name.
I remember walking around a
corner and just seeing this
horse grazing in the middle of
some street in the tender loin.
Going what the fuck is this?
its like a throw up its like 2 colors you
got your white your black, but its a horse.
And I was like yo this is bugged
cause it's like a throw up but its
not it's a character.
back in the daythe big difference
was people like twist and reminisce
where really focused on the imagery of
symbols and what not the screws the faces
and horses and there was other
people doing similar stuff
ratherthen focusing strictly on
there's a lot of people painting
sort of off beat stuff.
I was interested in that kind of
Back in 1989 San Francisco was struck
by a major earthquake an obvious tragedy
with the loss of life and demolition
of buildings
but at the same time it opened up
vacant foundations,
which would become writer's
subterranean art galleries.
people just started taking it to the pits where
they where building all these new buildings
and the area around what is now
Pac Bell Parkwas being bombed.
I mean it was destroyed at the time
cause they knocked down so many buildings
you would have thought that parts
of it looked like the south Bronx.
And like the pits where really like
the place you'd go to see
the galleries and like where it's
really at.
A vacant lot won't sit for more than a week before
it's filled in and there's a building there where
as before the same sort of little pit
yards and stuff would run forever
I started doing a bunch of pits around town like
pits where they where aboutto do construction
on and stuff but those things
would run a long time
so we started doing pits just because
I could do a pit basically an hour
or two after it got dark I could
paint and be fucking done with a piece
by like 11 or 12 at night and go
the biggest change in bay area
graffiti is that there are not
that many kids from the bay area
doing it.
A lot of people have moved to the
bay area form various other places
and I mean it's not the hardest
place to paint in
then in my day when we where coming
up there where a lot more people
coming in the city filtering in people
form out of town trying to represent
Bless camethere, Jase,
Giant, Some, Cycle, Felon, Sope,
San Francisco has had a lot of
influence from other people
its a small city so people come there
they do shit and everyone sees it
so it kinda of expands that little
gene pool.
at that time 93 is what really got
me to want to move to San Francisco.
San Francisco was really dope then. Then
I moved up there in 95 when I was 18.
And coming up here when I first got here
I saw a lot of creative people doing things
that I had never really seen or l didn't
think would be accepted in graffiti.
I was in San Francisco for graduated
school academy Art College downtown
I came here cause of skate
boarding at first cause embarcadero.
I wanted to goto a big city and
fuckin really rock shit.
It's almost like San Francisco
history in general
there has always been so many influences
coming here and once they leave
something here it becomes San Francisco
so its like a microcosm for that.
a lot of people want to call this
Vandalism is throwing a brick though a window
this is a study it's a craft it's a science.
Every piece has a structure to it
has a form.
It's got movement, it's got colors
it's got a flow
it's got arrows, bits little do dads
here and there.
These are the elements that make
up a piece
but to have style is a whole
'nother ball game.
to me having style means you have
your certain esthetic or your certain
type of graffiti that you work on
and try to perfect.
When people look at your stuff
they can identify it as yours
even if you write a different name
or something else
they'll know you did it cause they
know your style.
to have style means a lot man it
goes a long way in this game.
and id say our style is based on funk, traditional
funk but everyone has their own interpretation of it.
Check bizzaro and dug their styles
or twist tags,
they just have this style and this flow
and they're beautiful and very precise
but they're still very readable and
almost simple in a sense.
Each person in our crew has their
own individual style.
The burners developed and developed and every
one had a burner style it was a great time
I mean if you, look around there's letters
everywhere there's letters on anything and everything
you can think of and all you have
to do is simplytakethose letters
make them bigger add you know 3d
to it and then you got some graffiti
you take those samethings and
bend them in the right places
and now you got some funk and
then you add some
connections and you got some
wild style.
I still think it'sthe style capital of
the us.
these are your writers writers
behind the scenes type fella's
staples of the bay.
That's just the funk style that I'm
down with isthat hard train style
that is based on bombing get up quick and
you can simplify it to a 15 minute piece
or you can multiply it to a two-hour
these two working class
crews have continued rocking
the bay area funk style for years
fsc and htk
hill top kids, hard times known, hailthe
kings, hard to kill, halftime kreation,
hieroglyphic transcendental
We progressed together we all got better
together we all learned how to do every trick
together every little thing we discussed which
colors don't work on the wall which ones do.
