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Student of the Game: A Streets Dept Oral History with Philadelphia Graffiti Writer Busta

August 13, 2018

Post by Streets Dept Contributor, Phillip Reid, photos courtesy of Busta

Welcome to the Streets Dept Oral History Projecta new 20-week series created by Streets Dept’s first-ever intern, Phillip Reid. Over the course of this series we will be collecting and sharing the stories of a mix of 20 street artists, graffiti writers, muralists, and public arts leaders all working to shape and create the art in Philadelphia’s public spaces. Read more about this new temporary series in our announcement post here.

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Busta grew up in Chía, a working-class suburb of Colombia’s capital city, Bogota. He and his friends lived and breathed skateboarding and hip-hop culture, and as a young kid he roamed the town in an oversized t-shirt, baggy pants, and chunky shoes, earning him the nickname Busta Rimas, after the legendary New York rapper. The name stuck, and he carried it with him as he made his way into Bogota to attend art school and eventually to the United States when he immigrated to Philadelphia in order to study and contribute to the city’s storied graffiti history. Busta has considerable technical ability as a writer and artist. His graffiti writing is constantly morphing as he tries to incorporate an infinite variety of fills, lettering styles, and design tricks. For themed murals and portraits, he does deep research to ensure that he accurately captures his subject matter, whether the work be the latest in his personal series on threatened indigenous peoples in Colombia, or a commissioned piece he’s doing for a client.

We started just going crazy in Chía, and we got a lot of legal walls, illegal walls, abando’s, all the bridges, highways, billboards–we were crazy, we kind of took over the city, like, quick.

I grew up kind of like in the suburbs of New York, but in Colombia. The main city is Bogota, and I grew up in a town called Chía an hour away from there. Colombia is kind of the opposite of suburbs in America. In here it’s like rich people are suburbs, working class in the city. It’s like the opposite in there. Working class is in the suburbs and the city is mixed between everything. Everybody in my town–it was a little town–but everybody skated, listened to hip-hop, did graffiti. So I grew up doing all that stuff and just, y’know, going to the park, tagging everywhere, and learning about that stuff without knowing what I was doing, just having fun with the people around me.

My last name is Bustamante. When I was growing up, because everybody around me listened to hip-hop, Busta Rhymes–Busta (Spanish pronunciation) Rhymes–was like the main dude. And when I was little I was really into the hip-hop clothing, like the big t-shirts, the realllyy big baggy pants with the big chunky shoes, and everybody called me Busta Rimas. I’ve just stuck to that name forever, everybody knows me as Busta there in Chía.

When I was around 8 to 10 I started skating and learned about graffiti through a couple friends who skated with me in the park in the city. The first guy I remember is Duende, “dwarf” in English. He kind of taught me a little bit of hand styles, and like, “Look, you can do like straight letters, bubble letters,” y’know, like the basics. And I started going out tagging with like a couple other people. One of the guys was Tinone. He stopped doing graffiti after he graduated from school, but he did a good amount of work. Then I kind of started like a little crew with my friends, named NMF–that stands for “Natural Mystic Family.” My friends who write Nigha, Rasfo, Harmonia, Westone, Pixel, and Arow2 the seven of us, we started NMF. We started just going crazy in Chía, and we got a lot of legal walls, illegal walls, abando’s, all the bridges, highways, billboards–we were crazy, we kind of took over the city, like, quick.

We called ourselves Natural Mystic Family because we are all into like reggae, hip-hop vibe, and like the spiritual, weed kind of thing. In Chía, there is like a big indigenous culture. Where I used to live was like two blocks from the mountain. So I used to go in the mountains and smoke with the indigenous, and like actually, these things right here? *Points to gauge piercings in his ears* I got them with the indigenous in there, when I was 15 they did the holes to me, because it’s like a ceremony to go into manhood. So I did those kinds of things, had that connection with the indigenous.

