12 Questions: PART TDSRecently 12oz caught up with PART ONE at Hi-Arts in Harlem where he teaches a black book master class on Thursday evenings with high school kids from the neighborhood. Hi-Arts is an organization formerly known as the Hip-Hop Theater Festival which services the community and offers an outlet for Hip-Hop Theater, Dance, Music & Art and have been doing so for more than a decade. PART talks about the importance of education and helping children and also about the career as an artist that led him to a position where he is able to help educate younger generations.
Would you please introduce yourself and give any crews you are part of?
You’re speaking with Part one TDS, and that is primarily the main crew that I push. TDS stand for The Death Squad; it’s not a terrorist squad mind you in any form or fashion. I also had quite a few aliases..Fudge357, Roam2, Worm2, and 2pale to name a few.
What got you into graffiti?
I had been drawing since the second grade, and as I got a little older you got to see stuff on the walls and things like that and I just gravitated to it. Spanish Harlem was good for that, you had a good variety for that both on the East side and the West side so it just kind of stuck
em>Who was influential to your style?
People like Phase2, Riff, and another fellow by the name of Pel. I was pretty much attracted to people like Billy 167 who is no longer with us, there were several others but those were the premiere individuals that set the predicate to follow.
Who was our favorite partner to paint with?
I painted with a lot of dudes you know? I have no regrets. One was Panic One; we grew up in the same building..I painted with a cat by the name of Sly108..Puma107..then Kool 131, I painted with Chain 3, and Knoc 167.
TDS is a pretty respected crew do you think they have an appropriate place in the history of graffiti?
Absolutely because we came about shortly after a lot of the early writers, especially the style writers were no longer in existence and we pretty much set a tone because a lot of the individuals including myself pretty much had their own unique identity as far as style. Basically what happened when we formed we enhanced each other’s style so we were pushing each other to move forward. It was pretty amazing because it turned out the generation that followed us pretty much experienced the same thing we did when we were coming up. The original members of TDS are myself, Bear167, Mr. Jinx, Chain3, Kool 131, Padre2, Dek2, Magoo2..Those were the core members and then there were more to follow.
What is one thing you miss about the train-era or graffiti back then?
It’s the rush of getting your name up on that slab of steel and then it travels for people to see. That always did it for me and I’m pretty sure a lot of people would agree with that. That was the modus operandi. I grew up on the #6 Pelham. I would often wander to the #4 Woodlawn..the #2 and the #5. In ’75 I wound up going to the #1 and that was it. I stayed on that line for 3 years until ’78 with exceptions of several trips to other lines the #3 the #2 and back to the #6 from ’78 to ’79. In ’80 I went back to the #2, #4s and #5s. from ’81-’84 I kind of back off a bit because I was getting a little older, I was working and had a full time job so it was started getting to the point because of age and employment it wasn’t a good look. My last piece on a train came in ’87 and after that it was a done deal. I had a hell of a stretch from 1974 ‘til then.
Recently you were part of the 106 Bayard project, how did you get on board with that?
There is a gentleman that works in a high school down on the Lower East Side named Jesse Pais I believe, he called me and said there was something going on in Brooklyn that they wanted me to be a part of. He put me in touch with a fellow named G.B. and he contacted me and asked if I was interested in working on the project..the space was limited but they also asked if I was interested in collaborating with Revolt which I had no problem with, I’ve known Revolt for almost 30 years. The rest is history. We made due with the space we had, but I do wish Revolt and I had a little more space to flex our muscles. As far as I’m concerned the work was pretty exceptional and it was a success.
Was it also important for you that they were doing work with the school children there?
Anytime you have an opportunity to affiliate the nature of our skill set with projects involving educational facilities its mandatory that it gets done, that’s a must, it’s a no-brainer. When you are working with kids, it’s very important you show them that it (graffiti) is not always what it’s made out to be. It’s very important that kids who are drawn to graffiti get the proper guidance because of the fact that they adhere to it so well. Every artist, we all started as kids, I started at a very young age..11, 12 years old. I never had any guidance, the street was my guidance, and that’s how I was pretty much started. We all experienced arrests or things like that but right now the way that the punishment for certain actions are a lot more extreme than they were 20 or 30 years ago. They are unheard of; you are not committing a violent crime so I just don’t get it.
On Thursday evenings at the Hi-Arts center you teach a black book class, can you talk about that?
Yes, we send out information via email, we have applications, the high school students (14-17) fill out the applications and we conduct an interview with each individual. We try to be as random as possible but they must be in school. If there was a different scenario that we had a little more stability as far as recruitment we could have a little more variety but we prefer the kids be in school because it shows they are interest in furthering themselves instead of just a kid walking in off the street. We prefer for them to have stability. It’s a great opportunity because I grew up doing my thing on the street and we didn’t have anything like this. We get support from the parents and it’s funny because they are my age and they can relate to it, they are comfortable with their child involved in something like this instead of something else they shouldn’t be. It’s a 9 week course; the class meets every Thursday from 4:30-6pm.
It looks like some of the art displayed here at the Hi-Arts center is not..it doesn’t have to be graffiti-related?
Well my primary goal is. They want to create graffiti and you should to start in a book. That’s pretty much where a lot of people should be starting. Not like me I started in the street but eventually the book became a part of my repertoire and to this day still is. It’s a very integral part of the makeup of a writer. It’s a staple that’s been around since the very inception of the culture and it doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves. It’s a very integral part of the culture that a lot of people take it for granted. It’s a really amazing tool that I still love to this day, I can’t help it.
What was your favorite brand of paint?
My main choice was Red-Devil, it was called “Supreme Quality” Red-Devil. It was thick, it covered, the range of colors were acceptable..it was a good quality paint where your stuff would survive the buff. Then there was Rusto..for the same thing, for coverage. The colors would last, they would stay more vibrant. The other was Krylon because they had a good assortment of colors, but after a while certain colors because transparent or runny so you had to manipulate the usage of the paint to work for you.
Any final shout-outs or things upcoming you’d like to mention?
I’d like to thank 12ozprophet, of course. I hope to do more things with them in the future. I am still active, I intend to be quite busy I don’t know exactly where yet, I would like to work on another book. There are more things that are in the works, nothing set in stone so I can’t say as they are not finalized but there are things that are being worked on, some short term and some long term. Of course big ups to the Hi-Arts establishment and all the kids. Don’t forget June 21st, the date of the exhibition displaying students work, make a note of that. It will be here at the Hi Arts center, 304 East 100th Street. Also special thanks to my MOM, may she forever RIP, my family, my wife for putting up with me and my extended family and the entire TDS family.
Photography courtesy: PART ONE and griteeth/ @griteeth Check out The Hi-Arts website here
As always, thank you to PART ONE for your time.