Graffiti has schooled me on many things. Taught me about branding and marketing and self esteem – all of this shining through the rough edges of a rather anti-social practice.
The graffiti world is a political world. There are crews and leaders of crews, but only a handful of real bona fide four star generals. Coming up in New York in the mid-’80s, Dave “Chino” Villorente was one of those General dudes. He and his budding BYI crew—shorthand for Beyond Your Imagination or Brooklyn Youth Idols —were in the process of making a name for themselves in the graffiti world.
Sure, Chino was known for smashing the insides of various subway lines with drippy purple signatures, but what was most menacing was the fact that he had tags in your neighborhood, no matter where your neighborhood was, and all over your neighborhood, at a time when most kids didn’t leave their stoops. It’s one thing to travel to a local train yard or lay up to get your name out there and mobile. It’s another to troop through random hoods in an effort to write on shit that doesn’t belong to you—some people don’t take too kindly to that.
In other words, dude was All City.
Maybe the reason why guys like Chino and TeKay didn’t have issues was because they were some jumbo-sized mofos, and you could tell they were without ever meeting them because their tags were so dang high up. In addition, the graffiti gossip line was powerful (fuck a internet) and he’d developed a reputation for being rather prolific with his hands.
I didn’t meet Chino more directly until maybe ’90, and we’d met under rather convoluted circumstances that led to an acquaintance from Washington DC getting his paint stolen (AKA Vamped by BYI affiliates). Getting robbed is a part of the graffiti blood sport and since this young man got got on my dime, I felt a sense of responsibility.
Funny thing is, it’s all laughable now. Even the dude who got got ain’t mad: I bumped into him on the train after not seeing him since that faithful day twenty years earlier and cat was kinda amped as he refreshed my memory. The fact that he got taxed by Reas and an axe-wielding JA is a story to share with the seeds!
That very incident actually led to a lotta violence between friends that Chino and me had, but he and I never got directly involved and we never mixed it up. Not that that was ever my steez (I like cracking jokes, not jaws). And it ain’t really Chino’s look, either: years later, at the book release party for ego trip’s Book of Rap Lists , Chino approached me like a man and extended his hand. It was a gesture that spoke to who he really was, and I was humbled by the purity of the exchange.
Twenty years after the writer from DC got vamped, Chino and me are PEOPLES, amigos , hombres ; we work on various graff-related projects, most notably our Piecebook series with Prestel books. Piecebooks are the sketchbooks that real graffiti writers use to map out ideas and share art with fellow badasses. The first book, Piecebook, The Secret Drawings of Graffiti Writers , documents the works of NYC writers between 1973 and 1985; Piecebook Reloaded rocks from ’85 to ’07. Our newest jump-off, World Piecebook (pretty nifty title if I say so myself), has burners from every corner of the world. Today, Graff is an international language with many regional dialects.
Anyways, feel free to purchase these wonderful books! And please accept our thanks in advance.
Peep Chino in action below. Get open like a pack of tokens.