Colombia has so many different tribes in different regions, and where I’m located is kind of like really high in the mountains. The tribe living there are called the Muiscas, and they actually have a different language, called Chibcha. Where they lived was more like a reservation for the indigenous, because the cities are taking over everything. Even in Bogota there are a couple neighborhoods that still have only indigenous families. They get together, and they have like a park that is a natural reservation, so they can farm and do their stuff in there. It’s pretty cool, they try to keep the indigenous, but it’s too hard because there are too many people. In the main city you end up seeing all the indigenous selling shit in the streets for nothing, all homeless or like asking for money. In Chía the Muiscas had a couple houses and like a main house, and some of them spread down and have different houses closer to the city and stuff like that. Probably 50-100 years ago it was different, but when I was growing up they were there in the reservation, like an “untouched” area where they could build houses by hand, farm and produce ceramics and stuff like that. I’d go in the community, like they took me in, and it was really nice. So I grew up around a lot of the indigenous spirituality.

When I was 16 I decided to go to art school, ‘cause I was like, Shit, like I do graffiti, I can do more with the can. So I left my house and I moved to Bogota and I started like working and going to school to take a couple art classes. At first I was at a university in there named Jorge Tadeo, but that was like a little bit too expensive for what I was making, so I moved to a place named Fabula, this academy of arts. During that time I started looking at cartoons and like all different kinds of paintings, going to museums and stuff, and then I started working in a tattoo store, started doing a lot of tattoos and doing little commissioned murals on the side, getting a lot of information about art that helped me to get better in graffiti. While I was there I started painting with other people in Bogota. I met a dude named Powerline, another one who writes Esto, there was my friend Bres. But my main thing was just to keep that part as kind of my identity in some way, so graffiti always was like the reason why I went to school for art.

He heard I didn’t know too much English when I met him. We kind of like understood each other a little bit, and then he told me, “Oh, I got the piece down here.” And I went to see it and I was like, “Yo!!!!” *Laughs* “Damn, this is crazy!” He was like, “Oh, you wanna paint tomorrow?” I was like, “Ah, cool. Let’s paint”.

I decided to come to Philly to learn the history of the graffiti and like kind of get involved in the history. I was graduating from the Academia de arte Fabula, so I did the final thesis. The project was about mixing classic art with graffiti, so I was researching a lot of classic art. I was like, Oh shit, like, Velazquez, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, like all these dudes that were portrait artists in the past. I was really learning about them, and I kind of forgot the graffiti out of it, y’know? I was just putting the graffiti I knew and that’s all. I wasn’t researching graffiti as deep as I wanted to. So I did the project, everybody loved it, but I felt like I missed in the graffiti part, because I already had it, so I didn’t have the need to research about it. I started looking it up and all the history is like, Oh, Taki 183 from New York started graffiti, and New York started like wildstyle, and straight letters and all this–this and that New York. New York is in all the history. Then I got to like Philly, and then I was like, Philly kind of started before, and I started learning about Cornbread, and like Dr. Cool, Notorious BIK, Cool Earl, Kool Klepto Kidd, JK, and all these dudes. I was like, Damn. Philly actually has a better sense of graffiti than other cities, like they have the roots and a characteristic handstyle.

As I was doing my research I came across Mural Arts, and I wasn’t sure what was Mural Arts because when I read about it, I was like, Oh it’s a corporation trying to take graffiti artists and put them into doing murals in the city, and blah blah, and I was like, Oh! Sounds really cool. It’s probably an organization helping graffiti writers from the city to get better, to find like a way to make money or like show themselves and their work throughout the city. So I messaged them and they were like, Yeah, we got like a training program. So you can come and apply. I applied for it, and it was like three-hundred dollars, I paid for that. It was a couple months that they kind of teach you their techniques of doing murals. I kind of started doing that, but I wasn’t too happy with it because everything was indoor. Everything was like, Oh, painting in the panels, and then we take the panels and then wheatpaste in the wall. And I was like, uhhhh–I prefer the action on the wall. Y’know what I mean? And they were doing a lot of, like, you gotta do work for other artists instead of doing your own thing. I was like, No. I came here to do my thing. Y’know? Like I’m not gonna work for free for them. So I started to work in restaurants, in bars, in everything. I did like everything and kept going to every corner in Philly, asking for like, Yo, you want me to do a mural? Can I do a piece? Can I—y’know, whatever. And I started getting a lot of jobs out of it, painting 5th & Cecil, a lot of people asked, Yo, you got a card? You do murals?