Yeah we've developed as a crew.
so this was the flavor of SF graff,
up until some visitors arrived from Los Angels
bringing with them there own version of style
their style was pointy, jagged
kind of out of place in the bay.
cause San Francisco and the bay
didn't have that particular style
until they started coming up here
and started bombing a lot.
you know them kids from LA they come and
climb up into these like weird little spots
and paint shit that I never even
would have thought of painting.
Revok, Saber,
I got to give those guys a pat on
the back they did a lot ofwork.
MSK did a lot of dope work MSK
and AWR like it
was really obvious when they
came to town.
San Francisco has this entirely
different vibe then LA you know l love LA,
I'm all about LA, but it was a nice break
going to San Francisco cause you just run around
and hop on the bus and go here
and here everything was so close
and there's so much shit going
around and it was just great
just like a graffiti vacation you
know and I didn't want itto end.
we come from the Los Angels school of painting
and that's like basically at that point of time
they spent some much time buffing you
didn't want to be caught on the ground
so basically you climb to remain part
of the environment you climbed higher
and further so that it would be
harder for them to buff.
And that's at the point and time period
of progression that we where at in LA
so we moved up here and brought
a little piece of that with us.
instead of painting a spot onthe
street or in an alley
they are above a billboard on a
steel girder on the side of a bridge.
there was a lot of tension going on
I think between some guys
coming up from LA and guys from
Frisco,they really butted heads.
you see sometimes somebody comes in and
they paint a few good spots and they're out
its like a cycle of people coming and going but
there's still a lot of local cats around you know.
I felt angry I felt mad I felt fucking
like fuck I got to come back
and to do something about this shit
cause if I don't then we are going go out
Like the city that just fucking anybody
can come and just take over shit.
And we are not having that shit
but at the same time I think it pushed
a bunch of people to the next level
they realized that they couldn't just sit on their
ass all the time they had to be putting in work.
Yo Revok is dope but he's not from
you just have to go with the flow and
just realize that this is your city
your going to be here your going to
remain here and your going to run shit.
And if people want to come here and leave they
can do that but I'm going to be here forever.
if some buddy comes with a
little more heart then you and
is down to fucking you know put
their ass on the line and put in work
and make it happen, I mean more props to
them you know, no matter where they're from.
I think that there was a time when
you know it was only locals,
it was only San Franciscans here kind
of in the 80s bombing and in the 90s
there was a little resentment when
other people would come up but eventually
you know in true San Francisco
fashion we all learned to live together
and we where all better off
because of it.
it constitutes defacing public property in a
rather rediculous and then again obscene form.
we do want color, we do want
light, we do want artistic freedom,
but not at the cost of damaging
other peoples property.
I don't really get out of hand you
know, like sometimes
kids write on the windows with etching
fluid on like restaurants and business,
I don't like that.
it's the etchings and window scratching
that really screws us up cause
those glass windows are really
expensive to replace
Iike 1500 bucks and for a small
independent business like mine
that's a large chunk of our
it don't bother me personally
cause graffiti is an art
and its an art that is rarely
it depends on where its at if its not
defacing property like this or
if its out on a blank wall or something
like that hey that's fine you know
but when your defacing property like a
booth or train or something like that,
that's our money going back to
clean that up.
we get of etched glass especially on
the cars that don't have camera systems
and that's the most costly type of
graffiti to bart.
that's their way of expressing
maybethey have anger maybe
they have issues...
I don't like it in the bus you know,
uh I think there is a culture behind
well lets put it this way the way l
look at it is simply this,
its simply a form of un-vital
for the most part teenagers and
even some adults
will exercise this un-vital
vandalism for what ever its worth
because its part of the name of the game
in this permissive society as it were.
back in the day the city had higher
prioritiest o focus on rather then graffiti.
Graffiti writing was not the issue
that it is today if you got caught
you where maybe hassled by the
cops, released and
at most a misdemeanor ticket was
Some examples of misdemeanors
are petty theft, fraud,
drug use,
punishments include: community
service, small fines,
and in some circumstances a little
bit of jail time.
