12 Questions With "Dr. Ink" & "Ale" CAMO Crew
What are your names and what crew do you represent?
ALE: I write ALE and this is my younger brother DR. INK, and we’re both in CAMO Crew.
1. When and how did you guys first get started writing?
ALE: I started in 2000, I stopped for a few years, but now I’m back and I’m never going to stop!
Dr.Ink: I started in December 2004. I used to write KBC before I started writing DR.INK. I chose Dr. Ink because I always used to fuck around a lot with different markers and ink trying to make my own stuff and everyone knew me for that.
ALE: ENDSO and I started CAMO because we were always the ones that used to hang out the most and we did everything together. We worked together in a hotel in Condado and we’d always get out of our shifts and go hang out and drink or whatever. We also skated or rode our bikes everyday. One day we just got the urge to start drawing and we began sketching a few ideas that we had for some graffiti. We were hanging out drawing one day and some kid saw the sketches and asked ENDSO if he painted graffiti. At that point we hadn’t started painting yet, just sketching.
At my job, there was a kid who had already been painting for a while and him and ENDSO got into like a little mini beef doing sketch battles. After that happened, I told ENDSO man I’ve always been really interested in painting graffiti but never actually gone out to do it, let’s just do it. He said he was down, so we bought some cans and went out to paint.
We’d get out of work at 6PM and stop at a gas station to buy cans, and we’d always buy silver and black. Back then at gas stations the only two colors they would sell were silver and black. Today gas stations have silver, black, white, red, and blue. But before the only thing they would sell was silver and black, so we’d each buy two cans of silver and one of black. We would go to paint in San Juan, either riding our bikes or on roller skates because we always had our stuff in the car. We’d ride around and do a few throwies here and there. I’ve always written ALE, but ENDSO started out writing AKM. For the first like three or four years he always wrote AKM.
DR: Those were the letters from his license plate.
ALE: Exactly, it was his license plate and that’s why he used them. I remember I never knew what it stood for and one day I asked him and he said some day I’d understand. A few weeks after that were hanging out and I’m pretty drunk and I just happened to look at his license plate and it said AKM and I’m like holy shit that’s where you got it from! And he’s like yeah, that’s exactly what it is you finally figured it out. And that’s how it all started, like around early 2000. It was always me and him bombing. I’d paint while he looked out then we’d switch. This guy would also accompany us sometimes when we’d go bombing (referring to Dr. Ink).
DR: I didn’t even paint back then.
ALE: He didn’t paint until one day he got that itch and decided he wanted to paint, so I told him he needed to start sketching before he tried anything for real. I’m no master man, I know that, but ENDSO always used to tell me that sketching was the most important thing to do. So I gave him the same advice. If you want to have a good throwie you have to sketch and sketch until you come up with one. DR first started writing KBC and he would show me the sketches and I’d be like damn, those are whack, keep sketching.
For the first few years it was just ENDSO and I always painting together really into it. Then the first ‘Express Your Skills’ competition came along, which all three of us attended together, even though DR still hadn’t started painting by then. We were just a bunch of kids and we showed up and we didn’t know a single person there. ENDSO brings his cans along, you need to understand everyone there had their designated walls to paint, and on this long wall where everyone was painting, the first few feet were completely empty. ENDSO didn’t even ask, he just went up and did an AKM piece on the wall. It was a blast man we had a great time. That’s when DR really got excited and started sketching more than ever before. At that time we were all really excited and into it, but after you’ve been painting for a long time man, I don’t know, it just wasn’t the same for me anymore. Of course it’s not as bad as it is today, but graffiti has always been buffed. After a while, I realized I was wasting money buying cans. My shit was getting buffed, and I didn’t have any money left to go and surf the next day. I had a job, but the money I made wasn’t enough to be doing both things consistently. It just got to a point that I told DR man I’m going to stop painting for a long time. I’m trying to travel to surf around the world; my first trip was the year before I started painting. So I told DR keep sketching and the crew is yours, CAMO is already established.
ENDSO and I started the crew when we first started painting because we didn’t belong to any other crew, it was just the two of us. It all started because we realized that every time we’d go out and bomb he’d be wearing camouflage cargos and I’d also be wearing camouflage cargos. We would always sit around and try to think of a cool name for a crew, and we’d come up with tons of different ones, but at the end of the day I’d tell him man I really love that camo print. You wear camo print. I wear camo print. It’s that easy. But it’s more than just that. Let’s say you’re walking by a wall one day and it’s completely clean, nothing written on it, but the next day you walk by the wall again and there’s a tag on it. You tell yourself man I didn’t see that yesterday it must have been done last night. That’s camouflage baby. It’s there now, but it wasn’t there before. So we started the CAMO CREW, and our first tags ever were two backwards C’s, like Coco Chanel. That was the first CAMO CREW tag ever.