When I just got here, I took two months of ELS, ’cause I didn’t know any English. The beginning was hard. But, like, it’s funny because all the guys that went to school with me, I talk to them again and they don’t know English yet, because they stuck with their group. Like I came here by myself, and I moved to an American neighborhood in like the ghetto, ghetto, I didn’t care, I just moved into a whatever, like, room. And I had to learn English. I had to. Like there is no other way. You gotta do it, or you gotta do it. I had the need, because I didn’t have anybody, so *Laughs* My wife is American, so I had to talk to her in English, y’know, she doesn’t know any Spanish. Yeah, you gotta do it.

The first 4 people that I remember meeting in Philly was Bark, Navel, Mes, and JK, and those four guys kind of showed me the real history of Philly. I was like, This is why I came here. I met Mes painting at 5th & Cecil and he just started talking about the Philly graffiti history, and I was like damn tell me more! And he showed me some old spots where the old head had some hands also he took me to meet JK, original ICP, and he introduced me to the real graff history. When I met JK was crazy he is just like an encyclopedia of Philly graff, he also showed me more spots and actually took me to my first rooftop spot in Philly, after some time hanging out, he decided to put me in ICP which stands for “Imperial Casanova Persuaders,” one of the oldest graffiti crews ever, for me was like surreal, I couldn’t believe that I was being include in the graffiti history and being with the legends themselves. Bark and Navel are two of the best piecers, for me, in Philly. I learned so much from them. And they took me in their wing, and they showed me a lot of new spots and all the little techniques and shit. The first time I met Navel, I was painting 5th & Cecil, and he was painting in 5th & Oxford. That is like one block down. And he was doing a huge wall, and I didn’t even know. Then he went to my wall and he was like, “Oh, nice man. I like what you’re doing, where you from?” Because he heard I didn’t know too much English when I met him. We kind of like understood each other a little bit, and then he told me, “Oh, I got the piece down here.” And I went to see it and I was like, “Yo!!!!” *Laughs* “Damn, this is crazy!” He was like, “Oh, you wanna paint tomorrow?” So the next day, I start painting, and we start going like pretty much every weekend to paint. And Bark was amazing. He just showed up, he was like, “Yo, what’s up? Yeah I paint.” That’s all. He didn’t say anything else, he was cool, y’know. He was like, “You wanna come to a wall I have?” I went there, he started painting and I was like “Oh, you’re Bark! Dayuumm!” Like, y’know he’s so humble, he’s so nice. For me, they are like old school people from here, so it’s like really nice to have met them. Those four dudes are like the best people I have met in here.

Later JK told Mutt, the owner of a graffiti shop in Philly, that I was a pretty good artist, so I showed him my work and he decided to help me out. This was like the next opportunity for me to be more involved in the community. His place is kind of like the only graffiti shop in the city. There are a couple of stores that sell art supplies, but I think Mutt’s has more reputation as a graffiti store. Even even though he’s not a graffiti writer himself, he is helping out the community. So I was like, Oh yeah, he’s doing something nice. He’s a really good artist, I can learn from him on the art part, and also get involved in the graffiti community through the store. With his help I was able to find out about more graffiti and airbrush commissions and have a way to put my artwork out there.

Coming here at first, my idea was just to learn about history, but I love the city, man. I just decided to stay here for longer and be open to anything. Y’know I’m here, I’m trying to be open. If somewhere in the future I decide to move somewhere else, I will move. I’m patient with my life, in some ways. So I’m trying to just let the life go, do things right, and I just work my ass off to get somewhere–I don’t know where I’m gonna get. Like, nobody knows. So I’m just working as hard as I can, doing my art, that is what I love, and that’s all. Whatever I get, I get. If I don’t get it, I don’t get it. I just want leave my little something in the history.

I love graffiti. I do it because of me, and I do it just kind of in a meditation way. It’s my way to express myself. If I can make money with the skills I learned from it, and make people happy with it, and never need to work a regular job, I’m gonna do it. All day… But I will never stop doing graffiti that is what I love.

