As printed in 1995 edition of The Real State, Hollywood


'L.A. graffiti.  Hmmm. Not. All I'd seen so far was gang tagging ad infinitum. I was surprised to find a piece down Main and 108th, South Central. Its creator, Skit 1, assured that L.A. had a very active graff scene, despite the heavy anti-graff laws...


Yeah right. He looked at me in disgust.  'That's like this guy who came down here in '88 from New York. he was saying 'You're not true cuz you don't bust trains.' Man, we nearly jumped on that guy. he nearly lost his life that night.' Mothafucka, where's the trains in L.A.?!'

That's right and L.A. is one big ass sprawling affair with so many communities and strong cultures...not exactly the regular high rise urban landscape for graffiti, with an Aladdin's cave full of subways and train networks. In L.A., you either drive...or you stay at home.


Well. I was open to discover this thriving graff scene (which so far I'd seen nothing of).  Plus I'd heard of all the strong anti-graffiti laws in the State of California. So I was surprised that the first place Skit (the veteran graffiti writer) took me to was Melrose, West Hollywood, in the alleys behind all the posh shops. This was a wealthy residential neighbourhood...

Skit: 'Ninety five per cent of the graff artists in L.A. are drug addicts and most of them are white and very rich. You see all these vivid coloured pieces here? Only they can afford to buy a case of paint like that. Poor black graff artists like myself would have to steal them.'

OK. I look at the trippy frescos of Dr. Zeus and co. and mushrooms. Three guesses to the main drugs used...Meanwhile, I'm tripping out that I'm walking through a rich Jewish neighbourhood with graffiti on every other garage wall. Skit says the scene is so active right now that pieces are either sprayed or buffed over every two weeks.

We cross a road and the back of a store. There's a blank old TV with the screen switched off but the sound of some foreign program blaring out. Now I'm really convinced that these people must just not know what to do with all this cash. Using his electricity to enetertain passersby perhaps. It's a free world, I guess.

Over La Brea to a yard full of battle pieces. One guy is standing on an upside down cart with his sketch pad, several cans of paint and his little stereo playing some 'shrooming music' (ambient techno trippy sounds). A police car drives by, barely acknowledging the white guy spraying up the wall. The 'shrooming' guy asks Skit how he can reach up highter to finish his piece.  Skit suggests he moves the trash van over to the wall...

We move on dowtown to a huge mural painted by spraycan artists - Aztec scene and some pieces. Then further downtown to proper pieces and characters behind some half-lived in tenements. Then, at last, down Slauson. Noticeable change. I called in gang-tagging.

'No,' says Skit. 'It's crew tagging all this. Down here, there's not the justice there  is up in Hollywood. Y'know, you ain't got time or money to do a pretty little coloured in piece. It's do or die down here. There's always people behind your back ready to get you one way or another.'

Still proper pieces (of a standard of originality way outstripping thier wealthy drugged-up neighbours) do burn across walls as we get deeper into South Central.

And I suddenly realise this is only the beginning...'