With next week’s screenings in our “Under the Influence of ego trip Pt. 2” film series approaching we reached out to HAKIM (aka Micah Kelly) – featured artist in the film Writing On the Wall – to reflect back on his memories of the Newark graf scene, and share his thoughts on the 1986 documentary in his own words. Interview and PIX after the jump…
“I grew up in Newark, NJ. I was in the 6th grade and met a new student from Brooklyn. He had graffiti drawings and I was drawing super heroes at the time and started designing graffiti on pants and tagging. I wrote: TOO SWEET HAKEEM, HAK SEE103. The crews I ran with: T.S.U. (TEAR SHIT UP CREW), V.O.S. (VANDALS ON THE STREET). V.O.S. crew members: TOO SWEET HAKEEM, REVENGE 7, BRE, CUZ, KEO, FRANKIE, DESIGNER, SUN SHINE. The graffiti scene was poppin’ at that time. Newark had mad crews. We used to battle all the time in school and on the walls. TAME ONE, PORN, PRINCE, 2NASTY NAS, STEVE all got up. Too many to remember.
“When I was 16 I started working at the Roxy painting T-shirts with KANO and a few other writers. My idols was DONDI and ZEPHYR. At the Roxy I met a lot of Zulu Nation heads, and I met TAT. They liked my skills and put me down. But I never ran with Zulu Nation. As far as the differences between NJ and NY scenes, Jersey was all walls. We hit the PATH trains with tags but no top to bottoms. But the scenes in NJ and NY blended together. Artists came over and we went over there. I was very lucky to be around the NY crews. I learned a lot and was bringing styles to Jersey. I met KEO in Washington Square Park. He was a rebel and I brought him to Newark and put him down with V.O.S. He had mad skills.
“I was painting on canvases in my first year as an artist. I remember seeing someone air brushing a beach scene and I fell in love at first sight. I begged my mother to get me an air brush and taught myself. After I felt I was good I approached store owners and got a job doing it. I consider painting canvases and airbrushing an extension of writing graffiti. Graffiti can be done using any media. I used just about all mediums to do graffiti: pencils, markers, water color, oils etc.
“I met [ Writing On the Wall director] Sandra King at the first graffiti show at the City Without Walls Gallery. She was doing a news clip on graffiti artists. She interviewed many artists and she contacted me and asked me to do a documentary on me. The film should have been longer than a half hour. They filmed me for over two years and a lot of stuff was cut out. Back then they had BETA tapes that were reused for production so the footage is gone.
“I loved to do my black books. I had over ten books. All were stolen except one that I still have since ’83. These drawings are from that book. All my art is based on my life – good and bad.”
Writing On the Wall and Rap City will be shown on Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 7:30pm at the Maysles Cinema, 343 Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Blvd. (b/t 127th & 128th St.), NYC 10027. Advance tickets available here .