Graffiti is the reason why I do everything. For me graffiti growing up in Colombia was different than what is graffiti in Philadelphia. Because graffiti in Philadelphia is hands, is the strictly illegal handstyle. In Colombia, graffiti is mastering every style. You have to be good at handstyles, you have to be good at throw-ups, you have to be good at halos, you have to be good at piecework, quick pieces, characters, realism, 3-D, wild-style–all kinds of things. Y’know, you have to know it all in some way to be a graffiti… person. ‘Cause I don’t wanna say graffiti artist, or writer, ‘cause I know in the US people get specific about the labels. I love graffiti, and I do it because of me, and I do it just kind of in a meditation way and like it’s my way to express myself, you know? And if I can make money with the skills I learned from it, and make people happy with it, and never need to work a regular job, I’m gonna do it. All day. So if I get to a point to master the skills of the spray paint to use it for commercial purposes, in some parts, I will use it if it doesn’t affect my integrity. But I will never stop doing the graffiti, that is what I love. And if I can sell that part too, in some way, without like being against my integrity, I will do it. I’m not trying to like disrespect or be like, “Oh, I’m the best!” I’m just trying to do my thing, and if people like it, good. If they don’t, good. And if they support me, good. If they don’t, good–you know what I mean? Just trying to survive with it.

I think, for me, to keep the illegal part in here, is not worth it. I am an immigrant, so I don’t wanna get in trouble because if I have a felony I can get deported instead of getting sent to jail. I have a family, so I have to think about it more in like a responsible way. How can I take my hobby as my regular job, and still keep it my hobby? If I were in Colombia, in Colombia I had illegal pieces every fucking where, you know? ‘Cause the worst if you get caught, I just go to a little station and get released the next day, so it’s not that a big of a deal for the cops back there. Right now the graffiti boom there is way bigger than Philly is right now, because Philly already had the boom. So if you go back to the 80s, 90s, Philly was like *makes explosion sound* covered. Y’know, graffiti everywhere, no anti-graffiti, no Mural Arts. The graffiti wasn’t as controlled as it is right now in Philly, or New York, or other places. In Colombia, it’s still–not new, but like, fresh. So people are not like, Ah no, I don’t like that. It’s like, Oh, cool! They’re painting! Y’know? In Colombia they’re like, In here there are dudes robbing me! Like, I prefer them painting than like taking my shit, or like killing people or doing other stuff. So, graffiti is not that important for authorities in Colombia. You get caught and the worst thing happens is they take your paint, or you got to spend one night to a jail and they release you because they cannot do anything else. The art is like more respected in there. It’s like 5th and Cecil all over the city. So people are learning more skills because they have more time, they have more respect, and more support.

Meeting people in the US, I feel like I’m the same everywhere in every situation, and like really open. I tell everybody, “Look, I smoke weed, I do graffiti, I fucking do this and that, this is what I do.” You know? I don’t even drink, I don’t even do anything wrong. But if somebody’s open and asks me like, “Yo, you write?” I’m like, “Yeah man, I do a little bit.” I learn to say I’m not a graffiti writer in here, because a graffiti writer in Philly is like, “Oh, so you just rack and tag and that’s all.” I don’t wanna put myself into one single thing, so if somebody asks me, “You write?” I say, “Yeah, I do it a little bit. I write, probably, Busta sometimes,” and that’s what I say. And then I start a conversation, and if it goes deeper, it goes deeper, if not, “Thank-you. Bye bye.” You know? *Laughs* I don’t know, it’s funny. Some people click with you, some people don’t. I’m never closed to meeting anybody. I’m always like, “Well you wanna do something? Let’s do it!” And I try to make it happen and keep the relationship. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. If it works, it works.

The king was the one who commissioned the artists to paint whatever the king wants… and then Velzaquez and Rembrandt helped break down that thing. That’s why I love them, because they started painting regular people…They kind of did what the graffiti artists artists are doing. They took the art to their own interpretation and went against the rules, for the art.

