By Katie Haegele
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Oct. 24, 2001

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"The best graffiti involves a sense of perspective, and you only get a sense of perspective by involving certain emotions in the work--such as humor, drama, tragedy," Suroc says now. "And thievery. I think being able to steal ideas, to take text and manipulate text into your own ego and your own reinvention of imagery is important, and I don't see that as an art istic statement. I see it as a graffiti statement."

Some of the stuff he stole was more concrete than ideas. "I spent a lot of time fencing and doing a lot of burglary when I was a kid because that was kind of tradition too," he says. "There's more marriage between the culture of hustling and graffiti than there is of hip-hop and graffiti. Before the assault of hip-hip on America, there were punk kids and skate kids who were down with getting up with graff and getting up with the hustle."

Back then a bottle of Night Train, a few joints, some good music--the Slits, Gang of Four, the Clash--and some good friends was all he needed to fuel a night's outing. With the club he started--Inner City Youth--he harnessed the best piecing, or painting, talent in the city for a time. "The great clubs of Philly were temporal," he says wistfully. "That's an inherent property of graffiti--that it's not to last."

Of course not. Those kids never expected the graffiti they wrote to stick around forever. It wasn't created with the kind of arrogance with which the life around them had been constructed--the brick monoliths, the slapdash housing projects, the leering billboards.

There's a special kind of bravery in being so young and invincible but at the same time having a Zen-like wisdom about death that kids who grow up a little too fast always have. Graffiti's currency is the name, but it traffics in more than a thoughtless assertion of ego. It doesn't shout: "LOOK AT ME!" but, simply, look.

No. Look again. Keep looking. None of this will last forever.

Katie Haegele ( is PW's arts and entertainment coordinator/ listings editor.

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Comments 1 - 11 of 11
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1. krazzy k said... on Sep 29, 2008 at 03:11PM

“very informative. Thanks”

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2. Quddus said... on Feb 6, 2009 at 12:03PM

“I read the piece and it brought tears to my eyes. My brother was from TNT (10th and Thompson St) and Lil Sonny Lived 1312 north 10th st, he was killed in 73 by his sister's boyfriend, Devil (Keibo) was on the 1300 block of Perth, he passed 12/08. Otto (Kevin B) he's still around doing his things...He has a bunch of children 9 or 10...The tag was on the center and around the corner on the other wall the names of Slack, Snake, Lamont, and other members of the TNT gang could be found...Those were the days”

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3. Anonymous said... on Apr 8, 2010 at 02:52PM

“Wow... I never knew there was so much more to Graffiti. I grew up in a close family in the country and we hardly ever went to any major city's until I was thirteen. Then we started going on world trips to the major city's of the world such as London, and Rome. I saw a little graffiti but the little I did see was on the historical monuments and statues. I despised it. Then I at eighteen I started college and had to live in Kalamazoo, MI. I saw more and more graffiti lining walls and street signs... It just seemed like people disrespected the things the city had to offer. I'm amazed that it could mean so much more to people. That there was another side to what I always thought was vandalism. I looked at photos and even suggested in my own hometown that they hire someone to graffiti the skate-park for the kids. Some of the artist works are beautiful and creative and graffiti benefits more people than any over-prized painting in a gallery. Thank you for the new view.”

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4. #Snap said... on Oct 23, 2011 at 05:37AM

“Time to express what keeps us with acts of separation to keep us divided. <3”

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5. mastachiefkilla said... on Nov 4, 2012 at 05:46PM

“This is an amazing and very informative Article. I used this in a research project for my english class !! The author has very good facts and information that is hard to get elsewhere. I would recommend this article to anyone looking for info on the origins of graffiti!”

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6. Sg iya said... on Dec 7, 2012 at 03:43PM

“Philadelphia birthplace of graff”

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7. Anonymous said... on May 24, 2014 at 02:30PM

“Suroc , & Espo are kings of philly graffiti”

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8. Anonymous said... on May 24, 2014 at 02:40PM

“Espo, Suroc, and all the "ICY" crew. Thanks for making the El ride fun”

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9. Anonymous said... on May 26, 2014 at 12:21AM

“Frankie eyes, "FAC" was not a king but he had balls”

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10. SMEAR R.T.H said... on Jul 14, 2014 at 08:19PM

“Great article! Much love to Philly from the West Coast giant, Los Angeles...”

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11. Anonymous said... on Aug 12, 2014 at 02:05AM



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