1. When did u start getting into graffiti?
I started painting for real in ’96. But, really got interested around ’94. I had a couple friends that grew up in Chicago that would geek out on my comic book drawings and would always tell me how I should be painting graff. They had mad freights and full blackbooks already, we we’re all like 14 to 17. Basically, I appreciated it a ton as a kid, and got into it on the side without them knowing at first. Me and my other friends used to run around bridge spots and ride our bikes all around abandoned shit, so we had spots, and found spots, it was only natural that we got into painting those spots. My favorite thing about coming up then compared to now is how it was so natural, of course we racked and found our own fats and skinnies off of other cans on the shelf. You had to develop style and techniques off of who you actually painted with and the few heads you saw around. Things have changed a lot since then. Now a days, it’s not even close, it’s entirely a different game. Not even the same at all.
2. Back in the day magazines held it down when it came to getting fame nationwide…you got any favorites you’d like to see make a come back? Video series?
Yeah the old magazine/video hype was a big deal. The names I remember are like VideoGraff, Gtv. The FX video. A lot of Philly and east coast stuff. That shit was just cool to see. I was living in the PacNorthwest for much of those years. So as the magazines go, CanControl was a great representation of that community. The KYT guys had “Indecent Exposure” which was full of street shots and politics. The Euro scene had Backjumps on store shelves, there were so many mags in the late nineties. But, the best movies ever made are WildStyle and BloodSport tho!!
3.Did graf get you into art or did you already know you could paint before you caught the fever?
I could NOT paint before graff. I could draw better than anybody I knew till I moved out west. But painting the right way is a whole ‘nother thing. As painting goes, I did it the right way ( I think) … 1000’s of hand styles over the early years, mostly bad, until I could hold my own. Not to mention, to even be relevant you had to go out every night, and cover a ton of ground. Then doing terrible outlines, fill ins, and wack pieces, trying to gain can control. I think you can see everything you need to know in a hand style. Hands show your fundamental skill. If you can do a gorgeous piece with terrible hand, you probably never did real shit. I know plenty of people who’s pieces aren’t that great, but their hands are solid as fuck. Hands equal real graffiti. Pieces are eyecandy and fun. It’s an ongoing study. Anybody who says different is either not challenging themselves anymore, or not as good as they think they are.
4. Your company HIGHER LEVEL ART has allowed you to explore the more commercial side of graffiti. What are some projects you’ve worked on?
HLA started as my portfolio for freelance work and gradually I added people to it to encourage it to be bigger than myself. Having a solid team has allowed us to get national and international work. My favorite gigs have always involved travel. I love to travel, but hate to pay for it, so anytime I can travel to work the better. The UFC house for their reality TV show was a personal favorite. I grew up doing Japanese Jujitsu/Judo, and remember when the Gracies’s put on the first UFC’s and the Brazilian craze started in martial arts world. Plus moving on from that into graff, only to 15 years later meet Dana and be offered the house gig. It was worlds colliding for me. I felt like it was a great completion to a circle. My best childhood friend is a BJJ blackbelt and runs several schools of his own. Some of his students were some of the biggest names to ever come off that show, so it was really satisfying to be able to get back into that world for my art. I feel like in ’97, I went towards pushing my painting, and my dude went to BJJ. It was an honor for sure, even if it was just a reality TV show.
5. HLA has painted a number of schools. How did that come about and what has the response been?
About 5 years ago, we received a handful of emails from individual teachers that had been given a budget to get their rooms painted. We then got ahold of the superintendent so that we work out a deal to be the sole painters of the project. That first round was 13 rooms. We’ve since done over 50 in that one school district alone. Also we’ve spread to other schools who’ve adopted the same curriculum. The kids and the teachers love it. We encourage the teachers to incorporate their teaching lessons into the themes they choose. Priority number 1 is getting the kids excited to get into the classrooms, in competition of the stimulating, constantly entertaining world we live in. When not in school, they are inundated with such vivid images and stimulation, to be asked to sit in such a sterile environment as a traditional classroom, it’s ridiculous to expect them to fully engage in learning, for real.
6. Explain the #besomebody project and your involvement
#besomebody. is a motivational movement and developing network/platform to connect people of various interests in sort of a teacher/student or mentorship program. At the time of the tour, the founder was looking to do a global activation of his idea. The basic idea was to go to 16 developing markets and impact the city or town in a way that was unique to each location. I was the only painter, along with, a videographer, the founder, and manager. The 4 of us had to acquire paint, hit media, find spots, and edit the video of each spot in about 3 days. The tour was about 6 weeks long, worldwide. It was a really great opportunity, to good to pass up, to travel the world and not only paint in each town, but actually connect with people. If you want a list, here it is, in order.. Austin, Dallas, Mexico City, Cincinnati, NYC, London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Casablanca(Morocco), Shirati (Tanzania, Dubai (UAE), Manilla (Philippines), HongKong, SanFrancisco.