For a long time DR would come out with me when I bombed, to be my lookout, and he wouldn’t even paint. After a while I told him man take the crew, it’s yours. Get to painting, and keep it alive. I told him I don’t want this crew to ever die, I’m done painting but now it’s your turn to spread the name and keep it going.
After a few years I was like dam this guy recruited some good writers, hardcore bombers. Whoever tried to beef with these guys would get destroyed. I would see all of this going on in the streets and I’d live vicariously through the stories they told me. I had stopped painting by then, but I’d hang out with them and they’d tell stories about how they were beefing with some guys and they’d take out dozens of throwies in one night. They’d come back here and hang out in the park in front of our house at the end of the night and just talk about everything going on. I was really happy to see that ENDSO and my bro had brought together a great group of writers.
DR: It’s actually a bit more complicated than it sounds, because ENDSO had also started another crew called TCU. We started meeting a lot of people from Trujillo like XOMI, MR, WIKS, SKIM, and SWIF. Everyday ENDSO would come and pick me up and we’d head out to Trujillo and hang out in XOMI’s house all day. He basically lived by himself so we’d just hang out at his house all day then go out to bomb at night. We would roll like three or four cars deep all full of guys to paint together. All four cars would drive up to a spot in the middle of the highway and everyone would get down to paint at the same time. It was like eight guys painting a spot at once, that was TCU.
What did TCU stand for?
Dr. Ink: The Combo United, Tenemos Control Urbano (We Have Urban Control).
ALE: CAMO is different, it’s a common word, you say it the same in English and in Spanish. I can’t tell you that it has anything to do with graffiti in terms of the letters meaning something. CAMO is just camouflage, and that’s our crew.
DR: TCU broke up because there was no control; everyone just did whatever they felt like doing. After that crew broke up , I recruited the guys that I was closest to and they became part of CAMO.
ALE: I got really angry with them once because of all of this.
ALE: Let me explain, I had left these guys (ENDSO & DR.INK) in charge of CAMO, and all of a sudden I find out that ENDSO is starting up another crew. ENDSO and me had started CAMO, so I was like what the fuck are you doing starting another crew? I gave you guys control of the crew and it’s up to you to keep it alive. I’m not painting anymore, but don’t go off and start another crew. ENDSO felt a little overwhelmed and he would try to explain to me that it was a crew with a different group of friends. One day I got fed up and I sat him down, in that very bench where you’re sitting right now, and I told him I was pissed. I said I was really pissed that he had started another crew because to me CAMO means CAMO for life. Starting another crew was not cool, because at the end of the day half of your TCU crew was also CAMO. Why were you starting another crew if in that crew there were people from the crew you already had? It just didn’t make sense. You’re starting another crew and I don’t like it, so think about it, because I’d like to see you carry the CAMO name for life. Right then and there he realized what I was talking about. I don’t know what ended up happening with that crew, ask DR he knows.
DR: That’s ancient history man I smoked those memories away.
ALE: There you have it man, CAMO for life.
2. When did you start painting again?
ALE: I started painting again when my brother died about three years ago. It happened because DR took me out to paint with him, that’s when I came back. When these guys first took me out to paint they were in the middle of a huge beef. That was the time when other crews tried to fuck with us, you know what crews I’m talking about, and we destroyed them. I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re the best, because everyone thinks they’re the best. Everyone has their own style and they like what they do. One thing I’ll tell you that I have noticed is that many crews that were around, and I’m not going to name any names, have broken up because of problems within themselves. I don’t understand why people in crews would do shitty things to their own friends.
DR: The difference between CAMO and other crews is that when we have problems with each other, we talk them out. You don’t stay angry and bitter at someone.
ALE: I’m not going to steal from you man. I don’t steal your weed, I’m not going to take a marker that I find in your car and keep it for myself. That doesn’t happen in this crew. If you ask to borrow a marker you find in my car I’m going to let you, because I have another one I can use, but you better give it back at the end of the night. Man, most times that marker won’t even make it back because it got all used up! What I do sometimes is I buy a marker to use it all in one night, until it’s finished. We’ll go out to paint together and DR will have a bunch of slappers and I’ll have the marker. We trade a few stickers and we share the marker and everyone’s happy.
We’ve always been a really loyal crew, that’s why you’re never going to hear anyone saying that CAMO broke up. It’s not that we broke up, it’s that we all grew up and we all have families now. We’re not the same crew as before when we would spend every night drinking and fucking around doing crazy shit. We’re just at a point in our lives where we have other priorities. SWIF, WIKS, SKIM, CAO, and myself all have children. Everyone has a family that they are responsible for and have to focus on.
But the best thing about CAMO is that those phone calls will always arrive when something’s going down. If we’re having a party everyone will show up and have a great time. That’s why this crew is never going to die, and I’m really sorry for all those other crews out there, but you guys can suck my dick! They all end up fucking with each other and fighting each other, and that doesn’t happen in this crew.
DR: ALE is a hater for life.
ALE: I’m a fucking hater dude I’ll admit it. I would get pissed at my bro when he painted with someone else. He’d be all like oh I went to bomb with this guy and I’d be like what the hell are you painting with that motherfucker for?
DR: (Laughs) Hater for life.
ALE: I didn’t like it man because I was worried that something bad could happen. Now they might know where you live, or they know where all your spots are. If they have that information they can use it against you. They know where you live and where most of your shit is painted near your house, so if there is ever any beef they can come in a second and go over all your shit. How convenient.
DR: See it’s like this, if I walk into your house, that’s a privilege that you’ve given me. Or if I go to your neighborhood that’s also a privilege you’ve given me, and at the end of the day that’s loyalty. You opened the doors of your home to me and I’m not going to disrespect you, because you gave me that opportunity.
ALE: It’s just like you right now interviewing us; you’re basically here at my parent’s house. That’s their house right there across the street. It’s true that you’re providing us with this opportunity to gain more exposure, but I hope you would never end up saying anything bad about us. If I see one of your tags around and you happened to go over an ALE tag I’m not going to get all angry and start beef with you.
DR: I’m going to take it personal that is what I’m going to do.
ALE: Why am I not going to cross you out? Because I already opened up my doors to you, you’re in my neighborhood right now interviewing me. After all this, you’re going to have the balls to go and paint over my shit? Na man you’ve been in this game long enough to know what it’s like. If you’re going over my shit it must be because you have a problem with me, because you know me. I’m not going to diss anybody without a reason. I’ve tried to be very careful with that because you need to give respect to earn respect. If you’ve noticed it’s rare to see any of my throwies dissed, people don’t fuck with me. They fuck with this guy.
DR: Always going over my shit man.
(OMAR By RipMan)
ALE: I’m not going to say we haven’t gone out specifically to paint over other people’s shit, when there’s beef there’s beef. But pay close attention and you will rarely see one of my throwies getting dissed. My tags have been fucked with, but tags are tags, what are you going to do. But for me to go out and waste an entire can of paint on someone, it’s because they dissed me first. I’m not going to fuck with someone just because I feel like it, or because some dude is a toy. Fuck man everyone was a toy at some point. And a lot of people are still toys! I ain’t a pro man I’ll be the first to admit that, but I’m still doing my thing, still painting, And I happened to have the best crew around to stay up and keep at it, I’m not alone.
DR: It’s not getting to the top, it’s knowing how to stay there.
ALE: I’m just trying to explain what this crew’s about.
DR: CAMO has everything man bombers, piecers, people who do characters, everything, we got all of graffiti covered.
ALE: We got guys who have great hand styles as well as bombers. Let me correct myself, everyone bombs.
3. So is CAMO about more than graffiti?
ALE: Let me break it down, we got four guys who are tattoo artists: EPSO, SKIM, HERMES, and XOMI. EPSO is a barber, a tattoo artist, and he raps. I ride BMX and also do boogie boarding. DR is a skater. RAPE and MR are also skaters. I got another friend of mine, who has nothing to do with graffiti; all he does is ride bicycles. He rides for the Puerto Rican Cycling Federation in downhill. It’s just a group of people and not everything has to do with graffiti. We all started with graffiti obviously, that’s where CAMO came from, except for the cyclist, he’s just my friend and has always repped the crew. He doesn’t go around tagging, because that’s not his thing, but he does put stickers up everywhere.
4. Do you think you would have ever painted again if your brother hadn’t died?
Dr. Ink: Damn, that’s a great question.
ALE: Man, on the real straight outta my heart the only reason I started painting again was because DR pushed me to it. When my brother passed, and we were at the funeral, after we had just buried him, we took a ride to clear our minds. And on that ride this guy decided that to release everything he was feeling he needed to do a throwie.
DR: He’s talking about the OMAR throwie I showed you, that was right next to the cemetery.
ALE: We went out to ride and he brought a few cans and he gave some to me and told me you’re painting today. I was so taken back. I was nervous as fuck. I hadn’t painted in like three or four years. The first thing that popped into my head was what throwie am I going to do? I needed to write ALE obviously, but it couldn’t be the shit I used to paint before. It had been a few years and it was wack even for back then. I decided let’s go for it, and we did. I did an ALE and I was pumped, I just thought to myself, let’s do this.
DR: And he hasn’t stopped since.
ALE: And I haven’t stopped. Each time we go out we both buy our cans and do our thing.
DR: Not as much as before, obviously.
ALE: Before we had a lot more cans because we would rack a lot, but that shit isn’t worth it now. I have a daughter man I’m not trying to get in trouble for stealing some spray cans. Honestly, I don’t think people can really talk shit about us, there’s nothing to say.
DR: Like we said before we give respect where respect is due. You need to give it to earn it.
ALE: Stop painting? Man fuck that I I’m never going to stop. I’m not going to do it.
5. After everything you went through when did you get to the point that you decided that you were never going to stop bombing?
ALE: I’ve always loved bombing ever since I started the crew with ENDSO. I stopped painting for a while because I had other priorities and interests that didn’t have to do with graffiti. Surfing and riding bikes were always my priorities those were my sports. Graffiti is also a sport don’t get me wrong, but it’s a whole different monster.
DR: Graffiti is all about you man, I’ve seen a lot of people that start painting and are really pumped but they end up quitting after a while. Friends of mine whom I’ve predicted they would give it up, have given it up after a few months.
ALE: You see it a lot man, some people who really get that urge to paint and they have talent and you hope that they stay in the game.
DR: Graffiti isn’t a fad or a sport you do just to fuck around. It’s something that you do and if you’re really into it and you feel it deep inside you, when you’re not painting, you feel something is missing. Sometimes I’ll go a week without painting and I’ll start feeling like I fell off. I paint every week, you will always see at least one or two new throwies every week. If I go a week without painting, I start getting that itch and I have to go out. At the end of the day this is just publicity for yourself, you put it everywhere so everyone can see it. But you don’t do it for everyone else you do it for yourself, not for other’s approval. If people like your shit, then you can look at it and enjoy it, and if you don’t like my shit you better not touch it because I’ll go over every single throwie that you have and you’re done for.
I’m not going to start beef with somebody for the fun of it; I have no reason to paint over your shit. I’m going almost a decade painting and there has always been someone new who wants to go over you and be better than you, and the same thing is going to happen to that person when another new writer comes along. It always happens.
ALE: Remember this, everyone starts out as a toy. What happens to a toy? He’s going around looking for spots to paint and he’s going to notice who’s up. What’s he going to do? He’s going to diss their shit to gain recognition. Now everyone knows who this random guy is because of what he did and he hasn’t even been painting for a full year! You can’t lose sleep over dudes like that.
DR: You just go back and fix your shit.
ALE: You go back and fix it, and if he goes over something else then it’s really on. You go out and fix it again and if I see him walking down the street I’m going to knock him out. Then you’re really going to know who DR. INK is or who ALE or ENDSO are. It’s always going to be like that man, the newest cats always want to go to war with the oldest cats so they can get their name out. That’s just life.
If you’re going to diss somebody’s shit write your name on it, don’t just put a big ‘x’ over it like a punk. You know what, that’s the perfect plan to fuck up the entire graffiti game. Imagine that you just wake up one day really pissed and you go out and diss everyone’s shit with an ‘x’ and nobody has any idea who it is! Then everyone goes to war. That’s some bullshit man if you’re going to diss my shit at least write your name on it, so I know who to be pissed at. That shit always happens to us for some reason, mostly to this guy.
6. Why do you think that is, that you tend to always get dissed without a name?
DR: It’s simple man, because I don’t let myself get fucked with. Everyone knows that if you fuck with things I’ve painted I’m going to go over everything you have. Then that person is going to call me and I’m going to tell them what’s up. They dissed one of my bombs that I spent time, money, and paint on so I’m going to go out and destroy every single thing that they have. If they make me go through the trouble of having to go out and fix my shit I’m going to make them go through double the effort to get their spots back. I’m always going to make it worse for you than it was for me.
Beef is also a lot about spots; you don’t go and paint next to someone in a spot that’s been riding for three or four years. If it’s been there for that long, and it hasn’t been buffed by the city or by the owners of the establishment, and some kid comes and paints right next to you and causes it to get buffed, come on man. I’ll go over somebody’s shit because of that, without hesitation. There are just some spots man that you don’t touch, if you have a rooftop or a spot that’s been riding for a while you respect that shit man.
You don’t paint next to it because you might end up getting that shit buffed, just ask WEB what happened with me and him. He painted next to me in a spot in Bayamon that I had for about four years and it got buffed soon after. I didn’t paint over his shit because we’re friends, but I did go to a few of his bombs and wrote toy next to them. We laughed a lot about it later. If you get a burner buffed because someone bombed next to it then you go over their shit, you either do a burner next to a burner or don’t bother painting.
ALE: We respect everyone who paints graffiti because it’s our sport. They take the same risks that we do.
DR: At the end of the day it’s just one long story about what’s going on in Puerto Rico.
ALE: Everyone’s human at the end of the day, you’re not going to lose your shit because of some random dude you don’t know.
7. Everyone I talk to who knew ENDSO talks about how great of a person he was, I want you guys to tell me about him as a graffiti writer.
Dr. Ink: Pure clean.
ALE: It’s simple, you can put it just like this: ENDSO meant nice and clean.
DR: He’d get pissed with everybody man.
ALE: Let me tell you this. He’d get more pissed with my bro, who’s painted a lot more than me, than he would with me. He would say man I can’t believe that ALE makes the throwies look more like stickers than you, and you’ve been bombing for many more years. He’d always say you know what I like about ALE, his throwies might end up looking a little weird sometimes, but he never leaves a dirty spot. I’ll waste an entire can of paint making sure that shit looks like a huge sticker on the wall.
That’s what ENDSO always used to say man; it needs to look like big fucking stickers. Bombs in graffiti are respected if they are completely filled in and look like stickers. Of course bombing depends on the area that you’re at and the elements around you; Some places are hit and run and in those cases the only thing that needs to be perfect is the outline.
DR: As long as that outline looks clean it’s ok.
ALE: It’s always been said that the outline is the most important part of any throwie.
DR: I like ghost fills where you can see the lines of paint going side to side.
ALE: Yeah he’s always liked to fill in that way.
8. When do you guys like to bomb?
ALE: Lately it’s all about going out in our bikes with a few cans and hitting up spots. I don’t know if I’m giving away any of our tricks by saying this, but a lot of writers will tell you that you have to go out late at night and I just don’t believe that man. The way shit is in Puerto Rico now man if you’re walking around late at night with a backpack, police are going to see you and be like what the fuck are you doing.
DR: This isn’t New York where there are tons of people out on the streets at all hours. Here if you go out really late at night you’re going to be stopped if you’re seen walking around.
ALE: You also need to know where to bomb; I mean it’s pretty obvious that you can find plenty of writers painting in Santurce. And that’s where all the cops are looking. There are undercover cops everywhere; we saw two undercover cars the other day. It was like 11 PM and we were in Santurce eating at a little stand we always like to go to. We were with a group of friends because we had been riding our bikes around that night, not even painting. A regular car pulls up and a cop gets down wearing street clothes with a vest and a gun in plain sight. DR and I both look at each other like did that really just happened? He goes up to order food and another same model car pulls up behind the one that just parked, and more cops wearing street clothes get down. They were eight in total riding around in two cars. You have to watch out, now I know it could be a regular car driving around that I also need to be on the lookout for because it could be undercover cops.
DR: A bunch of other writers that I know, not from our crew, have also told me stories about recent run-ins with the cops. A good friend of mine, I won’t say his name, but he got caught painting and they took his cans and sprayed him in the face. A few other guys from our crew also got beat up recently. Cops think they can break the law just to fuck with you, what you have to do is use the law against them. You could just tell them to take you to the station; painting is just a minor offense.
One time ENDSO, YAD, and I went out to paint with like 20 lawyers, we painted underneath a bunch of bridges in Puerto Rico for some protest they were organizing. There’s a law that lets you paint underneath all the bridges on the island due to freedom of expression. I always get the cops with that one, if I’m painting a bridge and they come up to me I just say: yeah I’m painting, so what. You want to arrest me? Look up this law. You can’t touch me. They’re always so surprised by it all they can say is get the fuck out of here. You have to be on your shit, the cops here can be much more lenient than in the states, if you work it right they’ll be cool with you.
9. You guys are always bombing, and like you told me the other day, you don’t really do burners or pieces, why is that?
Dr. Ink: It’s all about the adrenaline you get when you go out to bomb.
ALE: I just straight up don’t have the patience to do a piece. I originally stopped painting because it was becoming too expensive to just bomb, you think I’m going to spend more money on cans for a piece?
DR: At the end of the day the money you spend to paint a really nice piece I could use to throw up 40 bombs. All I need is three cans and I can do two nice bombs. I like doing those quick fills, even though ALE always gets pissed at me, but it helps to conserve paint and do more bombs. Then you go and spend $100 on cans for a piece, you get into some beef, and they diss your piece. You’re fucked, you lost everything, your piece is ruined, and you’re going to be super pissed because you spend the time and money to do that piece and some asshole fucked it up.
ALE: I’m a full bomber man. I don’t like pieces. I’ll do a few straight letters, those aren’t that bad.
DR: Whoever does pieces props to them man, I respect that a lot. Now don’t come and try to paint a mural over one of my throwies without my permission.
ALE: That right there is bullshit man. If I have a throwie in a nice spot don’t come and paint your shit over mine just because you’re going to do a piece or a burner, I don’t give a fuck about no rules or whatever excuses you have.
DR: Just like we respect your pieces you need to respect our bombs, it’s that easy.
ALE: I’m not going to do a throwie over one of your pieces, so don’t come telling me that someone gave you permission and that’s why you painted over my stuff.
DR: Then they come claiming that it’s part of the rules of graffiti. Shit people only use the rules when it’s to their advantage.
ALE: It’s like those guys who write “reserved” on any random wall they want and its there for like a year. What the fuck is that man? how are you trying to reserve a wall forever and never paint it? If I see someone wrote reserved I’ll give it like 3 months, if after that they haven’t painted it, then fuck it I’m free to paint it if I want.
DR: If you’re going to do a mural and you want a wall where I have a throwie get in contact with me and we can work something out. Ask the crew for my number and we can talk about it. If I’m feeling nice I’ll let you take the wall.
ALE: That’s how a lot of the beefs start. Guys come up to you like oh man I did a piece because the rules say that pieces over bombs and rollers over pieces. Fuck that shit don’t go over my throwies. Like we said people only call out the rules when it’s for their own benefit.
10. Tell me about the painting tour you guys did around the island.
ALE: That tour started because we were all hanging out right here in the park one day and I thought to myself: we have all of Santurce bombed, all of Trujillo bombed, all of San Juan bombed, all of Bayamon bombed, bunch of throwies in Carolina, and we’ve even gone as far as Luquillo to paint. So we were just sitting there and I said I’ll put my pick up down for the trip, but we have to plan it right. It’s difficult because everyone has jobs and we’re always working, so we have to find the right time where a bunch of us can just go away for like 3 days, and it could only be max 5 people because that’s as many as I can fit in my car.
The road trip was going to be pure CAMO, we were also including EPSO who had his own crew MKS and WIKS who had DWA, but everyone who went had to be CAMO. I told them if I’m organizing this road trip, and we’re all CAMO, we’re only painting CAMO. You can throw up tags of your crew whenever you want, but the paint buckets that we’ve collected will only be used for CAMO rollers. We left for three days straight just to paint.
DR: No going out to bars to hang out and drink or anything, just straight painting. All day from sunrise until late at night when we went to sleep.
ALE: We looked like professional painters man. We would get down to eat at places completely covered in paint and people thought we were working or something. We had ladders, brushes, a bunch of buckets, everything man. We could’ve started our own company. We didn’t even look like graffiti writers. Everywhere we’d stop during the day we’d do a CAMO block letter, and at night, throwies on throwies. In the morning waking up at 8AM a few more throwies. After we’d finish that we’d go and do another roller, never stopping. The craziest thing was that it started out just EPSO, DR, and me. ENDSO couldn’t leave with us the first day because he was competing in the Snickers Urbania contest and he had to paint the day we left. The best news was that he got 2nd place in the competition, Rip Man got 1st place. They gave him money and cans as prizes.
After he finished there, WIKS’ girlfriend drove him and ENDSO to Aguadilla to meet up with us. The tour started in Barceloneta and we went all the way to Cabo Rojo. It was crazy man we painted so much and in so many places. A lot of people here already knew who CAMO was but now we got people all over the island seeing our stuff. There’s a bunch of writers out on the island that people don’t know or ever hear about because you never go out there, and now they see that we’re up in their town also.
DR: The first day it was EPSO, ALE, and me sleeping in the truck camped out at Jobos beach. The next day ENDSO and WIKS met up with us and they slept in the back of the pick up on top of all the paint buckets because there wasn’t room anywhere else.
ALE: Shit man we would wake up and shower in the beach. We only had a few gallons of water but it was exclusively to brush our teeth with. It was a great experience; I can’t wait to do it again. It’s hard though because it’s really selective, you can’t take a crew of eight guys to do that, and we have a lot of people in the crew. We also have the Camo Day when we invite everyone in the crew to my dirt track behind the neighborhood. It’s a cookout and we’re all painting and eating. Having a good time. You know who’s good with the crew and who’s not, based on who gets invited.
We always invite a few people outside of the crew to come also, some get to paint and some don’t. If you didn’t get invited to paint and you decide to start painting people are going to stop you and we won’t let you paint, that’s how it is. We’re not trying to be assholes but it’s just a crew thing. It’s always all of CAMO that paints and like three guys we decide to invite who are close with us. It’s usually Rip Man and Abit who come. It’s just a family day that everyone in the crew looks forward to.
11. How did Camo Clothing get started?
ALE: I can explain that.
DR: That was all ALE and ENDSO.
ALE: It started because I would always notice that ENDSO would wear some awesome shirts with really cool designs on them. I’d always tell him man you can paint better than whoever did that shirt.
DR: It’s just swag man, having cool tees.
ALE: Exactly, and I also like wearing cool shirts man you always want to look good. So I told ENDSO, man you do some awesome characters we could use them and start a clothing line. He was always very hesitant and would just say do you really think we can do it? I’d answer of course man we have a huge crew of artists at our disposal what more do we need. Shit dude everyone paints, everyone draws, everyone does canvasses, we even got a few tattoo artists. One day it came up and we just talked about it for like two months straight coming up with ideas of what we could do. ENDSO was hesitant because of the money we’d have to spend; I was always just there trying to convince him that we needed to start somewhere. All he ever answered was “we’ll see”.
I was at it for months trying to convince him and he’d always come up with questions and doubts like “oh but what are we going to call it?” When he said that I talked to my boy who rides bikes who’s in the crew and he was like man you don’t need to come up with a name you already have one established! You guys are all over the island. It’s like free advertising. You guys have huge walls that say CAMO from one end to the other. What the fuck are you looking to come up with another name for?! Let’s say a company like AMIGO or ECONO, supermarkets, want to put up a big advertisement on the same type of wall that you guys have painted. They’re probably going to get charged like $3,000 or $4,000 for that, and you guys did it for free! If you want a billboard you’re going to have to pay a bunch of money for that. What better than CAMO if you guys already have it written everywhere. I’m sure there are plenty of people walking by your stuff on a daily basis and asking themselves what CAMO is. That’s how people get intrigued.
DR: Most people don’t even know what it stands for.
ALE: One day I just went up to ENDSO and I asked him straight up are we going to do this or not? We’ll see is all he said. So I went and talked to my bro here and I told him man I really want to start this clothing line. This dude didn’t even want to write his name on the business license registration, it was all me.
DR: It’s because of bombing. I’m not going to give the government my name to associate with CAMO when I have all these throwies everywhere.
ALE: This guys has all of San Juan destroyed, and where’s the State Department? San Juan.
DR: If anyone asks me about Camo Clothing I just tell them I have nothing to do with that. They ask me if I paint graffiti, I tell them I don’t do that either. If anyone asks, I don’t do anything.
ALE: One day I decided it was time to do it so I woke up at 8AM and went to get the name registered. I went to the offices with $170 to do it. First you have to check if the name is available, so the lady checked the system and told me nobody was using Camo Clothing. I bought the stamp, which is what cost $170, and went on to the next office. They gave me the papers to fill out, I sat there for like an hour, and they called me up and told me the name was now officially registered and I could start doing whatever I wanted with it.
I got out of there and called ENDSO right away to tell him I had registered the company, he couldn’t believe it. I told him man I’m getting old and this graffiti shit isn’t paying the bills, I need money. It’s been three years now since that morning; it was all me. This guy didn’t want to do it.
DR: That has nothing to do with graffiti, it’s just clothes.
ALE: Ok whatever, but think about how hard it would have been to come up with another name. It’s all by chance, you could come up with a great name or you could come up with a shitty one that nobody likes. There’s probably a lot of haters out there saying shit like what do these guys think they’re doing starting a clothing brand, they paint graffiti that isn’t the same thing. If they don’t want to buy our clothes, whatever, I don’t worry about them. I don’t sell to the haters I sell to the public who wants my product.
DR: I’m not even interested in having other graffiti writers buy our stuff; I’d rather sell to other people.
ALE: People buy what they like, and if they like our brand then they’re going to buy our stuff. Just like you, you got a Seventh Letter sticker on your computer, why’d you buy that? Because you like it, so if you like our brand you’ll buy it. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. There are even some haters who have our clothing. I’ve seen them on Instagram wearing our shirts. The brand isn’t only graffiti based, of course we have a few designs inspired by graffiti, but it’s not only about that. We got the NY Fat shirt, that one is awesome a lot of people have bought it.
DR: I’ve seen a few haters wearing that one.
ALE: We see the haters wearing our shit and you keep that picture in a safe place. Some dude comes to talk shit and wants to beef I just pull out the picture of them wearing our shirt. Really? You want to start beef with us and you’re buying our shit?
12. What is coming up next for Camo Clothing?
ALE: There’s only one word in our minds, worldwide. We’re trying to grow and expand everywhere we can. Obviously when you’re trying to create catalogs and more professional things it’s much more expensive. I’m not a professional photographer, so I need to hire someone to do our photo shoots. Everything cost money. You can’t just print one catalog; you have to print a bunch. I also have to say thank you to the entire crew, they’ve had our back since day one with the whole clothing thing. Nobody ever said no or that they didn’t want to participate. Once the name was registered we asked everyone for help and to send in a few sketches and designs.
It’s true that there were probably one or two guys in the crew who weren’t too happy about me using the name for commercial purposes. Remember, whoever’s name is on the document is the one who has rights with regards to the brand name; the crew and the brand name are two separate things. There has to be a boss for everything, and I’m not saying I’m the boss and I’m the only one in charge. Because my bro here is just as in charge as I am. But when it started we asked for sketches from everybody and they all did them without hesitation. Sometimes they even call up with sketches when I haven’t asked for them. Of course at first it was all free, but little by little I start paying people when I can for their work.
DR: When it’s all said and done everyone from the crew is going to benefit from this. ALE and I were the ones who made the initial investment, but in the long run everyone is going to benefit from this and get a piece of the profits.
ALE: My hope is that one day we can make it to where I can just buy an entire shipment of hundreds of cans and invite the entire crew and just tell them here, pick whatever cans you want and paint. It’s all in the shirts man, just look at the designs: Loyalty Is Priceless, Fuck What You Think. They all have themes, and its all subliminal, always going back to the crew. You don’t like my clothes? Fuck what you think. Loyalty Is Priceless is another one I love, that’s what the crew is about, loyalty.
DR: That design wasn’t even made by someone who’s in CAMO. It was made by NOTA.
ALE: I asked him for that design, I asked him to come up with a design that said “Loyalty Is Priceless.”
DR: It’s not just about CAMO designs; I’ll take anyone’s designs as long as they’re good. Anyone who wants is welcome to submit a design. If you believe in our brand and what we’re doing then I fully support you coming up with something and sending it in to us. We’ll work something out and move on from there.
ALE: A lot of people just want to get their art out. Some guy could really hate us and think everyone in CAMO is an asshole, but maybe he really wants to see his design on a t-shirt. So he’s like fuck it, and designs something for us that he knows will get around and people will see.
DR: And we’re never going to take credit for anyone else’s work. I told you NOTA did that design not us. Rip Man has also done one for us. In the first few years of a business the owners mostly lose money, so everyone who is getting paid for a design benefits more than us. It’ not until you are like 8-10 years in the business that you really start making money, when you’re able to make shirts that cost you less than a dollar.
Any shout outs before we’re done?
You know it ENDSO, BLEN, EPSO, INSP, YAD, GO, COMA 02, SKIM, XOMI, SWIF, CAO, VUKU, CIM, RIO, SETS, MR, RAPE, GUSTO, MALVO, MQ, FAS, OMAR, NOID, RIP, ABIT, WEBS, GRIM, POT, JED, HERMES, INDIO, SABO, TUNA, MERO23, ON7. And if we forgot about anybody it doesn’t mean we don’t care. We’ll see you around.