With the themes in my work, I usually go through phases. So sometimes it’s like, Oh, let’s try these people—everything depending on the mood and different inspirations, moments, stuff. I have a couple series. I’ve been working in the indigenous series for like two years now. I started that series by doing the Day of the Dead girls. I was looking through why they do the Day of the Dead, and actually it’s funny, because when the French went to Mexico, kind of like at the beginning of the 20th century, all the french were like white. White, white, white, and had like all the fancy hats and all the fancy silk and all this stuff and lots of makeup. All the indigenous started looking at that and they started getting discriminated by the white people. So they were like, Oh, we’re ashamed of being brown and indigenous, let’s paint our faces white. And then they started painting their face white and doing those kinds of things, because they were ashamed of their culture. Then in the 1910’s a dude, an illustrator named José Guadalupe Posada did the first Day of the Dead illustration of a skull. That’s how everything started, because this illustrator did kind of like a bust of a woman in the skull-looking mask, with a fancy hat and clothes, trying to represent the shame of their culture, that they were killing their culture. That’s part of why every year the people dressed up like that and party, because of the dead–it’s funny, it’s funny. So, because of that, I took like all the indigenous girls from Colombia, from the Amazonas, and like dressed them as Day of the Dead, kind of showing that they also are being made to be ashamed of their culture, and we are all killing them. So this was at the beginning of the series, and then I started switching them up. I did more of like a realistic portrait without the Day of the Dead stuff, and now I’m doing more like calligraphy on the faces.

I’m actually painting more of the Nukak-Makú right now, they are the indigenous Colombians that live in the Amazonas, and they were like the only ones who were actually untouched by society. They didn’t have any idea of people, like outside of their land, until probably the 1990s or 2000. Around that time, big Brazilian corporations–actually, more American corporations, the Monsantos and all that stuff, Chiquita banana, and even cocaine fields from the guerrillas–all those people started building shit in there and abusing their land. So they’re like reducing the space for the indigenous people’s living, and now that the Nukak-Makú are having more contact with other humans, they’re getting diseases, they’re dying. They’re are only like 500 dudes left, of the total community. The Amazonas is huge! Man, like you can have millions of them living relaxed, and no worries. Now it’s like only 500, and they are dying really fast because they are getting in touch with the white people or whatever that come in there, and they have different diseases, different customs–or they wanna go, and then they battle because they don’t understand each other, so they start shooting them. They are erasing the whole Amazonas community. It’s fucked up. So I’m trying to, y’know, bring them back.

There are groups working to protect the Nukak-Makú, but the money is bigger, y’know what I mean? *Sighs* it’s like everything. Like, not too long ago I did a mural in Allentown about Allentown history for a competition I did there. I was researching about the Lenape that used to be in this area, the Delaware tribe and William Penn. It’s crazy–because at first he was like, to the indigenous, “Okay, you have this piece of land, blah blah blah, I give you resources, I give you space, da da—” and then, “Oh no, we got these immigrants, let’s put them in there so they can work and live in these areas, and kick the indigenous out.” Then they started kicking all of the Lenape people out and they got rid of all the indigenous in here, the same way. Y’know? So it’s about money. There can be support groups trying to keep them alive, or like keep the traditions, and stuff like that, but what can you do against big bulldozers trying to like fucking destroy everything, and like you’re like useless and defenseless.

I do portraits because the definition of portraits, in classical art, was to kind of immortalize or give power to somebody. If you look at it in the past, the artists were only painters for the king. The king was the one who commissioned the artists to paint whatever the king wants, so that’s the reason portraits were important, and then Velzaquez and Rembrandt helped break down that stigma. That’s why I love them, because they started painting regular people. They were painters for the king, but then they started painting regular people. Velazquez put like a drunk geographer (that is one of the paintings I have in a Philly alleyway) and he was a fucked up dude with a crazy history and all crazy and drunk everyday, and Velazquez put him at the king’s palace, like a big-ass portrait of him. And the king was mad and they kicked him out from the kingdom. So they kind of did what the graffiti artists are doing. They took the art to their own interpretation and went against the rules, for the art.