This is in stark contrast to the
felonies crimes such as grand theft,
kidnapping, rape, murder,
and now graffiti vandalism thanks
to proposition 21.
proposition 21 was passed in the year
2000 this new law allowed any vandalism
over 400 dollars in damage to be
prosecuted as a felony.
And it also labels groups of kids of 3
or more to be classified as a street gang.
The youth targeted proposition is
also being used against adults.
Felony punishments are way more
severe then misdemeanors and include:
Loss of civil rights such as voting, serious
imprisonment, and in some cases execution.
and so another job for the police
and the courts.
Johnny Marvin is now in the
hands of the law
this is the first time he has been
caught but his delinquent tendencies
began long before in the conflicts
of an unhappy home and
in the hang out of a gang, which
was his refuge.
Now what will become of this
Johnny and 200 thousand youngsters
who are arrested each year
are Americas number one crime
can't something be done to help these
twisted young lives and set them straight.
if you think graffiti is little more then
fun and games for rebellious teenagers
San Francisco authority beg to differ they
have brought serious charges against 8 adults
who police say are members of a graffiti
gang who has spent years defacing this city.
The group they say call
themselves KUK,
which stands for "Kill Until Killed."
if convicted the maximum penalty is a
20,000 fine and up to 7 years behind bars.
And police say since the indictments
they've noticed a lot less new graffiti.
they come to your house take all
your shit, you got to jail, bail out,
then they might throw more charges on you,
you know cause they got other charges stacked
you know cause these people are against you
being on the street theywantyou to be locked up.
You get indicted you knowthen sit back
in jail for a while, get bail money up,
bail out again, then they can throw
more shit like another county
Like Oakland or Berkeley someone
else can press charges
on you go back in, get bailed out again,
all you have like in the back of your head
is in a couple months I'm going
to prison.
Prop 21 is some ill shit cause when you
get charged with it so it's a gang charge
so all of a sudden your a gang
member and that can add a year to your
sentence automatically and anything
over a year your going to prison.
In SF right now a judge threw it out,
she said that they weren't gang members,
you know and since she threw it
out it lost in the court of appeals
and the D.A. appealed it so now
that charge is back on
and that enhances every other
charge you have like
every felony count of graffiti that
enhancesthat so much.
Proposition 21 is pretty much a
prison dispatch charge
its like as soon as you have that
your going to prison.
does it make me not want to do it?
I guess so if I thought about it
I just don't uh think about that.
oh I don't think it's a just penalty
at all because
at the same time I see that I see
on the same wall a wheat paste
for the lion king from Disney productions
and I see a million other wheat pastes
and those people don't go to jail.
well it comes down to it is
malicious mischief
the idea of destroying other peoples property
and the idea of defacing places in the city
I mean first off its personal property
most of the time that's being affected
second of all we have a situation
where it looks bad
it looks the people don't care about
their property and so it is a problem
and it is something we are a
Well we have a graffiti unit and there
are officers assigned to that unit
to go after the people who are
doing the tagging and the graffiti
in the city.
especially in like the bay this year
Oakland is exceeding it's murder rates
seems like every otherweek in the
Fillmore someone else is getting shot
and their still wasting mad money
on a graffiti case.
cause there is always somebody new that's
come along saying lets get rid of graffiti
this is how we are going to do it
and then they try there little way
to do it and it doesn't work and then
they fail and then the next person comes
and then they fail and they fail, and they
fail, cause like graffiti is just a war.
along with battling the law writers
face the chaos ofthe urban landscape.
In the late 90's one writer seemed
to take more risks than anyone.
The all city king known as TlE.
Tie was Jonathan Lim and he was
18 years old when I met him.
he would go bomb by himself ln the
fucking rain and the cold he wouldn't eat
he wouldn't fucking give a shit about going out
with girls or kicking it or clothes or nothing.
All he cared about was racking his paint,
racking his supplies and getting up.
I think at one point In San Francisco you
couldn't go on any block of the entire city
without seeing at least a couple
marker tags some spray-paint tags
and a hollow throw-up sometimes a
hollow throw up and a filled in throw up
on like every block of the city
that's really not even an exaggeration.