7. In the last few years you have taken tattooing pretty seriously. Is this something you could see yourself doing full time?
Absolutely. It’s a craft I’ve always enjoyed, but years ago, didn’t want to do it, cause I wanted to paint signs, murals etc. At the times I wanted to take it on, those I’d like to teach weren’t interested, and at other times, tattooers would approach me when I wasn’t interested. But finally the stars aligned for about a year and a half in Erie, PA with my big homie, Suga. He’s got a solo shop, Steadfast Tattoo Parlour, in Erie. He’s the best, fuck whatcha heard.
8. Do you have a favorite medium when it comes to art?
Not really, tattooing is awesome, I wish I had the clientele at this time to do nothing else. Aerosol is fast, and fun, but you can only take it so far down in scale. And brush painting is really satisfying to do, but not really a viable way of life. So, as my old boss used to say, .. “You gotta sing, you gotta juggle, you gotta dance.” Meaning, don’t think you’re gonna get away with only some of your efforts.
9. Did 20y.o Gamble ever think graffiti would take him around the globe?
Hell no. I did drugs and went to jail too much to think about anything past the end of my fingertips.
10. How did u get involved with the MODERN URBAN LEGENDS comic book and is it going to be a full on series?
I have want to do a true graffiti comic book forever. I’ve had stories written and started too many times over the years. But, what actually made it happen was my man Teel of the MUL’s. Teel was talking about it among some people and he was bullshitting with Jaber about it. Jabs said he should talk to me, the rest is future history. Teel and I had already been working together, but he didn’t know about my comic drawing stuff. So this comic we’re doing, Modern Urban Legends, is memoirs from Teel, myself, and others told through the eyes of our lead character, RazeOne. We fully self produced the first issue, and are working out the details on future expansion. I am currently drawing the 2nd issue, and 3rd is written. So, yes it will be a series. It’s truly a for us, by us operation, so we require people pick it up and support so we can take it to the level we all collectively want to see.
11. ) Give me a good chase story
This one’s just funny. A few years back, we were 9 deep in a yard in Louisville. The same weekend the Kentucky Derby was being run. So there’s alot of people from all over the world in town. Just so happens we had a lot of the team in town as well.
So we’re painting, usually it’s a pretty chill spot, but 9 heads at noon in the daytime, taking there sweet ass time, can always be risky. We were clowning around chilling did 3 or 4 end to ends, everybody going pretty large. One of the homies is taking flicks, we’re kind of wrapping it up. When I notice, he’s talking to somebody through a gap in the auto racks. I look under, I see shoes, typical cop shoes. He’s telling my dude to put down the camera and stand still, everybody splits down the tracks, while he’s chatting with the copper. Then he breaks out the other way. I didn’t want to run forever the direction everybody else went, and I didn’t know the route out the way he went, so as the cop climbed through, I rolled under. I watched his feet walk towards our scraps, and I skipped out down the tracks, silently stepping on the ties, on my side of the line. When I got a few cars down, I split through a path in some trees. As I came out of the trees, I was going to casual walk down the street, but there was a cop car staring head on at me.
I realized that car was empty, but could hear more coming fast. I hit the deck. The grass I was laying in was only 2 or 3 feet tall and not very thick. It was a terrible hiding spot, but I couldn’t go anywhere else. So I just pressed myself as low as possible into the dirt. I could hear the other cars crunching and pulling up behind me. They got out, walked down the little grass trail. I could see them all, entirely, all they had to do was look at me, they couldn’t miss me. It was fucking Noon, on a sunny day. They were oblivious. I layed there and could hear them all talking with the first responding cop. They asked him “So, you had some kids tagging the trains, huh?”. He was like “Nah! , These guys were good… Professional… Real Professionals”. It was hilarious! They walked by me, again! They didn’t even glance the slightest bit to the left. I was right there, like 20 feet away, laying on the ground. I heard them spread all the paint and shit they found on their car hoods. They bullshitted for a few, loaded up, and took off. I called the homies, got swooped, and we cracked up over the “Real Professional” line. We had a cookout and clowned.
12. Where would you be without hip hop?
It’s definitely my foundation or starting point, but don’t at all think it all fits in the same box anymore. The good ol’ days for me.. Tribe, Freestyle Fellowship, Hiero, DasEfx, KrsOne, Old Wu, all that shit. Taking hard copy flicks. Having to actually go places to see things in the real world. I think Hip hop, like graff, is totally different than what it used to be. The internet has both bettered and worsened all of this, as it has most things, and people, in the world. I digress.
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