If somebody tells me like, “Oh, I want this painting, or I have this idea,” I try to go deep into research so I can understand what they mean. I love to put myself in the other person’s shoes, to kind of see what they want. Doing art for somebody else is the hardest thing in the world, because what is good for me is probably awful for you, you know? So I have to kind of have the knowledge to read you and understand what you want, in order to produce something that you will like. So that’s when I need to go and research and get, you know, into all these different things. And when you search about something, it’s gonna take you da-da-da-da-da… So, it’s always so interesting. I love that.

Without public art, the city will be lost. I feel like it’s necessary. You need that activity of people putting energy in the walls. You need that energy in there, you need that action, the interaction between people and to drive people to different things.

When I think about the importance of graffiti, I look at it as like public art in general, because also I like to include stencil, wheatpaste, sculpture, whatever is outside, it’s important because people need to be educated about art. Art is necessary for life, to understand life, in all perspectives. Music, dance, art, expression, graffiti–it’s like a necessity from the person to express themselves in some kind of way. Without public art, the city will be lost. I feel like it’s necessary. You need that activity of people putting energy in the walls. You need that energy in there, you need that action, the interaction between people and to drive people to different things. And I see it also from the buffer’s, the owner of a property, and people in general point of view. Because, look, probably as an owner you gotta paint the wall back and everything. For the buffer, you’re giving them jobs to keep making money buffing the walls, and the general public is exposed to all type of interpretations. And the only thing is, it’s so personal. That’s why I say that art is the hardest job in the world, because if I think, Oh! My hand is awesome, man! Like I can do it anywhere. But if I’m gonna put it on somebody’s house, the owner is gonna be like, “What the fuck is that scribble, man!? You’ve ruined my house!” So that’s why I prefer to get that skill level so they can ask you, “Look: I need something in here. Can you do it?” Okay, cool. I do it and I make you happy. So, you’re producing jobs, you’re producing negative effects, positive effects, you’re producing money out of it. So everything, everything is going on. So if you stop that, you stop a big part of humanity in there.

On their website, the city of Philadelphia’s Community Life Improvement Programs (CLIP) department offers the following definition of graffiti:

“Graffiti is a crime that generally occurs when vandals deface properties for destructive purposes, hate crimes, or to indicate drug and gang activity. Other misguided individuals vandalize properties to showcase their tags and ‘pieces’ on your homes, businesses, vehicles, etc. The results of which are a nuisance to property owners, many of whom are unable to afford the repeated clean up costs.”

Here are Busta’s thoughts on CLIP’s definition:

In some way I like that definition *Laughs* It’s a pretty accurate definition, man. If you go back in history, again, graffiti started mainly as a protest media to say something against what is going on in the government or the city. And also it started as a kind of like expression of love. So the first tags and graffiti you see is a heart with the initials, and this shit is the main thing. Then somebody started putting their name by itself, and this is Cornbread, Dr. Cool, calling themselves different stuff. And the gang activity, if you go to like the Mexico/Chicano area, like LA-kind of thing, even in philly, they started doing graffiti because of the gangs. And if you go to Central America, in Salvador, MS13, like Mara Salvatrucha and all that stuff–like the gangs from Guatemala, Salvador–they had like a graffiti history as crazy as Philly. So for those people it started with gang communities. So I see why they relate that to gang communities.

The people that are giving the definition are not educated on the fact that not all graffiti and almost no Philly graffiti nowadays is gang-related, and that a lot of the early Philly writers used graffiti as an opportunity to stay out of gang and drug activity. To them, graffiti everywhere is gang and drug-related. Like if you see four dudes with a hood on and a thing here *pretends to be holding a spray can at the waist*, like walking down the street, *makes spray noises* *whispering*, “Fuck, let’s go.” Like, they think it’s drug-related, gang-related, crime-related, everything-related–y’know what I mean? Like, tell anybody, anybody–that doesn’t know about graffiti–to draw or picture a graffiti writer. They are gonna imagine a gangster, or like, you know, a “hood kid” or something like that. They don’t understand–they aren’t a part of it. Or like they don’t know about the medicinal part–because there’s like a medicinal part, actually, like a sanity part. Like a lot of people do it like as a release or get away from drugs. I have so many friends, most of all in Philly, that are like recovered from addiction, from heroin, that used the graffiti as an outlet to not keep doing heroin. So it’s helping people in some way. You know, sadly people don’t understand, so they’re gonna give a definition like that. So this is a general definition that explains what graffiti is for the general public, you know what I mean? I think this is a good definition for, you know, for a general understanding.

I will say graffiti is like the action to do letters on a wall. So, could be so much. You know. Could be from like lettering styles to like calligraphy to like sign-painting, to–so much. Graffiti is actually from the Greek, grafos–letters or image. So, graffiti means lettering, you know? That’s why a lot of people are like, “Oh, like, wheatpaste is not graffiti,” because graffiti is strictly letters. That’s why the definition gets crossed. That’s why I don’t like to define anything because it’s like a thin layer between something. So nowadays everything is called street art, that’s the main word for like all of it. But, graffiti artists–or graffiti writers say, “Oh, I don’t do street art.” So it goes again to the same shit. So for me, graffiti is letters on a wall. It’s just the action to write letters on a public surface.

It’s like Plato said, “Yo solo se que nada se–I only know that I don’t know,” something like that. So it’s always like, when you know something, there is so much more. You’re never gonna stop learning something. I always try to find the next excuse to learn about it, and everything connects to everything at some point.

The reason I am so passionate about graffiti is because I see the potential of graffiti in the art world, and so much more. Like you can do so much with it, and I’ve done so much with it and it’s still like, Damn! There’s so many things that I haven’t done that I wanna do. So, graffiti started in the 60s, let’s say, and it’s been not even a 100-year period of people doing it. So, in another few years–and now, if you look at it–graffiti is becoming part of the art culture. It’s being recognized as art. So you know, it’s like every era or period has a time where they develop a style or technique and they hit the point to be considered an art form, and they become part of a revolution giving chances for other styles or techniques to become part of it–and is a cycle. Wheatpaste now is taking over that street art culture, what graffiti was before, y’know? So when graffiti gets to the art world, probably stickers and wheatpastes are gonna take over and do the same, and then like other currents and different media or stuff will come up, who knows what is gonna be next? It’s like Plato said, “Yo solo se que nada se–I only know that I don’t know,” something like that. So it’s always like, when you know something, there is so much more. You’re never gonna stop learning something. I always try to find the next excuse to learn about it, and everything connects to everything at some point–like it’s so much, but it’s awesome. Man, it’s awesome.

I think my dedication to the art also comes through skateboarding, the passion of just trying a trick for fucking three months, trying the same trick, the same trick, the same trick, and when you get it, it’s like Yeah! Now what? And so you gotta learn another trick and another trick and another trick, and try it for another three months until you get it, and you’re like, What? I got it. Now what? So it’s always like this *makes explosion, ‘mind-blown’ sound*–it’s infinite. I’m going to keep writing because lettering, man, lettering is infinite. There are thousands and thousands of different styles that you can do. So when I do a piece, I look at it and I’m like, Oh. I gotta do another style, and like, Oh, what if I used these colors this time? Or, what if I don’t do an outline? Or what if I do a double outline? Or what if I put the 3-D going this way, or that way? So there is always the excuse to produce the next piece and the next piece and the next piece. You also gotta have a lot of references, like look at other people’s work, and look at everything–in nature, in architecture, in cuisine. Everything gives you inspiration for what you want to do next.

Shout-Outs

I wanna give a shout to, mainly, JK, the original ICP, thanks for everything man. Shout out to Mes and also to Bark, Navel, I mentioned them a lot. I wanna give a shout out to my wife, my new baby that is coming. And to Mutt’s, the store, and I want to give a shout out to Mutt, the maestro. Also want to give a shout out to D-Day, for the connection, thanks a lot. To Cash, to Tame, TNS crew, thanks also for welcoming me, all the Natural Mystic Family big shout out. And like all the writers in the city man, like for real, and the las but not least all big shout out to all my people in Colombia thanks for everything.

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