There are what are classified as “white collar” graff artists, who look for the accolades and approval from society (i.e. legal walls, art galleries, etc.) ,and then there are the “blue collar” writers who really don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks about their bombing excursions other than them. Brooklyn’s OJAE is definitely one of the latter who has bombed with the best and battled it out, on the walls and in the streets, with the rest. Repping FYC(his crew), YKK, KMS, 156, RFC, HOW and CM crews, OJAE’s decades of all around bombing speaks for itself in the graff world.
Check out his exclusive TheSource.com interview where he chops it up about his origins with the 156 Crew, the politics of today’s graffiti scene and a funny story of how he and JA ran down on another writer in the tunnels of NYC.
TheSource.com: When did you start writing? With who? Where did you get your name?
OJAE FYC: I started writing in 1986, I was living in L.I. briefly and when I returned to NYC it was like an over load. The music I was starting to encounter (WBLS & 98.7 KISS) on Friday and Saturday nights. It was something I knew I wanted to be apart of. When I saw graffiti on the subways, it was an instant draw. As I hung out in the schoolyard after school, I started to meet the neighborhood kids and they were the ones to start to put me on. There was a kid CHOOCH 156 that I met, he’s the one that gave me the tag OJ with out the “AE” on the end. CHOOCH introduce me to all the 156 dudes from the hood like OMNI 156, PRAZE 156, DZINE 156, HANG 156 and BIND 156. NICE CM and his brother KEV is who I really fucked with in the late 80’s. CM is who I really started bombing with first.
TheSource.com: What was the hardest period/era for you as a writer and as an individual?
OJAE FYC: I would say the 90’s was harder to bomb because in the 90’s, you couldn’t just walk through a hood and bomb. In the 90’s, you kinda didn’t walk through an area unless you were from there or knew people from there. Otherwise, you got checked. If dudes didn’t know you, they would check you and rob you so this made it hard. Plus, the whole beef thing had a way different aspect to it then now. Back then, getting jumped and pounded out was real. Everyone had razors or some sort of weapon. It was the wild, wild west. It was a free for all. On the other side of that coin, it’s also crazy now to bomb due to cell phones & cameras. Anyone can call the cops on you if they see you. People aren’t afraid to call the cops in this day and age and graffiti has become a bigger offense if you get caught.
TheSource.com: What was one of the wildest times you had while bombing?
OJAE FYC: Hmmmm, wildest time? There are so many… I think this one night really bugged me, JA and I were doing A line tunnels one night. I went into the tracks first, then JA. As I made my way in, (I was a little further ahead), I hear people on the platform talking. I couldn’t quite make out what they said, but I know I heard them say blah blah blah…OJ and JA. So I’m like ‘who the fuck is that?’ I looked and JA was already running towards the platform so I followed as well. So JA appears out the tunnel with a hoody on and a chain in his hand. He tells the kid something like, ‘Come here, I need to talk to you!’ By the time I got there, the three kids had bolted through the crash gate. I was bugging because I know I heard them say our names. The next day, my man KLAME calls me and tells me the whole story. So Im like, ‘how the fuck you know all this?’ KLAME had got a call from this kid DENS FFF talking about he didn’t want any beef. The situation wasn’t nuts, but the fact that these kids was going into the tunnels to go over are shit and then JA pops out the tunnel on some your not going over anyone shit. I know those kids shit their pants!
TheSource.com: How has graff given you a more positive outlook on life?
OJAE FYC: I lived a very crazy childhood. My mother was fucked up on drugs and not able to provide like a normal parent should. When I started to realize my mother’s drug problem, I started to really gravitate towards graffiti. The graffiti has presented an escape from reality and all the pain and hurt in my life. It became therapy for me as I got older. The more anger I had in life, the more I painted and with that said, graffiti has really gotten me through some hard times in life that I might of not been able to make it through. So, graffiti has saved my life.
TheSource.com: Is the popularity of graff on canvas really graff?
OJAE FYC: Absolutely. It’s what graffiti has evolved into whether you agree or disagree, it is what it is. Before that it was black books. Friends would get together to do shit in one another’s books. Now it’s canvas.
TheSource.com: What do you want ppl to remember the most about you as a writer?
OJAE FYC: To be honest, I don’t really care what people remember about me for graffiti. I do it for me. I actually wish no one paid me any mind like if I was no one. I’d rather not be noticed so I could paint in peace. The politics of graffiti is out of control. It destroys friendships and dudes gossip more then bitches about shit. That’s what I’m not about. I have a good job and kids. That’s my focus in life. So, I guess I’d like to be remembered as a stand up guy. Someone that keeps it real in the sense of not full of shit because all I have in this world is my balls and my word. If you aint got that, then you aint shit as a man!
CHECK OUT OJAE’S DOPE PHOTO GALLERY BELOW: