Remembering Joey ‘TOMBS’
TOMB was a writer from the South Coast of Massachusetts who had a major influence not only on the Massachusetts graffiti scene but on some of the writers I have worked closely with over the years. My good friend BACK RB/DBM reached out to me after TOMB’s unexpected passing to come out and document a group of local writers that were getting together to paint a production in TOMB’s hometown at a pretty . When I look back on that day I had never expected to see so many writers come together at one time especially while still grieving the loss of not only a local writer but a mentor and close friend. “My last memory of Joey was a week before he passed. He was at a Mobb Deep concert and put up the quotes “ain’t no such thing as half way crooks” and “drop a gem on em” and I remember reading those quotes and being happy for my man to be home from jail.” Over the holidays, we all got together to celebrate TOMB’s birthday and I got to debut this film for his crew.
“This was the day after his funeral so it was tough for everyone to paint and focus or be positive but we all came together to show our love for our good friend.” BACK RB/DBM
I had never met TOMB myself so I asked a few writers who were close to him to share some of their personal thoughts and experiences with him. If you had ever crossed paths with TOMB I encourage you to share those experiences below and add your own memories to the legacy of TOMB DBM. There are memorial shirts available through ETIPStudio webstore for those that are interested in showing some additional support as well.
TOMB did his first graffiti jawn in 1989. In 1993, he started to rock with the name TOMB. He founded the DBM crew with mentor 3DEE in New Bedford, MA. 3DEE was stabbed to death and thus Tomb’s life spiraled into the streets for the rest of the 90’s. In 2000, he made a emergence onto the scene and was a prominent and respected east coast writer until he died. He brought together a large force of individuals that will carry out TOMB’s name forever. His artwork will never be forgotten and his name will always adorn every aspect of graffiti culture. ETIPS DBM/TF
“As far back as I can remember graffiti has been a part of my life. I didnt have a choice. Its what i was exposed to by my older brother. Right or wrong, I studied every move he made. It wasn’t always the best idea but I was by his side. This was pre-instafame. He had to skip school and travel to Boston or Providence and take pictures. Once the pictures were developed, he would have a black book session with some local writers and tell stories of encounters with other writers. He was responsible for a whole generation of writers in the area getting to see fresh styles and see who was running shit at the time. I was fortunate to be hanging around and learned the history and how to respect the game at an early age. I didn’t realize at the time how much this would shape me as a writer, none the less as a man.
So I’m about 16 and finally get the invite to go on a bombing mission with TOMB and a few other established local writers who I looked up to. I had been rounding up my own little crew of toys and had been out on my own but this was like being called up to the majors for me. To me it meant that he finally trusted and respected me as a writer and an equal not a tag along little brother. We set out and crushed some trackside spots. Sure as shit we get ourselves in a chase. Running, hiding, stashing bags, the whole nine. We finally worked our way back to the car after an hour of adrenaline and making sure the coast was clear. But we walked into a set up. Full on raid, cruisers, spotlights, loud speakers etc. I knew we were fucked but I held it together like I been through it before. TOMB looks at me and calmly says “Don’t say a fucking word, I don’t care what they say, I’ ll get us through this” which went without saying. The fact of the matter is when your rolling with TOMB, graffiti is usually the least of your worries. He also had a way of making everything seem okay at the time. So me and him are now in the back of the same cruiser. Other two guys in the other car. We had some bud on us so we knew what was coming. He says “Don’t worry about a thing, I already got a record so i’ll just take the wrap for everything”. I argued back since I chose to come out, I was willing to take it like everyone else had to. I knew he wasn’t going to let that happen but I saw a twinkle of proudness in his eye. The years of bullying had finally paid off. So I’m now in a jail cell reflecting on life as TOMB is in the cell next to me cracking jokes and making threats to the drunk they stuck him with for the night. We get booked and go through the motions but now we have a real problem. We have to tell my mother what happened. She was his kryptonite and he knew it. This was worse than any cop or judge we had to deal with. We get home and he looks her dead in the eye, points to me and says “He got caught with weed but I took the blame!”….that rat bastard held it down with the cops but sold me out to my mother!
Moral of the story is that time you were with Joey Tombs, he was as solid as they come, and anyone who rolled with him can attest to that. But more in depth, there was always this underlying infectious sensitive, humorous side that brought out the best in everyone around him. As much as he intimidated some, and rightfully so, he could make you laugh like no other. Even at times you wanted to hate him he could break you down. A persons life isn’t judged on wins and loses, but what we left behind when we’re gone. Everytime we see a TOMB tag, throw, or piece, not only is it a physical reminder but a reminder of an even better story behind it. Although he had his share of battles both won and lost, we are all fortunate to be touched and connected to one of the realest people in the game. For that I love you brother! TOMB FOREVER. Rest In Peace.
When I was first asked to put together some thoughts and experiences about Joey “TOMBS” I knew it would be a bit difficult mentally. Since his passing in the spring, I made a promise to myself and Joey to carry his name on with me for as long as I’m still here breathing. Me and Joey “TOMBS” first crossed paths in 2007 with a group of mutual friends to travel down to Connecticut to paint for the day. I had heard all about him through friends and how much they thought we would click not just with graffiti but with our pasts and similar sense of humor. After a long day of painting, making fun of people and talking about the love for this sick twisted thing called graffiti we live, a very good friendship was formulated. TOMB proceeded to introduce me to many of his DBM crew members and from that point on it was like family! Me and TOMB seen eye to eye on every aspect from productions to beef to handstyles and most importantly the true meaning of a CREW! Crew to me has always been something that I took serious unfortunately not everyone looks at it like that and it was cool to know Joey took it serious as well. Over the next handful of years we painted many productions shared ideas and and just made it happen as a crew non stop. We also had beef with a certain group of writers that honestly brought out one of my favorite aspects of graffiti, GOING OVER SUCKERS! Joey showed me he truly was about every single aspect of graffiti! We met up in 30 degree weather numerous times just to do what we felt had to be done “take out the garbage”. Respect was one of the biggest things Joey seemed to talk about to me. He respected the ones that paved the way and all of his crew members and if he felt disrespected he let it be known! Joey showed me that he had a deep dedication and focus and brought together a group of very talented and dedicated writers all across New England over the years. There’s one particular story that really sticks out that I shared with Joey. We had plans to meet with some friends in the Bronx to paint for the day so I crashed at his house to save time in the morning and when we woke up it was raining We checked the weather in the Bronx and it said sunny so we legit said fuck it ,we rocking today no matter what! On that ride we had some very serious talks not about graffiti but about our battles with drug addiction in the past and some of the paths it took us down. I’m sharing this because it’s the raw aspect of some peoples lives and it’s over looked a lot of the time and it’s a major reason a lot of very talented and dedicated writers are no longer here. After 3+ hours of talking and driving it was finally time to rock in the Bronx, a place we both loved to visit. We decided on a cool little idea of some bboys rocking watches and the quote “You Know What Time It Is!” That day has always stuck with me because I know some of the things we discussed weren’t things he told many people. REST IN PEACE MY FRIEND! TOMB FOREVER. BACK RB/DBM
I heard that he was a really big dude, that he was from New Bedford Massachusetts, and that he got down with a lot more crooked shit than just graffiti writing. So I had put this picture together in my head of Joey as being someone that I should watch out for and probably not even paint near. When he rolled on me at the freight layup I played it real cool, I just looked at him and kept painting as he walked up and asked me why I was so relaxed painting freights by myself. I just shrugged and said “I don’t know, it seems chill.” He agreed, introduced himself and proceeded to start painting next to me on the hopper that I had been making graffiti on. We didn’t speak much that day as we painted, just small talk and polite comments regarding each others graffiti. We went our separate ways and I went home happy to have met and painted with such an established writer as Tomb DBM, it wasn’t until a week later that I got to see him again.
Back at the same layup I’m painting alone again, and Joey rolled up to the spot. We talked for a bit and to my surprise he invited me to paint reefers with him later that night in New Bedford. I agreed and quickly went home to organize my paint cans and to try and draw up something decent to paint. I didn’t realize how crazy it would be that night for both of us. Even if I had known, I probably still would have gone. Hiding in freezing cold waist deep water from local, state, and national police agencies was not how I envisioned my night going, but I wouldn’t have had it any differently. Painting side by side with Joey Tomb and narrowly escaping the grasp of the United States Customs and Border Patrol was a powerful experience that I’ll never forget. I learned a lot that night, and I was grateful to have been given a chance to experience something real.
For someone who I figured I should watch out for, Joey stuck his neck out for me and showed me compassion that is rare in this world. I was a toy, and he took me to paint my first flat train, we stuck together and he looked out for me as we ran away from police, he even brought me over to his brother’s house afterwards so that I could have dry socks when I went home. It’s those kinds of actions that transcend graffiti and show the character of a man.
His graffiti had an undeniable sense of authenticity, there was no gimmick to what he did at all. He painted a very raw, classic, timeless style of graffiti that had strong roots in both New England and New York City. The b-boy characters that he rocked so effortlessly were so visceral and straight forward, classic, beautiful, and hard. There was not an ounce of bullshit in anything that Joey painted, and it gave me comfort to know that.
Graffiti these days seems so watered down at times, the internet has given way for kids to paint whatever the hell they want without learning history or even making an effort to honor the people who did it first. Graffiti is something that I care about immensely and take very seriously, and it causes me very real pain to see something I love so much being perverted by clueless imbeciles who are merely doing it just to feel cool without even having the decency to give something real back to the larger community. Joey was one of the people who gave back. The more time I spent around him the more i realized how invested he was in the subculture, he knew history, spots, styles, stories, tricks, techniques, everything. In my opinion he was very in touch with what graffiti is at it’s very core, he had it, that raw, unapologetic funk that every writer strives for. He had it and he gave it back to all of us, anyone with a pair of eyes in their head could see that what he painted was nothing short of excellent.
I miss Joey, and it makes me sad that he’s gone, but knowing that he’s no longer with us instills in me the desire to be a better person and to try and uphold the standards of quality that he represented.