I've never seen anybody up as much
as him and one person he was up like,
it would take 10 writers to be as up
as he was.
he knew like all writers in all different
crews and everybody loved him cause
he was like really generous and
he'd give you paint.
And like give you markers and like
he stole so much stuff like crazy.
I'm standing inthe paint section
picking my colors
and all of a sudden I hear "what's
up Cycle"
I turn and look and there's Tie with
at big duffle bag
and like I'm loading paint in this shopping
cart and he's like "what's going on dude?"
I said "nothing just picking some
colors." He's like "yo, is it all clear?"
and I 'm like " I guess so dude." and
he looks this way and looks that way
and the isles clear and he opens this
big duffle bag, big green duffle bag
and just
just like shoves all this paint in the
duffle bag zips it and just like
Runs out of the paint isle.
it was on uh saint Patrick's day-
night and I remember Saber was
gone he was doing something l
was at the house and MQ came
over and tie came over they both came
over together and he's like lets go bomb
Iets go bomb lets go do that spot tonight and
I was like man we've been painting all week
Iets chill lets party one night saint
Patrick's day- night lets just party
one night go get drunk hang out
and just relax have a good time.
He was like " no, no I gota bomb."
And I was like all right whatever
man do yourthing just be careful.
was by himself in the tender loin.
He was plotting on this one
rooftop he was just going to
go do a fill in on or something
probably on it.
there was like a little drainpipe that
you had to shimmy upto go up on the roof.
I guess he was going up the pipe whatever
and I guess it made a little noise
I don't know who knows, but there ended up
being a guy who lived inside this building.
The guy came out you know said
'what the fuck are you doing?"
then you know TlE steps back "
hey you know I'm sorry
I'm not trying to break in, I'm just
doing graffiti."
And he like showed him the paint
in his bag.
And the guy pulled out a gun
pointed the gun at him...
and the little kid put up his hands
and said no wait stop don't shoot...
...and tie obviously scared as fuck
this big fucking grown man
is pointing a big ass gun at his head,
he turned ran downthe steps you know
as he was running down the stairs
away form this guy
this motherfucker blasted him in
the back of the head.
because of the fact his parents
where immigrants and he was a minority
and the fact that he was doing graffiti,
in the middle of an illegal activity
that case didn't get followed up or paid
attention the way it should have been.
he was praised in the newspaper as killing
a robber you know, they just covered it up.
And they didn't really mind that an 18 year old
- young boy was murdered
in the tender loin by a person who owned
property, they didn't care about that.
I was really hurt, and when this
guy got off like it,
that was you know its fucked up
like its where's the justice in that?
I mean if the kid was just hanging out maybe
climbing on the roof with some girl to drink a
beer and like fool around with some
girl it might have been a different story
it might have been like you know
but ohh shit this kids a menace to
society and his parents don't even
speak English ohh my god you
know you know whatever, just sweep it
under the rug it's a tragedy. Oh well.
his blood was there like for a week afterwards.
His blood was still there a big puddle of blood.
You know what I'm saying a little fucking
little kid you know just turned 18.
unfortunately the way it worked
out his piece of history is a tragic
one but at the same time he influenced all
of us and he brought a lot of people together
and he is now definitely a martyr for graffiti.
You knowthat's TlE, TlE is a legend now.
that kid could have been king well
he did king SF,
but you know he could have just
really,... I would have liked to seen
giving the proper time and
influence and encouragement,
I would have liked to have seen
what that kid had to offer, you know?
Everyday was dedicated graff and
honestly I've never met anyone
in kind of medium or any kind of lifestyle
who has dedicated so much of their life
to one thing. You know he was
fully full of graffiti.
I've been asked a million times why do I
write, certain things you just can't explain,
but I do it for the love, the love of
because I love painting, just simply for
that in fact once they're done their done
their only as good as the next one.
I just... You know once it's finished
I'm like "what next?" I just have to
be in the act of pressing this cap.
it gave me character, it gave me a
sense of purpose, gave me a community,
and it was all-underground. It was
all... hidden out of the way.
So it was really cool cause it was
you know everyone has levels of respect what will
they respect, what they not going to write on.
For me I have a certain amount of respect but if
I do choose to put my art somewhere its really kind
of yeah I know the consequences and so what.
you know and its really cause I just don't care.
why do I do it? Oh man what do l
get out of it?
Head aches.
I mean the reason why I continue to do Graff
is just I have this love affair with letters.
I mean I love letters man that's
what keeps me in it.
Why do I do it? I do it for myself,
and I do it, I do it cause I can.
And I do it because I run this shit.
This is my city its where I'm from
its where I was born and raised.
And it's kind of like my mark; this
is where I crush.
it probably,... in a lot of ways it
probably saved my life you know,
who knows what I'd be doing if it
weren't for graffiti.
you don't really choose the arts
the arts chose you.
You know you don't pick to choose
the clarinet, the clarinet picks you.
You don't choose to paint water colors
or oils or.. Your medium picks you.
I don't know man I dig paint, I dig
spray paint so it picked me.
I could be doing still life's I could
be doing realist painting
I could uh just be doing graphic
design behind a computer.
But the artwork I do speaks to like
probably tens of thousands
of other kids across both the
United States probably Europe.
and its just like on the way to work
I want to see my tag.
It's like me looking at me you know what
I'm saying I'm alive I'm here you know.
I'm fucking something and I will be
something, why cause I make myself something.
their not getting paid for it, you know their not
getting any kind of like congratulations for it
their just out there risking their lives to
paint something that hopefully a few people
might be ableto appreciate and that's it and
I think there's some thing to be said forthat.
You know? I think that's definitely
something worth taking note of.
Yo, like there's graffiti here it's got
to be here for a reason. Instead of
saying like they must have you know problems
to they must be a malicious person they might
actually look at the society and be like you
know the way the government and society is
being controlled by capitalist big business is
messed up and we should do something about it
or whatever. Instead of looking at
the person doing graffiti maybe
they should look at the cause of
why that person started you know?
I mean I'd no doubt still be doing
art if I wasn't in graffiti but graffiti
gave me a voice, it really gave me
a voice.
You know I didn't realize this for a long time
but after I got older it dawned on me that you know
I can walk up and write my
message, all the other messages
that we get are controlled by newspapers,
and radio, and television, and billboards
and print adds and magazines and all these things
and they're all paid for,l could walk up for free
and put my message out there and as long as
your willing get arrested for it and you have
that mentality you can write whatever
you want and put any message you want up.
You know graffiti is really the last
true free speech.
consider this: 98 percent of the works
you have seen in this video are gone...
They no longer exist. It's extremely
temporal just like life
The tag is the essential part of writing
it's the most fun the most offensive
and to some the most visually
unappealing part of our culture.
But it's the essence.
Being out late at night you experience
a completely different world.
Writing is a culture of experience.
And it's a craft that will never vanish.
So this is our writing history
and it will carry on for years and
and now were going to Paris!
Yeah and now where going to
Paris to do canvass bro,
we maid it!
is this on? Twist! I want my black book
bac kyou've had it for two years now.
I want, I want my black book back
Barry. Barry where's my black book?
You'd better have like 30 pages
done in that shit.
I wish there was some sort of rule where if a
cop was going to give you a ticket if you guys
could have a fist fight and if l
could beat a cops ass,
then he'd have to be like "Word,
peace out dude you beat my ass."
That would be so fresh it would be
a totally different world.
You know TMF crew would be ruling San
Francisco right now, you know what I mean?
in my opinion I don't like most graffiti
writers and I don't have anything in common
with most graffiti writers besides
the graffiti.
down with the funk, not a
new wave punk, we make these
suckers cry when we saythat
shits junk, TFS with a capital T,
been down for years as you can
see, back in style, quick as a flash
burning you toys like a bowl of
hash." you know what
I'm saying that wasthe anthem,
the TFS anthem.
you know it's a hard game you
know and we are the modern
forefront we are art we are it our
art was created you know.
Ummm... third wave of writers,
I don't... I didn't know it was
broken down into waves but uh
yeah,, I know what
you re saying.
I gotta tell you one time I got busted on
Broadway doing a UB40 throw up on a window
and the cops said "freeze!"took down got
caught and the cops said "you know what?
You're that UB40!" and I said "nah no
actually I was uh, throwing up and 'UB'
it's a new rap group." "Don't give
me that bull shit.".